Op 13: The Evolution of Family TV Shows

Adults are always nostalgic about their childhoods, and they enjoy complaining about about the fact that life was better when they were young. The prices were were lower, the clothing was more stylish, and the music had a better beat. One of their main complaints is how kids these days are less respectful. Of course they have to blame something for this phenomenon, so why not blame  the culprit that is allegedly responsible for underage and sex and violence, The Television. Adults believe that family shows have deteriorated into something that teaches kids that disrespecting their parents is cool. So in order to find out if their accusations have merit, let’s examine the evolution of family shows.

In the 60’s, a popular family show was Leave it to Beaver. The parents were perfect. The father had a high paying and respectable job, although what exactly that job was no one knows, and the highlight of the mother’s day was cleaning the house and cooking meals. They had a perfect marriage, where arguments didn’t exist, and where the man always put the toilet seat down. Their children were just as as perfect as their parents. Sure they broke the rules every once in a while, after all every show needs a bit of drama, but they accepted their consequences without arguing. In fact, most of the rules they were breaking were hilariously harmless: Faking sick to get stuff from their parents, or reading other people’s diaries. Apparently in the 60’s, bullying, diseases, and poverty did not exist.

A decade later, a show about a very dull lady and her very dull girls aired on television. Now the Brady Bunch, which also featured a dull man with three dull boys of his own, was a story of a mixed family with 6 kids. It seemed though, after the pilot episode, the entire family got amnesia, and they forgot that they weren’t all blood related. This show could have explored how blended families work, but the kids of the 70’s weren’t ready for that. Instead, we see a happy marriage with a white collar dad and a homemaker mom. At least in this show we know the dad’s profession, architect; and the parents sometimes disagree with each other, although they never actually argue. The kids sometimes disagree with the parents, although these disagreements only last 5 minutes, and the kids never forget to say “yes sir”. Also, although the problems these kids face are also on the harmless side, they do explore such issues as not going to college to explore a career in sports, and how being shallow can have bad results.

A decade after we were forced to watch a big family on TV, we were given yet another big family on TV. However, in Full House, the family was less traditional because it involved cool uncles and wacky friends. Unlike it’s predecessors, the adults of Full House were portrayed more accurately. These grownups were still loving parents, but they also had issues with jealousy( which entered their friendships and relationships), career drama, and the women worked. The kids often disagreed with their parents. In fact, during the episode in which D.J.’s father snooped through her things, D.J. Was angry and rude to her father for almost 20 minutes. Of course the kids apologize to their parents for their bad behavior after each episode, but that bad behavior occurs a lot, and the kids have also forgotten how to say “yes sir”. This show also deals with the issues such as drunk driving and smoking cigarettes. Although both these things are portrayed as negative, it shows that kids have to know how to deal with it.

One of the most recent family shows is Hanna Montana. This show tells the story of a girl who is secretly a famous singer, and about her relationships with her friends and father. Her father, like the adults in Full House, is a realistic character. He has to learn how to balance his personal life with being a father, and he also has to deal with negative emotions such as jealousy and sadness. Now the yes sir’s have disappeared from this show entirely, in fact some parents would argue that the main character is quite rude to her dad. She often makes negative remarks to him, and is constantly trying to break the rules. However, despite the fact that she doesn’t give him the “proper respect”, she always puts his needs ahead of her own. In fact she has been known to cancel dates in order so spend time with her dad. This show, despite being on the Disney Channel, still deals with realistic issues. The characters have to deal with the consequences of lying, and also one of the guest star characters  has a dad that is a soldier stationed in Iraq.

After examining these four shows, it does seem the level of respect in family television has slowly gone down over the years. However, just as people wonder what came first the chicken or the egg, one must wonder what came first, disrespectful behavior or a TV show that depicts it. After all, it was 500 years ago when Shakespeare wrote about rebellious teenagers;  and the kids who grew up watching Leave it to Beaver started a sexual revolution. It seems that family TV shows have evolved to represent everyday family life, and not the fantasy family life in the delusions of nostalgic adults. What are your thoughts about family TV shows?

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