Masculinity, Gender Roles, and T.V. Shows from the 1950s

The 1950s nuclear family emerged in the post WWII era, as Americans faced the imminent threat of destruction from their Cold War enemies. The ideal nuclear family turned inward, hoping to make their home front safe, even if the world was not. The image that we recall, largely as a result of the American television shows of the time period, is the picture perfect family consisting of the bread-winning, rule-making middle-class father, the doting housewife who was thrilled to wake up every single day and clean the house and cook all of the meals, and their children who never seemed to get into any sort of trouble that could not be fixed.

For those Americans who sought reassurance of the role of the family in the Cold War era, television showed them exactly that.“…Television projected a vision of American life into the home that could easily be emulated, in part at least, in those places in society that already resembled the ideal…” (Gilbert 141). Though millions of Americans did not have the lifestyle depicted on the small screen, television show families from the 1950s reflected idealized gender roles of the time period, which set an aspirational norm, even if it did not reflect reality.

Past scholarship has been generally uncritical of the psychological impact of these idealized images. This paper considers recent scholarship in gender and psychology, to theorize about the ways that highly masculinized norms perpetuated by television during the 1950s may have contributed to violent development in boys and young men.

Strict Gender Roles

A working man from the 1950s, dressed in a suit to go to work.
A working man from the 1950s, dressed in a suit to go to work.

During the 1950s, television gender roles were stricter and more rigid than they ever had been. The men put on their business suits every morning, went to their conforming jobs, became part of the American rat race, and then were expected to come home and be a father figure and a husband. These were oftentimes the same men that had fought on battlefields of WWII or the Korean War, and now their duties had changed, so that they had to fight Communism at home by being the perfect American man. “…now it is time to raise legitimate children, and make money, and dress properly, and be kind to one’s wife, and admire one’s boss, and learn not to worry, and think of oneself as what? That makes no difference, he thought – I’m just a man in a gray flannel suit” (Wilson 98).

Recent scholarship in gender and psychology has addressed strict gender roles, and concluded that they influence the future behavior of children. During the 1950’s, it was of the utmost importance to socialize boys strictly as boys. Through these television shows, boys were shown how “real men” were supposed to act. These shows display clear differences between men and women, with women as subordinate. For boys in the 1950s, “being a man” and never doing anything that anyone could consider feminine was a lesson taught to them by their fathers and by the popular culture of the time.

Gender Role Conflict

Researchers study the link between masculinity and violence to determine how even a non-violent show, as most shows were during the 1950s, could promote violence and the devaluation of women. Psychologist Felix Amato theorized about “Gender Role Conflict” in young males who did not grow up in violent homes and were not predisposed to an excessive amount of violence. Gender Role Conflict can be defined for these purposes as the negative consequences that occur when not adhering strictly to one’s gender role. The young males in this experiment were asked to rate themselves on a Gender Role Conflict Scale from one to ten, one being the least amount of conflict and ten being the most amount of conflict.

The results of the experiment that Amato performed are discussed in his article, The Relationship of Violence to Gender Role Conflict and Conformity to Masculine Norms in a Forensic Sample, and are concluded as such: men who score higher on the Gender Role Conflict scale are more likely to be violent, and violent tendencies are more common in men who have stricter views of gender roles (Amato 190). Trying to over-fulfill one’s manliness because of the fear of not being manly enough often times leads to violence.

Women as Subordinate

Boys during the 1950s were surrounded by this rigidity of manhood. This hyper-masculine mold that they were supposed to fit into consequently meant devaluing the role of women. It is possible that such television expectations contributed to the development of violent tendencies, because these boys growing up watching the men of the 1950s were not raised to value women, but rather to devalue them to make themselves seem more masculine. The repetitive exposure to these television shows, alongside with the patriarchal society that was solidified even more during the post-WWII years, created a highly constructed identity for men in America.

The television shows of the 1950s may have encouraged such violent outcomes. There was a lot of pressure on the boys to grow up as men, being ridiculed for any behavior that was not masculine and knowing that they would one day be the primary breadwinner for their family. There was also a clear gender difference growing up as boys in the 1950s, and since they were raised in a way to devalue “women’s work” they did not see girls and women as important parts of society. The television shows of the 1950s may not have shown violence to boys but it shows that subordination of women and hyper-masculinity are normal, which is the exact mindset that can lead to violent tendencies.

Men of the 1950s

Ward Cleaver, father and husband in Leave it to Beaver
Ward Cleaver, father and husband in Leave it to Beaver

Through the 1950s television shows, boys were shown that to be real men, they had to follow rigid norms. These shows display clear differences between men and women, with women as subordinate. Some of the most popular television shows during the 1950s were The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and I Love Lucy. The plot lines were never dramatic and the issues were mundane. There was never any stress and problems could be fixed fairly easily. Things seemed to run smoothly in the lives of these Hollywood families, because they all had a role to play. The father was a workingman who left in the morning and came back at night, ready for his wife to serve him dinner. The fathers were not depicted as frequently as the rest of the family, because the storylines centered on the home. Since men spent the majority of their lives outside of the home, and were not involved with household chores, the dominant screen space was reserved for women and children.

In the show Leave it to Beaver, the story comes from the children’s point of view and the father, Ward Cleaver, is only depicted before he leaves for work, when he comes home for dinner, or when he is solving the problems of his two sons. It is the absence of the men in the home in these television shows that reinforces that boys and men simply do not belong there. On the other hand, the mother/wife figure, who stayed at home, figured prominently. These women, such as Lucy, Harriet, and June, “Portrayed the same general character – ‘a woman with a smile on her face and a trick up her sleeve, who is submissive yet controlling’” (Gilbert 138). These were the women who knew their place in the home. On the occasion that they tried to experiment with work, it was a comedic episode, because it wasn’t the her “place.” When young boys turned on their television sets, they would have seen the outline for what a men and women are supposed to do. It is this mindset that there is no fluidity between the two gender roles that can have negative consequences to the socialization of children.

How This Leads to Violence (Potentially)

The gender roles presented in the popular culture of the 1950s, if viewed enough by young boys, could have led to the subordination and violence against women, even in the home. While hyper-masculinity correlates with violent behaviors, there is also support for the same correlative between these rigid gender roles and violence against women, specifically. Stephanie Coontz describes the households of the 1950s in her book titled The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. She describes the rates of unhappy marriages that would likely have led to divorce, had that option been acceptable and accessible at the time, and she presents us with shocking information about abuse in 1950s households. Coontz theorizes that the pressure for perfection in the postwar home was too much pressure for each family member to handle and that this time period brought about sexual abuse, incest, alcoholism, and wife battering (Coontz 279).

Violence against women is directly connected to hyper-masculine socialization. If a man during the 1950s felt that he did not live up this “ideal” type, then this failure could have led to the use of violence toward his wife, or other women. Violence and abuse makes these men feel as though they are dominant, as their gender role prescribes that they should be. Even if this dominance is through violence, it is an act that makes the man feel “more manly” to make up for the dominance he is lacking in his life outside of the home (Pleck 4). Men who believe that the male is the more valued gender in society, and that females are subordinate, are more likely to use violence against women, not only to reassert their own dominance but because they simply do not value femininity (Hatty 69).

Works Cited

Amato, Felix J. “The Relationship Of Violence To Gender Role Conflict And Conformity To Masculine Norms In A Forensic Sample.” Journal Of Men’s Studies 20.3 (2012): 187-208. Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 May 2013.

Coontz, Stephanie. The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. New York, NY: Basic, 1992. Print.

Gilbert, James Burkhart. Men In the Middle: Searching for Masculinity in the 1950s. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2005. Print.

Hatty, Suzanne. Masculinities, Violence and Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2000. Print.

McDermott, Ryon C., and Frederick G. Lopez. “College Men’s Intimate Partner Violence Attitudes: Contributions Of Adult Attachment And Gender Role Stress.” Journal Of Counseling Psychology 60.1 (2013): 127-136. PsycINFO. Web. 8 May 2013.

Miedzian, Myriam. Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and Violence. New York: Doubleday, 1991. Print.

Pleck, Joseph H. The Myth of Masculinity. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1981. Print.

Wilson, Sloan. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1955. Print.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Posted on by
21. American Studies & History Student

Want to write about TV or other art forms?

Create writer account


  1. I used to watch I Love Lucy on Nick at Nite when I was a kid and I’ve loved it ever since. I was surprised to hear criticisms of the show for its sexism. I didn’t remember any of that.

    • bzukovich657

      It is not outwardly sexist, as you correctly remember. It is the rigidity of the lifestyle and gender norms that impacted young men and boys in a potentially negative light. “I Love Lucy” is an interesting example because it is more comedic than the other television shows, and because it puts women outside of the home in a humorous way.

    • I Love Lucy is not a perfect show, but it displayed many progressive qualities having to do with gender representation.

  2. Cherri Theriault

    The biggest challenges to preconceived notions of normative masculine authority was the introduction of the television into the home.

  3. Father Knows Best clearly demonstrates how television producers in the 50s often utilized stereotypical representations of men and women.

  4. Typically, people fear that children who are exposed to violence in media, comics, and video games could emulate those behaviors and become violent. It is fascinating to consider the possibility that even the non-violent reinforcement of rigid gender roles might do that.

    • bzukovich657

      I agree with you, Laura. This was one of the most interesting aspects of my research because normally we associate violent behaviors with violent catalysts. However, these television shows negate that and provide a theory about non-violence leading to violence.

  5. Gabriel

    I don’t think any medium show the shift in gender relations than the medium of television.

  6. Anyone interested in 1950’s masculinity, look up Sloan Wilson’s “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit”.

    • bzukovich657

      This was an excellent source for me when I was writing this paper. Both the film and the book transport you to the world of the 1950s and allow you to better understand the mentality of the time period.

  7. The blue-collar ethos where the man seemed to be in control (but in truth was regularly the butt of the jokes) is excellently displayed in episodes of the short lived CBS series The Honeymooners.

  8. Cindi Goss

    No television series better encompassed the conservative values, beliefs and attitudes of the 1950s than ‘Leave it to Beaver’.

  9. Amanda Dominguez-Chio

    I used to watch “I Love Lucy” when I was a kid, but now I have trouble laughing when Ricky can be controlling and expects his wife to obey him. He and Fred often make sexist remarks on their wives that were intended to be funny but still rub off in a cruel way. I liked how you wrote about Ward Cleaver and what his absence means in the show. Very nice and well-written 🙂

    • bzukovich657

      Thank you Amanda! I enjoyed watching some episodes of “I Love Lucy” during my close analysis and was also quite unsettled that these types of shows (including “The Honeymooners”) tend to make fun of women trying to do anything outside of the home.

  10. Jacque Venus Tobias

    The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. She describes the rates of unhappy marriages that would likely have led to divorce, had that option been acceptable and accessible at the time, and she presents us with shocking information about abuse in 1950s households. Coontz theorizes that the pressure for perfection in the postwar home was too much pressure for each family member to handle and that this time period brought about sexual abuse, incest, alcoholism, and wife battering (Coontz 279).

    This is very important information. If divorce was more accessible and acceptable there would have been more singe family homes. However, it would be difficult for women to support their families because there were less jobs for women at that time, and for a variety of reasons. There was of course as much domestic violence, incest and alcoholism during the 50s as is now. Now we have access to media and more help available to assist these situations. There was a big push for cocktail parties in the 50s and there was lost of drinking at home, at work and during lunch. Another item regarding life in the 50s many men died around 50 years of age, this could be due to the pressures they had trying to be the male role model. And it benefitted the wife because then she could continue on without the abuse of the over masculine husband. I was watching an episode of Bewitched and was surprised at the way Darren treated Sam. She helped him with his work and he belittled her and said there was no way she could have come up with those advertising ideas. She was only a woman and must have applied witchcraft to be so creative. Samatha took the lecture and was submissive and demure about it. These are the lessons that were taught in the 50s for gendering. Good thing we have it all worked out now. LOL
    Thank you for this article.

  11. Nilson Thomas Carroll

    It makes me wonder: we watch a show like Two & a Half Men and recognize that the characters are absurd caricatures of exaggerated behaviors. Obviously, 1950s popular culture is nowhere near as savvy on irony and self-reflection as our current one, but did more savvy viewers in the 50s watch Ward Cleaver and get the same idea? I see older generations revisit these shows and reminisce on a “simpler” time, but I have to think that “even back then,” some of these characters were seen as exaggerated.

    Great post!

  12. Noe-Boo

    I Love Lucy is a classic. There has been quite little discussion of Ricky’s masculinity and how the masculinity he represented tapped into societal norms and fears of American masculinity of the time.

  13. Liz Kellam

    It such a switch today from the loving father figures (though exaggerated) to the simple-minded, lazy fathers we see portrayed on television today. There are so few good male role models in our media, real or fictional. In a time when fewer children are growing up without a father at home, this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

    • Jemarc Axinto

      I’m going to have to disagree with the “without a father at home” idea. Strictly because there are so many different types of homes these days. Single parents are more common, and we live in a world where same-sex parents can exist as well. I don’t think children NEED a “father” figure or a “Mother” figure. It’s not about male or female role models, but the world needs good role models in general that people can aspire to.

  14. Amena Banu

    I used to watch The Honeymooners a lot, when it aired at nights or weekend mornings. And I’ve studied Leave it to Beaver for history class, to observe some of the inherent subordinance of women in 50’s society.

  15. As a young kid growing up, I watched countless hours of reruns of classic American television shows like I Love Lucy.

  16. jddehart

    It would be interesting to explore 1950’s gender roles according to literature set in that time period, as well. I am thinking of Fahrenheit 451 and its Guy Montag and Mildred relationship. She stays at home, he is the heroic character. Might be a curious connection.

  17. Thank you for sharing your analysis! I believe that in order to end the perpetuation of harmful gender roles in the media we must first understand how and why they exist there at all. Although the conventional stereotypes of masculinity and femininity were developed long before the 1950s, the decade marks a defining moment in the “traditional” American ideology that still influences society today.

  18. Meghan Gallagher

    I thought this article explored some really interesting characters and shows. There were so many television husbands who fit this rigid masculine ideal. However, there also seems to be a slightly contradictory vein of shows running at the same time that depicted the “head of household” as a complete buffoon. I am thinking specifically of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton on The Honeymooners. (This applies to Ricky in I love Lucy to a lesser extent.) How do these buffoon husbands fit in with your analysis?

  19. “Coontz theorizes that the pressure for perfection in the postwar home was too much pressure for each family member to handle and that this time period brought about sexual abuse, incest, alcoholism, and wife battering”
    There isn’t enough data from before WWII to make conclusions about the overall effect of media-portrayed gender roles on violence against women, and so many conflicting factors that it’s impossible to approach anything like objectivity. The best you can do from the evidence is construct a narrative that’s tenuously based on a few different ideas and research.

    I’m also not a fan of the term “hypermasculinity”. Wearing a suit and working a 9-5 is “hypermasculinity”? There’s also a questionable link at best between a study conducted in 2012 and the behavior of men who grew up in the 1950’s. And though there may be a link between gender role stress and violence (as there is between any stress and violence), what about the men who are perfectly comfortable being masculine and accepting a masculine role?

  20. In the 50’s, TV was the default medium of communication. That must have a had a huge effect on the way people viewed the reality of their society, considering how skewed TV presented real life back then. Not that it necessarily doesn’t today, but the internet definitely made communication and information a lot more accessible, probably for the better. Great article.

  21. Do you think that the strong women portrayed in today’s films and TV shows serve to combat the stereotypes established by the 1950’s TV industry?

  22. Interesting read with some very valid points. Suburbanization and the Post WW2 family model still holds as the ‘ideal’ standard today. In contemporary times, what it means to be a man has shifted in some ways, but remains to hold the ‘better than women’ variable. Especially in popular sports culture. The hegemonic masculinity values have been entrenched in our society over decades and decades of media narratives. If a ‘real man’ falls short of that bill, the stigma of becoming a subordinate male can pave the way into overcompensation and paranoia.

  23. callmenathan

    This was such an interesting article. I must admit I agree with all of the points although I did not notice so much the comedic role of Lucy in the workplace as a child (perhaps because I often thought it was just comedic art) as a part of establishing that gender role. You shed some light on it for me although. I still like the show, but that saddens me quite a bit. The times I suppose. I tend to shy away from the other shows due to the gender roles being so blatantly obvious (there is no limit to how irked I become watching Andy Griffith). I have done essays mostly on gender roles and femininity rather than the masculinity. I wish I had thought to include media influence beyond advertisements. This was such a great read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    The only cons I have is that the images don’t appear to be sourced and are a bit blurred although I can understand pixellation cannot be helped sometimes.

  24. First, I am not a psychologist or anything close to a mental health professional so to attempt to refute the references identified in the article seems senseless, but I’ll try to do just that anyway. The role definitions described are clearly valid, but it’s impossible for me to take the leap and believe approximately 10 years of TV shows that occurred more than fifty years ago has lead directly to the abuse of women today. It seems even more unlikely when we consider all the social economical pressures and changes the country has experienced in the past say ten or fifteen years. The use of drugs, a growing population of minorities and non minorities who [as the rich get richer] continue to make almost desperate efforts to educate their families and move up the social ladder against a myriad of social pressures that at times seems to be deliberately set to hold them back, the explosion of violence on TV today, the wild proliferation of violent movies and computer games that basically teach kids how to be violent which in effect lowers the threshold for acceptable behavior. For my money, all these and several more I can think of have changed our culture today so dramatically in ways that those of us who grew up in the fifties could not have imagined. All of these influences must be more import than shows that are fifty years old, and shows today’s young adults have probably never seen to learn from. I don’t think so. I could go on, but the article strikes me as an attempt to pick a decidedly unique and provocative topic and scrap around for references as vague as they may be in order to come up with a new idea and sound especially scholarly along the way. Not buying the premise..there are simply to many other influences. Can’t quit. How about the growing number of professional athletes we see on TV who function as models to kids [and unstable adults] who seem to think beating their wives is somehow understandable because they happen to have “hard hitting” jobs and deal with “a lot of pressure”. My view is the author of the article may want to look at those links to violence against women in relationship to old and long forgotten shows.

    • bzukovich657

      Shiss, thank you for your response, but I argue that you are misinterpreting what I wrote. I am not arguing that the television shows from the 1950s are linked to violence against women today. I am actually arguing, with the help of recent scholarship and recent studies that have been done, that the television shows of the 1950s may have contributed to violent behaviors in the men of the 1950s. I am also not considering any sort of comparison between television shows from the 1950s and television shows from today, that is far beyond the scope of this paper. My paper is considering possible linkages between violent behavior and these television shows. It is perfectly sound methodology to use new frames and scholarship to address historical issues/events. The recency of the evidence that I use does not dismiss its importance or its validity. I respectfully ask you to reread the arguments I have written and keep in mind that this is not at all a contemporary analysis of violence against women.

      • Very sorry. I have to admit on a second reading of your article, I did have the wrong interpretation. My wife worked as a volunteer in a local domestic violence center and to many times the abusers she characterized made excuses that tried to redirect what was happening rather than working towards resolving their own problems. They seemed to want a degree of understanding and I too quickly assumed your article was heading in a direction away from what I see as being more direct causes. Sorry for reacting too quickly and thank you for writing back to me.

  25. I’ve been studies the effects of gender norms and masculine/feminine ideals recently so it was interesting for me to read about those topics and how they functioned in the 50s. As soon as the bit about women in the work place were seen as comedic was mentioned, all I could think was the I love lucky episode with the chocolate conveyer belt. When I first saw that episode, I didn’t think much of it but now that I actually understand the connotations…well, it’s a different story. Amazing how much you can miss when you aren’t paying attention. Also very interesting to know that domestic violence was such an issue in a time period we like to romanticize as perfect so often. But I can definitely see how the pressure of seemingly unfulfilled gender norms would’ve led many men into violence to try to reclaim masculinity.

  26. Joslyn Robinson

    What I find interesting is that there were two wars that occurred during the height of these TV shows: the Korean and Vietnam. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and though I was a young child, I never had an inkling that there was a “war” going on. These TV shows, while undoubtedly perpetuating familial violence in future generations, were, at the time, calming and grounding for the adult population when chaos still threatened their security. Most adults at the time had lived through WW1, the Depression, WW2 and now the Korean and Vietnam. While the idea of male stereotypes and female subordination perpetuated in these TV shows is unappealing to our minds in 2014, perhaps if we puts ourselves in the mindset of the time, we might find a more empathetic understanding of what it was like to live in such times.

  27. ThierryLea

    Just last night my partner and I were discussing the comment men (and some women even) make to a man who is not “acting like a man”. It is common that if he complains about his job, or cannot do a job he is labeled as a “woman”,”girl” or a “pussy”. I heard these comments a lot growing up around male uncles and cousins who were so fearful of having their masculinity undermined. It was confusing for me as a girl to hear these things because I wondered why it was that made it so bad to be like me, a girl.
    I believe that it is television shows, among a long history of male dominance, that creates this understanding that being masculine is preferred over being feminine. Your article was interesting in taking it one step further in defining how domestic violence can sprout from from media reinstating what it means to be a man. Nice work.

    • I think the good news about human nature is that although the basic rights, wrongs, and expectations that are embedded in us are essentially unchanged over thousands of years so there is consistency through the generations. Our human nature also seems to provide for us a willingness to be flexible and to adjust in order to survive. The bad news I think is [that] flex or willingness to adapt can be manipulated by things like a steady stream of violence on TV, the prominent macho sportsman image, and of course killer computer games. I think these all bring us to accept those lower standards as being more “normal” and as our subconscious adapts to this new normal our conduct begins to slowly move in the same direction.

  28. Does anyone remember the episode of Leave it to Beaver where Ward tells the Beav to read Ivanhoe, and as a result of having read it, the kid gets in a fight and is banned from the schoolbus? And all along, June is the voice of reason, arguing to the wind that, perhaps, a small child shouldn’t be reading about chivalry and knighthood before he’s old enough to realize that that isn’t how people settle things?
    It’s moments like this that illustrate that, even in the text itself, masculine violence was already being presented alongside its critique.

  29. I have a problem with the study that was used to support this argument. Since the subjects were asked to rate themselves, that leaves room for bias that can not be accounted for. If I had more time I’d give the study a thorough read, but it seems a bit of stretch to take a study from 2013 with “young men” that were not watching these shows in a 1950s context, assuming young means 20 or so, and using it to support the gender roles portrayed in ’50s television.
    I’m also think this idea of subordination of women is also a stretch. From what I recall of these shows (and I’ve watch a great deal), the men often honored and showed loved for their wives. Only when she was being mischievous did they take on their higher role as the head of the household who wouldn’t have any shenanigans. There are exceptions I’m sure, but overwhelmingly that is what sticks out in my mind. Of course, maybe we view subordination differently.

  30. Tirhakah

    I wonder how this work of scholarship can be complicated by not only racial differences but maybe even incorporate the rates of violence against those who belong to the LGBTQ community as well. Controlling for geography and class groups may also spring about some surprising conclusions.

  31. Morgan R. Muller

    Really interesting article! Awesome research and insight!

  32. I really enjoy the whole culture of the 1950s versus the culture of today’s time. I do, however, agree that the gender roles on television shows during that time were very strict and allowed for little wiggle room, if any. With that being said, I think that while the shows were more tasteful and did not contribute to violence during that time any more so than the shows and music nowadays promote violence. The women were appreciated for what they did even though they were often only portrayed as doing housework. Likewise, men were appreciated for what they did and both genders helped each other out when possible. Women weren’t called derogatory names like they are so commonly called now. There was a mutual respect, but also a mutual appreciation for the exact tasks that each gender completed.

  33. There are counter images to the roles discussed here in 50’s-60’s TV. There were also the “lone hero” who was not domesticated and the occasional “empowered woman.” Josh Randall in “Wanted: Dead or Alive” had no permanent (or any) relationships or residence. His life reflected Kerouac’s a year or two earlier “On the Road.” Palladin appeared to be a high-living aesthete in San Francisco but his life-style was financed by his mercenary business: Have Gun, Will Travel. Set in contemporary (1950’s) times Peter Gunn lived in a world diametrically opposed to Ward Cleaver, Jim Anderson, and Ozzie Nelson. The only similarity was the suit and tie.

  34. This article makes a very good point on how more often than not, the obligatory “father figure” is almost never around within such sitcoms from the 1950s and is mostly seen walking out the door from the family home before returning much later for his personal well-being and comfort. The thought of such a home to claim must have been a contributing element to the mentality of men who were raised on that promise. Inevitably, there would’ve been the underlying assumption that men shouldn’t be obligated to stay at home since they were entitled to have a bigger world with bigger possibilities outside, free from the mundane repetitive factors of domestic responsibility.

  35. R Conant

    I must admit that I was enjoying this article until I realized that it was an attack on masculinity. Honestly, I disagree with 90% of what was written. True that 50s television portrayed a stereotype, but those depicted men did not devalue women; they honored and respected them. It was simply a structured hierarchy that is still needed today to run a smooth operation. Stay at home mothers had and still have the most important Jobs. They are the nucleus of the family. Now what do we have in 2015? Single parent households, both parents working, and kids learning about sex, drugs, and violence in our ultra liberal school districts. It’s non sense. Violent behavior? Don’t blame masculine men. Blame feminine men and their misguided women for creating broken families and for lacking the moxy to properly rear their children.

  36. Douglas

    “Than they had ever been”? TV didn’t exist in anything resembling critical mass until well INTO the 50’s. For example, my parents bought our first TV to watch the Army/McCarthy Hearings, as did a bunch of homes in our neighborhood. I would love to see some pre-50’s examples of gender bending.

    Now the overarching them in TV commercials is the smart, in charge woman and the doltish, bumbling male. Women in traditional roles are also attacked. See my blog for examples.. adsmack dot blogspot dot com

  37. D. Mosley

    I respectfully disagree with your hypothesis. Like many people I know, I am the product of a traditional family where Dad worked and Mom was a homemaker. My Dad was the “head of the household” but was loving, attentive, supportive and understanding. My mother adored him as he did her and they both worked together teaching my sisters and I respect, responsibility, and many other important values. By watching my father, I learned what being a real man meant.

    My wife and I have been married for 30 years and we have 3 adult children. We raised our children in a very 1950’s style household, even to the point of watching shows like “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show” because those families closely resembled our own. Today we have 3, educated, compassionate, and mature adult children with deep family roots and I attribute at least part of that to the proper influences we allowed into their lives from classic shows like these.

    I believe television shows and movies that feature strong, supportive father figures, married couples who love and support one another, and children with respect for their parents and society would actually have the opposite influence that your article suggests. I sincerely hope that the man my daughter eventually marries has had the blessings of influence from men like “Ward Cleaver” or “Richard Anderson” or my father. Our society needs more men like that.

  38. julia bull

    I am trying to cite your paper as a source and give credit. May I ask your name or author name? bzukovich657 doesn’t seem too academic. I am using the paper for discussion purposes.

  39. is this a credible source for a paper?

  40. Caroline

    I am laughing, out loud. Nobody should be pegged into a role. It skews what we all believe. My mother was a CFO of a large corporation in the 1970s and my dad stayed at home with my sister and me and took care of the household duties. We still watched all the sitcoms and still laughed. Didn’t matter to us…we were just in a different situation. Sitcoms were sitcoms. And the hell with the psychiatrists trying to explain why sitcoms were the way they were. We just liked watching them and having a laugh or two. Too much is put into everything.

  41. Judy h velotti

    What has happened to our men now? My dad worked at night and was always around and that was in the 60’s

  42. Joseph Cernik

    An interesting essay that stated to address a serious point. The discussion on violence toward women, essentially tied to the impact of the way males, or husbands in particular, were portrayed on TV shows was just starting to be raised in this essay and then it just stopped. Maybe that can be addressed in a detailed future essay. I wonder if as we came out of the 1950s and into the 1960s whether changes in how family life was portrayed on TV had some impact on actual violence toward women.

  43. This is a very interesting topic, but what about shows as MASH, HOGAN HEROES, GUNSMOKE, and FATHER KNOWS BEST. I have not seen anything relating to these shows and their effects and contributions. Why?

  44. My fother to, work all the time but always made time for his family that was in the 50 and 60 i was born i the 60

Leave a Reply