Tuesday, February 2, 2016

TV and the FAMILY Post - Raymond T

Lipsitz’ reading, “Meaning of Memory” resonated the most this week as we think about how television legitimizes certain images of American families.  Ideas of a nuclear family and materialism circulated early television, and these images of families, although uniform, did come in different shapes.  For example, a show like The Goldbergs, used an ethnic family, but still nuclear although perhaps not as idealized as later television families.  Through these ethnic families, or families who did struggle in the current economic climate, it seemed as if through buying things, their family is at least doing something right.    Lipsitz explains that in these shows that reinforced commodity purchases and the wellbeing of a family, it was not as though, “money can buy love”, but whether it can garnish affection is a different story (80).  There was of course a special emphasis on motherhood and wives when it came to this materialism, sending forth a message that in order to have a good family you need these certain products, like carnation milk, which for some reason is prescribed by doctors.  Similarly I think back to an episode of the Flintstones called, The Happy Household, when Wilma becomes a television star promoting her wifely duties to the world, and giving advice as to how to properly make her husband happy with a certain cooked product.  It is funny to think how the post war nuclear family isolated themselves so much from extended kinship according to the writer, that they often “needed” this advice from television, often asking for tips from television wives who seemed like they had the right ideas (Lipsitz 84).  Even beyond their duties of buying the right product, these wives according to Modleski were trained to know what their family needed simply by looking and reading facial expressions, thus where the soap opera close up comes into play.  My overall take away from it all is how less stressful it may have been for advertisers at that time. Not only because of the sponsor relationship they had with television, the idea that some audiences actually looked forward to some advice makes it more simple I suppose, as opposed to viewers hating Hulu commercials which at least try to personalize theirs for its viewers.  Also the self reflexivity of it all, if shows like the The Flintstones were satirizing the pervasiveness of advertisements while also pushing forth the same idea of, "a happy household".   

 Lastly, the comparison of Gracie and Lucy was interesting, as they seemed to be oppositional in terms of verbal/physical comedy, a husband who controls the audience through speech/a husband whose Cubano heritage prevents him to have full control, and Gracie who wins at the end and Lucy whose schemes always fail.  However in the end, both these shows perpetuate a certain kind of domesticity of women that make being a housewife seem almost pleasurable if not a bearable experience.   While a lot of shows today may have shifted away from a nuclear family, and those that still maintain that model explore a women’s role outside of the home, there are still perhaps some remnants of these hidden themes still located in the shows, such as the housewife having to know what the rest of their family is thinking or father having to buy certain items to ensure his family’s affection in some way. 

Lol and for fun - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAni5JW_WWQ


  1. Thanks for the post Raymond! I agree that Lucy and Burns and Allen have displayed women’s domesticity as pleasurable. It also shows women’s dependence as endearing, hence justifying the subordinate position of woman in the family. These portrayals are both problematic as they ignore the deeper power structure and gender politics in the family.
    Drawing on Freud’s analysis on jokes, Mellencamp suggests that, the comic of situation in Burns and Allen comes into play because Gracie is "reduced to the status of a dependent child” (92). It is Gracie’s childishness/dependence that brings about a comic of nonsense, and that “reassur(es) that women’s lives are indeed nonsense”(86). Gracie invokes the most laughters, more as a laughingstock than a joke teller, more as an object of jokes than a subject of jokes.
    On the surface this is because George is the narrator, the host, who leads us into the show and exhibits the family life from his perspective. But this also has to do with the deeper power structure in the family. In Mellencamp’s words, this narrative "embodies a political determinism in which women find a subordinate place” (91).While Gracie plays the double role of a ridiculous wife and a “disobedient and rebellious child”(92), George appears as an ideal husband/father who not only tolerates, forgives, but also "loves” Gracie’s childishness/dependence, silliness and ridiculousness. George is the real authority in the show. He is normal, rational, the one we should trust and admire, as he tires his best to “rescue" Gracie from her “nonsense".

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  3. I too enjoyed all the readings this week and found this one extremely compelling. I was wondering how the atomization of extended families to nuclear families has continued to our viewing habits today. For example, I see that Netflix caters viewing habits to individual people, instead of the family, so that people can avoid having their guilty pleasures (Gossip Girl, Keeping up with the Kardashians) seen by others. This is done by the creation of individual profiles on the account, each with their own "my list." Is there a line that can be traced from these early TV years of discarding the extended family to the digital age the can appeal to the individual that is ALIENATIING us from our comrades?