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Short Essay #8: Media Portrayal of Family

In this exercise, you will be analyzing how the mass media (specifically television) has portrayed families over time.
1. Family sitcoms from the 1950s to the 1970s differ greatly from the programs offered from the 1980s forward. Identify a family sitcom from before the 1980s and watch an episode. Programs such as Leave it to Beaver, Bewitched, The Partridge Family, and The Brady Bunch are some examples of popular shows that fit the criteria. You should be able to find old episodes of these shows online or as reruns on television.

2. Now identify a family sitcom that you either currently watch or watched from the 1980s or later. Examples include: Everyone Loves Raymond, Modern Family, Black-ish. Identify a family sitcom that you are currently watching or that you watched in the 1980s or later. Everyone Loves Raymond, Modern Family, and Black-ish are a few examples.

3. Watch at least one episode of each show you selected to analyze. Create field notes and specify the plot and main characters. Be sure to pay special attention to the treatment of the family. Describe the demographic makeup of the family (e.g., race, single-parent, stepfamily, married, nuclear, extended, etc.) from each show. Also, note how the family interacts.

4. Organize your notes and write an essay describing key themes about family based on your observations. In particular, examine if and how the sitcoms differed in their presentation of families. Also discuss whether you think the families portrayed in each sitcom represent the typical family of their time.

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