For example, Roseanne (1988) uses the perspective of a housewife to gain mass audience appeal and then breaks the social norms by asserting authority. She represents the type of liberation whereby a woman can still have love and devotion for family without losing the independence in her life. Many women seemed to respond positively to the metanarratives of the show. There seemed to be a release of pressure between the pigeon holing of independence vs. family orientation. Roseanne was able to “reach a much greater number of women from a wider variety of backgrounds than feminism ever could.Order now
This may be an indication of how very central the concept of housewife is to twentieth century western women’s culture. ” (Andrews. M 1998) ‘Sex and the City’ (1998) on the other hand, has transgressed and mixed the boundaries of standard stereotypical representation to such an extent that it ended up promoting an inevitable false hope of independence. The characters in this show at first seem to be independent, working city girls that have fun, date guys and then talk about the most intimate details of their experiences over brunch.
However, there is an underlying theme in the show, of finding ‘ Mr Right’. The characters want a ‘Prince Charming’, someone that will sweep them off their feet and look after them. By adhering to this fairy-tale romance they fall subject to patriarchal fantasies. “The cult of motherhood, and glamour and the pursuit of the perfect body are at the core of what makes us laugh in the show” (Akass. K, 2004). The direct ‘no nonsense’ approach, lack of euphemisms and freedom for open discussion about sex in the show, may seem to be socially liberating but the narrative works against it.
“The comedy works by juxtaposing the two classic patriarchal fantasies of virgin and whore – fantasies that are projected onto women, and in so doing, introduces us to the raw material which will be used time and again throughout the series to create humour. ” (Akass. K, 2004) It is not only gender that bends the framework of media representation through television comedy but race also plays a strong role. In modern sit-coms racial tensions tend to dissolve within the comedic framework.
The medical sit-com, ‘Scrubs’ (2001) shows the epitome of this; where the black surgeon, Turk, prefers his white best friend, JD, to refer to him as ‘brown bear’. The two doctors friendship throughout the program seems to be so well grounded that racial stereotypes are easily made fun of with no anxiety. Also, the show constantly uses references to racial stereotypes in exaggerated and abstract ways, to not only mock our own social perceptions of each other, but to challenge these reflections of our society and make the viewer realise the extent to which they are prejudice.
Another example of a fairly modern television comedy that used exaggerated stereotypes is the more obvious and racially based sketch show, ‘Goodness, Gracious Me’ (1998). This was extremely popular in its short airing time of three years. It directly challenged stereotypes based on Asians from the Indian subcontinent and created a unique hybrid of British and Asian mockery. The show played with stereotypes in their entirety, mixing them up, changing the context in which they place stereotypical characters and even reversing the behaviour of characters to act as opposites.
One sketch took the simple idea of white British people going to an Indian restaurant after a night out and reversed it to show Indian people going to an English restaurant. This opened the floor for plenty of comparative jokes and allowed people to look at the type of situation from a completely new perspective. However, racial jokes were not always seen in the same light. In the mid 60s the most popular sitcom on British television was ‘Till Death Us Do Part’ (1965-75).
It was aired for prime-time viewing and featured the racist, foul-mouthed bigot character, Alf Garnett. Alf Garnet was generally laughed at and served the role of extinguishing old harmful ideologies, similar to the character of Abbot in ‘Bless This House’. However, the comedy was misinterpreted in some cases and seen as a racist celebration (Lockyer and Pickering, 2005). If this reverse interpretation (Alf Garnett Syndrome) had affected the mass audiences I believe it could have potentially changed the society we live in today dramatically.
Perhaps television comedies like ‘Scrubs’ and ‘Goodness, Gracious Me’ would not even exist. In conclusion, we may somewhat owe television comedy for our recognition of gender and racial prejudices. It is evident that the use of this platform can change aspects of society through the exploitation of our own perceptions and educating mass audiences to social and cultural realities. Yet there is still some vagueness in the extent to which television comedy stops reflecting social perception and starts determining it.
It may be interesting to study a deeper route of inquiry such as, the significance of feminism and racially liberating movements to television comedy.
List Of References Akass, K. , and McCabe, J. (eds. ) (2004) Reading Sex and the City. I. B. Tauris: London and New York. Chapter 12: Ms Parker and the Vicious Circle: Female Narrative and Humour in Sex and the City, pp. 177-198. Andrews, M. (1998) ‘Butterflies and Caustic Aides: Housewives, Comedy and the Feminist Movement’. In Wagg, S. Because I Tell a Joke or Two: Comedy, Politics and Social Difference.
Routledge: London and New York. pp. 50-64. Friends: Episode 5. 09 (http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=gITX5WS2Rfg) Scrubs Race related humour: http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=PI7QJsYgk3k&feature=related http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=adGndXu1bYc&feature=related http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=1029cE6MDk8&NR=1 http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=1waBZN3xTI8&feature=related http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=r_NkxUn15sw&feature=related http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=dple6lWqg60 http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=gcGBg6KeR54&feature=related.