American television became a national medium in the late 1940s and, at its inception, foregrounded both the family and the American Dream as cornerstones of American culture and identity. An explicitly commercial medium, television used middle- and working-class family sitcoms to promote the commodities necessary for middle-class assimilation, but also to position working-class characters as stern object lessons in the battle to promote a "classless" American post-World War II idyll. Although 1970s television ushered in a much more visible (and in some ways, sympathetic) image of American working-class life, the era's programming nevertheless continued to promote the American Dream through material accumulation and behavioral assimilation in its representations of socio-economic class. A new representation of class, however, emerged just as the Cold War was grinding to a halt. Beginning in the late1980s and continuing into the late 1990s, working-class family sitcoms began to challenge the American Dream paradigm by presenting working-class cultures to be equally valid to the middle-class American culture that television had always promoted. This dissertation explores the rise and fall of this phenomenon, and how the politics, economics, history, and technological developments of the era facilitated this challenge to the hegemonic, middle-class norm.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. March 2009. Major. American Studies. Advisor: Elaine Tyler May. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 168 pages.
Williams, Melissa Drue.
"Excuse the mess, but we live here": class, gender, and identity in the post-Cold War working-class family sitcom..
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