Sociology of the Family
Final Paper: Television and Family
Over the course of the semester, we have studied how the family has changed throughout the 20th century. Some of these changes are reflected through media representations. At the same time, media representations of family have historically been rather unrepresentative in their portrayal of diverse family types. Using television shows, you will examine how the extent to which changes in the family are accurately represented in media. Through this analysis, you should draw comparisons between documented changes in family type and structure over the past few decades, and media portrayals of families. This paper is an opportunity for you to do sociology, as well as will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the family as a social institution.
In a 4 page paper, you are going to analyze the changing media representation of the family. Specifically, you must choose 2 sitcoms from 2 different decades that represent the family. In your paper you must address the following questions (in essay format, not question/answer).
What is the structure of the family/families portrayed in your sitcoms (some sitcoms may focus on a single family, others multiple families)? If there are multiple families, is the structure similar in all, or very diverse?
How are the family structures different in the two decades? Explain why they are different by tying your analysis to the text’s discussion of how the definition of family has changed over time. Discuss some of the recent trends in families including single parents, gay/lesbian families, grandparents as parents, etc.
Do the families represented in your chosen sitcoms perpetuate any of the myths about the family? Which ones? Again, tie this discussion to the course text and readings.
What are the racial/ethnic based strengths and stresses that are portrayed in your sitcoms? Have they changed over time? Give specific examples.
How are gender roles and gender role socialization portrayed in your sitcoms? Do the roles of men and women change over time? Give specific examples.
What are the romantic relationships included in your families, and how are they represented? Do these kinds of relationships change over time? Why?
Is parenting represented in your sitcoms? How? What roles do fathers and mothers play? Are both mothers and fathers present? What specific parenting styles are used?
How is the balance between home and work life represented?
Are any of the negative aspects of family life represented? Is there abuse? Divorce?
In your analysis you must include at least 5 concepts/terms discussed in class.
Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., Diverging Development: The Not- So-Invisible Hand of Social Class in the United States (R518).
Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Inequalities and the Rhythms of Daily Life (R539)
Georgiann Davis, Parents as Pawns: Intersex, Medical Experts, and Questionable Consent (R441)
Robert Green, From Outlaws to In-Laws: Gay and Lesbian Couples in Contemporary Society (R214)
Raine Dozier, The Power of Queer: How Guy Moms Challenge Heteronormative Assumptions about Mothering and Family” (R458)