The Night Before the New Year

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Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!

Love, Brian

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Desperate Housewives; Dutiful Househusbands: #TBT Chapter 2

Chapter Two

The 1950s Television Family

 INTRODUCTION; FAMILY COMPOSITION

“Another popular genre was the family comedy, full of warm, homey values typified by The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Thomas Show (Make Room for Daddy), Father Knows Best, and Mama. Such family shows have been among TVs longest running series.” (Brooks xv)

The situation comedies, or sitcoms, of the 1950s were the portrayals of the “All-American family” as the American people perceived the concept, unlike the real life situations of the American family. With families rebuilding from the wars which reeked havoc on the nuclear traditional family, television sitcoms became modes of escape from the reality of life (Huston). Many of these sitcoms were transformed into television shows, which originated as radio programs during the 1940s (Internet). As radio programs, and later television sitcoms, these shows set the precedent for the image of the “perfect” family. The stereotype for the “All-American family” included the responsible male head of the family, the submissive and obedient wife, the dutiful children, and the occasional heroic canine companion. This ideal stereotype image of the family directly reflects the definitions of the nuclear family explained and described by Webster and Huston. During the 1950s, television families were mostly white, young, and harmonious. These characters were affable to family, friends and neighbors, held ideal jobs, resided in impeccable neighborhoods and controlled spotless homes. In addition to the atmospheric elements surrounding the actors, the characters themselves were spotless and pristine. Fathers carried high quality leather briefcases, wore professional suits, and donned modern watches. Mothers were immaculate; sporting perfectly styled hair, wore spotless dresses and adorned themselves with pearls as their daily jewelry. The children were often clean cut and sported school paraphernalia clothing, such as varsity sweaters and jackets.

The American family was set in the nuclear dynamic for several possible reasons. Some researchers, including Daniel Scott Smith, Louis Wirth, and Ralph Linton, say that the family was originally an extended family, but at some point, transformed into the nuclear family, of just the father, mother and children. Other researchers, such as Marvin Sussman, and Eugene Litwak, claim the nuclear family has always been in place, however, a network of nuclear families inter-related created the extended family that became more prominent at the time, and therefore historically recorded as the extended family (Ruggles).

In Father Knows Best (1954-1960) and Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963), issues such as identifying the masculine and feminine roles, the primary financial supporter for the family, and punctuating the concept of mindful and obedient children were clearly defined (Internet). The views of masculine and feminine roles in the family portrayed on television during this time were stereotypical and corresponded to traditional views of such roles which had been dutifully performed for centuries. Males had the privilege to be highly educated, to hold significant careers and were the acknowledged head of the household. Women of the time were discouraged from attending higher education institutions, as had been the tradition for years. Higher education for women was relatively uncommon which brought forth the concept of which women were expected to be wives and maternal nurturers as their primary role.

The children were an essential part of the close-knit family unit, and were not rebellious, nor did they lead alternative lifestyles. On the rare occasion the children were disobedient, it was only in the form of mischief. Their negative acts portrayed in the early television shows consisted of throwing rocks at windows, painting on a neighbors’ mailbox, or being “cheeky” to their parents.

 

father-knows-best

Courtesy of imdb.com

Father Knows Best

 

Father Knows Best (1954-1960) originated as a radio show, and eventually became one of the first programs to be reformatted for television (Internet). The show projects the image of the family in an atmosphere which radiated warmth, wholesome family values with playful, but never acerbic, humor. The family itself appears as a strong and positive nuclear unit, following the definition of the nuclear family; father, mother and children. James Anderson, portrayed by Robert Young, is the unquestioned head of the family (Internet). He undertakes the role of head of the family and primary financial provider with gusto. He is an “ideal husband” who loves his wife, never strays from the sense of domestic felicity, and is adored if not adulated by his three children. Father Knows Best is not only the title but also the essential theme of the show. The title refers, sometimes ironically, to the often successful and occasionally questionable advice James Anderson provides his family, in particular his three children.

To accompany James Anderson on his journey before the American audience, was his wife, Margaret Anderson, portrayed by Jane Wyatt, and their three children, portrayed by Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray, and Lauren Chappin (Brooks 346).

A typical show included James coming home from his place of employment, which we rarely see. He would walk in the home and change into his comfortable sweater from his sports jacket and then handle the day’s problems. Both he and his wife Margaret were considered smart, thoughtful, caring, and responsible parents, who dealt with limited family, social, and cultural issues.

The titles of the episodes give a good idea of the major social and cultural values represented in this early series. In Season One, for example, Episode Two is entitled “Lesson in Citizenship,” while Episode Four is entitled “Football Tickets,” referring to the favorite All-American sport. Episode 10, “Typical Father,” immediately refers to the paternal role, as does Episode 23: “Proud Father.” In Season Two, the apparent undercutting of the father figure in “Father is a Dope,” is countered by the final episode of the season entitled “Hero Father” (Internet).

The introduction to the first episode aired in 1949 over the radio airwaves of NBC Radio (Brooks 346). It set the scene for both the radio and television series as presenting the stereotypical All American family;

“In an average town, Springfield, on an average street, Maple, lives an average American family, the Henderson’s. The husband, Jim is very much in love with his wife Margaret, and they’re both quite fond of their three children, Betty, Bud, and Kathleen. Which, I should say, is an average way for parents to feel. On this particular morning which is an average sort of day, the Henderson’s are ready for an average sort of meal, breakfast…Well, they’re suppose to be ready, but you know how it is.” (Generic)

Despite the humor of the announcer’s attempt at playfully creating an “average” day in the life of middle America, nevertheless, stereotypical roles for the males and females, parents and children have thus been set. Within the single paragraph, cited above, references to parental attitudes towards children, a husband’s duty to love his wife, and the concept that these attributes may only occur in “an average town…on an average street” are all addressed and placed as the standard for the “American family” (Generic).

leave-it-to-beaver

Courtesy of imdb.com

Leave it to Beaver

Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963) first aired on October 4, 1957, the same day the Soviets launched Sputnik (Brooks 586). Jerry Mathers headed up the cast as the misfortunate, yet lovable Theodore ‘Beaver’ Cleaver. Dubbed ‘Beaver’ by his older brother Wally, played by Tony Dow, the show centers on the trials and tribulations in the lives of the two boys (Internet). Themes for this program did not focus primarily on gender roles and family roles. Rather, Leave it to Beaver dealt in depth with the values and interaction of the parental units and their offspring. The show’s name deviated from the phrase “Leave it to Beaver”. Most times referring to the fact that only Beaver Cleaver would be able to find a way into the current predicament for the running episode. Unpredictable events may have happened to the youngest Cleaver, and at times between the two boys, though whatever the issue at hand became, the Cleaver sons held a brotherly love that quickly became the center of the show. This led to the idolization of Wally by young Beaver Cleaver; “You know something, Wally? I’d rather do nothing with you than somethin’ with anybody else” (Internet).

The themes of the series dealt with events the boys encountered on a daily basis such as; driving, school bullies, teen growing pains, and the most confusing issue; teenage girls.  Episode titles themselves gave the viewers the understanding that the show centered around the two boys. The premier season boasted titles such as “Brotherly Love” for the sixth episode and “Wally’s Girl Trouble” for episode 10 (Internet). Through the following years, the issues the boys undertook progressed as they grew. Topics concerning Wally transgressed from teenage girls to college courses and professors, while Beaver slowly began his “torturous” journey with the teenage girl. In comparing the issues the boys dealt with during the premier season, in its final season titles included “Wally and the Fraternity” for episode 28 and “Beaver’s Graduation” for episode 34 (Internet).

Though the centrifugal force of the show emphasized the boys’ life, the show’s comedy found a home at the undermining of the parental control, as well as offering insights to the relationship between the parents and their children in sitcoms.

June Cleaver: Wally, where are you going?

Wally Cleaver: I’m going over to slug Eddie.

June Cleaver: That’s no way to talk, this is Sunday.

Wally Cleaver: You’re right, I’ll wait ‘til tomorrow and slug him in the

cafeteria. (Internet)

The undermining attitude of the child against the parent, as just portrayed, was the worst event that most sitcoms at this time portrayed as a rife in the lives of these characters. Most times sarcasm became the most common form of this sense of undermining, thus beginning sarcasm as a popular way to find humor between the parental units of a family and the children.

The populations in these shows were very homogenous, similar to the setting of the sitcoms, being white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, or WASPs.  Minorities were rarely seen. With the few minorities making appearances on these early sitcoms, the roles were menial and only supportive. In both Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, the families were white wholesome families. There were few guests which were minorities. In the cases which minorities were introduced to the cast, there was often much confusion with comprehension of language, culture, or both. For example, in one situation, June Cleaver was attempting to converse with a new neighbor, who incidentally was Mexican. This new impeccably orderly neighbor spoke only Spanish. With Mrs. Cleaver unable to comprehend the language, she turned to her husband who comes through the clean white swinging door to the living room. She asks her husband, as a dutiful wife should, to translate the language for her. At this point the all knowing stereotype of the male head of the family is broken, when Mr. Cleaver couldn’t make heads or tails of the language. However, in coherence with the image of the “All-American family” Mr. Cleaver takes charge and turns the, what should be awkward situation, into a hilarious comedy routine which resulted with both families spent from attempting to communicate with one another (Internet).

Families portrayed in 1950s sitcoms were not only nuclear “All-American families”, they were also never threatened by death or other events. These sitcoms also never raised social issues such as working women, homosexuality, challenging gender roles, or ethnical diversity. These situations and issues did not fit into the perfect small world they lived in. The small neighborhood, clean lawns and well kept homes were almost immune to the imminent and raucous issues of the real world.

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: An Undergraduate Thesis #TBT

I was cleaning out my files on my computer yesterday and stumbled across a gem from my undergrad days. My UNDERGRADUATE THESIS!

Looking back, its been almost 10 years ago to the day that I finished my final draft of my undergraduate thesis; just in time to submit it to my Thesis Readers and Advisors for review and defending. It was a long process and it’s not perfect, but reading it and looking back, it provides almost a foreshadowing of my life path and how I learn, teach and view life.

3507ef435f8cb4a51c3f41faadc14207

Courtesy of imdb.com

So to put a twist on #TBT, I’ll be posting a chapter a week as my #TBT for the next couple of weeks.

So please enjoy the first Chapter of my undergraduate thesis: Desperate Housewives and Dutiful Househusbands: A Historical Perspective and Comparison of the Portrayal of the Family in the 1950s to the New Millennium

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!


Chapter One

The Family and The Situation Comedy

 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)

nuclear family a family group that consists only of father, mother, and children (Webster)

situation comedy a comedy, esp. a comic television series with a story line made up of contrived episodes involving stock characters (Webster)

The family and the situation comedy, also referred to as the sitcom, may appear to make strange bedfellows; however the two entities have become entwined and embraced by Americans in an ever evolving medium. This because of America housing the world’s largest entertainment city, Hollywood, in it’s midst.

This intertwined pair has become one of the defining factors of today’s American pop culture and at times the leading dynamic for the eternally challenging and changing issues of today’s society, while attempting to portray the constant changing American family. Researchers analyzing these family portrayals from 1950s to the 1980s tend to differ in their opinions on the representation of the family present in the sitcom, though most traditionally will claim a neutral stance that the television sitcom will “mirror the real world in some respects, but distort or fail to represent it in other respects” (Huston 37).

In the 1950s, the television began to enter the average American’s home. As the new ‘fandangled’ device gained popularity, the living room where the television set traditionally was held, continued to become the gathering place for families. However, unlike from years before when families gathered around pianos and comfortable chairs, listening to the radio, they began gathering around the television set. By the time Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver began to air, the “television set took the place of the piano” (Spigel 38).

In the early sitcoms of the 1950s  and 1960s, many “affirmed the view of a cozy nuclear family comprised of mother, father, and two or three children interacting in a warm, loving, comfortable relationship in which there are no major problems, or at least no problems that cannot be solved in 30 or 60 minutes” (Huston, 38). At this time, the television sitcom family came to portray the ideal American family through the sitcom, rather than reflect the decline in the stable nuclear family and the single parent family that had been created after the World Wars, when hundreds of parents did not return from the wars (Huston).

As the television and the sitcom evolved over the following decades, the television family became more of an embellishment and satiric image of the family.  By the 1980s divorce was on the rise and single parent families were becoming more frequent.  According to Huston, 90% of single parent families were female heads of household, breaking the traditional male head of household role. Though a wide variety of sitcoms, the format of the 1980s sitcom tended to lean one of two ways; “…some of which showed the struggles of divorced, female parents, as in Kate and Allie, and others that returned to the mom and dad and children family structures…” (Huston 39). Though returning to the nuclear family format, issues and family dynamics were severely altered. Currently today, sitcoms continue this trend of single parent families or the original family, as well as continuing a new trend which became the extended family;

extended family a group of relatives by blood, marriage, or adoption, often including a nuclear family, living in close proximity or together, esp. if three generations are involved (Webster) 

Examining and critiquing the television family brings to light many issues including family and its continuing evolution, issues of the culture during that time period each show was aired, as well as how society dealt with these issues both on and off the television screen. There are many ways to deal with how society deals with issues. Each professional considers different means of dealing. Mean could include as a method of escape or self reflection of the American family, which is one point this thesis will hope to address.

The following thesis takes a closer look at the television sitcom and the image of the family. This thesis will demonstrate how the sitcom family is continuing to evolve paralleling the altering image of the real American family, and that this tendency has been occurring since its conception in the 1950s.

The following sitcoms were selected for this paper; Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, Sanford & Son, The Cosby Show, All in the Family, Married…With Children, Roseanne, Full House, Friends, Will & Grace, and Desperate Housewives.

There has been little substantial quantitative research performed on the family and its influence on or from television. As Stuart Hall says in the introduction of David Morley’s book, Family Television: Cultural Power and the Domestic Leisure;

“Television has to be seen less and less as an isolated and individual, more and more as a social, even collective, activity. Typically, it takes place in families (or whatever intimate social group now substitutes for them). However, we know next to nothing about how this everyday domestic context influences what we view, how we view it, or what sense we make of it. We know almost as little about what role television plays in family relationship – how family interactions influence the choices we make about viewing or the uses to which we put what we view. We know even less, if this is possible, about how we actually behave (as opposed to how we would like to think we behave) when the set is on –either our conduct towards the screen or towards each other”.  

This thesis hopes to begin to bridge the gap between each of the points made by Hall by suggesting common paralleling events between television sitcom and society at the time. With to no previous research on the American family, and the concept of the sitcom paralleling current events, selecting shows was vastly challenging. The previously mentioned situation comedies were selected for several reasons. Each of these television program were number 1 hits of the American people, winning, some of them, tens of awards each, including, Emmy Awards, Oscar Awards, and People’s Choice. This being discovered it can easily be assumed the American people had a connection and assimilation to these programs. Secondly, quotes and popular quips of these shows are mentioned daily, referring to these sitcoms, and many times the family values each represented. Also many times the innocence, or lack there of in some sitcoms, of the family and it’s family dynamics. As well, each sitcom pertains to a specific decade of television programming. The selected sitcoms correspond with the time period both for television popularity, representations, and current events. Finally, for a lesser academic purpose for selecting these programs, there is unfortunately only so much paper in the world and the amount of paper needed to study each sitcom program ever produced and aired would be a Nobel Prize worthy endeavor (Internet).

Americans now spend an average of more than 64 days a year watching television (Roberts). It could easily be assumed that television has an effect on the family, or vice versa. This thesis examines sixty years of television and the socio-historical context within which it was viewed. This journey will begin with the previously mentioned definition of the nuclear family, a brief synopsis of the television family, and the ideal family representation with Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver. By using the characters, the settings and the situations of Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, this thesis will show the progression the image of the family in American television has undergone. In the following pages, these two sitcoms will be compared to some of the most popular families that have graced television’s screen, including the Huxtables, the Connors, Scavos, Bings, and Tanners. By creating these para-social relationships,  with these time-reflecting families, to the situations and events of the current culture at the time, such as the legislation and social movements, will hopefully lead to the conclusion of this thesis that the television family parallels the real life family and its social issues. This paralleling theory will be supported by the ABC television hit Desperate Housewives. The selection of this sitcom drama ironically and conveniently contains all the main evolution stages of the television family, which will be addressed, and places it on a one block street called Wisteria Lane.

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

Posted in Life, Thesis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Code-Switching to Survive

 

Have you ever heard of the term code-switching?

It was originally utilized in linguistics for when an individual mixes or alternates between two languages in spoken or written word. Later, it expanded to sociolinguistics, referring to switching between dialects, terms, phrases etc. based on audience. Most recently it has been used in the behavioral sciences for when one modifies one’s behavior and/or image, so that they can meet various sociocultural norms.

Why do I bring this up? Because…

I code-switch. And it’s how I survive. 

Code-switching is not identity confusion or an inability to understand my own identities (I absolutely do struggle with those but code-switching is neither). It is me recognizing my identities I hold at that time and being able to measurably understand them and how they add or take away from the conversation and even be welcomed into the community at present.

And because of my layers of identities I code-switch frequently:

As a gay male, I can “FAAAAABULOUS” it up with the best of them. But when I’m around primarily straight males, I “butch” it up because part of it is to make them more comfortable and part is for my own safety.

Whether right or wrong the Asian identity is neither prominent nor invisible. It’s just there. And because of that, when dialogues of race arise, I find myself being “ASIAN”. But I code this for two different reasons. Amongst non-white friends and colleague I do this because many times, I want to be considered a “legit” racial minority. When I’m surrounded by white people, I do this because I feel a need to represent my racial identity.

And when I’m in a space with both, I code-switch to being an adopted South Korean raised by white parents, because for me, I have an ability to look into both sides and make connections. Unfortunately because of our limited human capabilities, that is not always a welcomed perspective or stance. Last week in the #SAChat I refered to this as being tape:

As an adopted South Korean, when I’m with my parents and brother and family, I am their son, brother, nephew, cousin, etc. When we’re out in public with strangers, we all code-switch to me being the “adopted son” or the “adopted son of John and Char”, because there’s a look in people’s eyes when they look at my white parents and me, we know they are wondering how we became a family and so we code-switch to adding “adopted” to my familial titles.


As a mid-level, gay, Asian, male in Student Affairs, I code switch on an hourly basis:

When I’m in meetings with only males I code-switch my language to meet the sociocultural norms of ubber-masculinity in order to “correct” my more natural feminine tendencies.

When I’m in spaces with non-white identity colleagues and friends my language is more relaxed and blunt because they’ll understand the impact of race on a life; and I code-switch to much more reserved and cautious language when I’m in a room of only white colleagues and friends..

When I’m in meetings with elders in the field I switch to more “refined” vocabulary and mature conversations as opposed to when I’m working with colleagues my age or my students, my vocabulary is filled with colloquialisms and “text talk”.


Let’s be honest, my full 100% perspective is not welcomed, embraced or able to be comprehended by most. And that’s why I code switch. I know people code-switch for me, and I for them, because as one of millions of human flaws, we will never be able to fully accept anyone’s entire perspective. I mean, there are very few people in this world that this applies to:

 

And let it be known that each and every one of us code-switches. In my opinion, not a single person can say they don’t code-switch. We each code-switch for different reasons. And perhaps it’s because we all code-switch that we find ourselves where we normally do in hard conversations and how spaces like Facebook have found us struggling.

Now, I’ll be honest, I won’t stop code-switching. I need to survive. For some, I code-switch so they can understand. For others, I code switch for my safety. For still others, I code-switch in order to preserve my “legitimacy”. And for now, for me, until we figure out a way to accept and embrace person wholly and who they are and their perspectives we’ll forever code-switch and continue, what can end up being a vicious circle.

Just a small part of what my reflecting on conversations of late have perculated. I suppose the next step in my processing is how to break this code-switching cycle…if it can ever be broken.

Thanks for taking the time to read through my musing and processing!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Strength in Uncertainty

There’s so much going on in the world that scares me:

President-Elect Trump and his daily Cabinet appointments and transition into the White House

Ohio State University stabbing

A ramp up of hate speech and leaders of anti-LGBT and white supremacy


There’s so much going on in my life that I’m working through:

Struggling to balance goals and expectations as an Administrator versus goals and expectations as a Student Affairs Professional

Preparing for my future with Michael

Balancing the expectations of being a leader in my fraternity

How and if my personality, perspectives and who I am fits into Student Affairs and in the long run how it effects my future ambitions


I’m having so many ponderings and musings about a plethora of topics:

The sense that we are moving towards a world, like in The Giver, that has no diversity and where precision of language supersedes human emotion

Whether it’s right or wrong that I still accept and respect friends who voted for Trump even though I’m being told not to and to remove them from my life because as a gay, Asian, adopted, immigrant, nationalized US citizen they subconsciously hate me

Whether drive and hard work prevents someone from building relationships


kapur-quoteHowever, despite all my fears, struggles and ponderings, I think I’d rather be here in this space of unknown certainty, learning, thinking, struggling and growing than in a space of certainty.

For me, certainty is a wall that prevents development, dialogue and growth. It gives individuals a sense of false superiority and expert status and an inability to hear other perspectives. It makes someone quick to answer and be the expert or be the one to call someone out. And from my experiences, lately, more often than not, people who are certain have done more harm than good.

Over time, I have come to realize that I have learned so much from others even though I was “certain”. And because of those experiences, I think that’s why certainty has become something more fluid and less needed in my life.

Now it’s probably because of this perspective I have, is the reason for being bulldozed over pretty easily. But since Grad School I have consciously tried to not be certain; to put my life experiences and knowledge in a context of it being me and my journey and offering those up to others as options and possibilities, rather than answers.

I have learned that I struggle with working with individuals who are “certain” and “know best”.

It has opened my eyes to the struggles of balancing administrator expectations and development expectations.

These new lessons have given me pause to wonder if I will ever be able to be a higher administrator because of his perspective.

It has forced me to keep those who do claim certainty and expertise at arms length. Because certainty is unwavering and uncompromising.

In some ways I truly believe that the only things certain in life is death and taxes. And even than, you can still evade taxes.

There were originally several different blog posts but reading and editing them over the last few days this seems to have been an underlying theme and foundation.

Now, I’m not perfect at sitting in uncertain spaces. Sometimes old habits die hard and a need to be certain comes rushing to the forefront, but the more I learn to sit in spaces of unknown certainty, the more I have learn of the people and world around me.

burns-quote

I’m still pondering and musing over this but thought I’d share with you what’s been bubbling in my life and ponderings. Thanks for reading!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Chul Ho Shin & Language

Something random happened last week that has been on my mind…and it doesn’t have anything to do with the 2016 Election!

Last week during a training on pronouns we were asked to introduce ourselves with the name given to us at birth and what if any was the significance and meaning of those names.

I thought it was a really interesting way to introduce ourselves and it was such a great way to learn more about each other.

The awkward thing for me was that I don’t have a name that was given to me at birth. Additionally, I didn’t keep my Korean name, and was re-named when I was adopted.

My Story

brian-2I was left on the steps of a South Korean orphanage in Seoul without a name. My Korean name, Chul Ho Shin, was given to me by the orphanage days later and the meaning is lost to me. I’ve done research on what it means but I can only guess as to whether there was purposeful thought behind it or if it was just the next name on the list.

Once I was adopted, my adopted parents decided to give me American names, and selected Brian David. They selected these for me because both are names are connected with strength. While over in South Korea, before I traveled to the United States, I had pneumonia, which delayed my adoption and traveling. So being the spiritual humans that my parents are they dubbed me with those two names to put positivity and support out into the universe for me even though I was hundred of thousands of miles away from their embrace.

The Reflection

As we went around the room, I began thinking about my names and how I was given them and realized that I was marginalized by that one extremely common phrase that we all use. Who would ever think that there are individuals who don’t have a “name given at birth”? Thankfully, I was one of the last to go, so I had lots of time to contemplate how I was going to introduce myself. I decided to just tell my story and be upfront that I didn’t have a name given to me at birth.

After the training (which was aaaamazing) I realized that while that one phrase had marginalized me, I wasn’t upset or hurt by it. I was marginalized, yes, but not maliciously nor was it done intentionally. I mulled over other potential inclusive versions of it and after this weekend, came to the decision that there was no better alternative. In most of them it would end up defeating the work that would be done or it would marginalize me in a different way.

Over the weekend, I think I came to realize that language itself will always marginalize us. Language, like everything else including us humans, has its limitations and constraints. And it’s the power of the marginalized to decided how to handle it and use it.

For me, I acknowledged that I was probably 1% of 1% of 1% of individuals on this planet in that situation. To make it into a big issue and claim a social justice disservice would have, in my opinion, actually hindered and harmed the conversation at hand. For me, I decided to point it out as part of my journey, but not make it a cause.

I think because language is flawed that we will never be perfect with phrases, terminology, etc. especially when it deals with social justice, diversity and inclusive work.

This incident really put into perspective for me, that maybe the best way to have conversations and bringing awareness to some of these marginalizations is to tell your story with all it’s limitations, marginalizations etc., and be open to the possibility that that may be the best we can do; to simply bring awareness of the limitation. Sometimes there will be no “better way to say it” or “better word to use”.

I think I’m coming to an understanding that sometimes there is no answer, but rather the intent and respect that you use language.

Just some Monday morning musings. 🙂

brian

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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This is Why

Donald J. Trump has been elected President of the United States of America.

There I acknowledged it.

It’s always been a struggle for the loosing party accept the results. I’ve been a member of both parties over periods of time over the past 14 years and have been on both wining and losing sides. We invest such a large amount of times, energy and heart into elections, it only makes sense it takes time to accept the results.

Every election has had the losing party voice their concern and dismay at the victor. Every election has had a dip in the markets after Election Day. Every election has had dirty politics and secrets revealed. Every election has played mind games. And ultimately after every election the country eventually comes together to move forward.

But the 2016 election changed not only U.S. politics and leadership. It changed approach. It became personal.

“Grab them by the pussy”

“Deplorables”

“Nasty woman”

“Look at that face”

“They’re rapists”

It took the essence of an individual, their identity, their views and their life journeys became what we debated this election within the context of domestic and global issues.

The worth of an immigrant. The value of women. The legitimacy of LGBTQ people. The experiences of sexual assault victims. The cost of colored lives. The lives for those with difference priorities. The knowledge of college vs non-college educated people. The beliefs of those with different perspectives. The morals of people different than yourself.

This is why the hurt is deep. This is why there is fear. This is why BOTH sides have dug in their heels. This is why there are protests. This is why it hurts even more that the Electoral College superceeded the Popular Vote.

There are many reasons being put out there why President-Elect Trump shouldn’t be President and why Hillary Clinton or even Bernie Sanders should be.

But at the end of the day, you can learn to be President. You can learn to run a country. You can learn politics. You can learn leadership. You can learn everything to become President of the United States to keep us moving. You can work to fix the party system. You can work to fix or abolish the Electoral College.

What you can’t learn is how to erase the hurt and harm we ALL have done to each other. You can’t learn how to put the veil back over the divide that has been revealed about the people of this nation. You can’t re-hide the ugliness and hatred that has become evident of the American people.

This is why we still cry. This is why we still hurt. This is why we still fear, days after the election.

Just some thoughts as I continue to process the past 72 hours.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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