The Paradox of Tolerance

I was speaking with my dad about my wedding and what he wanted his role in it to be, or not to be as it turned out. (He stated he would rather just sit in the back and experience the wedding. Kinda like with a baseball game or concert apparently…). Well, after going back and forth briefly on that, our conversation turned to my mom who is, as you probably know from previous posts, not accepting at all of my life and my fiance.

I asked him whether or not she would come and if I should even invite her and I laid out my reasons, which were both emotional and logical. He highly suggested I still invite her because otherwise, if she did decide to attend even though she doesn’t support it, it would be a slap in the face if I didn’t invite her. That we may not know until the day of the wedding if she’ll be there but to let her come to that conclusion on her own.

Well throughout this conversation, it was pointed out to me that I was not being understanding of her views and experiences and that forcing her to make a decision on whether to support me or not wasn’t very tolerant. That any struggles were not necessarily between me and her but rather with me and not being open to her experiences and why she does not support me.

That stopped me in my tracks.

I was being called to the mat for not being open, understanding and tolerant of my mom’s intolerance of me.

The day went down hill from there. I couldn’t focus. I was a bit of a hot mess emotionally.

The next day, I was talking with Michael and our friend Jaime about it and Michael pointed out a concept he learned in undergrad called “The Paradox of Tolerance” which was defined by philosopher Karl Popper in 1945. Michael noticed that, that was what my dad had thrown at me.

The short and sweet of it is that refusing to tolerate intolerance is itself intolerance.

My initial reaction was:

Hermione.gif

But now I’m more like:

Chloe.gif

Now, I have no answers to any of this but as usual, needed to write it out to help me process it all. But let me tell you that I’ve got lots of questions swimming in my head right now such as:

-Am I actually an intolerant person?

-Is it wrong to be intolerant of an intolerant person?

-At what point do I become intolerant in my work to be tolerant?

-What would my wedding be like with my family or without them?

-Will Michael and I be comfortable with having people who do not believe in our lives or happiness at our wedding?

-What’s more important: intolerant family at our wedding or not having to deal with that on our Special Day?

-Do I example this paradox in my professional work and am intolerant to others due to their intolerance thus making me intolerant of them?

Though while I have many questions whirling around, maybe this will be a moment of learning in which I finally draw a line with the level of  influence some have over me in my life and limit or close those relationships. Perhaps it’ll help me better understand some of the work that is being done in my professional field. And perhaps it’ll help me better understand and advise my students and even colleagues. Only time knows.

So this is what I’ve been musing over in my head and for the time being, can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe in the future I’ll have some answers but for now just musings and contemplations.

Thanks for reading through my musing and maybe it’ll help you work through some stuff too. 🙂

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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2017 P.A.N.D.A. Awards!

Can you believe it? It’s time for the 3rd Annual P.A.N.D.A. Awards! AND new for the 3rd Annual P.A.N.D.A.s, I will be giving shout outs to those beyond the Twitter-verse!

For those of you who are just joining me, think of this as the biggest Non-Follow Friday shout out ever!

Started in 2015 on the night of the Oscars, the P.A.N.D.A. Awards were created in a 10 minute time span to celebrate people who have engaged with me on my social media, and who I think you should get to know! These individuals span my social and professional circles from Student Affairs to Kappa Sigma Fraternity to peeps from college. In true Brian Form, naming them the P.A.N.D.A.s was a  requirement and therefore came up with the best acronym ever:

Positive And Niftily Delightful Associates

So keep reading to see the Awardees of the 3rd Annual P.A.N.D.A. Awards! (And I promise that I don’t announce wrong results)!

Congrats to all the Awardees!

And consider checking out and connecting with some of these amazing peeps!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!!

References

Alex Lange
Sera Radovich
Roberta Radovich
Lisa Giles-Schubel
Clyde Barnett
Michael Ciesielski
Luke Dzwonkowski
Daniel Stohlin
Michael Benson
Wayne Glass
Mary Jo Sekelsky
Juhi Bhatt
Erik Haener
Heather Shea
Jason Meriwether
Matthew Pruitt
Jon Peer 
Thomas Peeler

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The Peace I Got With My Engagement

 

“Michael and I got engaged!”

Silence

“Hello?” 

Silence

Then:

“Why are you doing this? Was I a bad parent? What did I do wrong?”

**10 minutes of reassuring them they were a great parent**

“Do you not believe in the Bible any more?”

**10 minutes of theological debate over my soul and the difference in believing the teachings of the Bible vs the text of the Bible**

Then:

“How did you go from such a good Catholic boy to this?”

**5 minutes of telling them I am an amazing, caring, successful, strong and independent person, all because of them**

**Short good byes are said**

This conversation happens more often than it should to way too many people in the world.

I’ve had this conversation in several contexts over the years since I came out with one of my parents. But honestly I was hoping for some progress since last time, when I said I was moving in with Michael 4.5 years ago.

But this time something clicked in me. A sense of not necessarily resignation but a peace-like feeling. My parent was never going to change. They were not going to attend my wedding. They were not going to support my relationship, life or me as a person.

And I am ok with that.

The duration of the conversation was me coming into my own and taking on the parental role. It was me in the unconditional loving role. It was me who was reassuring my parent that they had not failed me. It was me, not only reassuring them but telling them about the amazing person I had become, even more so since coming out. It was me who took measures to ensure that my parent was safe and would not make any poor choices after the conversation. It was me who took the conversation to a higher level of context and love.

And it was midway through the conversation that I realized a key had been unlocked and that a weight that I physically felt lift off my shoulders.

I would be the one to always adore them for what they have done for me. I would be the one to always offer the olive branch. I would always be the one to unconditionally love them. And I would always be the one to never expect them to reciprocate those feelings. I was at peace with the relationship or lack thereof that I would forever have with my parent.

It was at that moment after the conversation that I knew I had grown into someone that I could be proud of and who my parent could be proud of if they knew the whole me.

It was at that moment that I was ok with the fact they thought I was Hell bound.

It was at that moment that I finally understood and embraced unconditional love.

It was at that moment I finally put at peace the battle that I’ve been fighting, for the majority of my life.

And because of that, going into this engagement and wedding (21 months and counting)and the rest of my life, I know that I am going to be fine. That I will be loved unconditionally by Michael. That I will be loved unconditionally by the family I’ve created. And that no matter what, I’ll always love my parent whether absent from my life or not for the rest of my years on this Earth.

ringsSo for those of you who have to have these conversations with loved ones more often than not, please keep this in mind:

We can’t choose who is disappointed in us, who doesn’t love us or who doesn’t approve of us. But we CAN choose to unconditionally love others and enter a consciousness of peace that can propel you to an even greater relationships with those who you do place around you.

Until next time,

Peace Love and Pandas!

 

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Desperate Housewives; Dutiful Househusbands: #TBT Chapter 5 & Conclusion

Chapter Five

The Subversion of the “Ideal Family” in Desperate Housewives

In 2004 a dramatic situation comedy, also referred to as the sitcom, hit the American television screens with such magnitude, the show rocketed to number one almost immediately and quickly became a national and global phenomena. Comprised from a variety of family dynamics, numerous cultural and social issues and an array of varying human traits and characteristics, this sitcom created a familiarity of the family with which most of the American people could relate with. This sitcom taught the sociology of the family. This sitcom was entitled Desperate Housewives.

Desperate Housewives comprised itself of family dynamics which spanned across the years, beginning with the nuclear family concept through to the current, ever-changing, non-traditional family.

By using this sitcom, its unique and blatant imagery of the family, and using the previously mentioned contrasts and comparisons of the television family and real-life family, it is hoped that a conclusion will be formed on whether the image of the real-life American family influences the television family, or that the television family influences the image and dynamics of the real-life American family.

The conclusion will be reached by the use of each major character of Desperate Housewives, Bree Van de Kamp, Gabrielle Solis, Edie Britt, Susan Mayer, and finally Lynette Scavo. Each character and her family will accentuate a specific stage which has been identified in this paper, with a final result of one of the two anticipated conclusion options, previously mentioned.

bree

Courtesy of imdb.com

Bree Van de Kamp and her family lay the foundation for the sitcom by introducing the traditional “All-American” family. Composition of the Van de Kamp family specifically follows the definition of the nuclear family where “family group that consists only of father, mother, and children” and falls into the light of such great television families as the Anderson and Cleavers.

Bree Van de Kamp and her family hold the traditional roles. Bree is a hard working wife who’s main purpose in life is to perform household duties and support her family. Her husband is a business man who concentrates on the financial stability of the family. Andrew and Danielle are Bree’s children.

gabrielle

Courtesy of imdb.com

However, unlike the Cleaver boys, the Van de Kamp children are anything but loyal to the family. Andrew openly embarrases his mother with his life style choice, and Danielle shames her when the young daughter falls in love with a suspicious neighbor.

Gabrielle Solis and her husband Carlos bring the minority into the sitcom. They’re proud Latinos, who’s flair and grace for life accentuate the Latino heritage they possess. Gabrielle does not hold the traditional roles as the mother figure. Her concentration in life is fashion and socialization. Her husband is a work-a-holic who buys his wife’s happiness many times.

edie

Courtesy of imdb.com

Edie Britt is the conniving and most manipulative woman on Wisteria Lane. Her portrayal as a seductive enchantress who brings to light the dysfunctional family to the sitcom in honor of the Connors, Bundys, and Bunkers. Her relationships are off-beat and unconventional, while her motherly tendences are motivated by competition. Edie has one goal in life, to win the best. Whether it be men, money, or anything else, she must win.

susan

Courtesy of imdb.com

Susan Meyer follows with the single parent, non-traditional family. Supported by previous sitcoms such as Full House and Will and Grace, Susan attempts to uphold the motherly role as did June Cleaver, however while also balancing a job and a single parent love life. Her daughter Julie is a mature and responsible daughter, holding many of the traits valued by the daughters of the 1950s, including the Anderson girls of Father Knows Best. Susan’s ex-husband does play some role in the family, going to and from the house when he is between girlfriends.

lynett

Courtesy of imdb.com

Finally, we come to the current form of the family in Lynette Scavo. Lynette Scavo has a basically traditional family. A loving and hard working husband, and adoring children. However she also gives a home to a illegitimate child of her husband’s from another woman, bringing to light the extended family. Lynette is also a hard working woman of the new millennium who’s story line in the sitcom places an emphasis on the delicate balance a modern woman must make between the personal and professional lives. Lynette Scavo uses every ounce of intelligence she has to make the two worlds compatible. Including web-camming her children in the morning to wish them a good day at school, or starting a nursery at her advertising firm in order to feel safe and comfortable with working while caring for a new born.

Conclusion

fam|ly (fam′ə lē; often fam′lē) n., pl –lies [[ ME familie < L familia, household establishment, akin to famulus, servant <? IE *dhe–mo–house ( < base *dhē-:see do1) > Sans dhāman, household ]] 1 [Obs.] all the people living in the same house; household: see also extended family 2 a) a social unit consisting of parents and the children they rear (see also nuclear family) b) the children of the same parents c) one’s husband (or wife) and children (Webster).

By definition, the television sitcom family has up held the general concept of this ever changing social dynamic. Since it’s early form in television, by reflecting the whether brief or long term, nuclear family dynamic, to the extended, integrated families of today, representation of the family has evolve and will continue to evolve. Through the World Wars, Civil Rights Acts, Voting Rights, and Civil Union Laws, etc, television has helped to reflect the family on the television screen whether reflecting the social issues of the times, or the family values. The Cleavers and Andersons hold an ideal perception of the family, with clean lawns, orderly homes, and perfect relationships. Going through the racial transformations Sanford & Sons and The Crosby Show brought to the television screen in light of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Act, the dysfunctional loving parenting techniques that Archie Bunker, Al Bundy and Roseanne Connor provided, to the single extended family or non-related families of Full House, Friends, and Will & Grace, during radical social changes of marriage, divorce, and gay rights, television has reflected society. To the question posed earlier in this paper whether television sitcom influences societal views of family or if family influences television family societies, it may be concluded that there is no true way to distinguish with quantitative or even qualitative research the lucid and transforming nature of both the family and the television sitcom

The approach used to research this paper is a “new millennium way” of investigating the family and American society. Television has only been in the average American’s hand since the 1940s, when it was finally readily available and cost efficient. (Spigle). It has finally reached a point in its existence that patterns and themes, etc may be found. With such a short life span thus far, and it’s ever changing nature, due to new technologies, further research will be inevitable.

Works Cited and Consulted

Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows; 1946 – Present. 6th ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995

Butler, Jeremy G. Roseanne; U.S. Domestic Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997

Chao, Elaine L. and Kathleen P. Utgoff. Women in the Labor Force: A Databook. U.S. Department of Labor, May 2005, Report 985. 12 March 2007 <http://www.bls.gov/cps/wlf-databook-2005.pdf>.

Dean, Pamala S. Sanford And Son; U.S. Domestic Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

 Desperate Housewives. Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Touchstone Television, 2004. DVD

Friends. Warner Brothers Television, 1994. DVD.

 Generic Radio. 25 March 2006 <http://www.genericradio.com>.

Gunzerath, David. All In The Family; U.S. Situation Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Hunt, Darnell M. The  Cosby Show; U.S. Situation Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Huston, Aletha C., et al. Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992

Internet Media DataBase. 19 January 2006 <http://imdb.com>.

Kassel, Michael B. Father Knows Best; U.S. Domestic Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Morley, David. Family Television: Cultural Power and the Domestic Leisure. London: Routledge, 1988. 15 March 2007 <http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=MtCzVaj6bUUC&oi=fnd&pg= PP9&dq=family+and+television+studies&ots=8ZSKQTjevZ&sig=wZHH5GzlyEPO2bmDKej9jqn-J1A#PPP1,M1>.

Neufeldt, Victoria. Editor in Chief. Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Editor Emeritus David B. Guralmik. 3rd ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1997.

Roberts, Sam. Who Americans Are and What They Do, in Census Data. New York Times. December 15, 2006, 23 February 2007 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/15/us/15census.html?ex=132383 8800&en=0854d746f02031e3&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss>.

Orlick, Peter B. Leave It To Beaver; U.S. Situation Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Ruggles, Steven. The Transformation of the American Family Structure. An American Historical Review, February 1994: 103-128. 7 April 2007 <http://www.hist.umn.edu/~ruggles/Articles/AH R.pdf.>.

Saluter, Arlene F. Marital Status and Living Arrangements: March 1994. Current Population Reports; Population Characteristics, 20 – 484. 15 April 2007 <http://www.census.gov/prod/1/pop/p20-484.pdf>.

Spigel, Lynn. Make Room For TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Stuller-Giglione, Joan. Married…With Children; U.S. Situation Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Tindall, George and David Shi. America: A Narrative History. 5th ed. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. 2 vols.

TVLand. 29 June 2006 <http://tvland/tvhome.html>.

U.S. Census Bureau. 15 January 2007 <http://www.census.gov>.

Wikipedia. 29 June 2006 <http://wikipedia.org>.

Wober, Mallory and Barrie Gunter. The Television and Social Control. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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“With Great Power There Must Also Come Great Responsibility”

There is so much going on it’s a bit overwhelming.

But I was perusing my Facebook this weekend and came across this video:

I found it quite interesting and significantly insightful.

Now before I go forward, I’ll disclose that I worked at abc12 in Flint, MI for 4 years during my undergrad days as a floor director and studio cameraman. So I do hold a bias in some ways that favors news reporters, however, here are my thoughts on all of this.


The Press

I do believe, regardless any bias on my part, that the news does need to be fair and that it is their responsibility they bear with freedom of the press. It is not their job to be friends with who they report on nor should it support or help any agenda regardless liberal or conservative leaning. News is suppose to put out the information the most honest, fair and best way they can and let the public decide. (However I do acknowledge that every outlet does lean one way or the other simply because they are human).

Meryl Streep put it beautifully in her Golden Globe speech a few weeks ago:

This brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage.That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our constitution.

~Meryl Streep, Golden Globes 2017

 

I was also extremely disappointed to hear Trump Advisor, Kellyanne Conway, suggest that the reporters should be fired. The news needs to be independent of the President. It is absolutely inappropriate for a President’s Team to call for the removal of reporters/anchors and for the Team to call out and demand the names of sources.


Topics

The other point in this whole exchange between Cooper and Conway was the complaint of the story topics that were being covered by the press.

I think Trump has earned these pre-inauguration stories about him; just like Obama earned his pre-inauguration stories about him 4 and 8 years ago. The reason why the stories are so different is not because news outlet are biased against Trump or for Obama but rather the rhetoric, responsibility, respect and accountability each once President-Elect has used and approached the Presidency with.

First, let me share a line from this exchange that really got me thinking on this post was said at about 24:30. “With freedom comes great responsibility.” 

However, let me use the original version of the phrase quoted above: “With great power there must also come great responsibility”

Of course Trump’s news is not about the dresses and the parties and the celebrations. In my opinion he has not acted with a sense responsibility that comes with the Power of the Presidency. The actions and inactions and words of President-Elect Trump and his Team have taken precedence (and rightly so) over the frivolity of the Inauguration Celebrations because of this lack of responsibility and the stories have reflected justifiably so.


Finally, a small side thought, way to rip and alter a phrase from Spider-Man who I feel embodies the struggle that a President must endure and hopefully conquer in terms of the inner battle of what it means in undertaking the power and responsibility of something greater than one’s self.

Just a few thoughts from over the weekend.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Desperate Housewives; Dutiful Househusbands: #TBT Chapter 4

Chapter Four

The 1990s and the new millenium

 II. THE NON-TRADITIONAL FAMILY AND THE EXTENDED FAMILY

ful-house

Courtesy of imdb.com

Full House     

Just prior to Roseanne coming onto the scene, Full House (1987-1995) hit prime time Fridays, and introduced a very loose definition of extended family members as major characters (Internet). This evolution of the sitcom family, paralleling the growing extended American family, may have played a part in the show’s instant success, which quickly climbed to being a number 1 television market leader. The show focused on the Tanner family. Family being used loosely, due to it being comprised of both blood and non-blood related individuals, who resided under the same roof. It not only emphasized the non-nuclear and extended family, but also a further distortion of gender roles of the traditional 1950s family, such as the home versus professional obligations. Full House also continued the single-parent/ single-family concept which Jackie, from Roseanne, had begun to entangle and bring to light within the television sitcom.

Danny Tanner, portrayed by comedian Bob Saget, was the head of the Tanner household (Brooks 381). A single father, who’s wife had passed away suddenly, Danny had been thrust into single parenthood, which was becoming a popular rising phenomenon in American culture at the time (U.S. Census). Though this sitcom emphasized single-parenting, the nuclear family had been present prior to the death of the mother, this being noted in frequent dialogue between all cast members (Internet). As the single father of the home, he inherited both the responsibilities of the mother and father. Originally employed as a sportscaster and later promoted to morning news anchor, Danny was the chief finance supplier for the family. Additionally, Danny Tanner, both out of constraint and part personality, embraced the duties which had been set by the wives of the 1950s. His particular specialties were cleaning, cooking, and maintaining a proper and organized home. It was a rare occasion to find an episode without Danny Tanner reorganizing an already organize room, dusting the shelves, or emphasizing the importance of cleanliness to his daughters.

Rather than inviting a feminine influence to help him, not only with the “wifely” duties he had inherited, but to aid him with his three daughters, Danny invited his brother-in-law, Jesse Katsopolis, more commonly known as ‘Uncle Jesse’, portrayed by John Stamos, and Joey Gladstone, a close friend of Danny’s, portrayed by Dave Coulier (Brooks 381). Danny’s intention for inviting his brother–in-law and friend to live with his family was to help Danny with the girls. However, the objective wasn’t necessarily met to the expected standards. More often than not, the episodes revolved around the two “father figures” as the source of many of the comical problems. Problems included employment, relationships, and accidentally misguiding the Tanner girls by unknowingly giving them poor advice or help. This though still created a loving and strong family environment for the American audience to enjoy.

Jesse Katsopolis and Joey Gladstone were employed as well, both sharing the traditional male/husband roles. With one a musician and the other an actor, financial support was infrequent at times, shifting much of their support in the “wifely” duties arena. Both attempted to share in the motherly tasks which were needed around the home. Some of these tasks included the “talks” with the girls which fortunately for the audience, but unfortunately for the daughters, many times resulted in loving yet awkward situations.

Unlike Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, Full House took the viewer to not only the location of the home, but frequently included the television station which Danny was employed at, the schools and day care centers which centered around the children of the show, the miscellaneous employment locations of Uncle Jesse and Joey, as well as the random parks and other fun places Danny and the other adults took the children to.

Also unlike the 1950s sitcom the show was taken out of the small, all white neighborhoods context and was placed in San Francisco, a city of many ethnicities and numerous cultures. Many friends of both the adults and the children were frequently minorities, including co-workers of Becky and Danny and Michelle’s best friend, Teddy.

The daughters, D.J., Stephanie, and Michelle were the heart of the show. Actresses Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Mary Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen portrayed the daughters for the entire duration of the show. The topics which the girls brought before the comical and unprecedented set of parental units, had evolved to coincide with the times. These topic included guns, drugs and teen sex. Often times the single father parenting came to light as the girls dealt with these topics. One memorable quote for Danny Tanner to his daughters was “HEY. I don’t yell, I guide” (Internet).  These three girls had little to no feminine influence, until Becky Donaldson, Danny’s morning co-host, began dating Jesse. Their dating eventually led to the couple’s marriage. Once married, the couple did not move out of the Tanner household. Rather they reconstructed the attic into a small apartment, where they lived and eventually raised their family. With being the only woman of the household, Becky began shifting the total male influence of the show to a more feminine atmosphere for the girls as they grew and entered the adolescent stage of their lives. Not only having close relationships with the three Tanner girls, but Jessie and Becky continued the close relationship with their own children. Separating the Katsopolis family from the Tanner family became the first sense of a traditional nuclear family in comparison to the families of the 1950s. However, this small nuclear family was only a segment of the larger extended, non-traditional family of the Tanner household.

Full House began a popular trend of showing single parent families and the struggles that came with the position, thus aiding the issuance of the “Era of Friends”.

friends

Courtesy of imdb.com

Friends

The renowned sitcom, Friends (1994-2004), was a break through for popular television (Brooks 377). The show was comprised of six adults, all close friends, who completely broke the traditional concept of the television family. Compared to the families of Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, only two of these friends were blood related. The remaining friends were a compilation of friends and roommates who slowly became a clique of close best friends. Though very little blood relation, and all being close in age, they seemed to have adapted the traditional roles of the traditional family.

At this time, the mid-1990s, divorce, marriage and lifestyles were redefining themselves. Compared to the 1970s, 10% fewer individuals would marry. In 1994, only 61% of the population would be married. Of the remaining 39% unmarried individuals, 9% were divorced, unlike the 3% divorced in 1970, only 7% would be widowed, improving from the 9% in 1970, and 23% of individuals would never marry, compared to the 1970s, where at that time, 23% of individuals would never marry. In addition, the average age of those individuals marrying had increased from 21.3 years old to 25.6 years old (Census). With marriage under such scrutiny and “reform”, the relation it created with the American people was to be expected. By joining a group of friends and creating a family role for each of them, Friends began tackling the social issues and stereotypes of America.

Chandler Bing, portrayed by Matthew Perry, had a tendency to inherit the father figure of the show (Brooks 378). He was often times the calmer friend of the group, and more responsible of the men within the sitcom. He was also the individual with the steadiest income, though it was a frequent joke about his employment as an executive, specializing in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration, a job which none of the friends understood. Later he did chance his employment and moved to advertising and public relations, continuing the more popular idea of changing careers later in life.

Monica Geller Bing, portrayed by Courtney Cox Arquette, was the palpable mother of the sitcom (Brooks 378). She was also employed, and over the sitcom’s ten seasons held positions in several restaurants as a waitress or chef. However she more than welcomed the responsibilities of the traditional mother in addition to her job. Cleaning, cooking and organizing were her passions in life. Even after marriage, the “wifely” duties and responsibilities took precedence over the relationship many times. In the series finale of the sitcom, Monica cries over how well she led the transformation of her friends into clean and organized people, who would never place a glass on a table without a coaster.

Joey Tribbiani, portrayed by Matt LeBlanc, easily undertook the role of the child (Brooks 378). Though living in his own apartment, he relied on Monica’s refrigerator for food and often times her couch for comfort. He was slow in learning and catching onto anything, as in the time when he attempted to learn French. The end result was the character being utterly confused and suggested as mentally incapable. In addition to being a slow learner, Joey Tribbiani often times found himself in trouble, such as the Thanksgiving in which he unwittingly got his head stuck inside the turkey, Monica was saving for dinner later that day. His choice of employment was acting, making his forgetfulness and often lazy attitude contradict the necessary attributes he needed to actively pursue his career.

Rachel Green, portrayed by the popular Jennifer Aniston, also assumed the role of the child (Brooks 378). Her “adult-childhood” however was different than Joey Tribbiani’s. Rachel Green moved out of her wealthy parents’ home and financial stability in the pilot episode of the sitcom, after leaving her fiancé at the alter. She had no concept of responsibility and accountability, with her only marketable skill being shopping at Bloomingdales. Over the course of the following ten years, Rachel would grow and learn to live on her own, retain a job, and eventually raise a child. By the end of the series, Rachel Green had jobs offers from the top clothing retailers in the world, which led the plot of the series finale and her moving to France.

Ross Gellar, portrayed by David Schwimmer, and Phoebe Buffay, portrayed by Lisa Kudrow, assumed the roles of the extended family members (Brooks 378). Financially stable and responsible, both individuals lived by themselves as well as lead distinctively separate lives in addition to the lives of the “core” family members. Many times situations and events in the lives of these two were stories and tales the two individuals relayed to the rest of the “family”, rather than experiencing the actual events in the sitcom. Nevertheless, these two characters continued to carry a sense of extended family into the family/ group of friends. The unusual nature of this relationship is Ross being Monica’s true brother, acts more as an advisory third party many times, rather than her brother. However his sense of protection for his younger sister, is still present, as in when he found out about Monica and Chandler, and making sure Chandler knew never to hurt his baby sister.

The interaction between the characters was both comical and loving, as many of the sitcoms of the 1990s. However, the atmosphere of New York City enticed the fast pace of the show and the continual active atmosphere of the events which went on during the episodes. There was never a dull moment, with events such as movie stars shooting a film nearby, trips to the beach, adventures on mass transportation, and interactions with eccentric strangers on almost an episodic basis.

Similar to all television shows and the sitcoms of the 1950s, much of the show was set in only a few places. For the sitcom Friends, it was one of three primary locations; Monica’s apartment, Joey’s apartment or the coffee café. However, unlike the sitcoms of the 1950s, Friends frequently went from one end of New York City to the other, and many times across the country, and for a wedding across the Atlantic. The show often visited all six friends at their places of employment, including Ralph Lauren Headquarters, NYC’s history museum, and several theaters and television studios.

Not only was the show ground breaking by the individuals and the roles each character undertook, but the topics and presentation of the topics were ground breaking.

It was typical to have conversations on sex, pornography, incest, transvestites, and impotence. For an example the following is the conversation when one of the friends asked the group if they’d have to choose between either sex or food;

Monica: Sex!
Chandler: Seriously. Answer faster.
Monica: I’m sorry, sweetie. When I said “sex” I wasn’t thinking of sex with you.
Chandler: It’s like a big hug.
Phoebe: Ross, how about you? Sex or food?
Ross: Sex!
Phoebe: What about sex or dinosaurs?
Ross: My God, it’s like Sophie’s Choice.
Phoebe: Joey, if you had to give up sex or food, which would you pick?
Joey: I don’t know it’s too hard.
Rachel: Come on, you have to answer.
Joey: Okay… sex…No, food…No, uh, sex…No… food… I want both! I want girls on bread!
(Internet)

Conversations also included topics to aid in the story lines of Chandler and his transgender father, Phoebe and her surrogate pregnancy with her brother’s children, and the off again on again, two weddings and a child relationship of Rachael and Ross. Issues brought forth by the ground breaking sitcom Friends brought to the table were never considered options during the 1950s.

There were issue similarities between the sitcoms of the 1950s and Friends however as well. One popular issue was pets. In the 1950s, the children would bring in dogs and cats and once in a while turtles as pets to beg the parents to allow them to keep them. Friends covered this issue as well, though adding a new twist to the traditional scenario. Ross brought home a capuchin monkey which loved and terrorized the family of friends.

The characters of friends used family as an environment to discuss actual family issues, thus we begin to see the replacement of the relative with the friends as family, which the sitcom Cheers slowly began, Friends popularized, and then Will & Grace immortalized.

will-grace

Courtesy of imdb.com

Will & Grace

A sitcom which dared to challenge the status quo by splitting every rule and proper etiquette, broke onto the television scene in 1998 (Internet). Will & Grace starred Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally, and Sean Hayes as the frenzied and vivacious group of friends, Will Truman, Grace Adler, Karen Walker, and Jack McFarland (Internet). This show not only broke the mold for family, but as well, the social and cultural standards which had previously been set by even the sitcom Friends.

At this time, cases were being heard across the country for gay civil rights. Amongst the cases included the 1996 case of Romer vs. Evans This case was in reference to an amendment to the Colorado State Constitution preventing any city, town, or county of Colorado to take any type of legal etc., action to protect gay civil rights. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the amendment. And on March 4, 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling in the case of Oncale vs. Sundowner Offshore Services, This ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court stated that all federal laws pertaining to sexual harassment also applied to same sex harassment situations (Wikipedia). With these and other important rulings, gay civil liberties were being examined and scrutinized in every possible situation. Thus, the possible explanation for the popularity of the sitcom Will & Grace.

To begin, we have Will Truman, the single gay man, who takes most of the responsibility for himself and his friends. His fatherly attitude often times calms, or to the least extent suggests reasons, the group of friends. Though cruising the gay bar and picking up guys was where he spent much of his time, he held a steady job with good income, and often times provided the father figure support for the group. One of the ground breaking issues Will brought to the sitcom and the family environment was closet homosexuality. Pretending to be straight, he began dating Grace in college. After meeting, who would be his best friend, Jack, Will breaks it off with Grace to explore his closeted sexuality.

Grace Adler, though at times eccentric, holds the feminine parental support for the group. Her ‘motherly’ influence parallels that of a young and learning mother. Unlike previous motherly images, Grace is a vibrant and many times self interested, ensuring her life happiness first before she attends to the others. Her lessons in learning to support a family of friends, help her grow and mature as an adult. After the rough year when Will broke it off to explore his sexuality, the two re-met and became best friends, in spite of their prior relationship.

Prior relationships, however are common ground for the pair of individuals who exude childishness. Jack and Karen are the best friends of Will and Grace. These two individuals, though adults, undertake childish roles. Simply by watching the way they act, the image of a child is easily seen. Their logic towards life and relationships often mirror their childish tendancies as well. Logic for Jack and Karen included alcohol and sex;

You say potato, I say vodka,” “Ladies and gentlemen, fresh from 45 minutes of butt-robics, I give you my ass,” “Lesson for today: Though the eyes are the window to the soul, the zipper is the window to the underwear,” and “Well, howdy, domestic pardner” (Internet).

Both Jack and Karen rarely have consistency in their lives and are flamboyant and cling to their waning youthfulness. For them, Karen’s incarcerated husband and Jack’s sexually charge and flamboyant son, from an “oops” relationship, are the most consistency they have in their lives, besides Will and Grace.

The parental units, found within Will and Grace, grounded their friends. Many times, within the show, it was joked that Will and Grace were married, “sexless lovers” (Internet). Jack and Karen were constantly on the verge of continual youthfulness. However, unlike parental units who simply gave advise, Will and Grace received advice and support as well, though many times unconventionally.

Jack: Will, you’re going to be a great dad because for the past 10 years you’ve been a great one to me.
Will: Wanna stop for ice cream?
Jack: Nah.
Will: Want to go to a bar and look at hot guys?
Jack: I love you daddy.
 (Internet)

For the duration of the series, the romantic relationships and friendship of the four friends was where the show found its core. Will and his romances, Grace and her white knights, and Jack and Karen, both with their boy toys. Most of the topics that this show brought to the American people helped these storylines along. Topics that were dealt with included homosexuality, same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, and one night stands.

Works Cited and Consulted

Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows; 1946 – Present. 6th ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995

Butler, Jeremy G. Roseanne; U.S. Domestic Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997

Chao, Elaine L. and Kathleen P. Utgoff. Women in the Labor Force: A Databook. U.S. Department of Labor, May 2005, Report 985. 12 March 2007 <http://www.bls.gov/cps/wlf-databook-2005.pdf>.

Dean, Pamala S. Sanford And Son; U.S. Domestic Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

 Desperate Housewives. Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Touchstone Television, 2004. DVD

Friends. Warner Brothers Television, 1994. DVD.

 Generic Radio. 25 March 2006 <http://www.genericradio.com>.

Gunzerath, David. All In The Family; U.S. Situation Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Hunt, Darnell M. The  Cosby Show; U.S. Situation Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Huston, Aletha C., et al. Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992

Internet Media DataBase. 19 January 2006 <http://imdb.com>.

Kassel, Michael B. Father Knows Best; U.S. Domestic Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Morley, David. Family Television: Cultural Power and the Domestic Leisure. London: Routledge, 1988. 15 March 2007 <http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=MtCzVaj6bUUC&oi=fnd&pg= PP9&dq=family+and+television+studies&ots=8ZSKQTjevZ&sig=wZHH5GzlyEPO2bmDKej9jqn-J1A#PPP1,M1>.

Neufeldt, Victoria. Editor in Chief. Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Editor Emeritus David B. Guralmik. 3rd ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1997.

Roberts, Sam. Who Americans Are and What They Do, in Census Data. New York Times. December 15, 2006, 23 February 2007 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/15/us/15census.html?ex=132383 8800&en=0854d746f02031e3&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss>.

Orlick, Peter B. Leave It To Beaver; U.S. Situation Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Ruggles, Steven. The Transformation of the American Family Structure. An American Historical Review, February 1994: 103-128. 7 April 2007 <http://www.hist.umn.edu/~ruggles/Articles/AH R.pdf.>.

Saluter, Arlene F. Marital Status and Living Arrangements: March 1994. Current Population Reports; Population Characteristics, 20 – 484. 15 April 2007 <http://www.census.gov/prod/1/pop/p20-484.pdf>.

Spigel, Lynn. Make Room For TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Stuller-Giglione, Joan. Married…With Children; U.S. Situation Comedy. Ed. Horace Newcomb. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Tindall, George and David Shi. America: A Narrative History. 5th ed. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. 2 vols.

TVLand. 29 June 2006 <http://tvland/tvhome.html>.

U.S. Census Bureau. 15 January 2007 <http://www.census.gov>.

Wikipedia. 29 June 2006 <http://wikipedia.org>.

Wober, Mallory and Barrie Gunter. The Television and Social Control. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Desperate Housewives; Dutiful Househusbands: #TBT Chapter 3

Chapter Three

The Family in Situation Comedies; the 1970s to the 1990s

 I. THE 1960S: SOCIAL AND CULTURAL TRANSITION

During the 1960s the concept of the “All-American family” which appeared so often in the 1950s sitcoms underwent a radical change. This change was brought about in part by social and cultural alterations that had a far reaching effect on American culture (Huston).

Three significant pieces of legislation were passed during this time, which helped to bring about cultural and social transformation: the Civil Rights Act (1964), the Voting Rights Act (1965), and the Immigration Act (1965) (Tindall and Shi 1177). According to historians, Tindall and Shi, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the “most far-reaching civil rights measure ever enacted” (1177). This act aided in the reduction of discrimination and segregation in the United States. The 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed after the Civil Rights march to Montgomery, Alabama. This act ensured equal voting rights and privileges to all citizens, including African-Americans, who had previously been discriminated against at the polling booths. The Immigration Act of 1965 increased immigration by eliminating numerous limits, and adopting several amendments allowing the families of current immigrants freer entry into the United States. The Immigration Act of 1965 led to a larger influx of immigrants both from the Eastern Hemisphere and from South America and Mexico. The liberation movements of the 1960s and the resulting legislation as well as the resulting social changes allowed the diversity of the American population to emerge into American consciousness more fully than previously. During this time period, issues of race and equality appeared for the first time in prime time sitcoms.

Also, during this decade of transition, a division between parents and children began to emerge. This division divided the traditional nuclear families often in very radical ways. Issues that split many American families included race, war, and questions of civil rights. War, in particular the Vietnam War, split numerous families, especially families with children in high school or attending college. The division between parents and children influenced concepts of the family life in subsequent decades. The result was a far more differentiated perception of the family. The former vision of a unified nuclear family with very few problems and troubles was shattered. This breaking of the traditional image, like the issues of race and equality, began to make an appearance on prime time sitcoms during this time (Wober).

 1. RACIAL DIVERSITY

sanford-son

Courtesy of imdb.com

 Sanford & Son

With the new awareness of diversity, equality and the recognition of African-Americans as full citizens with full civil rights, sitcoms began to reflect these new concepts as well. The 1970s and the 1980s became the decades where these issues were confronted, and at times, violently. One of the first and more memorable sitcoms reflecting a new awareness of the civil rights issues was Sanford & Son (1972-1977) (Internet). Sitcoms of the 1950s featured a nuclear family, traditional gender roles, an all Caucasian cast, and a small-town all white neighborhood. The characters and families were the epitome of the definition of the family. Social issues were not addressed. The complete location of the sitcom was limited only to the household and immediate neighborhood. Even places of employment came into play none too often. The fathers went off to work, but we never saw them at work. Sanford & Son breaks with a majority of these traditions, including breaking the definition of the nuclear family. Rather the family in the sitcom began to emerge into the latter part of the Webster definition of the family “one’s husband (or wife) and children”. It features not an all white nuclear family, but an African-American father and son, with no mother figure. This show, however, allowed African-Americans to appear for the first time in all the program’s leading roles on main stream television. Sanford & Son challenged the image of the “All-American family” that the Andersons and Cleavers had set in previous decades. The first ideas challenged by the sitcom were the concepts that America is all white, that American families all reside in suburbs, and all families face no real crises.  Furthermore the concept that all families are nuclear and intact is put to the test.  Not only are Sanford and his son African-Americans who live in an African-American neighborhood, but they form a non-nuclear family. The mother has died. This is emphasized by the fact that Fred Sanford often raises his eyes toward heaven and proclaims comically “Elizabeth, I’m coming to join you, honey!” He generally says this during a crisis when he has one of his unjustified heart attacks. Thus, the family is comprised of a father and an orphan son.

Furthermore, Fred’s relationship to other members of his extended family, are far from harmonious. He has a bitter hatred for Aunt Edith, his crusty and hyper-critical sister-in-law. She is the only consistent “motherly” figure in the sitcom. Unfortunately she is far from motherly in the traditional sense of the nurturing, kind, and loving figure to be found in such fifties television sitcoms as Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, and is sarcastic and harsh.

Astonishingly, for the time period, the program raised questions on “reverse racism”, a concept that came as something of a surprise to people living in the frequent isolated all white neighborhoods. Fred Sanford, portrayed by the well-known comedian Redd Foxx, is a cantankerous old man who detests white people and finds other ethnic groups a threat (Brooks 900). His detest is so significantly pronounced, that it is humorous, allowing a difficult racial issue to be addressed but softened by laughter. Season Two’s “The Puerto Ricans Are Coming!” reflects, even in the title, Fred Sanford’s prejudice against all other races, and his exaggerated fear of the threat they pose to the “American way of life” (Internet).

While the world of the fifties sitcoms was limited to all white middle class suburbs, Fred owned a junkyard in a rundown part of Los Angeles. His son, Lamont, portrayed by Demond Wilson, helps his father with the family business (Brooks 900). Fred’s role as a junkyard operator takes him out of the white collar category of previous sitcom “fathers” and places him into a social environment not previously portrayed in television comedies. Sanford & Son takes the location to the Los Angeles ghetto, and additionally shows not only the inner city neighborhood, but also the place of employment. The Sanford’s are not wealthy individuals, by any means. They are of lower middle class, this being reflected in the run down appearance of the junkyard, their working class clothing and the shoddy living room, which forms the main setting for the comedy.

Finally, unlike the unnaturally happy families of the 1950s with their upbeat, always smiling, uncomplaining fathers, Fred is not a happy man. This show found its comedy in the stark bluntness of Fred Sanford’s blatant disregard for etiquette, respect and his often discontent with people and life.  The often used phrases; “…evil and ugly Aunt Esther…” and “I’m coming to join you, Elizabeth!”, Elizabeth being his deceased wife, were constant reminders of the old man’s sour disposition (Museum). He was irascible, often depressed, and frequently complaining. He was a caricature of the testy old codger. He was a direct descendant of some of the sidekicks who appeared in 1950s western shows such as Gunsmoke. The humor has an entirely different base. It did not have the gentle laughter of sweet, kind, unrealistically good-humored cute characters.

The result was an atmosphere completely opposite of the sitcoms of the 1950s. The titles are indicative of the reversal of expectations in almost every program of the series. Season One includes “Here Comes the Bride,” but instead of ending there, the title continues, “There Goes the Bride,” suggesting a failed engagement rather than the expected successful marriage.  Season Three’s “This Land Is Whose Land?” echoes the well known 1960s song, This Land Is Your Land, which over zealously celebrates harmony. “Once A Thief” from Season Four, “A Pain in the Neck” from Season Five, and “Funny, You Don’t Look It” from the sixth, and final season of the series, are all wry commentaries rather than factual titles describing cute family conflicts (Internet).

the-cosbys

Courtesy of imdb.com

The Cosby Show

Unlike Sanford & Son which shattered the nuclear family, removed the location from the affluent suburbs, and placed the action in an African-American ghetto, The Cosby Show (1984–1992) continued the 1950s tradition by showing a strong nuclear family, living in an affluent lifestyle in a beautiful Brownstone house in New York City (Brooks 215). The nuclear family aspect of the 1950s sitcoms held strong ties to The Cosby Show. The definition of the family was truly upheld by this family; “a social unit consisting of parents and the children they rear” (Webster). The episode titles enforced this motif. Titles included “Father’s Day” from Season One, “Mother May I?” from Season Three, and “It’s A Boy” and “Home Remedies” both from Season Seven (Internet).

The major difference with The Cosby Show is the fact that it featured an almost all African-American cast. Traditionally African-Americans were always portrayed as lower class, comedic characters, as the previously mentioned Sanford & Son.  The Huxtable family, by contrast, is highly educated within the professional arena. The family continues the image of the “All-American” family with two loving parents, and five generally obedient children. The humor of the show didn’t find itself in one liners and short quips as did the previous 1950s families, rather in the everyday occurrences and habits of life.

Bill Cosby led the cast, as the distinguished head of the family, Dr. Heathcliff ‘Cliff’ Huxtable, gynecologist (Brooks 215). His wife, portrayed by Phylicia Rashad, continued the role as the supportive wife, as June Cleaver and Margaret Anderson portrayed in the 1950s (Internet). However, in addition to the role as the traditional supportive wife, Phylicia Rashad was presented with a challenge. Clair Hanks Huxtable was a successful lawyer, who faced the same challenges as her husband when it came to balancing family and work issues. Despite the challenges of two working parents, the home was generally clean, organized and welcoming, reflecting their upper middle class stature. With both parental units being professionally employed, the viewing audience was able to take a glance outside of the confines of the family home. Unlike the fantastical office of Ward Cleaver, which we never see, we are taken to the office of Cliff Huxtable and its humble furnishings, this made easier by him being self-employed and his office at the home. At times, throughout the duration of the sitcom, the show moved into the office, where hilariously comical patients walked into his practice. Even episode titles refer to the work of Dr. Cliff Huxtable, such as the episode from Season One entitled “Physician of the Year” (Internet). Often times the balance which he attempted to achieve between the family environment and the professional often fell into comical chaos when many times the children would step in and interrupt the doctor while he was seeing a patient, which eventually resolved at the end of the episode.

In comparison to the 1950s sitcoms, where social issues were not addressed, The Cosby Show probed the emerging social issues, including drugs, sex and changing gender roles. Most times these issues centered around the children. Many times the titles of the episodes described these social issues. For example, in the first season, Episode 17, entitled “Theo and the Joint”. This episode dealt with the publicly growing issue of drugs amongst young people. “Planned Parenthood” and  “Theo and the Older Woman” from seasons Two and Three, described the influential pressure young people and even adults receive as single individuals about sex and the consequences thereof. With the topic of changing gender roles, the episodes entitled “Clair’s Liberation” from season Seven and “For Men Only” from Season Eight heightened the awareness of gender role equality (Internet).

The Cosby Show continued the traditional family roles and portrayals, while adapting to issues of race, raised in the 1960s. For the first time, an African American family was portrayed as affluent, professional, informing a cohesive family unit. In contrast to Sanford & Son, with its lower class and broken family unit, The Cosby Show places the African-American family in the main stream both of television and of views about the importance of the nuclear family.

 2. FAMILY DIVISION AND THE DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY

all-in-the-family

Courtesy of imdb.com

All in the Family

As already indicated, sitcoms of the 1950s featured traditional views of families, gender, and race. The nuclear family dominated the television screen, presenting a unified front of homogenous family lifestyles of traditional values and roles. They took place in small protected environments and limited the world to all white neighborhoods. Social issues and discord were absent.

Originally a British television comedy, entitled Til Death Do Us Part (1966-1975) (Wikipedia), All in the Family (1971-1992) (Brooks 32) breaks with several of these traditions; the family is all white, but issues of race, gender, and politics are raised in every episode. This sitcom emerged as an “alternative choice” of family, which began a trend of dysfunctional family television shows which include Roseanne and Married… With Children, all of which we will discuss later in this thesis.

Instead of idealizing the limited views of the all white neighborhood, the series satirizes the racial bigotry of such families. It did so by a father who was not only racist but also sexist. It also portrayed a division between family members and generations. In the case of All in the Family, the division existed between parents and children.

Archie Bunker, as head of the family, sets a firm and constant perception on conservative views, as did the fathers in previous television sitcoms. However, unlike previous fathers, Archie Bunker portrays his views by verbally assaulting those around him, often times creating humorous tension and an obstinate sense of pessimism. Carroll O’Connor humorously portrayed this bigoted character whom became the opposite of what Ward Cleaver and James Anderson were; ideal, tolerant, and reserved gentlemen (Brooks 32). Archie Bunker was not so reserved. His vocabulary and mannerisms were uneducated and prejudiced. Frequent nouns used by the head of household included “Jungle Bunnies”, “Spades”, “Spics”, and “Chinks” (Brooks 32). Often times, the episode titles referred to the racial slurs, such as Season One’s “Judging Books by Covers” (Internet). With such offensive vocabulary, Archie’s place of employment created much of the show’s comedy. For the duration of the first half of the show’s existence, Archie was a dock foreman, forcing him to integrate and work with the individuals he could hardly tolerate. The remaining seasons of the show, Archie was the proud owner of a bar which was appropriately dubbed “Archie’s Place”, where a variety of individuals, as well as issues, took a seat at his bar, where he continued his tradition of blatant verbal assaults.

In addition to being prejudice and having few manners, he was a non-religious man.  Many times, his humor gravitated around Christianity and other religions. A popular, yet ironic, phrase for the character became “I just thank God I’m an atheist” (Internet).

In spite of the faults, career moves, and harsh words, there remained one character who loved Archie Bunker, for the bigoted and racist man he was; his wife Edith Bunker. Jean Stapleton brought Edith to life for nine years (Internet). Though perhaps slow, and a “dingbat” as Archie dubbed her on many occasions, she was the glue that held the family together. During the arguments of Archie and Mike, his son-in-law, and the radical ideas of Gloria, she was the wife who ensured that despite disagreement they were family. She held the traditional concept of the 1950s family mother, holding the family together and ensuring the survival of the family, while adding sarcasm and humor to the role. Stapleton honed this character to perfection until her character’s death in 1980 (Brooks 33). Edith’s death brought a new twist to television sitcoms. While being the wife who attempted at holding the traditional roles and chores of the household, her sudden death mid-way through the series brought a challenge as to how to portray her absence. The beginning of the 1980-1981 season began with the mourning of Edith, the beloved wife with the episode entitled “Edith’s Death” (Internet). However life went on, for all the characters, including Gloria and Mike Stivic, who the audience would learn about through dialog.

Gloria was the independent and spirited daughter of Archie and Edith. Portrayed by Sally Struthers, Gloria became the “bread-maker” for the younger couple of the household (Brooks 32). Growing up as a child through high school, her parents had loved her, but were eagerly awaiting to see her married, with the hopes she would move out and begin her own life. Unfortunately their glee was short lived. After marrying her “debonair” husband Mike, the couple moved into the basement of Archie’s house. For the next six seasons, the daughter would remain near her family nest, accompanied by her husband.

As Gloria’s husband, Mike Stivic received little to no respect from his father-in-law. Rob Reiner played the character of Mike Stivic, or who was more commonly referred to as “Meathead” by Archie (Brooks 32). The disrespect and contempt Archie and Mike held for one another was a steady constant. The respect that children and in-laws were to have for one another as presented in the 1950s sitcoms disappeared and disconnect replaced it. Gloria and Mike continually siphoned their living from their parents, while holding extremely liberal views of both politics and values, contrasting immensely with the ultra-conservative views of Archie and Edith. Due to the vast contrast of topics, it became evident that issues were brought out in the episode titles, including Season Two’s “Gloria Poses in the Nude” and Season Seven’s “Draft Dodger” (Internet). Until the younger generation couple left after the 1977-1978 season, shortly before Edith Bunker would pass away, much of the show’s humor was found in the vast differences between the generations (Brooks 33).

Despite the contrast of family image All in the Family portrayed, it flourished on the television screen. After Gloria and Mike left home, and Edith’s sudden death, the show began treading into un-chartered territory. Archie began a journey as a single, widowed man, who lived with extended relatives and housekeepers. After the void of family became permanent, the place of employment for Archie became a major setting location. Nonetheless, the show continued to be a success while continuing to introduce a non-nuclear family. In its final seasons, the show would be comprised of two nieces, a housekeeper, and eventually a new wife. By adding these external family members, it altered the show’s family status into the realm of the non-nuclear family and extended family. With such vast changes to the dynamics of the nuclear family, both intentional and unintentional, the image of the All-American family on the television screen began to emerge into the new decade, where divorce was on the rise, and family values began to deteriorate. This thus ushered in the other popular “dysfunctional family” shows, Married…With Children (1987-1997), and Roseanne (1989-1997) (Internet).

married-with-children

Courtesy of imdb.com

Married…With Children

The premier of the rashly dysfunctional family could be, by many, attributed to Married…With Children (1987-1997) (Internet). This show instigated stressing the polarization of roles within the traditional family, as well as continued the prominent growing gap between the parent and child generations. Married…With Children maintained the nuclear family form, according to the dictionary definition, where there was the father, the mother and the children. However, unlike the Cleavers and the Andersons and even the Cosbys, the Bundys were a family of nontraditional family and gender roles, which during this time, America was changing the workforce and home. The nation had an increase of women in the labor force by close to 10,000 jobs, helping to increase the workforce population of the nation by 5%, while males increased the workforce by 9,000 (Chao). Meaning less mothers were staying at home with the children, holding true to the traditional motherly roles as set by preceding mothers, June Cleaver and Margaret Anderson.

Taking place in suburban Chicago, Married…With Children became a show where individualism and separation of tradition became the essence of the sitcom (Internet). Al Bundy, portrayed by Ed O’Neill, broke away from the traditional father figure (Brooks 646). Al Bundy was a lazy, chauvinistic shoe sales man, who was discontent with himself, his job, and with life. His attitude almost aligned itself with Archie Bunker, though, however discontent he may have been, he loved his family. The execution of affection was rarely an “I love you” rather it often came in bouts of belittling and arguing on sensitive issues. He had little verbal respect for his wife, who was consistently confrontational and unpleasant. The interactions Al Bundy had with his children portrayed a father who cared for his children, but had no inclination in proper execution of emotions. Often times he was sloppy and unshaven, unlike the clean cut Ward Cleaver. In addition to nontraditional television fathers, Al Bundy unfailingly had a Get-Rich-Quick scheme. To exert the least amount of physical or mental exertion for millions of dollars was the main objective for Al Bundy.

Laziness and procrastination did not cease with Mr. Bundy. Mrs. Al Bundy was the epitome of languor. Her attitude and personality is easily summarized in the titles of Season Two’s, Episode 17, “Peggy Loves Al – Yeah Yeah Yeah” and Season Four’s, Episode 5, “He Ain’t Much, But He’s Mine” (Internet). Katey Sagal portrayed Peggy Bundy, a mother who’s continuing vocation in life was to remain young and hip, rather than accept the duties of a dedicated mother (Brooks 646). Her aptitude for motherhood held a dissonant cord in relation to the television mothers who came before her. June Cleaver and Margaret Anderson were consistently and consciously concerned for their family and the household. Most times the mothers of the 1950s found comfort in household chores and caring for their children. In this sense, Peggy Bundy was not a traditional mother. She rarely cooked or cleaned, and took minimal interest in the care of her two semi-delinquent children, Kelly and Bud, portrayed by Christina Applegate and David Faustino (Brooks 646).

The dynamics of this family of four had only one similarity with the wholesome families of the 1950s; the composition of the nuclear family, according to the definition previously given. There the similarities ended. The house was persistently in disarray and unorganized. The yard was small and unkempt, similar to their dress. The kids wore skimpy, fad-style clothing while Al wore grungy and wrinkled shirts and ties. Peggy was the character who was the most brilliantly dressed. In accordance with her character holding to an image of youthfulness in her thirties, she wore tight, fashionable, brightly colored clothes. The family rarely spoke with one another, though once every now and then a comment or two would slip out revealing the love they truly had for one another.

Despite the harshness of the show, it was remarkably popular and successful, many times due to the issues it undertook.

“The most successful series on the fledging FOX network, Married…With Children drew the wrath of many for its unabashed raunchiness” (Brooks 646). For the occasions when the family did interact, issues which were brought forth had very little, if any, similarity with the issues previous television families had undertaken. Frequent topics between Peggy and Al included their sexual activities, how troublesome their children had become, needing the credit card to shop, and Al’s Get-Rich-Quick schemes. Issues and situations the children undertook with their lazy parents included sex, drugs, and other delinquent-related situations.

Roseanne Cast (TV) 1988 1st SeasonCredit: ABC/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

Courtesy of imdb.com

Roseanne

While Married…With Children was FOX’s most successful, though raunchy series, at about the same time, one of ABC’s most successful television sitcoms was Roseanne (1988–1997).

“It was the lineal descendent of the blue-collar TV families stretching back to All in the Family and The Honeymooners, but like all great hits it introduce new elements to reflect its times…” (Brooks 886).

These new elements included role reversal, physical image of the characters, and the family atmosphere of the sitcom. With the workforce being more integrated, divorce on the rise, and income on a slow but steady inclination, Roseanne brought out each one of these issues in it’s paralleling world (U.S. Census).

John Goodman portrayed Dan Connor, the husband and father of the Connor family (Brooks 886). As head of the family, Dan brought a new image of the father figure to the family dynamic. James Anderson and Ward Cleaver were loving, affectionate and strong men. They confident, masculine heads of the household, who held a tenderness of the ideal father. Al Bundy and Archie Bunker were sarcastic and mostly domineering father figures. A blue-collar worker, Dan was extremely nonchalant and sarcastic with his child rearing skills, and was often easily influenced by his wife.

Roseanne Connor, played by the sitcom’s executive producer, Rosanne Barr Arnold, was the real head of the household (Butler). Unlike her motherly predecessors, Roseanne was the center of the family. She led and encouraged the discordant and working class atmosphere of the family, which ultimately formulated the atmosphere of the sitcom. A popular philosophy of the matriarch was “‘Cause I hate kids….and I’m not your real mom’” (Brooks 886). Roseanne Connor held the final word and often times overruled her husband, and unlike the paternal figures of earlier television sitcoms, Dan submitted to her final say. Though there were numerous sarcastic parental scenes, they were balanced out by a more affectionate Roseanne and Dan. This brought to light the love they had for their children, as did the parents who had come before them, though the Connor’s chose to show their love in non-traditional ways. Becky, Darlene and D.J., portrayed by Lecy Goranson, Sarah Chalke, Sara Gilbert, and Michael Fishman, were the fortunate/ unfortunate children of the loving, yet rancor parental unit. Their children held an understanding of this vastly strange show of affection, which often times, created multiple situations and issues which were never considered viable cultural concerns to tackle in previous sitcoms. Boy-crazy Becky brought forth issues such as adolescent sex and pregnancy. Tomboy Darlene brought issues pertaining to drugs, guns, and awkward relationships with boys, while D.J., who idolized his father, brought issues such as masturbation, loss of innocence, and childhood dramas to the table. Other social and cultural issues that enthroned the show included parenting, employment, finances, and homosexuality.

Not only were issues tackled, but extended family became more prominent within the sitcom. Strictly according to the definition of the extended family, Roseanne’s sister, Jackie, portrayed by Laurie Metcalf, was a perfect example. The woman was frequently at her sister’s home. More often than not, Jackie was there for advice and guidance from her sister or to complain about her unsatisfied life. She did prove useful at times, and was periodically willing to give advice, whether good or bad, to her nephews and nieces. Jackie was a woman of multiple trades. Her employment was often the center of her problems and unhappiness, for which were frequent topics for her guidance about. Her employment problems tended to align with many issues of economics within the United States, which were reaching a turning point at this time. Her employers varied from plastic works to restaurants to finally a law enforcement. Jackie joined the cast in adding to the melting pot of addressing new issues which included the realm of adult dating, pregnancy, and single working women to the show. In addition to the extended family role, Jackie began a more consistent emphasis of the growing phenomena of the single lifestyle. As Roseanne was harshly captured America’s hearts with jokes and sarcasm, Jackie was relating to the American hearts. Single households were increasing each year at a slowly increasing percentage, while married couple family households were increasing at a slower growing rate (U.S. Census).

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Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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