Analysis/Division Paper

MLA style – 6 pages.Use you own words and must follow all requirements.Finish on time.For your analysis paper, simply watch a television show. It can be any show, but it must be a sitcom and you have to run it by me first. You can find full episodes on YOUTUBE.You are watching to identify how they depict the parents on the show. Your principle of analysis is to study gender roles depicted on the show using the discussion topics: jokes, household chores, priorities, jobs.You must use examples from the weekly module in your paper to help prove your points. (I will uplord it)This means a work cited page (study tutorials).Introduction: Introduce your show and the principle of analysis you will be using. Provide a thesis or slant on the subject. i.e. “Modern Family” attempts to blow up the cultural stereotypes in this episode in the areas of jobs, priorities, household chores and friends.Middle: Prove your points by discussing the show through the topics of the discussion board. Use examples from the weekly readings in your analysis.Conclusion: Leave your audience with an explanation of what you just taught them (me).Notes on Division/AnalysisA chemist working on a way to improve the product – she breaks down the soda into parts and the components of the soda are revealed, understood and ready to be bettered.Division or analysis is an instrument allowing you to slice a large and complicated subject matter into smaller parts that you can grasp and relate to one another. With analysis you comprehend and communicate the structure of things. When it works, you find in the parts an idea or conclusion about the subject that makes it clearer, truer, more comprehensive or more vivid than before you started.Find your principle of analysis:The outcome of the analysis depends on the rule or principle used to do the slicing.In this case you are using gender roles.Psychologists use Freud methods, others thought, others body etc etc. Psychologist looks at an individual as primarily as a bundle of drives and needs, whereas sociologists may emphasize the person’s role in society. Once you have defined your principles your ways in you tear it apart using these principles.Although it always works the same way – separating a whole, singular subject into its elements, slicing it into parts. Chicken, wings, things legs, TS Eliot allusions, metaphors. Like slicing a pie. You did this in your discussions this week.Infer: hidden meaningsAssumptions: defining the essence of what you are looking at. Critical thinking on beauty pageants. Look at the pieces. This leads to media literacy. To be able to breakdown what is underneath the surface. You do this every day of your life already. This method of Analysis can help you understand a sculpture or painting, or a response to a Presidential election or lead to straight thinking about TV, pop culture and yes, mothers and fathers.Your job: separate the subject into its elements, to infer his meanings, to explore the relations among them, and draw a conclusion from the subject. What about your subject is curious, mysterious? Awful? What is the purpose in writing the subject explain it argue for or against it? Heading towards a true representation, and not a twisted, diminished, inflated. Hunk of bronze in the park? Why do you like the sculpture? Or why don’t you? What is the point of such public art? What does it do to the park? These question suggest a slant. A framework and a purpose for writing. Evidence: Whatever it is you are analyzing – physical details of the sculpture – reaction from other park lookers – all these leading to your PURPOSE thesis. Keep the subject in front of you.
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Advances in Journalism and Communication
2013. Vol.1, No.1, 1-12
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ajc)
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ajc.2013.11001
Feminism Ain’t Funny: Woman as “Fun-Killer,” Mother as
Monster in the American Sitcom
1
Jack Simmons1, Leigh E. Rich2
Department of Languages, Literature and Philosophy, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, USA
2
Department of Health Sciences, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, USA
Email: Leigh.Rich@armstrong.edu
Received February 1st, 2013; revised March 2nd, 2013; accepted March 10th, 2013
Whether America has realized President Herbert Hoover’s 20th-century vision of a “chicken in every pot”,
there is a television in nearly every home. Powerful and accessible, television programs, whether explicitly, convey values and messages to viewers and, thus, can play a role in reifying the status quo or affecting social change. Given comedy programming’s roots in radio and Vaudeville, it is no surprise that a recurrent theme in situational comedies is the “war between the sexes”. Despite a surfeit of studies examining specific programs, however, there exists no comprehensive project exploring how gender depictions have changed since television’s proliferation in post-WWII America. This time span is especially
important because it is bisected by second wave feminism. Regarding gender, TV shows need not fortify
traditional ideals. But how far has television come? Findings from a pilot study employing a Grounded
Theory analysis of selected US sitcoms from 1952 to 2004 suggest that, regardless of the progressive nature of some programming, the most-watched sitcoms reaffirm mainstream stereotypes of women. What
has changed, however, is the hierarchical relationship between the sexes. While sitcoms have modified
roles of women in an effort to keep up with changing social norms, they have failed to meaningfully alter
traditional masculine narratives. What has been won is a superficial role reversal: Where once television
women were childlike subordinates to their male counterparts, now men are depicted as irresponsible
children women must mother and discipline.
Keywords: Television; Situational Comedy; Feminism; Representations of Women; Gender Roles;
Pleasure; Motherhood; Role Reversal; United States
The “Family Hour”
“Three things have been difficult to tame. The ocean,
fools, and women. We may soon be able to tame the
ocean, but fools and women will take a little longer1”.
—Vice President Spiro Agnew on the Women’s Strike for
Equality, August 26, 1970.
“Men want to have fun and wives want to walk that fun
deep into the woods and shoot it dead2”.
—Husband Eddie Stamm in ’til Death, September 7, 2006.
In 1951, I Love Lucy introduced American audiences to Lucy
Ricardo, “a talentless housewife ever hopeful of breaking into
showbiz” (McNeill, 1996: p. 401). While Mrs. Ricardo’s
star-studded dreams only amounted to funny fiascos, it would
not take long for comedienne Lucille Ball to succeed where her
most celebrated character always failed. In the 1952-53 television season, I Love Lucy became the “first smash hit situation
comedy”, earning the highest average seasonal Nielsen ratings
and the distinction of America’s most-watched program, an
honor it would comfortably hold for four of its six years. In
1952-53, the wacky would-be redhead also became America’s
most-watched mother. Ball’s real-life pregnancy drove the
show’s second season storyline, and more than 10 million
1
Quoted in an ABC News broadcast by anchorman Howard K. Smith (Douglas, 1995: p. 163).
In this pilot episode aired on Fox, Eddie also states, “Because, in marriage,
women stop fun from happening”.
2
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
homes tuned in to watch the screwball antics of television’s
favorite expectant parents (McNeill, 1996: p. 402).
I Love Lucy provides a stunning example of the power television exerts in blending fact and fiction (McNeil, 1996),
bridging public and private life (Landay, 1999), and, thus, incorporating as well as influencing social mores.3 In sitcoms,
this is particularly true with regard to gender. It is no surprise,
given comedy programming’s roots in radio and Vaudeville,
that a recurrent theme is the “war between the sexes”. I Love
Lucy is the first in a long line of television influences that have
both mirrored and molded gender roles in general and the maternal in particular.
In one sense, I Love Lucy was progressive for its time. Born
from the radio program My Favorite Husband in which Ball
3
While detractors may claim that television does not influence behavior, the
social experiments and Social Learning Theory of psychologist Albert
Bandura offer compelling evidence that media such as television play at
least a role in shaping our lives. Bandura’s 1961 “Bobo doll” study, in
which he showed children films of adults aggressively interacting with an
inflatable plastic clown and then observed the children’s subsequent unsupervised play with Bobo, demonstrated that the children effectively modeled the antisocial behavior and even extrapolated novel ways of attacking
the doll. Because of these findings, Bandura testified before Congress about
the links between television violence and aggressive behavior in children,
although he was blackballed by television network officials “from taking
part in the 1972 Surgeon General’s Report on Violence” (Griffin, 2003: p.
368; see also Bandura, 1977). We also contend that, were there no link
between television viewing and behavior, advertising would not be a multibillion-dollar industry.
1
J. SIMMONS, L. E. RICH
had starred with Richard Denning, I Love Lucy showcased a
female comedic lead, both in name and content (McNeill, 1996).
Lucy Ricardo, as Lori Landay notes in “Millions ‘Love Lucy’”,
took on the role of the “trickster”:
A subversive, paradoxical fantasy figure who does what
we cannot or dare not by moving between social spaces,
roles, and categories that the culture has deemed oppositional. When faced with a situation that appears to have
only two choices, the trickster is the kind of hero/ine who
creates a third possibility. (1999: p. 26)
Lucy, the 1950s housewife and mother who envies her husband’s public life in the limelight, tries to transgress traditional
gender boundaries in nearly every episode. (Of course, Lucy
does not do this within the narrative as a conscious feminist
protest, but rather, like a child, to be the center of attention and
admired as talented and desirable.) However, what is funny is
Lucy’s glaring failure when she ventures beyond the bounds of
domesticity. Regardless of its “proto-feminist” themes and Lucille Ball’s own career success, in the end I Love Lucy reifies
traditional gender roles and sends television women and mothers back to the home and kitchen (with consumer product doorprizes in exchange for real role revolution).
The “third possibility” in popular television is, apparently,
not possible. In the same vein as I Love Lucy, other early sitcoms depict the woman/wife/mother as like a child to the
man/husband/father (e.g., Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies or
Aunt Bee in The Andy Griffith Show). Mothers are loved and
lovable, even if their incompetence (think Lucy Ricardo) or
Madonna-esque innocence (Edith Bunker in All in the Family)
routinely creates problems for men.
Twenty years after Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky, and in the
midst of a national debate over the ratification of the Equal
Rights Amendment, film theorist Laura Mulvey called for the
realization of Landay’s “third possibility” for viewers: a new
form of visual pleasure no longer slavishly dependent upon the
masculine, but one that recognizes the feminine and maternal
(Mulvey, 1992).4 As second wave feminists in the 1970s directly questioned traditional gender boundaries, contemporary
sitcoms incorporated such glass-ceiling struggles into storylines.
Top-ranked sitcoms such as All in the Family, Laverne and
Shirley, and Three’s Company exemplified the burgeoning
sexual awareness of the nation during prime time, that block of
evening viewing the networks would deem (at the behest of
Congress and the 1975 Federal Communications Commission)
the “family hour”. Even the mid-decade popularity of Happy
Days, with its romanticized, regressive idolization of the 1950s
as a time when men and women knew their place (and presidents could be trusted), buoyed the reality of the transitioning
times simply by protesting too much.
Despite the efforts of Lucy/Lucille, Mulvey, and other forward-looking women, the sexual revolution at least in popular
television comedies has been a pyrrhic victory. In this pilot
project, we chart the depiction of women, wives, and mothers
over a half-century of American sitcom history. Initial findings
suggest that, while television sitcoms have altered the roles of
women in an effort to keep up with changing social norms, they
have failed to meaningfully alter traditional masculine narratives. Instead, what has been won is a superficial role reversal
—unthreatening and, thus, ultimately allowed by capitalism—
4
Written in 1973, Mulvey’s influential article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” was first published in 1975 in Screen, 16(3), 6-18.
2
with sitcoms portraying men as children and women as mothers
responsible for disciplining them. Like Lucy, whose tomfoolery
predictably backfires and inevitably exposes her as the dupe
(Landay, 1999), women, wives, and mothers in top-rated sitcoms such as The Cosby Show, Roseanne, Cheers, Home Improvement, Seinfeld, and Friends transform from lovable nuisances to not-so-lovable nags, or worse.
Methodology
Second and third wave feminism and an equal rights movement seem to have only relieved television women of their
sense of humor and capacity for fun—a curious thematic development in situational comedies. In this sitcom evolution,
woman becomes mother, mother becomes nag.
This finding has emerged from a pilot project examining situational comedies that earned the highest average seasonal
A. C. Nielsen Company ratings from the proliferation of television in 1949 to the present (Nielsen Media Research, 2007;
McNeil, 1996). A Grounded Theory methodology (Glaser &
Strauss, 1967; Glaser, 1978; Strauss & Corbin, 1998) was used
to analyze emergent themes from a pilot sample of top-rated
sitcoms. Sitcoms, during this six-decade time span, have earned
the highest Nielsen rating 25 times. Because some sitcoms
earned the rank of being America’s most-watched prime-time
program more than once, of these 25 seasons there are 13 distinct shows (see Table 1). We focused our analysis on the episodes from the first season a sitcom garnered the highest Nielsens. When the first top-ranked season was unavailable, the
available season closest to it was used. An analysis of all sitcoms or even sitcoms ranked in the yearly Nielsen “top 20” was
beyond the scope of this pilot project, which aimed to identify
dominant themes and patterns related to gender portrayal in the
most-popular sitcoms throughout the history of television. An
expansion of this pilot project involving a more-inclusive sample is currently being completed, with an article to follow. (This
second article focuses on three tropes related to gender that
have not changed over the course of television history, regardless of social reformations: woman as overly emotional, woman
as intolerably talkative, and woman as inherently costly for men.)
Although researchers both in academia and advertising concede that Nielsen television viewer ratings “are not without
measurement error” (Prior, 2009: p. 132), the A. C. Nielsen
Company has enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the audience research industry since before the inception of television (Wood,
1962; Buzzard, 2002). Nielsen’s company began monitoring
the preferences and habits of television viewers in 1950, using
so-called “Nielsen families” selected from a random, representative sample of all American households based on US Census
Bureau data. Initially, this consisted of approximately 1200
homes, but sample size was increased in 1983 to roughly 1700
due to the proliferation of programs, the rise of cable, and the
newly identified need for demographically based “narrowcasting” (Stoddard Jr., 1987). Industry competitors emerged in the
mid-1980s and pressured the Nielsen Company to increase its
sample size, which today numbers about 5000 households
(Nielsen Media Research, n.d.).
Nielsen ratings originally were calculated via two methods: a
patented Audimeter that attaches to a family’s television and
“record[s] automatically whether a set is on or off and to what
channel it is tuned” 365 days a year (Buzzard, 2002: p. 274)
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
J. SIMMONS, L. E. RICH
Table 1.
Broadcast network situation comedies with the highest seasonal Nielsen ratings from 1949 to the present.
#
Situation Comedy
Network
Broadcast Dates
I Love Lucy
CBS
15 October 1951-24 June 1957
The Beverly Hillbillies
CBS
26 September 1962-7 September 1971
The Andy Griffith Show
CBS
3 October 1960-16 September 1968
1 Rank in Nielsensa
Season Analyzedb
1952-1953
1953-1954
1954-1955
1956-1957
1952-1953
1962-1963
1963-1964
1967-1968
1962-1963
1964-1965
12 January 1971-21 September 1983
1971-1972
1972-1973
1973-1974
1974-1975
1975-1976
1971-1972
All in the Family
CBS
Happy Days
ABC
15 January 1974-12 July 1984
1976-1977
1974
Laverne and Shirley
ABC
27 January 1976-10 May 1983
1977-1978
1976
ABC
15 March 1977-21 April 1977
11 August 1977-18 September 1984
1978-1979
1978-1979
Three’s Company
Roseanne
ABC
18 October 1988-20 May 1997
1985-1986
1986-1987
1987-1988
1988-1989
1989-1990
Cheers
NBC
30 September 1982-19 August 1993
1990-1991
1988-1989
Home Improvement
ABC
1993-1994
1993-1994
Seinfeld
NBC
17 September 1991-25 May 1999
31 July 1989
31 May 1990-21 June 1990
23 January 1991-26 June 1991
18 September 1991-14 May 1998
1994-1995
1997-1998
1994-1995
Friends
NBC
2001-2002
2001-2002
The Cosby Show
NBC
20 September 1984-17 September 1992
22 September 1994-6 May 2004
1985-1986
1989-1990
a
As identified in McNeil (1996) and Nielsen Media Research (2007). bOur data sample includes the episodes from the first season a sitcom garnered the highest Nielsen
ratings. Four of these seasons, however, were unavailable and, thus, the available season closest to it was used: The Andy Griffith Show, 1964-1965; Happy Days, 1974
(midseason premiere); Laverne and Shirley, 1976 (midseason premiere); and Cheers, 1988-1989.
and paper diaries in which individual viewers log what they
watch for one week during four to six “sweeps” months (Napoli, 2005). During the 1980s, Nielsen and its (now vanquished)
competitors developed the “Peoplemeter” in order to combine
and automate these two data collection tasks. Ironically, the
Peoplemeter was not necessarily an improvement in methodology, both due to the costs and “the need for viewers to actively
participate in the ratings process” (Buzzard, 2002: p. 289).
What’s more, Nielsen’s dominance of the industry has proven
unflappable and today “Nielsen is alone in measuring TV ratings despite attempts by four rivals to compete” (Buzzard, 2002:
p. 289). Nielsen thus provides the only comprehensive ratings
throughout the era of television and is used here for these reasons, even though changes in data collection techniques over the
years and self-report diaries introduce methodological concerns.
Regardless, examining the nation’s most-popular television
programs offers insight into mainstream American culture.
Networks use Nielsen ratings to determine what to broadcast
and when (as well as how much commercial air time during
programs will cost). In a reciprocal way, viewers and television
ratings exert an influence on what popular culture exists from
season to season. Alternative and avant-garde programming
also have emerged and even flourished during the era of this
medium, particularly with the rise of cable and the Internet.
However, the consistent accessibility of broadcast prime-time
offerings places them in a unique position in the American
household to capture (and reflect) the attention of viewers and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
to influence the collective consciousness.5
Viewing Pleasure and Gender Roles
The Traditional Woman
In the early days of television, women were funny, wacky,
foolish, senseless, self-centered, impatient, impulsive, needy,
sweet, and mothering, or some combination thereof. Driven by
emotions rather than reason, their opinions and desires (real or
imagined) resulted in misadventure and, thus, entertaining plot
twists. In turn, their male counterparts, to whom they generally
deferred, often functioned as the “straight man”, caring for the
women and cleaning up their messes. Nearly every episode of I
Love Lucy centers on the silly schemes Lucy concocts that
Ricky ultimately must solve, whether it be Lucy handcuffing
herself to her husband (“The Handcuffs”, Oct. 6, 1952, episode
37), fighting with best friend Ethel (“The Club Elections”, Feb.
16, 1953, episode 47), wanting a bigger apartment (“The Ricardos Change Apartments”, May 18, 1953, episode 61), or falling prey to less-than-reputable door-to-door salesmen (“Sales
Resistance”, Jan. 26, 1953, episode 45).6 A recurrent theme in I
Love Lucy is Lucy’s ineptitude. While the title to the Feb. 2,
1953, episode “The Inferiority Complex” suggests her lack of
talent is all in her head, the content underscores Lucy’s true
uselessness in everything nondomestic. Ricky, Fred, Ethel, and
even the psychiatrist Ricky hires collude in patronizing Lucy,
pretending her poorly told jokes are funny, her unreliable
3
J. SIMMONS, L. E. RICH
bridge-playing skills are every partner’s dream, and her caterwauling she considers singing is delightful. The psychiatrist
even goes so far as to woo Lucy, saying she is a “living doll”
and a “gorgeous creature”, when in the end, Lucy is no more
than a big baby, needing to be appeased and wailing in her
signature fashion whenever she fails to get her way (“The Inferiority Complex”, Feb. 2, 1953, episode 46). Women in other
sitcoms of this era are depicted similarly and must be managed
by their men. Granny and Aunt Pearl in The Beverly Hillbillies
cook up plots as frequently as they do vittles, and Mrs. Drysdale and other minor characters in this same show use men for
money.7 Even the voluptuous tomboy Elly May—an asexual
sex object who refuses to be feminized or “citified”—must be
coerced into wearing dresses and controlled when she climbs
trees, “wrassles” her cousin Jethro, and like a child mothers any
5
Of course, sitcoms that have not earned the highest Nielsen ratings still have
been watched by millions of Americans (along with viewers abroad) and
also influence the broader culture. Due to the limited space an academic
journal allows, we have focused our methodology for this article only on the
top-earning situational comedies. A more in-depth examination of 60 years
of comedic television programming is better suited to a book of its own and
is under way. Regardless, we contend that a majority of popular sitcoms
beyond our sample still conform to our main thesis. Shows such as The Mary
Tyler Moore Show, Married with Children, Murphy Brown, Scrubs, and 30
Rock have been cited by some critics as alternatives to the mainstream fare.
Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards, however, is comparable to Laverne and
Shirley’s Shirley Feeney as a transitional female character: still funny but
increasingly responsible and, thus, “maternal” in comparison to her zanier
compatriots. Peggy Bundy, the spandex-wearing, self-centered, buxom
spouse of Married with Chi …
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