Much of the television programming of the 1950s and 1960s exemplified the “perfect American family” – that classic image of post-war American life comprised of the nuclear white, middle-class suburban households. This was epitomized by the popular situational comedies of the time that featured families in which, as the title of one of the popular shows put it, “father knew best” and mother’s life revolved around serving her children and pleasing her husband.
Below is a selection of episodes from some of these classic “suburban sitcoms.” Check them out to get an idea of what the “ideal” American family looked like:
- Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet – “The New Chairs” (1953)
- Father Knows Best – “Bud Takes Up the Dance” (1954)
- Leave it to Beaver – “Ward’s Baseball” (1959)
- The Donna Reed Show – “The Model Daughter” (1960)
**I do not expect you to watch every episode in its entirety – BUT I do expect you to watch enough to get a general idea of the shows and to be able to respond to the questions below.**
While television was celebrating the white middle-class, it was also showing glimpses of the alienation and powerlessness of groups who felt excluded from the very world it portrayed.
To add some context to this observation, I want you to read a chapter of Gerard Jones’ Honey I’m Home! Sitcoms: Selling the American Dream (1992):
After you have watched and read all of the above, discuss the following in your post:
- What are your thoughts about the shows you watched? I expect at least 2 shows to be
- Is the image of the happy, perfect 1950s family portrayed in these shows accurate? Why or why not?
- Do you think African-American, Latino, and Asian-American families had similar experiences to those depicted in these sitcoms? How does Jones’ observations add to this conversation?
- How did television contribute to the image of post-war America that we have today? Should our collective memory of this “golden age” in American history be adjusted? Why or why not?
**Important! I expect to see a minimum of 3 specific references pulled from and discussed over Jones’ observations in “Inventing America.” I need to be able to tell, through your words, that you read this chapter in your post.**
**Remember to comment on at least 2 of your peers’ posts for full credit**
Dig Deeper! Here is an extra challenge for you. I will give you 5 extra credit points if you add an additional paragraph (minimum of an extra
150+ words) at the end of your discussion post (that means – if you do this – your post should be no shorter than 400 words in total):
Let’s take this conversation a step further. Watch the documentary “Crisis in Levittown” (1957) about the first African American family who moved into Levittown, PA.
What did you think?