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Why Are There No More Big Men?

15 Sep

basketball - big men are dying

The conventional low post player has almost become completely extinct. Long gone are the days when two giants met in the paint to prove which man was better and consequently to show whose team would contend for a championship. Battles between Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Moses Malone no longer exist. Neither do the contests between Russell and Chamberlain or David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Even Dikembe Mutumbo and Alonzo Mourning, two intimidating shot blockers and somewhat limited scorers, retired nearly ten years ago. The big man has disappeared at the highest level. Shaquille O’Neal may have been the last dominant big man to utilize a back-to-the-basket game to terrorize opponents in the National Basketball Association. And, when Dwight Howard leaves the game of basketball, he could very well be the last official post player to ever play in the National Basketball Association despite his footwork remaining sloppy and unpolished. Big men are a dying breed.

Several different occurrences have led to the demise of the classic NBA center. College, where most big men hone their skills, has become an afterthought for future pros. Guards have become more athletic and are more abundant. Rule changes have aided a quicker pace that leaves lumbering big men out of plays, and injuries have changed how most posts play the game of basketball. The NBA has transformed into a guard-driven league, and centers and power forwards are suffering because of the shifts in basketball strategy and play.

One of the main influences in the cultivation of a dominant big man was learning the game at the college level. Post players need a training ground where they can learn all the finer skills of their position and apply them against good competition. There once were teachers in college basketball who gave big men the foundation of their game, footwork, positioning, and basic post moves and counters. Athletes were allowed to practice their craft at a high level of play against players who did not exceed their talent level. By the time any center moved from college on to the NBA, they were skilled enough to compete at the professional level even if they were physically outmatched. Basketball players knew how to make a basic drop step and use their feet and hips to create separation from a defender. They knew that fighting to get deeper positioning in the painted area on court meant easier shots in the offense. 20 years ago, big men knew how to use a pump fake, gather themselves, and score with someone challenging the shot. Today, post players possess only a fraction of the basketball skills that they had in years past. Big men come into the NBA without the training needed to compete under the rim. Most draftees today are raw athletes with a “huge upside,” or naturally gifted kids who may or may not learn how to play basketball in the pros, rather than polished basketball players who are ready to take the next step in the basketball careers. Nobody has Kareem’s Sky Hook or Hakeem’s Dream Shake in their arsenal. No one  blocks shots like Russell or bullies defenders like Shaq. Centers today do not know how to make a basic jump hook, the staple of offensive play under the basket, and the shot from which most counter moves are built. Big men are no longer taught how to rebound or how to block shots. College no longer serves talented athletes, because players do not stay in school long enough to learn the basics, and only a few coaches actually teach traditional post play. College has become a pit stop for amateurs who want to make the leap to the highest level instead of being a vehicle for basketball guys to become the best player possible. Posts have been failed by the college system.

But, Michael Jordan also stands at the center of the demise of the big man. Jordan proved the systematic formula of great front court play and a good back court equals championships to be wrong. He showed that teams could be successful without having a dominant power forward or center if they had great guards. Michael Jordan became the prototype for all athletes in basketball. He was big, physical, super-athletic, and extremely skilled. But, most importantly, he won NBA titles and made his greatness visible to the public. Jordan showed NBA general managers that big men did not represent the only path to winning; interior scoring was the key. Jordan posted, slashed, and finessed his way to easy buckets in the paint. He scored with such flair that he revolutionized basketball and advertising. He completely dominated his sport from the perimeter and made more money in sports marketing than he ever did on the basketball court. After he took over the league, everyone wanted to play like Mike, even the big guys. Doing the dirty work down low wasn’t as exciting or as lucrative as soaring through the air and making acrobatic shots. Big men began to learn the skills that were once relegated only to guards in an attempt to play like Jordan, and the position of center was irrevocably changed. Kevin Garnett ushered in a new wave of big men who handled the basketball like guards and played out on the floor as much as they did in the post. Versatility became more important than dominance and big men lost their physicality and toughness.

The new found importance of great guard play and the availability of athletic guards forced a change in how the NBA presented the game of basketball to its fans. It changed who they glorified publicly, and it changed the way that they allowed players to play. Finding a 7 foot giant who moved fluidly and had the right temperament to challenge players on a night-to-night basis in the post proved to be a daunting task, but locating an athletic guy at 6’5″ was much easier. So, the NBA enacted rule changes to benefit those players. The addition of the 3-point line gave guards more equality on the basketball court than they ever had before. Scoring in the paint has always been more difficult for smaller players, so the NBA additional point for shooting from long range making them more valuable to teams. When the NBA adopted the 3-point line in 1979, it placed more emphasis on outside shooting than inside muscle. 3-point misses usually produce long rebounds that fly over the heads of the big men boxing out down low making them even more obsolete in today’s game. And then, the NBA changed the way that defenses could play against big men to neutralize them. They made wider lanes in response to Wilt Chamberlain’s dominance in the 60′s and reenacted zone defenses because of the sheer power of Shaquille O’Neal. The NBA has aided in the demise of classic post players by catering to smaller players. The long shots and zone defenses generate fast break opportunities which further pushes big men out of plays. Since the league needs stars to survive and skilled athletic big men are difficult to find, the NBA focuses on cultivating smaller, more exciting guards rather than finding and developing the much rarer big man.

That decision to eschew the classic center was a simple one. In addition to being difficult to find amongst the common public, injuries plague athletes who reach 7’1″. Yao Ming, Greg Oden, Andrew Bogut, and Andrew Bynum are talented big men whose careers have been cut short or hampered by injuries in recent years. And the list gets much more extensive than that as you go back further in the history of the NBA. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ralph Sampson, and even Sam Bowie all had promising careers in the paint destroyed by injury. Big men are disproportionately affected by career ending injury because their size puts more pressure against the more delicate bones and ligaments of the body. These players face foot and ankle problems, back problems, and of course knee problems throughout their careers. Ironically, the size and athleticism that makes post players uniquely talented, also makes them more vulnerable to career-shortening injuries.

The classic post may soon be extinct in the National Basketball Association. The impact of Michael Jordan, the new influx of bigger, more athletic guards, the NBA’s  move towards guard play, and the injuries that affect the careers of bigs have sealed their fates. And unless more big men decide to follow in the steps of NBA Hall of Fame post players, classic centers and power forwards may never be seen again.

 

Go Braless Today!

13 Sep

no bras03

rita ora

Though the French did let us down in World War I, they have slowly redeemed themselves. They gave us the french fry, and they gave us the Statue of Liberty. But now, the French have given American men a gift that can never be repaid. They have given men and women a true gift of freedom. Though they did not fight with us in one of history’s greatest battles, the French fought a war against undergarments that has liberated women’s breasts from the constraints of underwear. Once again, the Europeans are ahead of us, and this contribution may be more important to mankind than any war.

According to Jean Denis-Rouillon, a sports science expert from the University of Besancon, France, bras do more harm than good for women’s breasts. Marilyn Monroe, Halle Berry, and many other women swear by sleeping in their bras. They were told that the bras lend them support for good posture, help prevent back pain, and keep their breasts from sagging. However, Denis-Rouillon has conducted a 15 year study of the breasts of 330 women from ages 18-35, and concluded that bra wear is harmful to the perkiness of breasts. He stated, “Medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra.” Jean Denis-Rouillon used a slide rule and caliper, an instrument that measures the distance between two opposite sides of an object, to discern the changes in the features of the breasts. He found that the nipples of the women who did not wear bras were on average 7 millimeters higher in relation to their shoulders each year than regular bra users.

He did also temper his statements by calling his results preliminary, and saying that women over 45 would probably not benefit from throwing out their bras. He said, “But, a middle-aged woman, overweight, with 2.4 children? I’m not at all sure she’d benefit from abandoning bras.” His sample only tested women who were in a specific age group and not from all walks of life, but who wants to see middle-aged, overweight boobs anyway. Rouillon conceded that his results would have to be repeated on a sample size of about 300,000 women, with more testing to be deemed scientifically significant and “definitive”. But, there are two significant results that have been proven by the researcher in his initial findings. His studies show that women who stopped wearing bras had no deterioration in the orientation of the breasts, and there was widespread improvement in the orientation of the breast for the same women. So, going braless is beneficial to women between the ages of 18-35.

Jean Denis-Rouillon is a modern-day hero. He has proven in research what men have known for years, that breasts should not be bound by bras under shirts.  They should be allowed to roam free, going wherever and doing whatever they want without provocation. Finally, there is scientific proof that women should not wear bras.

Top Ten NBA Point Guards

12 Sep

basketball - kevin johnson02

10. Kevin Johnson - People seldomly realize how good Kevin Johnson really was in the NBA. He was Stephon Marbury before he went crazy and left for China. He was Tony Parker with more assists and more flash. Kevin Johnson’s had a little bit of Isaiah Thomas in his game and a little bit of John Stockton. He also had one of the quickest first steps in the NBA in the 80′s and 90′s which helped him get to the rim constantly. He dribbled the ball between his legs and suddenly he was past his defender. Johnson regularly challenged big men at the rim, and Hakeem Olajuwon is not the only center/power forward that he dunked on. He threw down dunks on tip-ins, on fast breaks, and right through the middle of traffic. He learned to shoot the basketball from 15 feet out and was unstoppable during the early nineties. He, Charles Barkley, and Dan Majerle took the Suns to the NBA Finals before being defeated by the Bulls in six games. Johnson was the only player who could not be stopped for the entire series.

17.9 ppg., 9.1 apg., 3.3 rpg., 3 time All-Star, 4 time All-NBA, 0 rings, Most Improved Player Award

9. Bob Cousy - Bob Cousy was about three generations ahead of his time in terms of ball-handling. He could dribble the basketball behind his back when players were still patting the basketball. He threw passes over his shoulders to his teammates when everyone else only was using the fundamentals. Cousy was a magician with the basketball and he lead one of the most dominant teams in NBA history. He initiated offense, directed traffic, and dribbled between defenders for the historic Boston Celtics.

18.4 ppg., 7.5 apg., 13 time All-Star, 12 time All-NBA, 6 rings, 2 time All-Star MVP

8. Tiny Archibald - Nate “Tiny” Archibald was Allen Iverson before he ever picked up a basketball. He brought streetball to the NBA. He broke down his defenders, scored, and embarrassed them. He may have had the quickest first step in NBA history. He is one of only a few point guards to lead the NBA in scoring and he was the only man to lead the league in assists and scoring in the same season with 34.0 points and 11.4 assists per game in the 1972-73 season. His biggest weapon was his amazing speed and quickness with the basketball.

18.8 ppg., 7.4 apg., 2.3 rpg., 6 time NBA All Star, 5 time All-NBA, 1 ring, 1 All-Star MVP

7. Jason Kidd - Jason Kidd made the New Jersey Nets relevant. He took the Nets to two consecutive NBA Finals by leading one of the fastest teams that the NBA has seen. He turned the New Jersey offense into one big, extended fast break. And, he made each one of the players a little better with his precise passing. He is one of four people on this list that regularly added two to six points to their teammates points per game averages by getting them easy baskets that could not have gotten themselves. Every team that he was added to, in his prime, gained 5-23 wins. He changed the culture of the Dallas Mavericks, the Phoenix Suns, and the New Jersey Nets. His trademark high dribble and baseball pass helped him dominate the NBA without an excess of scoring the basketball, though he has always been a good scorer. Kid also became an excellent defender in his latter years and covered the opponent’s best wing nightly. He was a complete guard with a high basketball I.Q., and his impact goes well beyond his statistics.

13.2 ppg., 9.1 apg., 6.5 rpg., 10 time All-Star, 6 time All-NBA, 0 rings, 9 time All-Defensive team, Rookie of the Year

6. Walt Frazier - Walt Frazier was cool. He was a big guard during his era, but was quick, and a good passer too. He is greatly underrated as an NBA star because he played with Willis Reed. In Game 7 of the NBA Finals, he had 36 points and 19 assists in a victory. On top of his offensive prowess, Frazier was a great defender too. He played the passing lanes well and made on-ball steals with his lateral quickness and quick hands.

18.9 ppg.,  5.9 rpg., 6.1 apg., 7 time NBA All-Star, 6 time All-NBA, 2 rings, 7 time All-Defensive team, 1 All-Star MVP

5. Isaiah Thomas - Isaiah Thomas was deadly with the basketball in his hands. He had the basketball on a string and regularly put on dribbling exhibitions that would have made the yesteryear’s Harlem Globetrotters and today’s AND 1 players proud. He could not be guarded at the end of games, because he was one of the best clutch shooting points in NBA history. Though he did not win the NBA MVP, he does own two Finals MVP’s that he won in two years consecutively while winning two championships for the Detroit Pistons. He was always among the league leaders in scoring, assists, and steals. In fact, he lead the league in steals for several years in a row.

19.2 ppg., 9.3 apg., 1.9 spg., 12 time All-Star, 5 time All-NBA, 2 rings, 2 All-Star MVP’s, 2 Finals MVP’s

4. Steve Nash - Steve Nash is a bit of an enigma. He has two National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player awards, but no trips to the Finals. Granted, the Suns looked primed for a trip to the promised land until Robert Horry instigated a bench clearing skirmish by hip-checking Nash into some courtside advertisements boards. The NBA suspended several Phoenix players, including Amar’e Stoudamire, one of their best players, and the momentum of the series swung. Nevertheless, Steve Nash has never competed on the highest stage of basketball which is a detriment to his legacy. He did make basketball exciting again, though. Basketball had been bogged down by staunch defenses and methodical post play during the 90s. Nash lead a full court offensive attack that had not been seen since the Lakers’ Showtime offense. He probed the paint, and made dazzling passes to his teammates. He was an incredibly efficient shooter, and he is one of six people in the 50/40/90 club, having shot 40 percent from the 3 point line, 50 percent from the field, and 90 percent from the free throw line in a single season. He is one of two people to have achieved it more than once, and the only player to have done it more than twice (four times in five years). Steve Nash is an enigma, but he is also one of the most talented point guards in NBA history.

14.6 ppg., 8.5 apg., 3.0 rpg., 7 time All-Star, 7 time All-NBA, 0 rings, 2 NBA MVP’s

3. Oscar Robertson - He was the only man in NBA history to average a triple double over the course of one full season with 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game until the 2016-2017 season when Russell Westbrook achieved the feat. However, if you average his statistics for his first five years, he would have averaged a triple double over that time period too. He was unstoppable in the post with his one-handed jumper. Robertson was the first big guard, and paved the way for guys like Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, and Magic Johnson. He controlled the basketball by scoring himself or making plays for his teammates. He is one of three people in NBA history to average 30+ ppg. over a season. He did that in six of his first seven seasons. He is the first player to average 10 assists in a season and the only guard to average 10 rebounds in a season, which he did three times. When he was placed beside fellow Hall of Fame player, Lew Alcindor, he won the NBA championship. He was known as one of the most cerebral guards of his era, in addition to being one of the most athletic point guards to ever play in the NBA. Plus, he is the all-time leader in triple doubles which shows his extreme versatility.

25.7 ppg., 7.5 rpg., 9.5 apg., 12 time All-Star, 11 time All-NBA, 1 ring, 1 NBA MVP, 3 All-Star MVP’s, Rookie of the Year

2. John Stockton - John Stockton was the model of consistency during his NBA career. He rarely made a mistake by turning the basketball over. He took care of it and founded his career in making the smart pass and the easy play. He is the all-time leader in assists and steals as a result. Stockton ran the pick-and-roll to perfection with fellow Hall of Fame player Karl Malone. He was an efficient scorer despite having a little hitch in his jump shot. Stockton and Malone took the Utah Jazz to two consecutive Finals where they lost to Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls in both years. He shot 51.5 % for his entire career, which is unheard of for a guard in today’s NBA and is spectacular for a point guard. He is one of the six players that went 50/40/90 for an entire season.

13.1 ppg., 10.5 apg., 2.2 spg., 10 time All-Star, 11 time All-NBA, 5 time All-Defensive team, 0 rings, 1 All-Star MVP

1. Magic Johnson - In addition to being one of the league’s better athletes, Magic Johnson also had a extremely high basketball IQ. He always knew where everyone was on the court, and he was such a good leader that he would direct and encourage his teammates throughout their mistakes during the game. He is one of three players to have averaged a triple double in multiple postseason series. He left the game of basketball as the all-time leader in assists and is still the leader in assists per game. He is second all-time in triple doubles in the regular season and first all-time in career playoff triple doubles. More so than that, Magic Johnson was best player on the basketball court when it counted the most. He is one of the rare players in NBA history that made whatever play that needed to be made to win every time the game was on the line. On one play, he would score himself. On the next, he would get his teammates involved. He could grab a rebound and go coast to coast for the score or throw a bounce pass from half court to a streaking big man. His versatility was never more apparent than in his first Finals in his rookie season. His center, Hall of Fame player Kareem Abdul Jabbar, went down with an injury and Magic filled in for him with a move from point to center. He finished with 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals including the game-winning hook shot. He is the only rookie to win Finals MVP. At 6’9″, Magic could see the entire basketball court on each play. When he entered the league, he was an explosive point guard that could blow by smaller defenders, post them up, or jump over them. After he injured both of his knees, he became even more cerebral and utilized his teammates on every play. He was the biggest point guard in NBA history and its greatest facilitator of the basketball. He lead the league in assists 4 times.

19.5 ppg., 11.2 apg., 7.2 rpg., 12 time All-Star, 10 time All-NBA, 5 rings, 2 All-Star MVP’s, 3 Finals MVP’s, 3 NBA MVP’s

What the Walking Dead and the Cosby Show Tell Us About the Perception of Black Men

11 Sep

the cosby show02

American popular culture relays the most prevalent shared belief systems of America’s many separate communities, and the most highly-rated network television gives clear insight into the preferences and varied intricacies of popular culture here in the U.S. To oversimplify a complex idea, the shows that people watch expose what they believe. Since television has entrenched itself in American culture, and the constant themes of heroism, morality, and simple humor give viewers strong emotional attachments to the characters in network series and visceral reactions to the content of those shows, the content of these shows allow a transparent understanding of the common sentiments of its audience, and thus the preferred programming of any community indicates some of the cultural statutes that exist in that population. The more critically acclaimed the shows are, the more common beliefs reside in the shows. People respond to the comedies that make them laugh, the dramas that make them cry, and the people who either challenge their morals or fortify their ideals of integrity, and almost anyone who owns a television set watched network series like The Cosby Show of the 1980s and are currently viewing today’s The Walking Dead. Though these shows approach their audiences from two starkly different viewpoints, their stories are both widely followed in the United States because of the attention paid to character development and story development. The Cosby Show pushed classic American ideals of family while teaching responsibility to its younger viewers and changing social stereotypes for its older audience. It was a wholesome program intended to responsibly represent familial life in an affluent Black home. In complete contrast to The Cosby ShowThe Walking Dead challenges ideas of morality in almost every episode. The show depicts the lives of a specific group of people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse and keep their humanity. Each character of each show is well-defined and nuanced, and each show deals with some component of the human condition. These television series are filmed from completely different styles with separate plots, varying storylines, and disparate moral standards, however, both of them do a great job at one feat whether intentional or completely by accident. Both shows excel at marginalizing the character and the roles of Black men in their narratives. To be clear, neither show focuses specifically on degrading the image of Black men, in fact The Cosby Show decidedly attempts to cast a favorable light on Black people as a whole. But, there are no strong, positive impersonations of Black men in either show, and that sheds light on the social expectations of the American viewer. Whether consciously or subconsciously, writers create the types of characters that they personally believe exist or the type of people that they believe their audience would accept as real. And, the fact that none of the Black men in either show display all the qualities that are desirable in a male lead speaks to what the American public thinks of Black men.

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If you owned a television in the eighties – and everyone did – then you watched The Cosby Show. The show was so funny, modest, well-written, and incredibly well-received by all audiences that parents of this generation showed their children the same re-runs that they watched in their youth (prior to the allegations of sexual assault against America’s dad). The Cosby Show became a standard of TV viewing in both White and Black households breaking color barriers in rating systems and ushering in a time where Black actors regularly carried primetime television shows. Critics praised this television series as the first network show that featured Black Americans in affluent roles in society and audiences loved the diverse cast of family members. Heathcliff Huxtable, the character that was popularized by Cosby, was a talented obstetrician/gynecologist who was married to a powerful attorney, Claire. The Huxtables raised their five adorable children in Brooklyn, New York, and ushered in a newfound respect for both Black people and the Black family dynamic. But, a big reason that people were so receptive to the show was because Cosby himself played the foil of the show instead of casting a strong, father figure. He was completely non-threatening, his opinions were regularly discounted by those closest to him, and he was often the butt of jokes involving his family, immediate and extended. In the minds of American writers and their viewers, the idea that this Black father could not lead his family was completely acceptable. This show worked because Cosby knew on some level that Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of the strong, Black man. To the average American, fiercely opinionated and physically imposing Black men are seen as militant and dangerous, and the media reinforces this stereotype with negative imagery of Black men and a definitive lack of positive Black role models. So, despite The Cosby Show being written, produced by, and starred in by a Black man, Bill Cosby was regularly outshined by his brilliant wife and playfully ridiculed by his children.

Without a deeper examination of the social consequence of their behavior, all the actions of the Cosby family seem completely innocuous. Each character fits into social norms for common family dynamics. The Cosby Show looks like a simple, funny show about a Black family. Bill Cosby played Heathcliff Huxtable, the silly and affable father. Sandra was the oldest child, and she had already left the nest to begin her own life. Their next born was Denise, a bohemian child, who defied convention in style and thought. Theo, their only son, was lazy and possibly the least intelligent of the Huxtable kids, and Vanessa may have been the smartest of the Huxtable children because she graduated a year early from high school. Rudy, the youngest child, is often the most poignant voice in the room. And finally, Claire is the matriarch of the family. This series is balanced with different personality types, different age groups, and multiple storylines in varying episodes that catered to each character, but every Black man on the show registers somewhere between passive yes-man and opinionated fool. The two omnipresent men in the show were Heathcliff, a father who received a fair amount disrespect and derision, and Theo, the poster boy for apathy and badinage. Theo was a consistent underachiever with no real desire to excel. He had a lackadaisical attitude about school until he was found to have a learning disorder in the later seasons. However, even after he became a good student in his college years, he displayed the same unconcerned attitude about life that fueled his apathetic scholastic career. All of the supporting characters in The Cosby Show who are Black males fit somewhere on the sad, aforementioned spectrum. Cockroach, Theo’s best friend, had an even poorer attitude about school, and horrible grades to match. Elvin, the husband of Sandra, constantly spouted ignorant, misogynistic statements to both his wife and mother-in-law, and was reminded regularly of his erroneous ideology by the strong women. Denise’s husband, Martin, rarely had any opinion other than the opinion of his wife. Heathcliff’s father Russell, is the only Black man who was never upstaged by the women of the show, but he helped deride Heathcliff, displacing more of the power dynamic from the main character of the show. The Cosby Show carelessly depredated the image of Black men by failing to show tangible examples of a substantial Black male presence in a series based on Black life. The Huxtables seem like a loving family who occasionally took lighthearted shots at the dad, however, when you observe the daily politics of their family, you realize that Bill Cosby was not respected in his home despite being both educated and successful. In his profession, he seemed competent, intuitive, and well-esteemed, but in his home life, Heathcilff Huxtable came off as clueless and irresponsible. Claire took care of the children, handled the finances in the home, and decided the direction in which the family would move. She disciplined the children and she managed her husband chastising and deriding him. And, though her character was brilliant, dynamic, and she operated with a certain regality, the fact that her successful husband is torn down by her constantly gives perspective into what is thought of Black men, maybe even what Black men think of themselves. The Cosby Show subtly suggests that Black men are not capable of leading their families regardless of how talented and successful they are in their professional lives. It casts Black men as smiling dullards who are submissive to their wives and take a backseat in raising their children. The men in The Cosby Show are present only to deliver punchlines or be the punchlines themselves, and the lack of strong Black male role models is detrimental to image of Black men everywhere.

the walking dead03

The Walking Dead series takes the same tone with the Black men in their storylines. Though this sitcom is completely different from The Cosby Show, and The Walking Dead is one of the most popular television shows of this generation, their treatment of Black men is a complete misrepresentation of Black males morally and ideologically. This show has accrued a cult-like following during its short time on the air, and has even spawned a spin-off series because of its success, but unfortunately, the same underlying message is hidden in the dialogue and in other modes of character development. The idea that Black men are either buffoons or cowards is repeated throughout the series using a cast of different characters. The Walking Dead series casts Black men as gross caricatures of real men of color, but still represent the American perception of Black males. When the essence of every Black male in the show is broken down, each person has some glaring deficiency of character.

Morgan, the first Black man to enter the storyline, seems like a wholesome, reasonable man during his first stint with the show. He is presented to the audience simply as a good father who is surviving the zombie apocalypse with his young son. Morgan actually saves Rick Grimes, the main character of the series, and explains to him how the dead have arisen while caring for his wounds. But, when Morgan is reintroduced to The Walking Dead seasons later, he has gone insane. Because he could not shoot his wife who had become a zombie, he had to watch as she killed his son. And, after that tragedy, Morgan began killing both the living and the undead indiscriminately. He became a monster paralleling the mindless killers that took his family. The first Black man that was introduced to the story showed weak resolve in a difficult and then became a menace within the devolving society. In and of itself, this specific situation is totally congruent with human nature. Any person of any race might struggle to keep their sanity when everyone they love has died. However, when you dissect Morgan’s character in comparison to the other Black men on the show, a pattern of weakness is evident. Morgan was not emotionally resilient enough to resolve the one problem that posed a threat to him and his son, so his son was killed. And then, Morgan was not able to keep his mental faculties once his son died. That pattern of unstable or ineffectual men continues with each additional Black male in the series. Theodore Douglas, the next Black male who was introduced to the storyline, represents the typical preconception of Black American men. He calls himself T-Dog instead of Theodore, he is thuggish, incompetent, and though he gives off a tough persona, he shows cowardice in the face of crucial situations. Next comes Gabriel, a minister who could have saved the people of his congregation from imminent death at the hand of the undead, but hid behind the reinforced doors of his church forsaking the vows of his religion instead of rescuing his constituents. Tyrese, the most physically imposing man on the show, could not keep his loved ones alive despite being bigger and stronger than everyone else. When his girlfriend is killed, Tyrese acts foolishly, violently, and irrationally until he finally loses his appetite for bloodshed. But, once he finally stops taking unacceptable risks and putting those who love him in immediate danger while trying to protect him, he is unable to defend himself against anything including zombies which makes him even more of a detriment to his group. The Walking Dead writers find the next Black character, Oscar, in a prison. He and a collection of career criminals have been imprisoned throughout the zombie apocalypse. And, Bob is an alcoholic who survives despite being weaker than everyone in his former groups. Both of these characters ultimately become prominent members of the group, but they were written into the storyline as morally flawed people, one a felon who was literally found in a prison and the other an addict. Heath, the latest Black man on The Walking Dead, has no obvious personality flaws. He is responsible, he gathers supplies for his community with a search team, and he is fully capable of protecting his group. He shows no obvious signs that he lacks strength, loyalty, or integrity. However, Heath physically looks very effeminate. The only Black man in six seasons of a series who is not inherently violent, fearful, or feebleminded looks like a woman. Heath has no facial hair, and long, braided hair tied in high ponytail above his head. Why would a man in the zombie apocalypse spend the assumed hours that it takes to maintain that hairstyle on his appearance? What man wears a ponytail in the same place that Ariana Grande wears hers? Would a hairstyle that could be grabbed by a zombie or snagged on anything at eye level be the best choice for a survivor? And, why is an effeminate man the only representation of a productive Black man in the series?

Lack of inclusion is the way that the media generally discounts the Black viewer and drives home stereotypes about Black men. The absence of Black people in television damages the perception of them in the societal purview because audiences are forced to lean on their own prejudiced assumptions about Black people. However, these series marginalize Black men in one of the most destructive manners possible, with subtlety. Asserting faulty examples of Black culture is much worse than ignoring the existence of Black culture. Television series like The Cosby Show and The Walking Dead never clearly state that they do not respect Black men nor do they exclude these men from their shows. Black men are in plain sight in these shows. But, instead of verbally degrading the men in their episodes which would actually expose real problems with stereotypes and bring about a rational discussion between viewers or ignoring their presence by excluding Black characters from the shows, these television shows build characters that either reinforce stereotypes or build characters that are so flawed that they can not be respected. And, the American public accepts these poor standards of Blackness.

Television series simultaneously display the proclivities, the personalities, and the ethics of their characters while disclosing our existing biases about those characters. In recognizing the emotions that are evoked from the lifestyles and choices of these fictional people, we, the audience find out more about our prejudices and the consequent expectations that we place on real people in society. Though The Cosby Show and The Walking Dead series were created solely for our entertainment as consumers, the treatment of the Black men in those series expose an ugly truth about the American apperception of Black men. The American public still believes that Black men are less intelligent, prone to violence, cowardly in the face of tough decisions, and therefore unworthy of respect. Black men are not the fools and cowards that they are regularly portrayed to be in television and movies. They are not inherently violent and mindless thugs. And, until more shows are more careful with their characterizations of Black men the misrepresentation and stereotyping of Black men will continue unwarranted and unchecked.