The Mother of (some) Media

 

I interviewed my mom, who grew up consuming media in Kansas City, MO. She was born in 1955, so most of the media that she remembers comes from the 60’s and 70’s. She lived in a household of two parents and two siblings. And from what she can remember, TV was an event in her house. However, at first, when I asked about her media consumption, she seemed to be stumped with the question. She couldn’t really recall how media had affected her life, she knew it was apart of it but she couldn’t verbalize the importance. Just like the interviewees in the Mazzarella article, she focused her attention on playing in her neighborhood with her friends. It wasn’t until I started to pry and prod that she began to remember how much of her time was actually occupied by the television.

 

She came from a one-television house, which had three clear channels and one fuzzy one. It was apart of a huge console, there was no remote to control the channels, and it wasn’t 24 hours.

 

Her television consumption began when she was fairly young. Her first memories are waking up too early on each Saturday mornings to stare at the “Indian” until the cartoons would come on. Early morning cartoons were a time-honored tradition with her siblings, with no fail, every Saturday they would gather in the family room to watch the cartoons.

 

Watching television became less of just a sibling bonding show it became a family affair when they would watch The Ed Sullivan Show.  Just like the other interviewees, some of her favorite memories were watching The Ed Sullivan Show, because that was were she got to see Elvis, Tom Jones, and the Beatles perform. (She still likes to talk about their provocative dance moves and how the camera would never show below the belt). And while music was never a huge part of her life, she still enjoyed getting the opportunity to see inside this different world. Not only would she watch Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show, but she would also go to see his movies. And one her most prized possession was her Elvis lunchbox (with a thermos!), which made most of her friends envious.

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When I asked my mom about the television shows she watched when she got older, it became apparent that she consumed a lot more television than she originally thought, because almost every show I named, she would answer with “I loved that show.” Some of these shows included The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and Leave it to Beaver. Some of these shows have a strong female actress in the front, but the “ideal” life of June Cleaver was something that she touched on. She wanted to be June Cleaver, to her; Mrs. Cleaver had the “perfect life.”  When she was younger, my mom wanted to be the homemaker, to be dependent, and she didn’t see anything wrong with it. Even though she wasn’t aware of the portrayal of women, she did notice that husband and wife would not sleep in the same bed. And it did strike her as strange. Of course now, she sees how that was not the life she wanted, but that was whom she related to within the media that she consumed.

 

The types of shows that she would discuss the next day with her friends were Dallas and Knots Landing. These were the shows that she fell in love with the characters. She remembers always talking to her friends about these shows, especially Dallas. During the interview, it seemed as if Dallas was her favorite show of the time, she definitely got more into the questions as we were discussing that show.

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All of the shows that she discussed had a big impact on her life, she would watch the shows and want to be the characters, dress like them and live their lives. For her, these shows had the hip new trends and fashion, and living in the middle of the country where it takes about a year for fashion on the coast to reach, these shows were her only window into that world.

 

There was something very surprising that my mom said, even after she discussed her want to be like June Cleaver, she brought up the fact that she used to watch wrestling every Saturday afternoon. It was something so opposite of the scripted shows she would watch, and not at all meant for a girl. She just adapted to what was on, because most of “media was aimed at males or boys.”

 

My mom was never that into radio or music, so movies and television made up most of her media consumption, because as she likes to remind me, they didn’t have Internet back then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a different note: After conducting this interview, I realized that my mom and I are very similar in the way we consume media. We almost have the media consume us.

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2 thoughts on “The Mother of (some) Media

  1. Similar to your mom, mine brought up Ms. Cleaver and the show Leave It to Beaver, describing it as the ideal American family of the time. While I believe most people understood this show as the image of perfection, my mom described her upbringing as such a different experience that she and many of her peers could never relate. But, she did point out that June had, and could do everything, a valued characteristic for women at the time, and one that she feels is still a standard for women today. Although this was the ideological picture of the good American family, most of the media portrayals of the family were in serious conflict with reality. Film Noir is a great example of a Leave It to Beaver bubble shattering as Film Noir exposed the dark under belly of society and provided a glimpse of truths about the imperfections of the family models shown in the media. Even with the conflicting ideals of society exposed in Leave It to Beaver later on in the era, the show was consistent with portrayals of females everywhere in the media and reaffirms why our parents would, and could, be influenced by this desirable and consistent model.

  2. I love how your mom didn’t really think that she consumed much media….until you named specific shows. And how Dallas/Dynasty et.al. served as much more “cultural forums” than, say, Leave it to Beaver, which provided a clear path, but not necessarily an opportunity for discussion (she was probably also 15-20 years younger, too, so there’s that). I also love the parallels you draw between your mom’s media consumption and your own — underlines how personal/emotion media consumption can be.

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