Breaking down stereotypes
The show “Everybody Hates Chris” is about an African American family, living in Brooklyn striving for a better future. In the pilot episode we are introduced to Chris and his parents and two siblings as they move from the projects to Brooklyn. In the episode we are presented with the different struggles they face from racism to poverty, and how they make it work despite the difficulties. The episode represents the black community in both a stereotypical light, but also shows a lot of progress in breaking some of the stereotypes. The overall takeaway is positive and it breaks the stereotypes that minorities, in this case African Americans, and portrays them as hardworking and responsible.
First off let’s discuss the unchanged stereotypical portrayal of African Americans. From the beginning of the episode the mom is portrayed as being loud, angry, violent, constantly threatening her children. This makes views perceive African American women as bad, violent parents, and instead of attending to the children she just orders them around, especially Chris. The dad is portrayed as cheep, and there is a joke behind the fact that Chris knows his father because most kids in the neighborhood don’t know their fathers. This can make the viewer perceive African American men as once that would have children early on and irresponsible for not taking care of them. The neighborhood in which they moved at the time was at a height with drug abuse and also violence, and in the beginning of the episode there are a couple African American men spray painting on someone’s wall. This gives the viewers an impression that in African American communities there is always crime and violence. Finally Chris exhibits stereotypical gangster behavior by the way he talks back at the bully in his new school. All of these stereotypes portrayed in the episode would make a viewer think badly of the African American community.
Further more, the over all message sent in the episode is much more powerful and positive and debunks many other stereotypes regarding African Americans. First the mom cares about her children by dressing them appropriately for school even though they are poor as Chris mentions during the episode. She makes a big point of how important it is to go to school and not end up dealing drugs on the street, and that is one of the reasons why she is so harsh on them. She sends Chris all the way on the other side of Brooklyn to an all white school because she wants to give him a chance to get the best education he possibly can and better his future. The works and takes care of the whole family and the word welfare in their family is unspoken. And she also dressed him for school to look presentable because as she told Chris “ It’s better to be poor and neat, than rich and raggedy”. The dad, even though he doesn’t do much around the house or deals much with the kids he cares about his family. He has two jobs and as Chris says on the episode “His night job, and his late night job”. He works hard to try to keep his family in their new apartment and provide a better education and future for his children and his wife. He said during the episode to his wife “ I’m working hard trying to pay for this place” after he tried to pay the bills. This gives viewers the chance to see African American men as responsible husbands and fathers who work hard to provide their families and work at multiple jobs in order to do that. Also Chris has a white friend named Greg, and instead of Chris playing the typical for African American actors “ best friend” role, Greg is playing it. All of these examples leave a viewer with the impression that African Americans are hard working, responsible, strong and despite any of the situations they are in they strive for success.
Over all this episode of “Everybody Hates Chris” gives viewers a progressive portrayal of an African American family. It portrays African Americans as strong, hardworking, and responsible. This in the long run helps eliminate some of the stereotypes in society and gives people an opportunity to connect on a more close level with the African American community and possibly eliminate certain prejudice in society. Although there are still stereotypes portrayed in the episode they don’t have nearly as big of an impact as the over all positive message.