Family Roles- Sarah Boyce

The structure of family in Sitcoms has changed overtime. In the 1950s, the families in these shows were depicted as stable and secure. For instance, as seen in Leave it To Beaver, the family members have understood roles that are not necessarily challenged. Many of these sitcoms in the 1950s were what people saw as “ideal families,” rather than the norms. These families were ones that people desired, in order to have a well-balanced life within the household. The baby boom, however, soon affected these family dynamics and changed the “ideal family” in popular sitcoms. This generation gap affected these television shows both inside and outside the sitcoms. In life outside television, the new generation was beginning to stray away from their parent’s wishes. This followed into television when sitcoms, such as The Patty Duke Show, had teenager characters begin to reject their parents ideals as well.

Apart from teenager’s roles changing over time, the roles of the parents have also changed because of the history in the era. In the 1950s, men had an authoritative role in which they went to work every day. While women, on the other hand, were expected to stay home to clean and cook. This is depicted in the episode from I love Lucy, “Job Switchingwhen these roles are switched in order to show women’s dedication and skill that is often taken for granted from men in this era. I Love Lucy is a sitcom that begins to challenge these stereotypes of gender roles and is influenced by the history of this time period. Outside of television, women are beginning to challenge their rights. This is played into the family dynamics when women like Lucy Ricardo begin to be subversive and avoid limitations of her gender. Landay explains that I love Lucy “represents the past as people wish it had been” (Landay 41). This show, along with others of this time period, are showing viewers what life should have been like in the 50s and to get women thinking about their power to change things.

Roles of the father also are challenged in the 50s because of the effects of postwar America and how masculinity was defined. The Honeymooners, is an example of this because of how Alice frequently uses her husband’s lack of commodities as a way to make him feel guilty or less productive. Both inside and outside television, consumption has changed and affected how a man feels about his success. History clearly makes an impact on the progress and change of sitcoms in America and how the character roles are then applied.

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