Television Depiction Of Family Life Essay, Research Paper
Changes in the Family
Ross T. Crooks
October 22, 2000
Over the past 50 years, the traditional structure of the family has evolved tremendously. The role of each member has changed in many ways. This creates an entirely different chemistry within the family. In the 1950?s, the traditional family was composed of a father, mother, and the children that they created within the marriage. The father was usually the disciplinarian and financial provider for the family. The mother?s job was to stay at home and raise the children while keeping the house in working order. It is now extremely common to see both parents working to support the family financially. Women are becoming more active in the workplace and some men are even staying home to take care of the kids. This evolution is being depicted frequently in the media today. Movies and television shows now contain many different types of families. These shows accurately depict the changes that are currently taking place in family life around the world.
One television show today that possesses the traditional family structure is ?Home Improvement.? This is a comedic sitcom about a man, a woman, and their three boys. The father works as the host of a television show which teaches people how to remodel their homes. He fits many common male stereotypes in that he is very interested in tools and hot rod cars. The father is also provides the majority of the family?s income. The mother works part time in a library and attends college. Although she has a job and other interests, she assumes the role of the housewife and mother also. This television show accurately portrays the traditional family of the early twentieth century. The father acts as the major financial provider for the family and he is also the disciplinarian. He assumes the stereotypical fatherly role by teaching his boys ?masculine? activities such as building things and playing sports. However, the mother does not act in a completely traditional role. She attends college, which is not common for a wife. She also works part time at a library in order to complement her husband’s salary. This type of show sends a message to women that they are now able to pursue their own desires and are no longer limited to their role as a homemaker.
?Full House? is a television show that presents an entirely different view of family life. Bob Saget plays the father of three teenage girls, living in a house with two other grown men. One of these men, Jesse, is the girls uncle (their mother?s brother), and the other, Joey, is a friend of the father. The father works full time and provides for his girls. Due to his career, he is not always around to actively parent them. Joey and Jesse are left to do much of the parenting. This is an example of a non-traditional single parent family. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that the father has custody of the girls. It is more common for the mother to gain custody of the children after the separation of the parents. This popular sitcom demonstrates the drastic change in family structure of our times. A few decades ago, this type of family was very rare and was not widely accepted by society.
Many different types of families are portrayed in movies also. ?Honey I Shrunk the Kids? is one such example. Although the family in this movie is very odd, they are a classic example of a nuclear family. The family is composed of only four members. These smaller families became more popular due to the industrial revolution. The father works as an inventor and provides for the family, while the mother is a stereotypical homemaker. They are the biological parents of a teenage son and daughter. The father is the sole financial provider for the family, and the mother takes care of the house while raising the children. This type of family was very common in the mid-twentieth century due to financial reasons. During the agricultural era it was profitable to have many children so they could help with the workload. Once countries became industrialized, the extra help was not necessary for survival, and children became a financial burden for their parents. The family in ?Honey I Shrunk the Kids? is a good example of this change.
My final example of a family in the media is a very dysfunctional and non-traditional family. This is the family in the drama ?What?s Eating Gilbert Grape?. The family is composed of a mother and four children. In this unusual situation, Gilbert, the oldest boy, fully supports the family financially. His father committed suicide while the children were still young. The Mother is unable to work due to her obesity. She has very little input on the way that the family functions. The Mother is basically a burden to the family because she is unable to help in any way, but she drains the family income. Amy, the oldest sister, acts as a mother figure to the younger children and nurtures them. Arnie, who celebrates his eighteenth birthday during the film, is both a financial and emotional burden for the family. He is severely mentally handicapped, and the other children must constantly monitor his actions. Ellen is the youngest child at fifteen years of age. She expresses her displeasure with her family situation throughout the movie. It becomes obvious that there is a lot of emotional stress due to the Mother and Arnie.
This is a very unusual family situation that is depicted in a very realistic manner. Gilbert has a tremendous amount of stress put on him to provide for his family. It is difficult for him to adjust to his role as the family provider, due to his immaturity. However, he is forced to accept this role in order to support his loved ones. The situation is also very taxing on Amy, the oldest sister. While she has other interests and ambitions, she is stuck at home taking care of her family. Although this family situation is very rare, it represents the increasing number of dysfunctional families today. It also shows the tremendous amount of stress that can be placed on the children in these types of families.
The various family structures presented by the media depict the universal changes taking place within the home. As society increases its tolerance, families are no longer pressured to fit into a specific stereotype. These changes in the home are largely due to the changing roles of women in society. Women are now encouraged to become educated and pursue careers of their choice. This is leading to changing family structures as mothers leave the home and get jobs. They key to these changes is societal tolerance. Now that many different types of families are socially acceptable, family members are free to pursue their ambitions. It has become obvious over the past few decades, that with communication and understanding, healthy families can be found in all different shapes and sizes.