Bachelor of Arts
Clayton R. Koppes
Leonard V. Smith, Chair
Television, Women, Woman, Gender, Character, Lucy Ricardo, Ann Marie, History, TV, Stereotype
Women on television of the 1950’s and 1960’s have a contested place in American television history. The common belief that women in postwar TV adhered to and promoted strict sexist stereotypes is pervasive, but there has been some debate as to how accurate this generalization is. This paper examines the roles women played on television through a close analysis of two shows, I Love Lucy (1951-7) and That Girl (1966-71). These two shows demonstrate women’s general places during the decades in which they aired, with Lucy Ricardo representing the housewife of the 1950’s and Ann Marie representing the increasingly popular independent woman of the 1960’s. This paper places these shows in the context of real-life changing gender roles in order to locate progression of restrictive gender norms on and off screen. TV as mass media needs to appeal to largest audience possible, thus it would show moderate gender role change. TV responds to society, as shown by creation and airing of shows like That Girl as real-life gender roles were changing, but doesn’t push the envelope. Ultimately, female characters on television were somewhat aware of their marginalized status as manifested through strict gender roles that kept them in the home, showed them as girlfriends, wives, and mothers, and held them to beauty, sexuality, and femininity standards of their respective times. However, these characters did not try to totally dismantle these norms, instead trying to find freedom within them.
De Leo, Emilia Anne, "I Love Lucy, That Girl, and Changing Gender Norms On and Off Screen" (2018). Honors Papers. 148.