Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Love Lucy Pushing the Boundaries of the 1950's

Although I Love Lucy did portray the ideals and societal norms of the 50’s, there are also portrayals of a more modern day family. One example of a similarity between how the family is portrayed in I Love Lucy and families today would be their portrayal of exogamy. Having Lucy and Ricky being in an interethnic relationship, and being married out of their particular social group, definitely began to push the boundaries for its time. When Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz brought the idea of their show to CBS, they automatically turned it down because CBS believed Desi to be “too ethnic”. However, with Lucille and Desi performing some vaudeville acts to gain people’s support, CBS decided to go ahead with the show. Lucy and Ricky portraying an interethnic relationship, as they had in real life, was the first to do this in its time. This definitely shows what more modern day marriages are like with the United States being a “melting pot” of all different races and ethnicities. Even though in the 50’s people may have still been a little skeptical at the belief of an interethnic marriage, watching I Love Lucy, which millions did, may have shown viewers that this is now becoming the norm and that there is nothing wrong with being married with someone out of your own social group.

As of pushing the boundaries with gender, it is clear that it may not be as obvious as Lucy and Ricky’s exogamous relationship, but in many people’s opinions, it is still present. As feminist Anne Andes puts it, “Lucy is ultimately UNRULEABLE! …No she does not break the rules to make a feminist statement…But in her own rebellious way, she proves that women can break the molds within which their world tries to cast them...” (2007, para. 3). Therefore, even if people may not think that it is intentional, watching Lucy try to break free from her homemaker life, could definitely impact the viewers. Yes, Lucy is usually put back into her place, but occasionally she does get what she wants, and the fact that she is “disobeying” her husband, may have influenced women to do the same. With the amount of viewers, “40,000,000 regularly”, watching I Love Lucy, it would be hard to believe that no one was impacted by Lucy’s rebellious ways (Pan, n.d. para. 2). It is clear that the media impacts viewers, so women must have at least began to question their place in the family and why things were the way they were. Again, if Lucy was a happy housewife, like ads at the time always portrayed wives in the 50’s as being, why would Lucy, living in the same era, be constantly trying to escape it? An article by Wendy Pan explains that “these issues were very real to women in the post war 1950's and were clearly reflected in Lucy's continuous rebelliousness to become part of her husband's world” (n.d., para. 4). Pan explains that the show was depicting reality, just as how Lucy and Ricky’s exogamous marriage was. Therefore, this was pushing the boundaries of its time because reality in television was usually and for the most part nonexistant. Although I Love Lucy on the surface makes light of the issues of reality, and may cover them up with comedy, they were touching upon them nonetheless and are still noticeable.

Another example of I Love Lucy pushing the boundaries in the media would be when Lucy became pregnant. No one had ever brought up pregnancies on television because it was too risqué with its association to sex. However, because Lucille Ball was pregnant in reality, and with the writers explaining to CBS that the show should portray real-life situations, it was allowed. The cast had to actually say that Lucy was “expecting”, as mentioned in a previous post, but the fact that they even brought up the fact that woman can and do get pregnant, especially in this case with a multi-ethnic child, was a huge step in portraying what real families are actually going through. The night Lucille Ball actually gave birth to her son, Desi Jr., was the same night that Lucy Ricardo had her son, Ricky Jr. This was completely intentional and the viewers were clearly ecstatic. There were a total of 54 million people tuned in to watch Lucy’s pregnancy on January 19, 1953, which was more than the viewers who tuned in for President Eisenhower’s inauguration on January 20, 1953 (I Love Lucy, para. 3; Leiban, n.d., para. 6).


Andes, Anna. (2007, May 30). Online Transactions. Message posted to

I Love Lucy, Retrieved October 20, 2009, from

Leiban, Nina. (n.d.) BALL, LUCILLE: U.S. Actor/Comedienne. Retrieved October 20, 2009, from

Pan, Wendy. (n.d.). I Love Lucy History Goes on Making History. Retrieved October 23, 2009, from

Some Questions to Think About:

In general, how do you feel about this information?

Do you agree with the idea of I Love Lucy pushing the boundaries? Why or why not?

What do you think about the fact that more people watched Lucy's birth to Little Ricky than Eisenhower’s inauguration?


  1. I love Lucy, does push the boundaries on some levels. The fact that they even had a pregnant women on t.v during that times was so huge for that time. It is funny to see how times have changed and now on t.v you could see people giving birth to children.

    -Lisa Rodriguez

  2. That is a great point. The fact that no other show had introduced pregnancies before I Love Lucy truly illustrates the changing of times.

  3. I agree with these points. I also find it shocking how more people watched the birth of little Ricky than Eisenhower's inauguration!
    I also agree that I Love Lucy pushed the envelope because they no only showed the pregnancy, but the pregnancy also included a multi racial child. During that time period things like that were unheard of.
    -Chelsea Lepkowski

  4. I think I Love Lucy opened a number of doors for the shows we see today. To see and think that in the 50's showing pregnanacy was an issue is hard to believe. Now you can see a baby being for on TV. I feel we have come a long way in 60 years. Now we have shows like The Secret Life of an American Teenager,which is abut a 15 year old getting pregnant in high school. I feel that if I Love Lucy didn;t take that risk we not see what we see today.


  5. I agree with Felicia. I love lucy did open many doors for the shows we see today. Also how maybe if I love lucy didnt take the risks they did, television may not be the same today. It's amazing how far we have come.

    Ashley Keating

  6. I think it's easy to say that the show opened up a lot of doors for social norms and values, but I think I'd be more interested in hearing about the Luceille Ball, and Desi Arnez' real life outside of the show. What type of a backlash did the actors recieve on downtown, and were they ever casted to play roles similar to the one's they played in the show.

    Were husbands all around America upset at the cast members? Did they ever recieve hate mail, or threats because what they were doing was far beyond what American families were used to?

    Yes Lucy was hilarious, but to me this show is almost insulting sometimes. It jokes about gender roles in the family, and at the end of the day (or the end of the joke) Lucy is right back where she started -- cooking and cleaning and taking care of her husband.

    It's almost like having a tv show made about gay marriage, where gay couples joke about being married, have fantasies that are played out on tv about the subject, and then at the end of the show have no resoltuion to the issue -- and just show a clip of the couple cohabitating, but not being officially married.

    It's almost sickening. A show that finds humor in the reversal of gender roles -- if we can joke about it to the point where it's a comedy that 40,000,000 American's are tuning in for -- it's actually probably no changing anything in society.

    Ashley Brocker

  7. That is a very interesting point that you made. I do know that Luceille Ball and Desi Arnez were cast in movies together, where they played a married couple. They also had the "Lucy and Desi Comedy Hour", which was in a way similar to I Love Lucy, but was an hour long vs. the 30 min. episodes of I Love Lucy. Thank you for sharing your opnoin, it was a very good point!


  8. I Love Lucy, pushes the limits of equality and almost the ideas that were held prevelant during this time period. Just the fact that they showed her pregnancy and set precendant to many shows that we see today.
    Emily Zavala

  9. I agree with the unanonmus statement that the television show I Love Lucy really did push the societal envelpoe at that time, and left the door open for many other television sitcomes to come, such as George Lopez, My Wife and Kids, and Family Matters. Not only did I Love Lucy open the door for more mulit-racial equality on television, but for the family life to be explored