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The representation of family on TV

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 3144 words Published: 17th May 2017

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The term nuclear family can be defined as a husband, wife and their two children; however in the last decade the framework through present television shows such as Modern Family “Season 1-Episode 1”, Simpsons episode “Sweethome Homediddly Do” and The Osbournes Episode “Fight Club” have begun to dismantle the hegemonic structure of the nuclear family when dysfunctional family members are torn from morally right decisions and left to their own deceptive behaviours. Modern Family, which was created by Sky 1, presents a very live action that contains gay parents and a dysfunctional family with a set of values. (Midgley, 2009). The Osbournes which, Ozzy is the rock and roll icon and father, does not take charge in helping the kids through conflict, but relents his role and gives his wife the responsibility of the children and household. Furthermore, The Simpsons,” show’s portrayal of hyper-vigilant mothers, who worry too much and the sorts of insane baby activities that occur at these groups was spot-on, and Homer and Marge’s junk food binge made up for some of the sloppiness in the main plot” (Animation, 2009). The episode Sweethome Homediddly Do represents a comical view of a dysfunctional family which conflict arises then is resolved at the end.

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This essay will argue how Modern Family “Season 1 Episode 1”, Simpsons Episode “Sweethome Homediddly Do” and The Osbournes have manufactured dysfunctional chaos by making absurd decisions, reacting with wrong actions, coupled with out of control reactions, regretting their decisions with tremendous guilt and lastly, the constant shift in traditional power struggles are all challenging the boundaries of the hegemonic structure. These shows depict the underlining regression that has prevailed throughout society’s deteriorating values to be acceptable and the norm of a nucleus family. ABC and MTV have addressed the overwhelming cry of broken relationships and to the rise of homosexuality, along with mixed signals of blended and single parenting society. The new direction of television sitcom is reflecting and desensitizing the family nucleus from what the truth is and what is morally right and acceptable. Families that are drawn to watch and to be entertained by dysfunctional chaos are now challenged to either accept or revolt to what they see.

Modern Family is a show about when a family agrees to be interviewed by a documentary crew, they have no idea just how much they’re about to reveal about themselves. (Modern Family Synopsis, 2011) The main theme about the show is “But that’s the thing about family: no matter how badly you behave, hopefully they’ll forgive” (Modern Family Synopsis, 2011). No matter how absurd the situation of day to day accounts that are within the three eccentric families now portrays a family consisting of either blended single parents and same sex families that has been the regression of family nucleus fostered by the entertainment industry and advertisers alike catering to a fallen generation. Television networks and advertisers work together with the Nielsen ratings influence the of ideological impact on society. A form of manipulation formulated in predictable ways are what dictates the direction of all involved. http://tvsurveillance.com/2010/10/20/25000-people-are-good-enough-the-hegemonic-impacts-of-the-nielsen-television-ratings-system/ Neglect to tackle moral issues of adoption by same sex couples, co-habitation of couples under no authoritative leadership within the household are all fundamental issues that are disenthralled by light hearted entertainment that doesn’t deal with the heart of the matter but focuses on communication breakdown.

As seen in Season 1 Episode 1, Modern Family contains three different couples with children, one being family patriarch Jay Pritchett met the stunning Columbian Gloria Delgado which they both have a son. The second family, Jay’s daughter, Claire, is having a hard time raising her own family. Her husband Phil is great, except for the fact that he thinks he’s “down” with their teenage kids, much to their embarrassment. Claire’s brother Mitchell and his enthusiastic partner Cameron have just adopted Lily, a precious little baby girl from Vietnam (Modern Family Synopsis, 2011). Modern Family pushes the limits of a normal family introducing new problematic issues usually never talked about in public and reinforces a dysfunctional family. 20th Century Fox Television largely developed this sitcom in a documentary fictitious style to facilitate modern families already familiar with bizarre and unpredictable storylines where only parents are faced with these kinds of situations. The real life home problems are embellished to make the situations so absurd that humour and light-headedness is the key emphasis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Family

There are assigned roles within Modern Family, for example, Phil provides nurturing and love, while Claire holds the house together with structure (Groner, 2009). But that moment of sanity is far outweighed with real issues such as the two gay men kissing in bed. As Jeremy Clyman states, the whole ideology of this TV series is to have the theme “Anything goes. All will be forgiven. Here again, this depicts that there are no boundaries and children of healthy moral families need to be nurtured with love consisting of boundaries and discipline for proper development or moral behaviour. With utterances of “don’t upset your mother”, “you’re grounded”…”everyone can forget Christmas this year” are all common household daily threats that consumer culture between the ages of 12 to 25 contend with and can relate to. When I said dysfunctional I meant it, but on the upside, no pattern proves too problematic; no rule too rigid (Clyman, 2010). Yet the episode gives no solid answers of moral issues concerning discipline and lifestyles. The episode contends with the issue of gays having the right for adoption but the sitcom contradicts this with the nerdy men afraid of their new role and responsibility, for example who will tell the baby he/she doesn’t have a mom.

An episode from Modern Family “Season 1 Episode One”, starts off with a very dysfunctional Phil yelling for his kids and Claire yelling at them first thing when they come down the stairs about not texting (Winer, 2009). The first episode of Modern Family depicts a real dysfunctional family where it is evident that Claire takes charge of the family but overpowering Phil in this episode. The value systems in Modern Family are seen to be as Jeremy Clyman “Inherited patterns and invisible rules have some kinks in the armour but all flaws are redeemable” (Clyman, 2010). Another example which challenges the hegemonic of a nuclear family is the presence of the gay couple in Modern Family, (lawyer and breadwinner Mitchell and self-described “stay at home dad/trophy wife” Cameron) (Choudhary, 2010). This defeats the purpose of a well rounded nuclear family as seen as through the Clevers or Leave it to Beaver. Mitchell and Cameron have a adopted son who they both share and take care of, through the 21st century, television sitcoms are becoming more gay and lesbian icons which the viewers are adapting to. The hegemonic ideology of a perfect family seen as a father, mother and two children, show viewers that the family ideology has shifted dramatically due from Leave it to Beaver to a show like Modern Family which reinforce social attitudes of everything goes while breaking down moral prejudice that once was evident but now lost in society.

Furthermore, Simpsons is portrayed through animation which contains a typical middle class family situated in the town of Springfield consisting of the character Homer Simpson, who is lazy, overweight, slow witted father with his hapless wife Marge; and their son Bart who is a underachieving and proud of it (Tueth). The Simpsons became a hit television show due to the framework of a dysfunctional but yet happy family. The episode Home Sweet Homediddly – Dum – Diddly starts off with Marge taking the leading role of a typical housewife which was represented in the 1950’s, as a wife who can cook and clean. Lisa, the bright daughter who continually succeeds in school is brought down and asking for newspapers for her school project while Bart comes down for breakfast with Dracula fangs and puts “I am stupid” on the back of Maggie’s back. This episode and Simpsons alone challenges the hegemonic ideology of the nuclear family because Homer is a fat father who does not put any effort into the children or into any work. No discipline or respect is evident, with the kids ruling the house through typical behaviour of today’s generation of unruly children, while the parents are stressed out and ignore what just happened. This type of class structure that is seen throughout this episode is a middle class American family that can only afford the necessities to live. For example in this episode, Homer gets Marge a pair of Spa gift certificates and she thinks he actually bought them while he got the Spa gift certificates for free for test driving a car (Groening, 2007). Another example from this episode is when Bart is getting his school picture taken then teacher Ms. Krabappel tells him to stop moving while she see’s lice coming out of his hair (Groening, 2007). Homers Father is passed out lying on the coach with a mess everywhere; the child services crew comes and takes a picture and with that evidence the kids are taken to the child services. This is a key example how dysfunctional the Simpson family is and can relate now to majority sector of real-life modern family at a more subtle attack on the basic structure of the nuclear family of having a father that works and a stay at home mother who takes care of the children. Since Marge and Homer haven’t raised a normal family, their children also act in accordance with social norms, in essence complying with the accepted ideology of class” (Jaffer, 2010). The ideology shown of class through the Simpsons is the middle class American Family and dysfunctional but at the end of each episode they always come together and unified into one happy family. Family structure may be questioned in the Simpsons sitcom where Homer manages to get himself into constant trouble with Marge, as she questions his sense of judgement; and their son Bart, out of control, playing pranks phone calls to Moe’s Bar, playing on words asking for a person named “Al Coholic”; having the bar owner calling out the word Alcoholics to his patrons. These are subliminal messages to the audience in the form of light-hearted entertainment via cartoons, not intended for children in their informative years of development.

The last episode I will examine will be the Osbournes and how the Osbourne family challenges the hegemonic ideology of the nuclear family through their own life struggles as celebrities. Pieto states, “the Osbournes, on the other hand, through their reality-based show, exemplify the American ideology of upward mobility. The reality of The Osbournes’ affluence is an ideological fiction for most working-class Americans” (Pieto, 2009). Subsequently, Ozzy Osbourne known as “Prince of Darkness” is the front man icon from the 70’s, as a pioneer of heavy metal music with a band called Black Sabbath, influencing audiences with drug use, sex and women. Ozzy brings home his abusive lifestyle and tries to stay on top of chaos with his slurred speech impediment and shaky hands, due to his rebellion of past drug and alcohol abuse. The pop sub-culture of his era accept this because of his innate stardom and huge following. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozzy_Osbourne The Osbourne family is far from the idealistic nuclear family, with troubles magnified by MTV commercial success and exposure to worldwide fans endorsing his dark acts of elicit behaviour such as biting a bat’s head off on stage. Ozzy’s concerns is not being a role model but delegates Sharon, his wife not only to be his manager but to handle all the chaos at home. He shuts down when it comes to decision making and turns to Sharon for help. The children have grown up with this hierarchy in the family and now demonstrate it amongst each other in chaos and disrepect.

Comparing the Osbournes to the Cleaver’s show, demonstrates how June plays the peacemaker and defers the authority and problem on Ward’s shoulders. At the end of the day, they all laugh together as a family. This is a classic scene of a nuclear family, where the conflict is resolved through harmony and that submission is given to parental authority. However, the Osbournes challenge the hegemonic ideology of the nuclear family because rocker father Ozzy, demonstrates his father roll secondary to his rock & roll performances always escaping parental leadership being absent from their lives.

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Through the episode of “Fight Club” of Osbournes, the form and structure is similar to “Leave it to Beaver” about the conflict. This episode tries to configure the different narratives the of celebrity and narrative of fatherhood. Ozzy as a figure tries to combine and tries to reconcile these two characters where you find on MTV and Leave it to Beaver. As seen through this episode of “Fight Club” of the Osbournes, the children Kelly and Jack do not get along and are always fighting; for example, they push each other non – stop in the kitchen and always swearing at each other. The Osbournes have a similar narrative of a family sitcom where the conflict is resolved at the end. Furthermore, the realism that Osbournes represent to the audience is manufactured by the television producers, manipulating by editing and non-stop filming to get the desired results they want shown to the working class Americans and their pop culture of that era. Television producers use the power of freedom of speech to coerce desired fabricated results, giving them total control on the part of the participants to have influence in advertisers appeal and ratings that bring in money. http://www.nyu.edu/pubs/counterblast/osbournes.pdf

In conclusion, this generation has degenerated and has fallen short from the traditional nuclear family containing a father, mother and children and this has formed the ideological substratum of television on a whole. As the ideological framework has been corrupted by 21st century, family sitcoms such as Modern Family, Simpsons, and The Osbournes, have challenged the idealistic family set of values introducing alternative lifestyles, blended families or single parent and furthermore same sex parents. These shows have become to dismantle and challenge the true meaning of a traditionally nuclear family. As seen through Leave it to Beaver is a prime example of a traditional nuclear family, “the “ideal” American family — a father and a mother, bound to each other by legal marriage, raising children bound to them by biology — is a stubborn relic, a national symbol that has yet to be retired as threadbare and somewhat unrealistic” (Benfer, 2001).

Modern Family’s gay couple Cameron and Mitchell are challenging the hegemonic ideology of the nuclear family every time it airs on television. They have taken one step further and have allowed scenes where the two men have kissed. These kinds of scenes are orchestrated to push the limits of what is allowed to desensitize the impressionable children growing up in this generation. Television is now targeting to more the Gay and Lesbian audience and is trying to show how a gay couple can actually live with an adopted child. This medium justifies what is already evident in our traditional culture and glorifies it to win the favour of its views.

Furthermore, the animated sitcom Simpsons brings a humorous way of attacking the audience through the lazy Homer and the adolescence kid, Bart who consistently gets into trouble. Bart is looking for attention in the wrong way and as a child is behaving like an adult gone bad. His pranks and jokes are have an underlying connotation to them, demeaning his peers around him.

Whereas The Osbournes shown through a celebrity and realism depicts Ozzy’s personality as a rock star and a father out of control. Sharon is the structure of the household keeping both kids and Ozzy in line, but their family is so dysfunctional there is always a conflict in the episode but the viewing audience never reaches a learning curve to their situations. It only leaves a distasteful appeal to critically analyze where did Osbournes’ success get them?

As the 21 century seems to challenge the idealistic family set of values through living as single parents, unmarried partners or blended, gay and lesbian families as problematic (Benfer, 2001), this shows how the ideology has shifted dramatically and Modern Family, Simpsons and Osbournes have taken the ideology of the nuclear family and have set a different set of values to appeal to the viewers of the television. ABC and MTV has manipulated the television medium by giving a band-aid to its viewers, re-enforcing what families are dealing with, such as broken relationships and the rise of homosexuality in the nuclear family. The television producers manipulate by editing and selective script writing to get their message across to desensitize the family nucleus and to justify that this is the way our generation is. This enforces no family structure or accountability for unmoral lifestyles. Animation and realism intrigue the audience in the form of entertainment through the representation of a comical viewpoint that entices the audience to want to view more. Constant exposure to dysfunctional chaos has the danger of excepting what the culture trend of our generation pushes, if we do not take action and be guided by our own convictions. If not, then television shows have an important role to play in setting our social attitudes and breaking down prejudices whether they are good or bad. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/tv-hit-from-us-about-quirks-of-modern-parenting-strikes-a-chord/story-e6frf96f-1225872285000 If we do not take a stand, then sitcoms such as Modern Family, Simpsons and Osbournes will be our voice to the next generation which is our children.


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