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Depictions of Family Life Essay


One of the common themes in modern-day popular culture media has been the extensive representation of patriarchy as being the core structure of the family unit. For example, in shows such as Family Guy, American Dad, the Simpsons, and Everybody Loves Raymond, it is often seen that men in society are the heads of the household while women are often relegated to supportive roles (Heath, 2009: 187-201). While it may be true that many organizations have established policies to remedy discrimination of women both at home and in the workplace, the fact remains that upon careful examination of such policies, it can be seen that they are not an appropriate form of remedy since they do not resolve the disparities that occur within society.

Based on what I noticed from the various popular culture shows I watched, women, especially married women, were often relegated into supporting roles and were discriminated against in their jobs on the basis that they were married and could get pregnant at any moment thus creating problems involving workplace productivity. The main problem that I noticed was in their representation wherein there were relatively few shows which showed a successful and happy woman that shared the role of a breadwinner with her husband. It was subtly hinted at by the shows that married women should not attempt to go outside of the role that society has deemed for them by getting a job or pursuing careers since it often results in adverse consequences.

Taking this into consideration, this paper will examine the relegation of women into supportive roles in the family by popular culture media and how the main issue is in the manner in which they are represented. By exploring this method of representation in the family, this paper will attempt to show how such practices by the modern-day media is not an accurate representation of how society is like at the present and how it contributes towards creating a more unequal society based on its hypocritical method of praising independent women but relegating married women to mere supportive roles.

The relegation of Women to Supportive Roles

When examining the characters of Lois (Family Guy), Marge (the Simpsons), Christine (American Dad), and Debra (Everybody Loves Raymond), one common theme that is seen was that these women were actually at the cusp of having their independent careers before getting married. However, once they did get married and had children, they immediately became relegated to supportive roles (i.e., homemakers, stay at home moms, etc.).

It was shown that they prioritized the concept of family over their careers resulting in them willfully choosing supportive roles rather than attempt to pursue a dual role with the father by also getting a job to support their family.

Based on the various readings in class that was encountered throughout this subject, the idea of women as being primarily relegated to the role of homemaker upon marriage is a concept that has been around for a considerable period due to the notion that men are providers while women are supposed to take care of the children, make sure the home is tidy and be subservient to the needs of their husbands (Lareau, 2002: 431-440). This was seen in the case of the various shows mentioned in present-day popular media, yet, it is also noticeable in past shows such as “I Love Lucy” and “The Brady Bunch” which similarly depicted the relegation of women into the role of the housewife and showing the concept of submissiveness to their husbands.

This unchanging method of representing women in popular culture media is rather strange given the new roles that women have achieved both in workplace environments as well as in society through efforts in gender equality. While it may be true that the idea of a strong, independent woman is often seen in numerous popular culture shows such as NCIS, CSI, How I met your mother, and others like them, the fact remains that such a representation changes dramatically when the concept of marriage enters the picture wherein the same relegation to a supportive role is seen.

Based on shows such as One Tree Hill, Desperate Housewives, and Cougar, a rather bigoted representation of women is shown wherein wives that attempt to “break out of the mold” so to speak of their supportive roles in the family are often portrayed as being selfish with the father often garnering the sympathy of the audience. Other similar representations often involve a wife failing in her venture and realizing that she loved taking care of her family or even the depiction that refusing to have a family of one’s own will leave a person alone and miserable in their old age with significant regret that they neglected to start a family. It is based on such representations, which are prevalent in present-day popular culture media, that the concept of women as having equal status as men is still far from being a realized reality.

From what I understood in the readings given in class, while it may be true that from a legal perspective, women should have equal rights as men, the fact remains that societal perceptions towards women at the present are still far different from their current legal rights (Lareau, 2002 442-445). While on the surface women are supposedly equal in workplace environments and social status, the fact remains that the current social perception, at least where popular media is concerned, still relegates women towards supportive roles when the issue of marriage enters into the picture (Gerstel and Sarkisian, 2006: 204-208).

Popular media praises strong independent women yet at the same time performs a form of hypocrisy by showcasing their worth in marriage as being a caregiver to the family. This depiction is at odds when examining the present-day society in countries such as the U.S. wherein men and women who are married and have kids often share dual roles as breadwinners. It is in part due to the current economic climate where it has become a necessity for both parents to work due to lower wages and fewer job opportunities where there are higher pay rates.

At the present, affirmative action programs, reverse discrimination, and criteria’s of comparable worth give women equal opportunities in the workplace, and most companies are of course performance-based and, as such, at the end of the day, they are more likely to hire someone appropriate for the job rather than ascribe to policies related to gender discrimination.

The current representation of married women in popular culture at the present is lacking in sufficient realism in that it does not reflect the current status of women as having the same role as men when it comes to supporting their families by also being a breadwinner (Adams and Coltrane, 2007: 499-509). Due to the level of influence, that pop culture media has on society wherein it influences trends and societal perspective, the current inaccurate representation of women can be considered both a step backward for women’s rights as well as severely restricting the opportunities of families in the present-day society (Whyte, 1992: 125-131).

What you have to understand is the perception of society regarding the role of women can have a degree of influence over what is expected of them in family roles. The promotion of the idea that women should primarily have the role of family caregiver instead of being a breadwinner along with the husband severely limits the capacity of that family to have a greater source of income thus, resulting in limited opportunities and resources (Gerstel and Sarkisian, 2006: 204-212). This can affect how the children in that family grow up due to a lack of sufficient resources to keep them properly fed, educated, and provide them with the various necessities that they would need to grow up properly.


Based on the readings I went through and my experience with present-day popular culture, my response to this assignment has a degree of cynicism given that while the law states that there is equality, such a statement is far from the truth. It is due to the fact I have seen firsthand how policies about affirmative action programs, reverse discrimination, and criteria of comparable worth are largely ineffective in preventing sexism in various offices and homes. While it may be true that current laws are barring such behaviors, a lot of companies continue to practice such actions and, as a result, this continues to propagate discrimination in society for women.

While I do acknowledge the status of affirmative action programs has improved considerably due to the current state of the economy which has caused firms to rethink their hiring strategies to include women into the picture due to their willingness to work the same hours for less, there are still issues regarding rates of promotion and the idea that women have less value once they get married and pregnant. There is a growing change in the global business environment wherein financial constraint and the need to maximize output while lowering the price of operations has resulted in more women being hired.

Thus, it can be predicted that shortly, should the trend continue, it will be a job market that is not dominated by the male majority, rather, it will be inclined towards individuals (man or woman) who are willing to work more for less. However, on the other end of the spectrum, it is also likely that should popular culture trends in the media, and their hypocritical depiction of women continue to go unabated, women may continue to be discriminated against in the long term despite the law saying otherwise.

It is based on these two possible results that I advocate for changes to be implemented in the way in which married women are depicted on popular culture media. Should such changes be implemented, societal perceptions may likely change as well resulting in “true” equality to be implemented for men and women alike.

Reference List

Adams, Michele, and Scott Coltrane. 2007. “Framing Divorce Reform: Media, Morality, And The Politics Of Family.” Pp. 499-513 in Shifting the center: Understanding contemporary families. 4th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Humanities.

Heath, Melanie. 2009. “Marriage promotion and the contested power of heterosexuality” Pp. 187-204 in Shifting the center: Understanding contemporary families. 4th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Humanities.

Lareau, Annette. 2002.”Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing In Black Families And White Families.” Pp. 431-447 in Shifting the center: Understanding contemporary families. 4th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Humanities.

Gerstel, Naomi and Natalia Sarkisian. 2006. “Marriage: The Good, the Bad and the Greedy” Pp. 204-212 in Shifting the center: Understanding contemporary families. 4th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Humanities.

Whyte, Martin King.1992. “Choosing Mates–The American Way.” Pp. 125-134 in Shifting the center: Understanding contemporary families. 4th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Humanities.

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