An Analysis of Media Images of Families




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Austin Nicol

6/19/11

Final Paper

An Analysis of Media Images of Families

The structure of different families has been changing as rapidly as our society has been changing in the past few decades. Around the 1950’s, your family was considered a social oddity if it was not a “nuclear” family. A Nuclear family is when each family member plays the assumed role it has based on who they are in the family. The father is the bread winner and makes all of the money, the mother stays at home and nurtures the children, etc. However nowadays only ten percent of families fall under this categorization of family structure while the rest are more common. Family structure has changed to include other styles such as both parents working, a stay at home dad, single parents, remarriages causing step-parents and step-children, adoption, and gay parents. The addition of these types of families have shaken the confidence of some religious leaders and politicians to make starting these families illegal in some cases, mainly gay people getting married. They believe that because the children does not have a “normal” family that they will not live a “normal” life. I disagree with this and aim to prove it through my analysis of family images in the media. I think that the children’s development lie solely on what type of raising of the children the parent’s do, not who the parents are. So my research question for this analysis is, “Does the type of family effect family conflicts or development?”

To do this, I have chosen to watch 40 hours of three TV shows about families. They are Modern Family, Arrested Development, and Everybody Loves Raymond. I chose these three because Modern Family has a large family comprised of three smaller ones, two of which are non-nuclear, the last one being a nuclear family, Arrested Development is a family that starts as a nuclear family, but changes as the show progresses, and Everybody Loves Raymond is purely a nuclear family.

To get an idea of the comparisons used later in the essay, I have attached family trees of each of the families which might help the reader understand who I am talking about and put a name to a face. Everybody Loves Raymond has a relatively straight-forward family structure. Frank and Marie are married and have two biological sons, Raymond and Robert. Robert has no kids, but is married to Amy. Raymond married Deborah and had three biological children with her, daughter Ally, and twins Michael and Geoffrey. As a whole they are called the Barones. Arrested Development starts off with a relatively normal family structure, but changes as more and more secrets are found out. It begins with George Bluth marrying Lucille and having four kids. G.O.B. (George Oscar Bluth) is the eldest son followed by twins Lindsay and Michael, followed by the youngest, Buster. Michael married a woman named Tracy, who has died before the show began. They had one son, George Michael. Lindsay married Tobias and had one daughter, Maeby. As the show progresses, Lucille and George adopt Annyong, G.O.B. discovers he has a biological son from a one-night stand named Steve, and George’s brother Oscar reveals himself to be Buster’s true father. In the finale it is also discovered that Lindsay was adopted and is neither Lucille nor George’s biological daughter. Collectively they are known as the Bluths. Modern Family has a trickier family tree, so try to follow along. Jay and Dede had a son and a daughter, Mitch and Claire. They divorce and Jay remarries Gloria, who has a son, Manny, from a previous marriage. Claire marries Phil and has three kids, eldest daughter Haley, middle daughter Alex, and youngest son, Luke. Mitch lives co-habitually with his boyfriend Cam. The two of them adopted a baby girl, Lily. There are many surnames in this family, so there is no collective name for all of them. Even though the structures of these three families are very different, I noticed that Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family deal with similar issues despite their differences. However, Arrested Development shows us a nuclear family that deals with very odd issues and eventually turns into a non-nuclear family.

To draw comparisons to the communication processes between the different families I have seen, it is important to know how the characters generally act towards each other. Starting with Everybody Loves Raymond, Raymond is the title and main character. He loves his wife but expects her to fulfill the role she has been put into. He also loves his kids, but sees them significantly less than Deborah. He is the favorite child for no explained reason, especially in the eyes of his mother, Marie. His brother Robert is jealous of Raymond’s life and the attention their parents give to him. In the opening credits of every episode, Raymond describes his life while Robert passes by and gloomily mutters the title “because everybody loves Raymond…” Frank and Marie is a classically structured traditional couple and is shown whenever Frank yells at Marie “where’s my dinner?” Marie accepts this as the norm and is happy with the way her family is set up, except for her daughter-in-law, Deborah. In her eyes, Deborah is not good enough for her Raymond and conflict usually starts with these two.

In Arrested Development the family is usually hostile towards each other, but since it is a comedy show, this is taken lightly. Michael Bluth is the main character and his goal throughout the show is to keep the family together and out of trouble that his father George, who is in jail, has been put the family in. Michael loves his son, but blames his father for putting the family in the mess that they are in. George loves his wife, but has been seen cheating on her. Lucille often returns the favor by cheating on him with his twin brother. G.O.B. is the eldest, but also the least favorite child as seen in the first episode when Lucille states, “I don’t care for G.O.B.” Ironically, G.O.B. tries his hardest to get his dad to like him while at the same time, ignoring his own son. Lindsay is self-centered and married Tobias only to make her parents angry. Tobias also acts this way by instead of continuing his well-paid career as a therapist, turns to acting which he is unsuccessful with in all of his endeavors. They both are neglectful of their daughter, Maeby, who has become self-sufficient because of this and has even conned her way into getting a job as a movie executive at the age of fifteen. Maeby usually is unaware of the romantic interest that her cousin, George Michael displays for her. George Michael is an awkward kid and although he loves his father, sees that he is distracted by dealing with the problems of the family. Buster never really grew up and at the age of thirty-two, still lives with his mother, only dating women of similar age to her. Annyong has a brief moment on the show as the adoptive son of Lucille and George. However, the only reason he was adopted was because Lucille was trying to threaten Buster for doing something insignificant. They quickly forget that Annyong exists and even lose track of him until the final episode. All the while everyone in the family is constantly showing acts of greed and self-centered behavior, and only interacting with each other when they need a favor.

Modern Family is the most intriguing family to me because it is comprised of three different family structures, and displays them all interacting with each other and being accepting of the differences. The patriarch of the family, Jay, loves his family but is has trouble creating lasting relationships with certain members of the family, specifically his step-son, Manny, his son-in-law, Phil, and even his son Mitch. Mitch is awkward with his father because he knows that Jay never felt perfectly comfortable with his homosexuality. He has minor conflicts with his partner Cam, but so far always constructive. Claire has trouble accepting her younger mother-in-law Gloria and starts the series with hostility towards her. Claire also finds it stressful being the nurturer of three children and hates that she must always be the enforcer while her husband Phil is considered the cool parent. The only conflict that I took notice of among the kids is the normal mother-daughter conflicts that arise with Haley and Claire. These include “you’re not going out dressed like that,” or “I don’t trust you in your room alone with a boy, leave the door open.”

I found that there were several connections between Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. Although one is a nuclear family and one is, well a modern family, there were several example of conflict that seemed similar between the two shows. In Everybody Loves Raymond, Marie constantly belittles Deborah on either her style, her cooking, or her parenting methods. In Modern Family, Jay constantly belittles Phil on his manliness, his athletic ability, and also his parenting methods. These two examples display the tension that exists between a parent-in-law and their child-in-law. This was a realization point for me because I could see that even though the structure of the families were different, there was always a moment where Jay or Marie would back-handedly insult Phil or Deborah.

Another theme that I found to be in common between these two shows was the jealous sibling. In Everybody Loves Raymond, Robert is jealous of the attention that Raymond gets from Marie, as well as the family he has started, and in Modern Family, Mitch shows jealousy towards the new father-son relationship forming between Jay and Manny. Robert constantly grunts and groans whenever Raymond announces something good that has happened in his life, whether his kids accomplish something, or something good happens at work, Robert is never impressed and instead mumbles on as he walks into a different room. When Jay, Mitch, and Manny go on a trip to look at stars, Jay and Manny bond while both belittle Mitch. Mitch has always felt neglected by his father ever since he started acting more effeminate than the other kids and more so when he came out of the closet. I found it interesting that the feelings of two biological brothers can be similar to those of step-brothers and is another reason why I do not believe that family structure has an effect on family development.

One more big connection between the two shows is assigning parenting roles as the nurturer and the controller. In this case, I am comparing the parenting styles of Raymond and Deborah compared to those of Cameron and Mitchel. It has been largely debated whether or not two people of the same sex can raise a normally functioning child. After seeing the comparison between a heterosexual and a homosexual couple I believe that this too, does not affect the child’s upbringing. In Everybody Loves Raymond, Deborah stays at home with the kids and constantly spends time with them while Raymond goes to work as a sports writer. A similar situation can be found in Modern Family. Cameron stays at home with Lily while Mitch goes to work as a lawyer. Both of the couples are happy with the way things are, until they are both approached with a conflict that causes the parenting roles to be altered. When Deborah gets a job as a children’s writer, it causes both parent’s to be working leaving the kids to be watched over by a nanny. When Mitch quits his job, he decides to be the stay at home dad while Cameron gets a job as a music teacher. After a while both sets of parents for different reasons decide to go back to the way things were all still acknowledging that they love their children no matter what. I thought this was a great example of how the structure of the family does not affect the issues and conflicts that arise.

The reason I compare these two shows so often is because the family in Arrested Development come across issues so outrageous but possible that it is difficult to compare. I chose this family to serve as the contrast to Everbody Loves Raymond since the structure of the two is similar, yet they approach conflicts much differently. There are two situations that arise in both Arrested Development and Modern Family that shows two different reactions to the same conflict. In Modern Family, Cameron and Mitch adopt Lily from Vietnam because they want to become parents. In Arrested Development, Lucille adopts Annyong from Korea because she and Buster got into an argument and she was using him to threaten Buster as a replacement child. Cam and Mitch go to every parenting class they can and treat Lily with the best resources they can offer. Lucille uses Annyong as a human purse, as seen when she says, “He just goes with everything.” While Lucille does give Annyong resources such as random sums of money, she gives him no nurturing whatsoever and eventually sends him to a boarding school so she does not have to deal with him anymore. She didn’t even bother to learn his real name, she just calls him Annyong because it is Korean for hello and that is the first thing he ever said to her. Ironically, his real name is Hel-loh.

Another juxtaposition between the two families is the concept of parents dealing with their children’s boyfriend or girlfriend. In Modern Family, Claire has trouble accepting that Haley is dating an older boy named Dylan. In Arrested Development, Michael has trouble accepting that George Michael is dating a girl named Anne. Michael sees Anne as this very plain looking devout Christian girl who looks down upon most of the families practices. The way that these two parents deal with the issue is very different, despite similar situations. Claire starts off hostile by enforcing her daughter to keep her room open when Dylan visits and not allowing her to go out to his concert’s but eventually becomes more accepting and sits down with her daughter and directly discusses her concerns. Michael always forgets who Anne is whenever George Michael brings her up, often mistaking her name for Plant, Bland, or Plain. Whenever George Michael talks about his affection towards Anne, Michael responds with “…her?” Michael constantly asks George Michael to reconsider his choices instead of listening to George Michael. George Michael tried constantly to tell his father that he has unusual attractions towards his cousin, Maeby, but Michael always dismisses him. While both parents in this situation have the same goals, their approach is drastically different.

I could point out nothing but differences between the two structures of families that exist in Arrested Development and Modern Family; however that would indicate that only non-traditional family structures develop constructively. One thing that I noticed was similar between these two shows is how parents deal with children starting destructive habits. In Arrested Development, George Michael is asked by his uncle, Buster to get marijuana to treat a friend’s vertigo. George Michael then asks his older uncle G.O.B. if he knows where to find some. When G.O.B. tells Michael about this, Michael decides to punish George Michael to hire actors to pretend to be cops arresting him. He thought this would teach George Michael a lesson not to engage in drug use. However, once he realizes that George Michael was not using marijuana, he regretted hiring the actors and expresses that he should have talked to him about it. In Modern Family, a burn was found on Phil and Claire’s couch which was thought to be caused by a cigarette. When they asked their kids, none would admit to smoking. Instead of considering other options, the parents assumed their kids were lying so they threatened to take away Christmas. After the middle child, Alex admitted to smoking, the parents put the Christmas tree back up only to discover the burn was caused by the reflection off one of the ornaments. The parents then realized that Alex was sacrificing her innocence to have Christmas happen, to which they then apologized. In both situations, the parents wrongfully accused their kids of picking up drugs or smoking and learned their mistakes at the end even though their family structure is different.

It was more difficult to find comparisons between the last combinations of families than the previous ones, however there were similarities between the families from Everybody Loves Raymond and Arrested Development. The first I noticed was between the characters G.O.B. and Robert. They both are the eldest brothers and both are neglected by a majority of their family. Although there is no explained reason for either of them, they are constantly ignored, mainly by the parent they want to impress. In Everybody Loves Raymond, Robert tries things to impress his mother such as performing well at his job, getting an approved girlfriend, etc. However Raymond always gets her full attention without trying. In Arrested Development, G.O.B. tries as hard as he can to impress his father, but George never really seems to notice. Whether he is lying to his brother as requested by George, or helping him escape from prison, George never shows appreciation to his son.

Another comparison between Everbody Loves Raymond and Arrested Development was the presence of emotionally distant fathers. In Everybody Loves Raymond it is hard to tell at first that Frank is emotionally distant from his kids, but it is apparent after seeing Raymond come to him with problems. When asking for advice, more often than not Frank would respond with either a joke or a comedic insult. This seems funny to the audience but having a father that never addresses real issues or listens to your problems is dysfunctional. In Arrested Development George is not only emotionally absent but physically absent after he goes to jail. Because the show starts with him getting arrested, it is hard to see what he acted like before prison. There was one scene however that takes place before the arrest when Michael is trying to explain a new idea for the business to his father. The idea is good however George constantly rejects Michaels ideas in order to build his confidence and self-sufficiency. Even in prison, George tries to go behind Michael’s back to run the company from inside jail even though Michael is trying to save the company as well as the family’s reputation.

Even though taking notes on forty hours’ worth of footage was a daunting task, I can say that I have learned a lot about practical uses for what was learned in class, how the structure of a family affects its development, and how to look at families in future forms of media and make comparisons. I see that no matter how the family is structured, they have an equal chance of turning out normal as does any other structure of family. One might say that the writing styles of the TV shows are just similar, but considering how outrageous Arrested Development was, I would not say that this case. These three shows are a perfect example of how different styles of families behave because it covers nuclear families, step-parents and children, adoptive children, gay parents, and single parents. They also cover many of the issues covered in the book such as adding children to a family, sibling rivalry, and dealing with destructive behaviors. I believe the common factor in all of the successful conflict resolution was the communication, because with an absence of it, one can hardly call it a family.

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Падобныя:

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