The Prototype: Clair Huxtable (Revisited)

– Warning: Long Post Ahead –
But it’s the weekend and if you’re reading this, you probably have nothing else to do right now

I’ve made mention on this blog before about my affinity for the character of Clair Huxtable (and Michelle Obama). I even joined a Facebook group with other women who want to be a Clair. It all looks so good, right? Portrayed by the fabulous Phylicia Rashad, Clair Huxtable was beautiful and strong. She was a great mother and commanded in her career (when we got those rare shots of her actually at work). She had the adoration and respect of her children. Her husband was infatuated with her. She knew literature, jazz, dance, history. She was graceful and always appropriate, yet she took NO mess from anyone. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well duh, it was TV. Still, that hasn’t stopped yound people from wanting her to be their mom, women from wanting to be her, or men from wanting to be with her. So what IS it with this chick?
A scholarly take on the “EveryWoman” that was Clair Hanks Huxtable:

Clair may not have been the star of the show, but she definitely prevailed over the family. If the children were often able to pull one over Cliff, it was very rare that they could fool their mother. Her children recognized her authority yet trusted her as they knew she understood them and was open to dialogue. She was a no-nonsense person, but had a sense of humor and was very playful. Clair’s relationship with Cliff also was a double-faceted one. She enjoyed a certain complicity with her husband in their important united front vis-a-vis the children. Yet, in addition, she was constantly waiting for him round the bend as he gullibly got taken in by one of the children’s maneuvers or tried to sneak in some high cholesterol treat into the daily diet she watched over so carefully.

That was perhaps what was so seductive for women viewers. The minor conflicts which permitted weekly plots, always ended up with the spouses on the same side. After all the years of mutual child-raising, she and Cliff still cared so much about one another. She took good care of him not because it was expected of her, but because she was shown to want him to stick around and in good condition. Clair was happy. It was suggested that she had a good sex life with a happy husband. Clair was the symbol of common sense and she was modest. She was a veritable wonder woman. As such, she was an inspiration to many female viewers, especially those engaging in a surface reading of the discourse of the series. Clair made it all look so easy:

“She has a full-time profession, is raising five children, does all the cooking and household management, all without any hired help or child-care workers, and, to cap it all, she never has a hair out of place and rarely shows any signs of strain.” [Fiske, John. Media Matters.]

Indeed, Clair was attractive and always elegantly though simply dressed. She was usually in good spirits. She rarely seemed hassled over the difficult balance between a professional life and household responsibilities. Television viewers rarely, if ever, saw Clair get home late from court of the office to make dinner. She was never seen preoccupied by a case and, except for once, never absent to prepare one. In addition she almost always had time to drop whatever she was doing to become available for Cliff or one of her children who needed help or advice of just plain attention. Nothing was more important than her family and they were all happy thanks to her sensible, loving care. Clair was a master. She had everything under control. She was a picture of good taste and good behavior. Her professional life, it was suggested, was just as successful as her family life which was a great source of happiness and fulfillment.*

Well, Sarah Palin!, can you beat that???!! Really though, can we do it? Have it all: family, career, love and happiness? My girl SunFresh doesn’t really think so, at least not on that high executive level (let me know if I’ve got you wrong, girl!). I happened across this old blog post where Candy spoke on Mrs. Huxtable:

I asked myself, how can Clair be so perfect?

Well, she has the value of a tremendous education and is a partner in a law firm, which must make her feel very accomplished. However, she’s never stressed because she never works late, gets stuck in court, gets discriminated against at work, etc. With the exception of Vanessa’s antics in later years, she never deals with any issues with the kids. Money is never a problem. Her relationship with her mother, sister, and mother-in-law is never contentious. And she has perfect skin because she can go to bed with a full face of make-up on and manage never to have clogged pores and zits in the morning.

All the impossibilities aside (like being a lawyer who is sometimes a litigator and sometimes corporate but never a hard worker), Clair is able to be the perfect wife because she has the perfect husband. Cliff is amazing. He helps with the children. He is constantly complimenting his wife, not to mention all over her with affection. He cooks, builds additions onto the house, and teased Clair instead of tormenting her when she put on a few pounds. During the years that most men are struggling with mid-life crises and low libido’s, Cliff is at the ready every night in the bed. Cliff never drools over other women, never lies about going to strip clubs, and would kill himself before cheating on Clair. He is romantic, loving, kind and understanding.

Ultimately men, if you want a Clair, be a Cliff. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for men or women to be either of these people. But we can take lessons from them. Be considerate, helpful, respectful and willing to place the needs of the ones you love above your own needs sometimes.

Ignoring the fact that we’re talking about characters – figments of some writer’s imagination – we find that there cannot be a Clair without an equally loving and responsible Cliff.

That being said, where my single male med students at?? Hayyyy!!

*Source: Barbara Villez. Clair Huxtable, Meet Renee Raddick: How Long a Way Have You Really Come, Baby? Cercles 8 (2003).


Filed under Routine Ramblings, Swiped

9 responses to “The Prototype: Clair Huxtable (Revisited)

  1. people laugh at me when I tell them my parents were the unlike them, my parents divorced when I was a teen..but my mother still wore her ‘claire’ very well.

    for some reason, people say I was the denise out of my sisters…but i think it was b/c i dressed funny and had wild hair.

    ironically, this morning, my son asked when will i stop being a

  2. If I were to be a Cosby Show character, I’d prolly be Dabnis Brickey.
    But then I’d end up with a flaky-ass Vanessa Huxtable-type as a boo, then she’d dump me after I got in good with her folks.

    Better than being Elvin.

  3. Clair Huxtable may be fictional but there are definitely some real life examples, and I’m convinced that Michelle Obama is one of those.
    It may not be as effortless as Clair made it seem, but I think we can have it all. That’s what I’m striving for!

  4. John Q

    It’s mind-boggling how people speak about Clair Huxtable as if she was a real person and some sort of role model? This was a fictional character based almost entirely in fantasy.

    Even though she’s a high powered attorney and a partner at a law firm, she seams to have endless time to joke, frolic, put on sketches, lip-synch Ray Charles records, and do all the cooking and all the housework.

    My cousin and his wife are both Psychiatrists and they have only 1 child. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. They rarely see their son, and they have a nanny who spends 5 hours with him every day and they have a cleaning woman who comes in 3 times a week.

    *The reason Claire looks so young and vibrant is that the actress Phylicia Rashad is 11 years younger than the character she is suppose to play.

    *When exactly did Claire become this high powered attorney while giving birth and raising 5 children?

    *Even though Claire is a big time lawyer and has 5 children, she always looks like she just stepped out of a photo shoot for Vogue Magazine.

    *Even though Cliff is a doctor and Clair is a lawyer, they rarely work and they have endless time to spend with their children.

    *The Huxtables are a wealthy family, yet Cliff will walk around worrying about 35 cents.

    *Even though there are 5 children and one parent’s a lawyer and the other one is a doctor they never hire a nanny, cook or a housekeeper.

    *Every teacher/professor Claire has ever had comes by the house for tea and tells Cliff that Clair was his/her best pupil and received an A in every class.

    *Their biggest problems seam to be whether their kids will go to Harvard, Princeton or Hillman, burying a gold fish, or telling Rudy she has to wear a dress with sleeves.

    Give credit to Michell Obama who is a real PERSON not some fantasy t.v. character.

  5. Thanks for your comment. I think you’ll see, if you took the time to read, that I do mention hoe accomplishing the seemingly perfect career and family life of Clair would be near impossible considering the realities of being an attorney and mother.

    You would have also noticed that I’ve already written an entry praising Mrs. Obama as the real ideal to which many of us aspire (see link in the very FIRST line). She is the closest thing we have (in a public arena) to Clair Huxtable.

  6. John Q

    Bourgie, Esq., no disrespect intended toward you with my comments.

    I was merely speaking about people in general who take t.v. characters and t.v. situations way too seriously and fail to separate the fantasy from reality.

    I worked with a 39 year old man who literally wanted to move to Minnesota because of the t.v. show “Coach”. When I informed him that the show was in fact filmed in Los Angeles, he looked at me with shock and disbelief.

    I met young ladies from the mid-west who were shocked to find out how small appartments are in Manhattan. “Rachel’s and Monica’s place always seamed so large.” or, “New York didn’t seam so crowded on Friends.”

    Some of it is the fault belongs to shows like “Vh1 top 100 t.v. moms,” or “t.v. guide’s 100 best fathers.” People go on those shows and say “What a great role model so and so was”. I just shake my head when I hear this.

    Most of the problem is the comforting fanatsy aspect of t.v. in general. I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a huge apartment in New York while only working as a coffee waitress? Or have a mother that’s a lawyer and father who’s a doctor with infinite amounts of time to spend on every trivial problem in your life.

  7. You seem to meet a lot of morons in your travels, John Q.
    What do you do for a living?

  8. John Q

    I’m a School Teacher.

    I’m 42 years old and I’ve worked a lot of different jobs in my life and I’ve met a lot of bizarre people in my travels. Also, I live in New Jersey which leads the nation in bizarre people per square mile.

    I worked with the 39 year old man about 12 years ago at a furniture store.

    I met the young ladies at a friend’s wedding. They were from Wisconsin. No disrespect towards Wisconsin, just telling were they were from.

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