In many ways Tananarive Due’s The Good House uses a medley of elements, that on the surface seem to clash, but put into practice, come together to make a riveting story. One of these elements is her use of pop culture references, mostly music, to reveal the motives and internal thoughts of the characters in the novel. Specifically, her use of this technique in respect to Corey’s character, which reflects not only his age, but also his identity.
One of Corey’s major struggles is finding a balance between who he is and who thinks people expect him to be. His way of speaking reflects his growing up in an affluent area, going to private school, and his mother’s way of raising him. As a result, his peers in Oakland called him “Urkel,” a reference to a character from the 90’s sitcom “Family Matters” who was a stereotypical nerd and happened to be black. In retaliation, Corey changes his speech pattern to fit in and feel like he’s actually a part of them.
It’s interesting that Sean is the one who brings up those musicians which Due uses to show integral parts of Corey. In addition to his role as the messenger (who warns the town of the evils that harbor), he’s also the only person Corey feels like he can be himself around, after all no one would do witchcraft around a casual friend.
Among the list of musicians that Sean lists out to Corey, one of the band’s mentioned was “Arrested Development,” which made Afrocentric music that stemmed from American rap style at the time. The band being Afrocentric hints at the his African roots and the roots of the spirits that led him to his death. Another band mentioned that foretold Corey’s dabbling in magic, was his fascination with the Santeria aspect of the band “The Orishas.” Not only that, but in real life the band tackled identity, racism, and Afro-Cuban religion, which are all recurring themes that Corey faces throughout the book.
However, Corey’s favorite song “Don’t Believe the Hype” by Public Enemy is the pop culture piece that reveals most about him. The song describes the struggles of a black man who seeks to be taken seriously in the music industry; from people believing his work is unoriginal due to his race, to people stereotyping him as an angry black man. He avoids giving in, and displaying anger so that the media can’t impose stereotypes on him.
Similarly, Corey seeks to be taken seriously without sacrificing who he is, and at the same time being who people expect him to be. The conflict arises when people expect him to be two different ways: his mom wants him to reflect the image of an educated black man, and his friends in Oakland expect him to be “hard.”
Arrested Development | Biography, Albums, Streaming Links | AllMusic.
Due, Tananarive. The Good House: A Novel. First Washington Square Press mass market edition,
Washington Square Press, 2006.
Orishas | Biography & History | AllMusic.
https://www.allmusic.com/artist/orishas-mn0000481610/biography. Accessed 13 Sept. 2018.
Public Enemy – Don’t Believe the Hype. genius.com,
https://genius.com/Public-enemy-dont-believe-the-hype-lyrics. Accessed 13 Sept. 2018.