Monday, November 28, 2011

Post-Fordism and the Family

It can be said culture, society, and economy are guiding forces in the creation of media, but it can also be said that media can act as a reality check for each of these three factors as well. One particular era that we can use as a starting point is that of the era of Ford, or Fordism. When considering the period of time in which Fordism was booming, media texts were relatively plain and simple, as well as uniform across the board. In terms of radio sets, each radio maintained the same level of frequency, regulated by the FCC, and the programs that were heard across the nation tended to focus upon the same subjects. Regarding television programming that came into the latter section of the era of Ford, let’s observe shows such as The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966) and The Brady Bunch (1969-1974). These shows presented what, for the era, were considered to be regular families. They presented the audience with the “norm.” Such programming directly reflected the industry that was prevalent at the time.

Now, during a post-Fordist industrial time, individuality and originality is emphasized as what is important and desirable. Ideas carry a higher value than do material objects and even our material possessions aspire to appear to be creative and unique. The idea of “edge” is one that is quintessentially post-Fordist in that edgy content accomplishes the task of being original, ballsy, and interesting. Much like how The Donna Reed Show was able to represent a typical family of the era of Ford, now particular television shows are striving to represent what is the modern family… literally.

One of the most likable and popular TV shows these days is Modern Family as it emphasizes the quirks and complexities of what it means to maintain a familial unit. Although Modern Family is widely accepted as safe, family-approved content, there are certain aspects of the show that can categorize the show as “edgy.” Cam and Mitchell, gay partners who have recently adopted a baby from Vietnam, make up the controversial section of the show as there have been various religious groups that have protested the glorification and permissibility of homosexuality. For many, Cam and Mitchell are viewed as simply part of a family that has its problems and not the factor that contributes to the show’s “modernity.” This demographic is surely who the show is targeted towards as well as those who don’t even take into consideration the fact that the show can, in fact, be considered “edgy.” For the homophobes out there who upload videos onto YouTube regarding the show’s “unacceptable nature,” the show’s edge is simply unforgivable.

Personally, I consider “edge” to be defined by one’s own values as opposed to one’s tastes. Shows such as Friends do not demonstrate questionable morals or controversial content (unless young children overhear risqué conversations between Joey and Chandler), yet the show does not necessarily have an edge. Just because a show does not appeal to one’s particular tastes does not make the show edgy. Edge seems to be characterized by stomach-strength and moral fiber. 

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