Tuesday, February 14, 2012

'Diff'rent Strokes'

The link above is to a website called Television Heaven and specifically deals with American television. The section I read was about the sitcom 'Diff'rent Strokes', the series starred Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges as Arnold and Willis Jackson as two African American boys from Harlem who are taken in by a rich white park avenue businessman, Phillip Drummond(Conrad Bain) and his daughter Kimberly(Dana Plato). The boys mother previously worked for Drummond as his housekeeper and he had made a promise to her that he would take care of the boys after she passed on, as the boys father had died years earlier. The sitcom became a top- twenty five series for NBC and the network's first sitcom hit since 'Sanford & Son' and 'Chico and the man'. 

I chose to look at this sitcom because it was a popular American series of the 1980's and dealt with major issues of the time, such as drugs, alcohol and race. The most obvious issue the sitcom dealt with was of course race, with two young African American boys living with a rich white businessman. With the website stating that "Each episode had the usual sitcom moral and got its laughs from the racial and economic differences between the Drummonds and the Jacksons.". You can clearly see this when you watch an episode, how it shows the characters interacting and learning to live with each others different lifestyles and backgrounds, including different accents and way of talking, a lot of the time using this for laughs. However, this isn't meant in a hurtful way, as the article states, "'Diff'rent Strokes' was never mean or nasty.", it simply was representing the differences of people and the different ways people live their lives.  But the sitcom dealt with a lot of heavy issues at the time and was known for it's "very special episodes", whereby the characters, usually Arnold, would be put in the middle of something bad. One example being, one episode featuring a lecture on the dangers of drugs.  

This sitcom is a good example of an identity issue, that being race. As I have explained the characters story, it was unusual to see that family break down, with a family dealing with the difference of race, as well as economic background. With the two boys coming from a low income background, with their mum working as a housekeeper and then they are adopted by a rich white guy, which their mum used to work for. And to look at a picture at the time of the family it would look maybe strange and an unconventional family, the stories involved in the sitcom helped bridge this oddity. Further more, I think some of the story lines and issues are still relevant today, but what I think is most poignant about it today is the economic differences. With money, wealth and status being so important in todays lifestyle.         

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