P2 Rough Draft
Fifty years ago, divorce was taboo. Gays? Covered up. Bi-racial marriage? Unheard of. The family decades ago consisted of two parents and their children. This traditional concept of family was the norm of society, and television reflected it. However, society¶s family formula in the present day has evolved to fit increasing social tolerance and changing values. In result, today¶s television portrays a broader picture of family. This larger representation allows all audiences to relate to the shows. These recent shows ³[encourage] viewers to embrace alternatives to the traditional 2 parent family,´ (Morgan) because they still have the same traditional family values of love and support. Over the years, TV has expanded who is considered family. Now, several programs shift away from the group of people who live together in the same house. Instead, some shows choose to focus on diverse characters that form strong familial bonds outside the home. For example, Boston Legal1 tends to focus on the relationships between the diverse characters at the law firm where they work, rather than at the character¶s home. The strong friendship between Denny Crane and Alan Shore is essential to each character¶s success as they help each other with their legal cases, and are there to support each other with their personal problems. Also, the relationship between Katie and Jerry is compassionate as they both try to deal with Jerry¶s Asperger¶s Syndrome and social awkwardness. These close relationships between the lawyers show that they care for each other like a family. A second show that shows a diverse group of people acting as family is Glee2. In this show, a group of high school outcasts form a glee club where they can feel at home, share their
ABC 2004-2008 FOX 2009-Present
problems, and be happy. In the pilot episode, the character Rachel states that Glee Club is about ³being a part of something you feel special in.´ The Glee Club in which Rachel participates influences her positively, functioning just as a family would. Lastly, Gilmore Girls3 takes on the idea of the community as a family. Throughout the show, everyone knows everyone¶s business in the close-knit town. When a problem arises with one person, the community is there to help deal with, solve, or empathize about the situation. Thus, a group of people can be considered a family as long as it is ³where one goes for support and to find solace where it is needed´ (Cantor 215). Malcolm in the Middle4 has shown family as imperfect, rather than precise and happy-golucky. "It's about the solidity of family, despite everything. These aren't model kids. This isn't model funny. They're not model citizens. But it's a funny family, and it's a loving family. And I think that's the bottom line" (Terry 20). Therefore, the show is an example of how a family that doesn¶t share the perfection of the traditional television family can still function like one because they still retain the value of love. This show perhaps laid the foundation for Modern Family. An ultimate display of the revised family on television can be seen in Modern Family5. This show covers many types of families that a person could find in a household, taking full advantage of modern idea. For example, an old middle-aged white man lives with his new wifea sexy Columbian woman who is much younger. The show represents a family of intense age difference and cultural diversity. The second family is a gay couple, two men who adopted a baby from Vietnam. Thus, this family is diverse in race as well as sexual orientation. The third and final family in the series is a typical traditional family with two parents and three kids.
WB 2000-2007 FOX 2000-2006 5 ABC 2009-Present
Although, each family member has a quirky side, making the family imperfect, arguementive and chaotic. In the show, these three individual families are all part of one big family, complicating the situation by making their family intensely diverse. Throughout the episodes, these families encounter comedic problems due to their differences but learn to accept and love each other in the end. ³The actors take what could have been stereotypical comedy roles and invest them with layered anxieties that render them believable, if also absurdly nutty´ (Tucker 48-49). Thus, the imperfect image of family in the show allows the audience relate to the character¶s situations and serves to show that every type of family has problems to which the viewer can relate. Television¶s portrayal of family has also changed with gender roles. In several shows of the past decade, women have increasing independence and authority. Returning to Modern Family, the mother is portrayed as the smart dominant parent, while the father is portrayed as the goofy parent who tries to fit in with the kids. In addition, Roseanne6 portrays the mother as the hardworking supportive member of the family, while the father was often unemployed. Next, Lorelai in Gilmore Girls is a single mom who becomes a successful owner of an inn. Her daughter¶s father is implied to be a low-life who can¶t hold down a job. This is very different from the patriarchy that the traditional family was based upon, where the mother was ³happy nurturing and feminine´ (Signorielli 340). Now, she is often rendered as the backbone of the family, and has proven her independence from the male. It can be argued that television is not reflecting the changing view of family. Rather, it is responsible for influencing the drift from the traditional family in a harmful way. ³Indeed, television content is often seen as threatening either because it validates divisions associated with
such attributes such as age and gender, and so, contributes to ongoing tensions inside the family, or because it cultivates inappropriate or anti-social behavior, especially in children´ (Douglas 7). For example, a show like The Secret Life of the American Teenager7 shows children that a girl can manage having a baby out of wedlock and be fairly stable in the outcome, or that teens can have sex freely. With the increase in sexual content, the numerous characters seem to have their own ³sex story´ rather than love story. In a love story, sex is not the main focus of the relationship, where it is in a sex story. Each teen does not need to feel committed to their relationship because they are only getting sex out of it. Hence, the show is not shedding a responsible light on relationship values. Also, in shows like Beverly Hills: 902108, a girl¶s parents are getting a divorce because of an affair, discouraging the two parent family. This divorce is a popular idea in modern television because only 38.3% of families on television are headed by married couples. In addition, the single parent family on television has increased from 14 to 21 percent since 1950 (Robinson 148). The increasing portrayal of single parent families can plant ideas in viewers that it is acceptable to stray from the commitment of marriage and love, and it is manageable to have a child out of wedlock. Are television shows like these responsible for the divorce rate that is over fifty percent? And, is it accountable for the tripling out-of-wedlock births since 1970 (Crotty 1)? A broader definition of family more accurately represents the modern family more than the traditional family portrayal because it encompasses a broader range of people and ideals found in society who encounter problems. Because of the broad range of people considered in families, more people can relate to and enjoy the show. Even though the families on television today may not be the traditional two parent family, the modern family always pulls together and
ABC Family 2008-Present FOX 1990-2000
is there for each other like the traditional family. In Modern Family, Dylan sums it up best when he refers to his girlfriend, the daughter of the central crazy family. ³She¶s got this killer confidence. The kind of confidence you get from having a family like this that¶s passionate and accepting of hot foreigners, and gay dudes, and nutty people. You know- a family that actually loves each other´ (Levitan).
Works Cited Cantor, Muriel. "The American Family: From Molly Goldberg to Bill Cosby." Journal of Comparative Family Studies 22.2 215. Web. 3 Nov 2009. <http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=5&hid=112&sid=92404def-7833-4111819f877836189e79%40sessionmgr104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1za XRl#db=a9h&AN=13444856>. Crotty, Mark "Murphy Would Probably Also Win the Election--The Effect of Television as Related to the Portrayal of the Family in Situation Comedies." Journal of Popular Culture 29.3 (1995): 1-15. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 3 Nov. 2009. Douglas, Willaim. Television Families: Is Something Wrong With Suburbia?. 1st ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawerence Erlbaum Associates, 2003. 7. Print. Levitan, Steven."Modern Family: The Incident." Hulu.com. Web. 3 Nov 2009. <http://www.hulu.com/watch/102327/modern-family-the-incident>. Morgan, Michael. "Television and Family Values: Was Dan Quayle Right?." Mass Communication & Society 2. (1999): n. pag. Web. 3 Nov 2009. <http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst?docId=95843537>. Robinson, James. Five Decades of Families on Television: From the 1950s Through the 1990s. 2nd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawerence Erlbaum Associates, 2001. 148. Print. Signorielli, Nancy. Television and the Family: A Cultivation Perspective. 2nd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawerence Erlbaum Associates, 2001. 340. Print.
Terry, Sarah. "The evolution of TV's family comedy shows." Christian Science Montior 93.2331 (2001): 20. Web. 3 Nov 2009. <http://libdb.sjfc.edu:2500/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true &db=a9h&AN=5394622&site=ehost-live&scope=site>. Tucker, Ken. "Modern Family." Entertainment Weekly 16 Oct 2009: 48-49. Web. 3 Nov 2009. <http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=1&hid=106&sid=d4e18861-b1c3-463ea789d124bf88030b%40sessionmgr104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1za XRl#db=a9h&AN=44644386>.