I have thought a lot over the last couple of days about the death of James Avery, or “Uncle Phil,” as he was known in the extremely popular sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” I have reflected on what he, and shows like his, meant to the entertainment landscape and perhaps more importantly to the larger community as a whole.
The concept of African-American male partners in major law firms, who eventually become judges, or OB-GYN’s in the case of Bill Cosby and The Cosby Show has been turned inside out with the promulgation of the materialism, cat-fighting, and misogyny of reality television. “Aunt Viv” and “Claire Huxtable” were in our living and family rooms giving us weekly examples of beautiful, educated, sophisticated, mothers and wives, while the Real Housewives of Atlanta and shows of a like genre provide us with over the top quests for bling, empty status, broken relationships, and a relentless desire to excel as a “diva.”
The chaos and confusion often found in our current state of family is fueled and stoked by the omnipresent shallowness of reality television. While everyone will not grow up professionally to be an “Uncle Phil ” or a “Dr. Cliff Huxtable,” these fictional characters and their families were positive images for those young African-Americans watching, hoping for a better life, and satisfying a thirst to understand what achievement means. These positive fictional images were also a tremendous anecdote for those who were poisoned by the bigotry of disbelief in the capability of African-American achievement.
I see no end to the onslaught of misdirection inherent in so much of our television of today, and in particular reality television.
Consequently, we must all try to live as the examples that we hope are children will follow. After all, “Uncle Phil” did it!
Rest in peace James Avery and thank you very much for your tremendous contribution to positive entertainment.
Read, learn, and share……Have a Family Meeting!