This dissertation examines family sitcoms in the context of the Reagan era's perceived "crisis in the family" and gendered shifts in domestic life. Through a combination of Foucaultian and feminist theories, I ask how television sitcoms shape family life. I look at popular long-running programs like Who's the Boss?, Full House, and Family Ties as pedagogical texts that offered guidelines to viewers struggling with competing ideas about family, gender, parenting, and domestic labor. While providing lessons in household governance, these sitcoms simultaneously enact liberal feminist fantasies of work and domesticity. By bringing together historical analysis of the television industry during the late-network era with a look at policy and political objectives, I show that networks were seeking to appeal to upwardly mobile "career women," thus the proliferation of sitcoms dealing with non-nuclear families and the reorganization of housework arrangements.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2012. Major: Communication Studies. Advisor: Laurie Ouellette. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 229 pages.
Lessons in the Labors of Love: Situation Comedies and Family Governance in the 1980s.
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