Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Representation of Family in the Media: 1970's and 1980's

The 1970's

The Brady Bunch was a popular show in the 1970’s that tried to go back to the traditional family values. During the 70’s many shows were trying to show that certain social norms were changing, but the creators of The Brady Bunch wanted to bring people back to the traditional values of a family. The mother cooks and cleans, while the father is the one that goes to work and makes the money. It was very noticeable while watching this show that Mike, the father, was definitely the bread winner and the head of household. Mike was always the one to explain the lessons that the children should have learned after getting in trouble. He was the power figure, the dominant male. Although in the show Mike is a widower and Carol, the mother, is a widow that is not how it was originally written. Carol was originally written as being a divorced single mother; the writers changed this within the first episode. The Brady Bunch rarely addressed any political or social issues that were occurring in that time. When any such issue was addressed it was done so in a very subtle manner. When the show addressed women’s liberation and gender equality it was seen simply in the siblings fighting. African Americans were rarely seen in the show at all. The show may never have made the top ten lists of Neilsen ratings, but it had been viewed as one of America’s most important sitcoms in the 1970’s.

Discussion Questions:

Why do you think the producers felt the need to bring people back to traditional family values?

What do you think the reasoning for changing Carol from a divorced woman to a widow was?

Why was Mike always the one to punish the children or teach lessons while Carol just agreed with what he felt was right?

The 1980's

The Cosby Show sparked much controversy about race and class in America. The show aired from 1984 to 1992, it revived the television genre of situation comedy which saved the NBC network. The Cosby family was an upper-middle class black family. This show portrayed a black family in a way that contradicted how black families had previously been portrayed on television. Cliff, the father, was a respected gynecologist and Claire, the mother, was a successful attorney. Their two older children attended prestigious colleges, while their son had a wonderful relationship with his father and the two younger daughters mainly experienced Cliff’s “hilarious child-rearing routines”. The viewers saw the Huxtable home as “classy”. The producers actually brought in a psychiatrist to help them portray a family and a home that broke common stereotypes against blacks. Many other shows that were focused on black families at the time accentuated such as Sanford and Son, Good Times, and The Jeffersons.

Notice the differences between these two clips the first is from Sanford and Son and the second is from The Cosby Show

Just starting with the appearance of the house where the shows take place. The Cosby household is neat and organized the jazz music as a nice touch to the “classy” feel that the viewers got when watching the show. The Sanford household is cluttered and messy. The focus of conversation in The Cosby Show is educated; they talk of music and higher education. In the Sanford and Son clip the characters sound uneducated and speak with a stereotypical African American accent. This is how the black family was often portrayed to viewers, The Cosby Show was able to break that trend and give an opportunity for blacks on television in the future.

Discussion Questions:

Why do you think the producers of The Cosby Show decided to break the stereotypes of blacks?

What effects do you think the shows of this time that portrayed the black stereotypes had on the viewers and families?

Do you think that The Cosby Show was able to change any effects the stereotypical shows had caused on families and how they dealt with diversity?


  1. One possible reason why The Cosby Show broke the stereotypes was because Bill Cosby actually had say in the way the story line of the show. The producers of the shows wanted the show to focus around him.
    If the producers didn't allow for Cosby's input I don't know if it would have shown African-American families in that light.
    I think the show made a positive impact for black viewers. The Cosby family could have been role models for most people because they had so much good things.

    -Lisa Rodriguez

  2. I think that the reason they changed carol from being a single parent to being someone who was divorced is because as it was stated in the blog the producers wanted to portray a "traditional" family. In a traditional family you would never see a single parent male or female, also a typical traditional thing to do after becoming a widow is to get remarried for the sake of the children. whether it be so the children had the means as in money or for the emotional aspect of a child's life. I think that this idea of showing a traditional family took over the realistic point of view of a single divorced women getting remarried.

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  5. Family is the main value we have in life, certainly, due to disagremments conflicts are easy to see between older and younger generations but our family is the only people caring truly about us