Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Cosby Show: The Juicer

In season two of The Cosby Show, in an episode called "The Juicer," Dr. Cliff Huxtable brings home a new gadget: a juicer that he demonstrates to the family, making it look fun and appealing, especially to his youngest daughter, a cute and innocent six-year-old named Rudy. Dr. Huxtable makes it clear that this is his juicer and that no one is allowed to touch it.

One day, Cliff and his wife Claire leave their thirteen-year-old daughter Vanessa in charge of Rudy, but Vanessa is preoccupied with her friend on the telephone and largely ignores her. When Rudy and her friend Peter are bored, they go to the kitchen to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but there's no jelly, so they use her dad's forbidden juicer: shoving grapes into it and leaving the top off. Naturally, they make a terrible mess. Both children flee the scene of the crime, hide, and feel ashamed.

When Cliff comes home to see juice all over the kitchen, he is predictably angry, though calm. Dr. and Mrs. Huxtable (Claire) first have a talk with Vanessa and scold her for not doing her duty in watching her little sister. Claire also points out that Cliff was partly guilty because he made the juicer look so attractive. Then Cliff and Rudy have their special talk. She earnestly apologizes, and Cliff reminds her of why what she did was wrong. She is told that she has to clean up the mess, with Vanessa's help. It is a very sweet scene between father and daughter, and it ends with a tender kiss.

But is this what should have happened? No!

First, since Cliff was both forbidder and tempter, he should have convinced Rudy that the temptation was actually carried out by another person altogether (because good and evil can't exist in one being), insisting that this evil person was some lowly creature. Vanessa seems to be the best scapegoat for this scenario. Cliff has already blamed her for not watching Rudy -- apparently expecting a young teen to be the equivalent of a parent -- so blaming Vanessa for the temptation itself is the next logical step. Rudy, being impressionable, will easily believe the new version of history, and this will cause enmity between Vanessa and Rudy for the rest of their lives. Dr. Huxtable, meanwhile, can be secure in his role as the all-powerful, all-good forbidder.

Of course, Dr. Huxtable doesn't need a wife either. As a doctor who delivers babies, he can bring life into the world, and he doesn't need anyone to point out when he's done something wrong, since that will damage his all-good reputation. So Claire should have never been in the picture to begin with.

Next in the story, Cliff should have used his skills as an obstetrician to make it so that -- if his daughter eventually has children -- she will have an especially painful labor. It's obviously what a disobedient daughter deserves. As for Peter, Cliff should have instructed him that he and Rudy are no longer equals in friendship. Instead, Peter is now the dominant friend and should behave accordingly, since Rudy was the one who put the fruit in the juicer. But Peter will be punished too: he will not be able to eat as much food as he wants because he'll have to work for it now (a terrible fate for a fat kid).

Because, of course, what should have ultimately happened is that Cliff should have kicked the pair out of the house altogether, forever, so that they didn't mess with any other appliances, now that they probably knew how to use them as well as Cliff, causing them to be like him, with the knowledge of the right way and wrong way to use gadgets. Maybe Cliff could give them an extra set of clothes first, though, to be nice, before sending them on their way. Cliff should also have placed attack dogs at the entrance of the house (especially the kitchen), to make sure the couple -- especially Rudy -- never come back.

And if this harsh and seemingly unfair punishment leads to these innocent, helpless children having a rough life, maybe eventually giving birth to a son who becomes the murderer of his own brother, so be it.