Family Dynamics in the 1970s

By: Sarah Boyce

1970s sitcoms have changed a lot since the 1950s. Cultural matters outside of television are now finally emerging into sitcoms and ideas of diversity and feminism are discussed. The family dynamics in the 1950s consisted of a stay-at-home mother who took care of the children and cleaning, a father who went to work to make the money, and children who obeyed and respected their parents. While watching episodes this week, I realized the difference in the family dynamics in the 1970s. Many of these episodes had women working for themselves and were most of the time single. Instead of certain family dynamics in the homes, this family dynamic of the 1950s carried into the workplace during the 1970s. In the office, women were not always as well respected as men and these males had higher up jobs that were better paid. There was also an emotional family sense within the workplace. I thought the episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, “Last Show” represented this well. Everyone was so emotional because it was their last day together. They really acted as if they were family and you could see the strong feelings they had for each other that mirrored a family. This was their “work family” that may have not existed in the 1950s without the presence of women.

I have never seen The Mary Tyler Moore Show but after telling my mom I watched these episodes, she was ecstatic. She explained that this was one of her favorite shows growing up and that Mary had been her “role model.” I agree that Mary is a very respectable character. From what I saw in these episodes, she does not let her gender stop her. She acts as if she is equally important as her male coworkers and has equal relationships as they do. In fact, her boss seems to really respect her when she is leaving the station. And although she is single, she seems very strong and independent in both episodes. This show would have been completely different if it had aired in 1950. Mary probably would have been a stay-at-home mother who acted inferior to her working husband.

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3 Responses to Family Dynamics in the 1970s

  1. marymdalton says:

    I’m glad your mom is ecstatic! It is a great show, and maybe you can watch some episodes together sometime. One of the things I really love about the show is that Mary doesn’t see her life as lacking because she doesn’t have “a man.” What a liberating and progressive statement — even if she always calls Lou “Mr. Grant,” and he remains paternalistic throughout most of the series. Progress is an uneven process!!!

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I really liked this show as well. I thought it was refreshing to see a working woman who was completely independent. It is interesting to note that her “family” were her friends from work rather than her biological family. This new kind of family is an interesting dynamic that I feel really started off with shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and WKRP in Cincinnati.

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