Tonight is the season premiere of Run's House, and I'm as excited as Al Sharpton when a nigga gets arrested. [...] Maybe someone told me this, or I read this somewhere (though a Google search didn't elicit any results), so I hope I'm not plagiarizing anybody as I publicly reiterate what I've said on several previous occasions: Run's House is the 21st century Cosby Show.
In a way, Run's House is a popular culture perfect storm: hip hop plus reality television plus an eighties throwback equals MTV success. It's very simple. After the millennium, Dr. Huxtable becomes Rev. Run. The M.D. has been replaced by the (former) M.C. Though the Rev opts for tracks suits over Coogi sweaters (both fashions have reached legendary and immortal status via a hip hop verse or two), both men show a particular fondness for silk jammy sets. Both have seemingly unorthodox and humorous approaches to parenting: while Cliff teaches Theo a finance lesson with Monopoly money, Rev teaches Diggy it's wrong to take people's things by secretly surveilling him, and showing the tape in the family movie theater. Rev's mid-life crisis is ameliorated by a surprise birthday party with entertainment care of hip hop has-beens, while Cliff was serenaded by Lena Horne, or chose to face off in a sprint against Tailwind Turner. Cameos by Stevie Wonder and Dizzy Gillespie have been supplanted by Treach and Rockwilder. Yes, once upon a time rap music was merely the trendy vehicle that helped Theo and Cockroach, two upper middle class black kids, learn Shakespeare. Now, hip hop is the only way Theo is getting on television. Who needs Sugar Hill when it can get you Cherry Hill (New Jersey)? In this context, hip hop is the new jazz.
In the Run's House version, the roles of Sandra and Denise are played by Vanessa and Angela. In the way that the originals never really seemed to quite fit into the Huxtable family mold--rememeber, the Huxtables originally only had four children-- and the myriad of casual debates on the idea that Sandra and Denise were in effect "too light" to actually be Huxtable offspring, Vanessa and Angela's involvement in the show seemed a bit forced since by season 2, They no longer lived in the house; further, Vanessa and Angela are Justine's stepdaughters. Jojo, of course, takes up the role as Theo, and nothing makes that more evident than Rev. Run's discussion with him over his grades, or the episode where he's left in charge of Diggy and Russy, the Vanessa and Rudy of the Simmons family.
How, then, might we explain Justine as the reality show version of Claire? Well, the maternal craving similarity notwithstanding (Claire's lasted an episode, Justine's an entire season), there doesn't seem to be much the two have in common. Unless, of couse, we remember that originally, Claire was a housewife, not an attorney. I'm afraid, however, that feminists might have very little to cheer about. Justine, it seems, would be more aptly described as a hip hop "First Lady," whose very identity seems to be constructed and contingent upon her relationship to her husband (and children), in the very same way that hip hop entourages (Ruff Ryders, Terror Squad, etc.) describe the lone female member of their respective group.
That said, I love Run's House. It's probably the only form of "wholesome black entertainment" we might expect to see on this side of the 21st century. Then again, I love the Cosby Show; Run's House is its most entertaining derivative to date. Yet, I cannot help but think about it as another example of the way hip hop has saturated our popular psyche. Is it possible that the only potentially successful portrayal of a middle class black family on tv must necessarily be (w)rapped in a hip hop package? Must televised black life be funneled through rap music for consumers to ingest it?
As an aside: my mother used to cover her dog's medicine with peanut butter in order to get her to take it. Thing is, she got hip to my mom's game, and moms had to resort to other kinds of trickery because mere coaxing wouldn't work. Eventually, my mom ran out of ideas. I don't think Nala (the dog) got any medicine the last time I visited. There's moral to that story--I think.
And you don't stop.
Labels: random bullshit
language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison