TELEVISION PORTRAYALS OF HOUSEWIVES
IN THE 1950s VERSUS TODAY:
I Love Lucy vs.
The 1950s housewife was the epitome of a woman. She had poise and grace and cared for her family more than having a career. She had a smile on her face, dinner on the table, and her child always used please and thank you. At least on TV. Fast forward 50 years and much has changed in our history and the way that women are portrayed on television. With women no longer expected to give up their careers in order to raise a family, working moms are represented more with each passing decade. Two television shows that can be examined to explore the difference in television’s portrayal of ...view middle of the document...
I Love Lucy was the most watched television show in America in four of its six seasons and is commonly regarded as one of the most successful TV shows of all time. 2 Lucy is a true 1950s New York City housewife, as she does not have a job and stays home all day. In the first season of I Love Lucy, Lucy and her husband, Ricky, do not have any children. This gives Lucy the opportunity to keep busy doing other things that make for good television, such as trying to break into showbiz. Ricky, a Cuban American bandleader, spends most of his nights at a nightclub, Club Tropicana. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo become best friends with their landlords Ethel and Fred Mertz. The Mertz couple is much older than Lucy and Ricky and serves as an older, wiser source of comedy and insight for the show. I Love Lucy ran for six seasons, from 1951 to 1957. After the show ended in 1957, a modified version continued for three more seasons with 13 one-hour specials, running from 1957 to 1960, known first as The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show and later in reruns as The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour.
Over 50 years passed before a new primetime drama would air on ABC depicting housewives once again. In that time span much happened in history to change the gender climate and ultimately effect the definition of a “housewife.” In the 1970s the feminist movement led women to seek fulfillment outside of the household and women went back to work.3 With this shift, the role of the “housewife” became outdated and undesirable, and because of that, there was a significant decline in the number of housewives portrayed on television.4 The modern woman could do everything herself and didn’t need a man to help her and television followed in that direction. Television shows started portraying women as having careers, but most shows still misrepresent the careers that the modern woman had.5 TV also misrepresented the amount of time the modern woman devotes to her career, although that is an aspect of many shows, regardless of gender. While the urban female generation is running towards their dream jobs and away from minivans and soccer balls, there is a suburban exception to the rule: and that’s where Desperate Housewives come in.
Desperate Housewives is an American comedy-drama that was first broadcasted on ABC on October 3, 2004. Desperate Housewives follows the lives of a group of women who live on Wisteria Lane, a fictional street in the fictional American town of Fairview in the fictional Eagle State.6 The all female ensemble includes Teri Hatcher as Susan Mayer, Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, Marcia Cross as Bree Van de Kamp, and Eva Longoria as Gabrielle Solis. Brenda Strong narrates the show as the deceased Mary Alice Young, a housewife who committed suicide in the pilot episode. The show works through every day domestic struggles and family life, all while exposing the secrets, crimes and mysteries hidden behind the doors of their seemingly beautiful and perfect suburban neighborhood....