“Too Sweet To Be My Family” Past Representations of Gender in Media

The individual I chose to interview grew up in rural Idaho. Carli Roletto grew up in a large family that included seven children and two parents, her family fit into the middle class, and was similarly situated to the families that lived around her. In the place she grew up, it was not uncommon to have large families and be fairly religiou  s.  Carli’s parents were strict and controlled most of her access to the media. The following is Cari’s account of her own media consumption and preferences, situated within the broader trends of gender representations as described in our text.

The majority of Carli’s access to the media took place with her family. They had a black and white television that all six of her siblings and parents crowded around and watched during family fun night(the times her mom was out of the house). Her father had the power to choose the shows that were watched by all of the children. Since many small children were present, the majority of the shows that made it in to the Roletto household were either family themed or family friendly. Carli reminisced about getting to eat popcorn and interact with media. Her favorite shows shown to the whole family were the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family. She related to these shows because they depicted the fairly traditional gender roles that existed in her family. While she would have liked to be a feminist at an early age, she wasn’t allowed to be; she recalls that her dad told her to stay squarely in the female gender role and told her “not to even think about going out for the boys’ baseball team.”

Brady

The media that was selected by her father was in line with his beliefs about family and proper gendered behavior for men included “being assertive,” “making the decisions,” and “giving orders,” while the women were to be compliant to the will of the man and “passive” (47). In both of these shows, the “married housewife” was prominently featured as a desired role model (47). Carli related to this somewhat, as the shows were focused on strong family bonds and displayed the themes of “marriage, parenthood, and domesticity,” all of which were modeled and expected for the five girls in the house (47). She did mention that while she related to the family structure in the Brady Bunch, such as the large number of children and some of the adventures shown on the program, she noticed that the programs didn’t resemble the social climate of her family. She stated the shows depicted a family that was “a little too sweet and so it was not like my confrontational, outspoken family.”  She did identify with the overwhelmingly prominent theme of “family problems” that was characteristic of the media she consumed, though it didn’t capture her experiences totally; but the shows still made her feel “happy and warm.”

When viewing the media, she didn’t mention the ways the women acted or were treated; rather she spent time observing and identifying with the entire family unit or with specific characters. In the Partridge Family, she was captivated by the style of Lori and tried to emulate her, while her peers were having massive crushes on David Cassidy. Carli often felt stylistically isolated from her peers, as her parents did not allow her to wear jeans to school and she didn’t have any brand name clothes. In this way, the media provided her an outlet and a steady supply of role models to idolize for their style and some of the freedoms she lacked.  Carli was a private consumer of media that she viewed within the home. She made a point to conceal what she watched from her peers, because she felt that it was “juvenile” and she didn’t want to be judged.

Aside from when the media became a family affair, she spent little time consuming media with her siblings.  Carli was captivated by the latest musical trends and the Monkeys became a primary focus of her musical consumption, because she “LOVED” the Monkeys.  While she loved music, she had limited access as a child and early teen. Her family didn’t have a radio or stereo so she got to hear music primarily at high school dances, that had live music. Carli never bought music.

 

monkey

Once in high school, her viewing habits of media changed a great deal. She became part of a viewing group for Charlie’s Angels that was created by her high school varsity women’s basketball team and would awake late at night to watch this show with her dad, after the rest of the family went to sleep. Carli idolized the angels for being innovative, smart, and most of all for “being resourceful;” she found these traits to be important, both on and off screen. Carli contested depictions of women that attempted to homogenize the female characters into passive roles of inept action and pawns in the patriarchal world (50). Carli recognized the ways the media sexualized women, and detested it; though she did watch things that portrayed sexualized female characters. For example, in Charlie’s Angels she made a point to let me know that she didn’t feel that the characters’ use of “sexuality to get what they wanted” was good or right, it was just a tactic to capture male attention that was common of the times. In her high school, Charlie’s Angels was extremely popular and three girls got named after the angels. Carli was one of the lucky few, nicknamed Kelle (Jacqueline Smith)!

 

charlie

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on ““Too Sweet To Be My Family” Past Representations of Gender in Media

  1. I *love* that there was a viewing group for Charlie’s Angels — I never think about that (we usually think of viewing in terms of the family) but I wonder how the reactions to the show were shaped by the environment in which they were consumed (did you like the Angels more or less, identify with them more or less, depending on who you watched it with, and how they responded?)

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