Sunday, October 25, 2009

Week 3 - Media Images of the Family: I Love Lucy

By: Madison Williamson, Jessica Navarrette, Meghan Slaalien, Michael Esclana, & Lauren Piligian

Please Enjoy Our Formal Introduction:

Families in the 50s and Background Information on I Love Lucy:

In the 50’s, family life was much different than it is today. The man’s role in the family was to be the provider to his wife and children. As stated on a web site that describes life in the 50’s, “Men were the main breadwinners in the family”. They were the head of the household, and were usually in charge of the family’s money. In some rare instances, women worked, mostly as secretaries. The woman’s main job in the home was to be a wife, mother, and housekeeper. discusses how a common sexual script of women during the 1950’s was that of getting married immediately after high school. Getting married right out of high school or while in college was considered the norm. A common stereotype was that women went to college to get a M.R.S degree, meaning a husband. Although women had other aspirations in life, the dominant theme promoted in the culture and media at the time was that a husband was far more important for young women, than a college degree. The 1950’s was known as the baby boom area, although, children were not a very important dynamic of the family. Children were expected to “be seen and not heard.” Another strong characteristic of the 1950’s, according to, was that divorce was highly frowned upon. With divorce came a very strong stigma. Therefore, there were a lot of unhappy marriages, because of societal pressure to stay married.

I Love Lucy debuted October 15th, 1951. Lucille Ball, a fiery red headed American, and Desi Arnaz, a Cuban born immigrant, were a married couple owning their own production company called Desilu Productions. This was very groundbreaking, as Lucille was the first women to part own a production company. The show was based off of a radio show that Lucille had previously starred in. I Love Lucy consisted of a married couple, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, who lived in an apartment complex in the upper east side of New York City, in the 1950’s. Their best friends who are like a part of their family, or fictive kin, Ethel and Fred Mertz, lived downstairs, and owned the apartment building. Most of the television series depicts how Lucy always goes against the social norms that are expected of her. According to Christopher Anderson of the Museum of Broadcast Communications, “Lucy is a frustrated housewife who longs to escape the comfinement of her domestic role and participate in a larger public world, preferably to join Ricky in show business.” By the end of every episode, however, Lucy is put back into her place as housewife and is not usually successful in her attempts. Although I Love Lucy is intended to be a humorous depiction of a housewife in the 1950’s, it stands and symbolizes much more than meets the eye.

Television shot up in popularity in the 1950s with 17 million Americans owning a television set by 1951 (Families). With I Love Lucy debuting that same year, it is clear that the show would have a tremendous impact on American families. The media illustrates how families are expected to look and act. However, although most families were portrayed to be the norm on television, “its programs have often presented multiple and contradictory messages” (Spigel, L.). I Love Lucy is a prime example of this because of its depiction of the typical wife who is “supposed” to follow the rules and regulations of her husband; however she is constantly going against the societal norms and break free from these restraints. The show portrays that happy families consist of a working husband with a stay at home wife and as long as they love each other, their lives will be happy. However, if families like this were as happy as they are depicted to be, why does Lucy seem constantly unsatisfied with her life, and trying to be more than just a housewife?


Anderson, C. (n.d.) I LOVE LUCY: U.S. Situation Comedy. Retrieved Octore 20, 2009, from

Spigel, L. (n.d.). Family on Television. Retrieved October 20, 2009, from

Families in the Fifties, Retrieved October 20, 2009, from

Some Questions to think about:

Do you think that when the show I Love Lucy was produced, it was intended to be more than just a comedy?

Did they mean to specifically depict women going against her husband’s wishes and society’s expectations?

How do you personally view I Love Lucy through the sociological lens?


  1. I never thought of Lucy as being an unhappy housewife. Its funny I always thought she just liked to get into trouble. Your comments put things into a whole new light. It is also interesting to me to see that even though Ricky was not American born, he held more privalage than Lucy did.

  2. That last comment from was me

    Kimberly Wabik

  3. You can definitely see the relationship between Lucy's daily life and the common life of a household wife in the 1950's. This show really does a great job at putting these issues in a new perspective.

    -Maddie Williamson

  4. I felt like the I Love Lucy Show reinforced notions on gender stereotypes. No matter how hard Lucy tried, or what she did, she would always be a housewife. Although it did have some liberal shows for it's time it seems to go along with it's time period.

    -Lisa Rodriguez

  5. When I was young I used to watch I Love Lucy among other shows on Nick at Nite like Dick Van Dye or I Dream of Genie. I only viewed it as a comical take on 50's family life and had never thought about any deeper or more complex issues that may have been going on. I believe the producers of the show unintentionally helped pave the way for a more equal portrayal of genders and even race in the media. The fact that we are still talking about and applying the show to today's world is a testament to it's impact on our society and culture. I don't think it was revolutionary or anything like that, but it was and is definitely one of the most important and influential shows within American media.

  6. I think that "I Love Lucy" was more than likely intended as a comedy--just trying to get laughs. At the time, it probably served this function; retrospectively, it was groundbreaking in terms of Lucille co-owning a production company and having such a large say in the show. If the show hadn't mirrored the norms of the '50's, I wonder if viewers would have found it as funny/entertaining, or if it would have just seemed far fetched.

    --Lisa Vise

  7. One show witch comes to mind relevant to this topic (although it aired in 1965) is "I Dream of Jeannie"

    The show was an instant hit among viewers however reflecting on the roles of genders perceived (Jeannie) who is trapped in a bottle, is a servant to Captain Tony Nelson: Jeannie's master. The the show represents this issue in society similar to "I Love Lucy", but a different era.

    It's interesting to observe how the lap between the decades of 50s to early 70s has not made much progress regarding these roles in the media.

    I must admit (as a child) I enjoyed watching the re-runs of this comedy completely oblivious to the messages of gender inequality..

    check out this clip I discovered on You Tube:

    Great topic guys!

  8. I agree with Lisa when she says that the show was most likely scripted as a comedy -- without much hidden meaning. TV shows usually feature characters who push the limits of society, in order to get a more dramatic response from viewers. In the time of "I Love Lucy", women were expected to follow their husbands and so it is comedic to see a woman who does the opposite (but still remains quite charming).

    -Emma Rhodes