by Sarah Teegarden
This week we’ve read a lot about family sitcoms and the different gender roles within them. At the beginning of family sitcoms in the 1950s gender roles were very polarized; men were the fathers who “knew best” and mothers were the complimentary housewife. Back in the 50s this was the American Dream, but for the life of me I can’t understand why.. The concept of a woman always staying at home to take care of her children and the house I understand, but to do those things and still be secondary to the husband is something I’ve never wrapped my head around.
Reading the past few chapters about family sitcoms in the 1950s and the American Dream was enlightening to me in an unexpected way. I’ve always known about the American Dream of a working dad, stay at home mom, white picket fence, and happy kids but I never knew about the dynamics within the American Family. As a Generation Zer who has grown up in a 21st century that fights for equality, I naively expected that women have always been considered the “boss” in a family. I know (and think it’s wrong) that women have been oppressed in the past, but I always thought that oppression came from outside of a family’s dynamics. Therefore, reading these chapters about the American Dream in family sitcoms really frustrated me. The reoccurring mention of “housewives” on TV and that being an American ideal was confusing.
Thankfully, I Love Lucy came around. In the mid to late 1950s, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo altered the concept of the American Dream through a television screen. The two characters mimicked the traditional gender roles that were so often portrayed and proclaimed on 1950 family sitcoms. Learning this was one of my favorite things this week because I happen to be a fan of I Love Lucy. When I was in middle school, before I even knew what feminism was or thought about proper family dynamics, I adored I Love Lucy. I think it was my 11th birthday that my mom got me an I Love Lucy metal lunch box, a small book on the show and a case of mints. I loved it! And I loved watching I Love Lucy! Lucille Ball’s facial expressions and constant ability to get into messy situations was hilarious to me. I thought she was funny and brave. Now I know that Lucille’s jokes weren’t just meant to make the audience laugh but to mock the previously praised “housewife”. I Love Lucy was an innovative show in the late 1950s that denied popular culture strict gender roles. This week I happily learned that one of my favorite shows as a young teen wasn’t just funny, but revolutionary for women.
(one of my favorite episodes.. Vitavetagegamin..)