Television's Depiction of American Family in the 1950s and 1960s Essay

Download this Essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Essay:

Television's Depiction Of American Family In The 1950s And 1960s

Television depiction of the American family in the 1950s and early 1960s

Television has for many years shaped the American society depending on the prevailing circumstances at that time. Ordinarily it is expected that television as a form of art would mimic the real life, but this has not always been true across the eras since at some point, television shaped and gave direction of style to be followed and presented the viewers with the 'ideal' society that the programmers thought kept the viewer glued to their channels, rather than the real society out there.

The depiction of the American family by the television in the 1950s through to 1960s was geared more toward the portrayal of a peaceful culture devoid of the challenges facing other parts of the world, financially stable and happy. This trend caught up to act as the anesthesia for the just expedited pain of WWII and the difficulties of the cold war that were going on at the onset of 1950s through to 1960s.

After the WWII, the popular culture introduced by TV entertainment in the 1960s proved to be a strong political force in defining 'culture'. Popular culture acquired a positive picture and many took to it as form of liberation form the societal structures and formalities (Jenkins H, n.d:27). It is a subversion of the dominant notions of taste. It is further worth noting that the American population formed an intimate bond with the TV and film entertainment since these two did not require the viewer to do any criticism but did everything for the viewer, giving these captured viewers a high sense of divine power to watch what they enjoyed most with least effort. Television shaped the American families to love the easy way to knowledge and entertainment. It was different from reading a novel for entertainment since here the audience experienced dreamlike qualities with no effort to understand but sheer mental attention which would be different in a play or in reading a novel. The 1950s through 1960s saw the coming up of various 'genres' and genre came out not as type of narrative with affixed meaning, but as a repeat of ways of doing things that sticks in the mind of the viewers as well as programmers in such a manner that they can be able to easily recognize these programs like sitcoms and the likes (Taylor Ella, 1989:18). These genres were and still are not static and were largely socially constituted; it is that fluid link between the programmer and the viewer.

Television entertainment also acted as a catalyst towards reshaping the psychology of Americans to the post war economy which presented a dichotomy of economy with a few of the society members enjoying the economic affluence yet a greater majority reeling under the burden left behind by the war on the economy and the livelihoods of families. The television therefore prepared the Americans to embrace the 1950s consumerism which was a different trend from the more reserved post depression era. The family structures were also altered with majority of the cases the father figures missing or were back from the war with fatal injuries and disabilities (George Lipsitz, 1990:Pp44). There was a lot of emphasis created by television programs between the economy and the family and particularly the motherhood role was taken very seriously in programs in the 1950s as a result of the family structure change.

The 1950s marked era of TV being the badge of consumerism, this is considering the background of the strengthening of the economy, increasing employment and productivity. The TV managed to reconstruct the consistency of the American family and the nuclear family became the normal structure of an ideal American family away from the extended structure that was predominant during the 1930s when depression brought people closer.

The TV became more like the theater with anthologies dominating the screens. This was an attempt to keep the heterogeneous audience of the postwar urban America entertained and their needs catered for in full, this however did not last long and the genre changed to more of the movie than the live anthologies. TV then changed to the movies and the sit-coms since they offered consistency in characters and variety in episodes and subjects, this was a trend that kept the viewers more glued to the TV hence delivering these viewers to the sponsors of these programs. At this point, genre was strongly used as a strategy and tool for controlling the response of the audience.

TV programmers and sponsors looked at the American populace as consumers or potential consumers and not just as people who were to be entertained. The TV owners and the sponsors used the Nielsen ratings to determine the number of people was watching TV at a given time. This was to enable the owners of the TV know which times were prime hence sell them expensively and the sponsors wanted to know the ratings to know if they are getting return for their investment (technically on the viewers).

In 1958, there emerged a 'new' trend of the viewers being fed on episodic series which worked out best for the broadcasters since it delivered the viewers in wholesale to the sponsors. The episodic series were programs crafted to revolve around a character or two (not necessarily a plot) and were delivered in chapters for every week and episodes carried complete stories around a character. These series meant the viewer created an attachment to some character hence must follow the actions and trials of the character to the very end. This promised consistent viewership and as to the broadcasters the commodity was in the trap and delivered to the sponsor effectively.

Television entertainment was also reflective of the society and changed with the consistency of the society. In the 1950s, the issue of race was one that easily created conflicts within the urban areas. This pushed the programmers to drop some 'ethnic' series and programs.

The other significant depiction is that of the family comedies that did not depict the true American family as it was, not that of the postwar affluence but of a liberal conservative dream of a harmonious society in which much of the conflict would disappear at the end of the day. Indeed, most of the shows that persisted on depicting the gang violence, drug issues, financial troubles and marital discord quickly lost their sponsorship since sponsors felt they were not widely watched by their target audience hence television chose to depict the family as a charming excursion into modernity.

The cold war and the paranoia about communism also crept into the TV programs with comedies and sitcoms crowded with anti-communist gags. This is what sold in the years following the cold war and the family was correctly depicted through the television as these were the sentiments of people about communism.

The American families were also portrayed by the TV and the movies as places full of heroes particularly towards the end of 1950s. Here, there was more focus directed towards the public life and the professional life than the private life. It shifted from portraying the lone hero in the society to a group of heroes. This was as a reaffirmation of the solidarity among the Americans after the WWI and during the cold war as well.

Generally the television programs in the 1950s and 1960s were structured around a language or realm which was meant persuade the audience that they are a reflection of the daily happenings in the society hence worth paying attention to. The Television strives to convince the viewer that the images and the words from the TV are a representation of our own experiences or even of people like us. This was…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Television's Depiction Of American Family In The 1950s And 1960s" (2012, October 18) Retrieved October 21, 2016, from

"Television's Depiction Of American Family In The 1950s And 1960s" 18 October 2012. Web.21 October. 2016. <>

"Television's Depiction Of American Family In The 1950s And 1960s", 18 October 2012, Accessed.21 October. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Television s Effects Outside the Classroom

    In fact, the relationship between academic performance and television is not clear cut. Research has shown that children who watch a large amount of television typically do poorly in school, yet those who spend a moderate amount of time in front of the television do better than non-viewers. There is a small negative relationship between television viewing and a child's IQ. However, there are significant subgroup differences. There are

  • American Woman the Post World

    It was necessary for the returning men to feel that they were coming home to resume their pre-war social roles. Roles that were governed by the rules of a patriarchal society that had changed by way of the roles women assumed in American society while men were away at war. Women became the decision makers, the bread winners, and the family mangers in a way that is portrayed as

  • Television on Moral Values Has Been Extensively

    television on moral values has been extensively studied by social scientists. In 2007, a national cultural survey commissioned by the Culture and Media Institute (CMI) indicated that the news and entertainment media destructs the nation's values. A Gallup Poll on American's Confidence in Institutions (2007) confirmed some of these results. The CMI survey, reported that "74% of Americans believe the nation's moral values have declined over the past twenty

  • Television and American Pop Culture

    Cable television also opened up the medium to numerous types of television programming that had previously been excluded, simply because it could never have competed with the demand for mainstream types of programs during the same time slot. Initially, cable television was only available in the largest markets like New York and Los Angeles and it was priced out of the range of most consumers. The technology also required a cable

  • Roles That Black Women Played on TV in the Early Era of TV

    Black Women on Early Television African-American portrayals on television have been based on negative stereotypes that do not objectively or accurately portray reality... These stereotypes include, but are not limited to, the portrayal of African-Americans as inferior, lazy, dumb, dishonest, comical, unethical, and crooked (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1977). Dates (1990) was able to add to this list: insolent, bestial, brutish, power-hungry, money hungry and ignorant." (Rada) The image of Black

  • National Character Studies Were All

    Moreover, it seems less than completely effective to urge people to make connections to each other because being self-centered really leads to a healthier community. Yes, keeping up our networks does help each one of us. But this does not seem to be the kind of inspirational call to a wider world that will transform the current problems in the nation. Relational, Not Instrumental Connections Lawler, Thye, & Yoon argue that it

  • Blackface The Use of Whites

    The fact that he chose to use real Black people in the background, but white actors in the lead roles highlights the idea that Blacks were still supposed to be subservient to whites; even lead characters who were supposed to be Black were portrayed by whites. However, it also points to one of the reasons that whites chose to employ blackface: the perpetuation of racial stereotypes. While many minstrel

Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved