Executive Summary

The dynamic of marriage has changed drastically over time, particularly in the last 100 years. Couples went from an arranged union between two people of similar classes and families to marrying for love, from the nuclear family where the patriarch worked and the matriarch cleaned, cooked, and raised children, to the hookup culture and broken families that dominated the 70’s and 80’s. How are these changes portrayed throughout the history of media?

This unit analyzes what it means to be an American couple throughout history, and how different types of marriages and families are documented in the media. The content of the unit looks at what the norms of couples are for different time periods. How does the average age of marriage change? How does the type of person who gets married change over time? What happens when the traditional model of marriage changes to the “soulmate” model, where couples marry for love and not due to similar goals or child-rearing strategies?

The unit then looks at how the depiction of American couples in the media reflects the time period’s values. Perhaps it satirizes them, instead. In our unit on the Cold War and Warm TV, for example, the norms of the time are made fun of when gender roles are seemingly reversed. In The Flintstones, in contrast, the couple sleep in separate beds, and the same is true in I Love Lucy, which could reflect the focus on children during the time period. Now, with shows like Friends and Modern Family, one might think that American culture has shifted towards more of an individualized focus instead of a familial one. How do these representations of couples change or influence society’s view of what a normal couple is?

Cultural norms are so important in informing people’s daily actions and even their thoughts. Judgments are formed quickly because of a set of norms that most people in society abide by. Morals and laws are guided by these norms as well, and what is seen as acceptable and what is not is almost exclusively the result of social norms in society. Since the media portrays couples often and the media influences what is thought of as “the norm,” it is important to understand how couples are portrayed and what set of values can be discerned from this portrayal. The family has been such an influential facet of history, particularly when analyzing America from 1940-1980, and again when looking at modern day culture.

Each member of the group will take on a different part of the unit, whether it is gathering information: finding films, reading assignments, and TV shows; extracting and synthesizing relevant information; or managing citations or website ins and outs. We will make sure to meet to gather our individual research into a cohesive, informative unit.


Mr. Raymond tells the children that he pretends to be a drunk to provide the other white people with an explanation for his lifestyle, when, in fact, he simply prefers black people to whites. When Dill and Scout return to the courtroom, Atticus is making his closing remarks.


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