We realize that all that glitters isn’t gold; now that Bill Cosby has singlehandedly tarnished the image of the Huxtable family for many of us. We can finally actually sit back and see the show for what it really was. Yes, it changed and reshaped how America viewed many African American households, because before hand television hadn’t had proper portrayal of the black family. Rarely you saw any black television family that were middle class successful, and didn’t exude poverty. Bill Cosby created a masterpiece that impacted a culture. However, many will argue back and forth on how unrealistic the Huxtable family was. They reached the barrier with many when it came to being relatable. Only scratching the surface with topics, because they didn’t tackle too many real life-altering issues. Okay yes, they did have the incident when a “joint” was found in Theo’s belongings, and Denise’s friend had gotten pregnant on another episode. Let us not forget the episode where Vanessa got drunk, but really, what teenager hasn’t tried drinking? Not saying anything was wrong, but for the majority, it wasn’t real enough, and merely a vision that African American viewers aspired to have, rather than identified with.
Now in 2015 we have the Patterson’s of BET’s hit show “Being Mary Jane.” You easily see this Huxtable-like family who possess many qualities of the beloved Huxtable family, yet tackle real life issues television hasn’t seen from a family dynamic in some time. The Patterson family endures its fair share of highs and lows, and just like most families they proudly honor and represent the family name through all they do.
The family’s patriarch Paul Patterson Sr. portrayed by Richard Roundtree is the family’s financial support along with emotional support, always there to pick up the pieces, and utter the right things to say for any situation at hand. He’s courageous, heroic, and warm, supplying the family with an abundant of love. Then there’s his ailing wife Helen Paterson who’s battling lupus, but refuses to let it slow her down in any shape or form. Helen is the backbone of the family with her witty sharp tongue. It’s not often she has anything nice to say, like the grandmother grandchildren avoid. However, she’s firm in her place. Both parents are the driving force helping reshape the portrait of successful black families with their own family issues at large.
There’s Patrick, a Morehouse grad who’s pulling himself back together after years of an addiction to cocaine. His addiction caused him to lose his once successful nightclub and family. Regrouping at his parent’s house with his youngest child who was produced from a rehab romance, and his middle child Niecy. Niecy is your typical teenager with an attitude, who’s exiting her teens with two children by two different men. Often looking to sex as an escape, and dealing with the normal insecurities young African American girls deal with in today’s world with the “standard” of beauty. In spite of resenting her father, she highly admires her auntie, despite the chastising she receives for her poor decision-making.
Paul Jr. is MJ’s younger brother and the baby of the Patterson gang. He’s the epitome of when your parents ran out of fight, so the youngest gets away with everything and becomes spoiled. PJ is part of today’s generation who believes anything is possible even if it means breaking a few laws. Sexing MILF’s for leverage of his recreational drug career has been his M.O. Regardless the fact that he’s been afforded seven years of education, that consist of one-year law school, three-years, architectural school, and five-years undergrad. He’s still a “silver spoon brother” who lives at home.
Mary Jane Paul, known as plain ole Pauletta to her family is the middle child and only girl. The family’s most successful child; she has a great career, fame, and beauty. Being the glue that holds her family together does take its toll on her personal life, while her professional life handles the expense. Despite her litany of accomplishments, she still faces many issues and struggles women of color endure, successful or not. Child free and unmarried is just a taste of her woes, but her strength is in her ability to fight through her complexities of being complicated and challenging.
Mr. & Mrs. Patterson are both successful parents who promised and gave their children an education regardless what they decided to do with their lives. The Patterson beauty is the love they exude for one another at all times, making them easy to relate to. They showcase how ones definition of successful doesn’t equate to having it all together. Aside from the show tackling real life issues within a family, they also create conversation to the real social issues the world is currently facing. The complexity of the Patterson’s is their resilience to remain a family at all cost. Even in a family where social and economic class differs within a household; the Patterson’s show a united front. Making them realistic and identifiable to other African American families, but more so a realistic portrayal of a African American family on our television screens.