1950s Stereotypes in Friends – Nicolette McCann

For my first essay in this course, I decided to write about how the role of the housewife is perpetuated in the sitcoms of the 1950s. I talked about how I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, and the Honeymooners all portray women as being only successful and only allowed in the private sphere and not the public.

I happened to be watching Friends when I noticed a line that directly correlated with this representation of 1950s housewives. In episode 6 of season 4, Phoebe and Monica are deciding to start a catering business together. When they finalize their plans to do so, Monica says, “I can cook and you can take care of the money”. Phoebe responds to this saying, “Ooh! It’ll be like I have a wife in the 50s!”

I thought that this line was a perfect way to encapsulate the point I was trying to make in my essay. I had said that 1950s sitcoms and the stereotyping of the characters in these episodes helped to enforce the existence of gender roles in that time period. Phoebe’s exclamation about gender roles which is made in a 1990s episode about 1950s wives only reinforces the fact that this stereotype became a reality. She does not say a housewife on a 1950s sitcom, but a 1950s housewife in general.

This fact made me think about how people powerful TV is. It made me think about how people take what they see portrayed on TV and apply it to their real lives. It is both scary and exciting how powerful TV is in this sense.


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8 Responses to 1950s Stereotypes in Friends – Nicolette McCann

  1. mediaphiles says:

    Friends was way ahead of it’s time in my opinion. The writers of this show tackled so many issues so early on – homosexuality, feminism, patriarchy, etc. I don’t think it would have been successful had the writer’s not chosen such a lighthearted manner in which to tackle these issues.

  2. mediaphiles says:

    Karoline Summerville

  3. mediaphiles says:

    It’s crazy to me how much the shows we watch today are informed by all of the sitcoms that came before them. What a fun comment in that Friends episode! -Valerie Medoff

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I think one of the reasons I love rewatching shows is because you always notice something you hadn’t before, such as this! I agree with Karoline that Friends was ahead of its time, and I bet there are more references to earlier sitcoms in this show than we realize! Maybe I’ll rewatch the series after I’m done with this course… – Sarah King

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I love how you noticed this! So relevant! Friends was obviously ahead of its time and I think there are references to things like this throughout its run, but I also think its fun to think about areas where they were with the time period of the 90s. For example, as I talked about in another comment, the fact that all 6 characters are white and Friends fails to address the issues of race.- Ally Harper

  6. mediaphiles says:

    I think you bring up a very interesting point. I feel like this is seen in a lot of TV shows today. The episode of 30 Rock brings attention to these stereotypes in the episode where they look at the history of live TV and re-enact sitcoms like the ones we have been watching for class. I think it is important that these shows do this because they draw attention to the conditions of how people (aside from the white male) were treated in sitcoms. – Katie Thevenow

  7. mediaphiles says:

    I hope you keep watching Friends throughout this semester so we can keep seeing blog posts about it casually referencing things we’ve been studying! What a subtle, great find. I like your point at the end about how powerful TV is and how people take it and apply it to their lives. What an interesting idea about how sitcoms inform life which then informs more sitcoms… It’s like it all comes full circle. -Taylor Borden

  8. marymdalton says:

    Excellent post and great conversation! I really loved Friends when it was on the air (appointment TV for me!), but I haven’t watched it since then. I wish I could watch it again…and also that I could catch up with all the shows I’ve never seen…and all the ones yet to come!

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