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September 5, 00


The Influence of Television Sitcoms


The family sitcom is one of the main types of Television shows that has an influence on family roles, customs, and values. The effects and power of Television is tremendous. The responsibility of Television sitcoms is an important one. Directors of such programs should be conscious of the fact; what they produce can have a lasting effect on society as a whole.


The children in many of today’s sitcoms struggle through the typical worries of fitting in, peer pressure, and issues associated with single family homes or re-marriages. Sitcoms have re-shaped the ideals of the “normal” American family and brought about the gradual decline of morals and values.


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One of the first sitcoms to portray the model American family was Leave It to Beaver. In Leave It to Beaver, the family consisted of a working father, a housewife, and two boys. The lives of these boys, Beaver and Wally Cleaver, is centered on learning to be good people, good citizens and an integral part of the family. This positive role of children in the family greatly influenced their roles in society during the 150’s and 160’s. A typical episode from this show may revolve around Beaver and/or Wally’s problems at home (i.e. excuses that Beaver gives for not mowing the lawn). The Cleavers always ate dinner together at home. The parents even punished the boys when they arrived late for dinner or neglected doing some household chore. In the “real world,” the amount of time children spent with the family, then, is incomparable to the amount of time children spend with their parents now. Back in the 150’s and 160’s, parents taught their children good values, emphasized at that time. It seemed the main focus of sitcoms was being the best person one could be. Sitcoms taught children to have a positive role in the family as well as the community.


As the years progressed, family values took a slide for the worst. In the 170’s, The Brady Bunch made the status of second marriages acceptable. Television teenagers became more dependent on their friends, rather than their parents, to help them deal with problems; as a result, so did children in families across America.


Now we have sitcoms, such as Married with Children and Roseanne, which show a significant decline in family values. Children in sitcoms today appear to have full control of their own lives and the parents rarely take control. For example, Buddy, from Married with Children acts rude to his friends and family and never received any punishment. The spotlight for problems is much more open in the 10’s compared to those from the 160’s and 170’s. The problem is that children believe they aren’t cool or normal if they don’t have the same problems as the “normal” families in Television.


Is it any wonder why there’s such a decline in family morals and values? Everyone tries to relate with the families on Television sitcoms because the audience considers the roles the actors play out to be “the norm.” The only way to reverse the decline of values in families is to reverse the bad habits taught on Television. If the values of families in television decline, so will those of the real, typical American family. Those responsible for directing sitcoms need to be more aware of the influence Television has and do something about it.








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