The Evolution of portrayals of family in television

Essay by goldcoastsurferHigh School, 12th gradeB, September 2004

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The introduction of television after World War II coincided with a steep rise in birth rates, mortgage rates, and the growth of mass-produced suburbs. In this social climate, it's no surprise that television was conceived as being a family medium. The public often assumes that television's fictional representations of the family have a strong impact on actual families, because of this people have often assumed that these fictional households should mirror not just family life in general, but their own personal values regarding it.

In the early 1950s, there was a degree of diversity in how domestic life was portrayed. There were families who lived in cities, suburbs and rural areas; there were nuclear families such as in the show "The Adventures of Ozzie and Hariet"; there were childless couples such as "The Honeymooners" ; as well as a variety of ethnic families in domestic comedies and family dramas. By the mid 1950s representations of family life were becoming more standardized in domestic comedy.

In the 1960s suburban domestic comedies rose to prominence with programs such as "The Donna Reed Show," "Leave it to Beaver," and "Father Knows Best" presenting an idealized representaion of middle-class white families insuburban communities which mirrored the practise of racial exclusion seen in America's suburbs more generally.

Within the domestic comedy form itself, the nuclear family was increasingly displaced by a counter-programming trend that represented broken families and unconventional families. Coinciding with rising the divorce rates of the 1960s a number of shows would feature families with only a father such as "My Three Sons" and "Family Affair" and the Western "Bonanza", while other shows would feature single mothers such as in "Julia" and "Here's Lucy". However due to censorship codes of the times, all these programs could not display single parents who were divorced;...