Television shows of the 1960s depicted a change in the traditional family structure from the 1950s (Brown, 2013 & Spigel, 2013). In the earlier decade, the family structure was nuclear with a father who was the head of the family and breadwinner, a loving mother who was a homemaker and biological children as shown in “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” (Richards, 2013). However, in the 1960s the family structure shifted from nuclear to single parent family. The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) illustrates these lone-parent families (Fulkerson et al. 2016). The single family consists of Andy Griffith, a widowed sheriff, his son, Opie and Aunt Bee, the housekeeper. Andy Griffith is a dedicated father and tries to raise his son and instill in him all the moral values. The son, Opie, is taught respect and Andy correct him and teaches him the way. This show fueled the thinking of Americans to show that the father could also raise children, instill values in them and still be the breadwinner.
The family structure of the 1970s is idealized by the family TV show “The Brady Bunch” (Aldridge et al. 2016). It showed how single parents with children could still remarry and have happy and stable families. The Brady’s consist of eight family members, Mike and Carol Brady (the parents), their children, Greg, Peter, Bobby, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy, and their housekeeper, Alice Nelson. Mike and Carol embrace their role as parents to their biological and step children (Aldridge et al. 2016). They are determined to make their blended family work.
While earlier family shows did not i...
nclude African American families as characters, the 1980s brought change. The Cosby Show (1984-1992) focused on an upper-middle-class African-American family (Race, 2013). The family is a nuclear family with the father, mother and five children. The father, Cliff Huxtable, is an obstetrician and the mother, Claire Huxtable is an attorney. The Huxtables are successful, and the relationship with their children is a healthy one. This TV show purposed to break stereotypes regarding the African American family. In this decade, blacks were considered to be poor and uneducated. The Cosby show depicts the Huxtables as educated and wealthy. Their children go to school, and they are faced with similar problems as the white family.
The 1990s family TV shows were about sexuality, and they gave a platform for the discussion of same-sex marriages and parenting (Kottak, 2016). They showed a complete turnaround from the traditional family set up. In Full House (1987-1995), Danny Tanner, a young widowed father, seeks the help of his best mate Joey Gladstone who happens to be his brother-in-law, Jesse Katsopolis, to help raise and parent his daughters, D.J. the first born, Stephanie the second, and Michelle the last. Although they were not gay, they set the stage for the discussion about same-sex parenting. They become a family, and a strong bond of love and care is cultivated between them and the children.
The 2000s saw the issue of sexuality continued being explored (Kottak, 2016). An earlier show, Ellen, played by the Ellen DeGeneres in 1997 where she came out publicly as a lesbian was met wit
a huge public outcry leading to the cancellation of the show (Glen, 2012). However, the issue was resurrected in Will and Grace (1998-2006). The main characters Will Truman, a gay lawyer, and Grace Adler, a straight interior designer, are best friends. Will has a strong character and is shown to be compassionate and patient with the way he treats other people. The relationship between him and Grace is healthy with Will giving moral support to Grace often. The show purposed to show that homosexuals can have a healthy relationship with straight people. It also intended to educate the masses on the LGBT community and that they were just as human as everybody else.
Modern Family (2009-to date) is a perfect example of today’s family structure (Glen, 2012). It comprises of all the non-traditional factors that have seen the American conservative family evolve to today. It shows all the controversial issues that have since become accepted in today’s society such as same sex and bi-racial marriages. It also shows blended families and divorcees.
In the 60s and 70s, American families were highly religious. The television programs created during that period had to reflect these ideals as they were considered the norm. During the 80s and 90s, the media started taking the role of culture shaper due to the broad audience and from 2000 it has been at the frontline of promoting cultures and has been bold enough to air programs that were at first rejected.
The media exists mainly for profit making. Therefore, they will cast mainly according to the demands of the audience (Kottak, 2016). This means that only the shows that are thought to be acceptable will be cast making it reflective of the state of the society. On the other hand, people expect that the behavior shown as commonplace in the media is the accepted norm, making it an enforcer. These reasons entrench the belief that the media machine does a perfect mimicry of the existing or expected family values of the society.
- Aldridge, J., Kilgo, J. L., & Bruton, A. K. (2016). Beyond the Brady Bunch: Hybrid Families and Their Evolving Relationships With Early Childhood Educators. Childhood Education, 92(2), 140-148.
- Brown, J. A. (2013). Television’, Critical Viewing Skills’, Education: Major Media Literacy Projects in the United States and Selected Countries. Routledge.
- Fulkerson, G. M., & Lowe, B. (2016). Representations of Rural in Popular North American Television1. Reimagining Rural: Urbanormative Portrayals of Rural Life, 9.
- Glenn, C. L. (2012). 11 White Masculinity and the TV Sitcom Dad. Communicating Marginalized Masculinities: Identity Politics in TV, Film, and New Media, 11, 174.
- Kottak, C. P. (2016). Prime-time society: An anthropological analysis of television and culture. Routledge.
- Race, R. (2013). The Cosby Show. How To Watch Television, 103.
- Richards, R. (2013). ENGL 381-01, American Television, Spring 2013.
- Spigel, L. (2013). Make room for TV: Television and the family ideal in postwar America. University of Chicago Press.
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