Jul 27, 2012

Donna Reed is Missing or Dead-Part Two

If you're asking, I'm answering. No folks, I'm not talking about Donna Reed, the television actress who starred in her namesake weekly show of the 1950's and '60's. That Donna Reed passed away January 14, 1986. I hope you took the journey through the television archives and met Donna Stone (The Donna Reed Show), Harriet Nelson (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet), Lucy Ricardo (I Love Lucy) and Margaret Anderson (Father Knows Best). These are the women, wives, and mothers of the 1950's and early '60's. Unfortunately, politicians continue to legislate and create public policy with these women and their fictional families in mind. In case you didn't notice, they are quite different from the women, wives, and mothers of the Twenty First Century.
In a 1983 interview, Billy Gray (who played "Bud") spoke disparagingly of Father Knows Best:
"I wish there was some way I could tell the kids not to believe it. The dialogue, the situations, the characters ­ they were all totally false. The show did everyone a disservice. The girls were always trained to use their feminine wiles, to pretend to be helpless to attract men. The show contributed to a lot of the problems between men and women that we see today. . . . I think we were all well motivated, but what we did was run a hoax. 'Father Knows Best' purported to be a reasonable facsimile of life. And the bad thing is, the model is so deceitful. It usually revolved around not wanting to tell the truth, either out of embarrassment, or not wanting to hurt someone. If I could say anything to make up for all the years I lent myself to (that), it would be, "You Know Best".
How can I describe life beyond the representations in these sitcoms? What does the modern family look like?  What does the modern family want and expect from its politicans and legislators?

Let's tackle this one step at a time. Let's explore life beyond Donna Reed. Meet Roseanne Conners and her family.

Roseanne is an American sitcom that was broadcast on ABC from October 18, 1988 to May 20, 1997. Starring Roseanne Barr, the show revolved around the Conners, an Illinois working-class family struggling to get by on a limited household income in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois. Outspoken matriarch Roseanne, husband Dan and the three children Becky, Darlene, D.J. portray a blue-collar American family with two parents working outside the home, as well as lead characters who were noticeably overweight without their weight being the target of jokes.

Roseanne tackled provocative subjects and issues such as poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, menstruation, birth control, teenage pregnancy, masturbation, obesity, abortion, race, social class, domestic violence, infidelity, and gay rights.The show was also significant for its portrayal of feminist ideals including a female-dominated household, a female lead whose likability did not rely on her appearance, relationships between female characters that were cooperative rather than competitive, and females openly expressing themselves without negative consequences.

Modern Family explores three types of  the different modern families through the stories of a gay couple, comprised of Mitchell and Cameron, and their daughter Lily, a straight couple, comprised of Phil and Claire, and their three kids, Haley, Alex, and Luke, and a multicultural couple, which is comprised of Jay and Gloria, and their son Manny. These families are quite different from those represented on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet or Father Knows Best.

A notable criticism of Modern Family from various online news sources is that the show reinforces gender roles and sexist stereotypes. One writer at the CS Monitor criticized the show for only casting the women as stay-at-home moms while the husbands on the show have very successful careers: "There is a difference between quirky, flawed characters and ones who are incapable of professional success. And when the latter is reliably female, it makes for sexist television. It also makes for unrealistic television."

Critics charge that gender stereotypes occur frequently in the series. Example: In the episode "Game Changer," one of the wives on the show, Gloria, hides her mastery of chess so that her husband will not be upset at losing. By contrast, one critic has praised the show as one of several that have begun subverting the longtime American sitcom stereotype of bumbling fathers incapable of managing anything at home despite being the only one employed. Modern Family drew criticism from the LGBT community for its portrayal of Cameron and Mitchell as not being physically affectionate with each other.  In response to the controversy, producers released a statement that a season two episode would address Mitchell's discomfort with public displays of affection. The episode "The Kiss" eventually aired with the kiss scene in the background which drew praise from multiple critics.

As Bob Dylan told us in song, "The World is Changing". Today, Donna Reed stereotypes may be missing or dead to many and there's a new game in town.

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Donna Reed is Missing or Dead-Part One



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