Friday, August 17, 2007
Something to think about ... I have read a couple of times lately how sitcoms are to be partially blamed for weakening the father and husband role in the family. I think that there may be some truth to this. There has indeed been a change over the years in the roles that men play in sitcoms, and it generally hasn't been for the better. Could it be having a detrimental effect on the American family? Perhaps.

On the other hand, I think that the roles played by women have gotten much stronger and more confident over the years and that is a good thing. I applaud television producers for that as I think it gives the young ladies of our world some good role models.

Let's take a look at stereotypical male and female roles in sitcoms through the years ...

1950s and 1960s sitcoms ... think of Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver. The dad was the respected head of household ... the mom was demure, proper, relatively quiet, and always in the home baking apple pies or telling the kids to wait until their dad gets home.

One show that broke out of the mold a bit was Bewitched but that was really only because Samantha had this "other" life where she could be a bit more adventurous ... when it came to her life in this world, though, Bewitched was pretty much typical of other shows at the time.

1970s ... two of the big sitcoms I remember are All In The Family and The Jeffersons. The male leads were loud and bigoted for the most part ... a bit of the buffoon and usually made fun of. I don't need to say a whole lot about the role that Edith Bunker played ... Mrs. Jefferson had a strong role but she started this trend of always putting down her husband.

And then there's Maude ... a strong, confident female lead but always belittling Walter -- "God will get you for that, Walter", making him come across as rather milquetoast.

1980s ... a lot of the shows in the 80s involved single parents so that was a switch and we saw some strong single voices arise from that -- Diff'rent Strokes, Facts of Life and Who's The Boss come to mind. Growing Pains, Family Ties and The Cosby Show, however, all had two-parent families and they were well-balanced overall in the roles between men and women.

1990s ... we moved from single parent families to singles living alone ... Seinfeld, Friends, Cheers (started in the 80s actually), Drew Carey, and Frasier. But popular sitcoms involving families tended to focus on dads who were bumbling and ineffective ... nice guys but they just can't get it all together. Think of The Simpsons (started in the 80s actually), Home Improvement, Married with Children and Roseanne. Oftentimes, the mom was the strong character in the family -- the voice of reason.

In the 2000s, we have seen more of the same. Men who are porttrayed as perhaps loveable but bumbling, impotent, wishy-washy buffoons. They are always the "fall guy" -- the one who makes people laugh but hardly role model material for the leaders of tomorrow. Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens come to mind. And there is a trend toward the wives making sport of the husband, belittling them, emasculating them.

I don't know ... it does make you wonder. What role models are our culture putting forth for young boys today? Not that sitcoms are meant to be burdened with offering up role models but consider the other big sources of role models -- sports figures and musicians -- and think about how many of them are really building leaders and putting forth the way that dads want their sons to be.

And all the while, we are playing the role of Tim Allen or Ray Romano in our own lives.

I am not sure where this leaves us but I do find it to be disturbing.

  posted at 10:46 AM  

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Dana Thickburger said...

Perhaps this is due to few if any Christian writers being able to get work in Hollywood. Even though 75% of Americans believe in God (in one form or another), it doesn't sell advertising to show a traditional nuclear family. One show that you faile to mention that was truly grondbreaking was the Brady Bunch which portrayed a blended family and parents who slept in the same bed together. Perhaps it would be refreshing to see a family that is still nuclear but suffers the same slings and arrows that real married couples have: friends that divorce, money problems, issues at work, crazy mother-in-laws and the like. The show should have a good therapist as well. If you ask anyone who beats the average marriage lifespan in this country (I think it's 2 years), they will tell you that the romantic images we have on "reality TV" are bogus. Eventually the glow wears off and you are left with the rality of a spouse who farts and leaves the toilet seat up. That's reality TV.

At 9:08 PM, Blogger Todd M said...

"Hear Hear" to that farting thing! (oh, my poor wife)

I am usually careful with the toilet seat though.

Thanks for stopping by -- great comment!


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