Basic Overview How were the children depicted in each of the three eras? How did their behaviors compare to the ideals of society? How are these children different from each other?
Leave It To Beaver - 1957 Leave It To Beaver follows Theodore “The Beaver” Clever and his family which includes: Ward, June, and Wally Clever. The sitcom is written from a child’s point of view and the plot changes from episode to episode. There are several themes within the series such as the importance of family and roles of people in society.
Beaver the Athlete In this episode of Leave it to beaver, Beaver gets a D in P.E on his report card. His father is deeply distraught by Beaver’s lack of competitiveness and works to make him a better athlete. Beaver practices baseball for the annual “Girls vs. Boys Baseball Tournament” to please his father. He practices baseball all day and worries everybody. In the end, the Beaver does a good job at the game.
The Children The TV shows from this era reinforced society’s expectations. Beaver’s wish to impress his parents is shown when he works to be a better athlete. Beaver is extremely obedient and this is shown when he does somersaults all day long because his father told him to. Wally asks his father if he can watch television which shows how little authority children had in the era.
Beaver is almost too innocent which is seen through multiple ways. Beaver talks in respectful and proper English with a touch of 1950’s slang. He is never seen using profanity unlike the kids of this generation. The innocence of the children can also be seen when the schoolchildren are humoured by Beaver’s silly faces. Nowadays, humor is more cynical and offensive.
Diff’rent Strokes - 1978 Diffe’rent Strokes follows the lives of two black kids from the ghetto named Arnold and Willis Jackson. They are adopted by a rich and philanthropic white businessman named Philip Drummond. Drummond also has a biological daughter named Kimberly from his late wife. This show, unlike the shows from the 50’s and 60’s, reflected how society really was and sometimes dealt with more mature and serious themes like drug abuse, racism, and relationships.
The Job In this episode, Willis wants a pair of disco skates and decides to get a job himself so he can pay for them himself. Everyone is excited and happy for Willis. Willis is fired the first day at work but he is too afraid to admit because he thinks that he will disappoint his father and everyone else in his family. In the end, he comes clean and learns that being honest is more important than any job.
The Children The children in this era are more independent and this is shown when Willis chooses to earn his own money and buy his skates. Willis and Arnold both hide the fact that Willis lost his job from their father. This shows how children were slowly becoming more dishonest. Willis and Arnold, similar to the kids of the 1950’s show that they want to make their father happy/proud when they lie about Willis’ job because they think he will be disappointed.
There is still a form of mutual respect between the siblings which is shown when Willis admits his mistake to Arnold. Arnold then tries to help his brother hide it. The kids in the TV show are also much more knowledgeable about the real world than Beaver or Wally. This is shown Arnold talks about jobs and financial benefits.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - 1990 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air follows the life of fictional Will Smith. He is portrayed as a street-smart teenager from West-Philadelphia. He is sent to Bel-air to live with his wealthy uncle and his family. His lifestyle can often be seen conflicting with that of his relatives. Unlike the shows from the past, this show usually didn’t have a deep moral or message and was often just a show to entertain people.
Robbing the Banks The Banks house has a lot of problems. There is no one available to fix it up. Uncle Phil gives his assistant a day off but then realizes that he needs someone to help him in court. Uncle Phil forces Will to be his assistant. Will persuades his uncle into hiring an ex-con named Luther to do all the chores at home. Soon everyone comes to like Luther.
One night the family returns home from a restaurant to find that everything in their home has been stolen. At first, they all accused Luther, but later it was revealed by the police that it was really someone else’s doing. Will and his family realize that apologies are in store.
The Children The children in this decade are noticeably lazier than their predecessors which can be noticed by their unwillingness to do any of the household chores. The girls are much more superficial which can be seen when Will’s cousin talks about her make-up and looking ‘hot’. They are also less focused and this is shown when Will fails to pay attention in the court room and is distracted by a pretty lady.
Another important observation is how the children are much more judgmental. This can be seen when Will and the other members of his family immediately accuse Luther of the thefts even when there wasn’t any proof. Also, they aren’t very honest about themselves towards their parents. This is shown when Will doesn’t tell his uncle about his missing baseball.
Conclusion In short, we can conclude that the children changed a great deal over the decades. In the 50’s and 60’s, children were, on average, well mannered and extremely innocent. They reflected society’s expectations. In the 70’s and 80’s, the children were slowly becoming more and more independent. They became more and more like little adults. TV shows portrayed them as brats who thought they knew everything. They were still acceptably polite towards adults. In the 90’s and the 2000’s the children became superficial and ignorant. They treated adults like other kids and TV shows portrayed them as obnoxious people. This trend proves that children are slowly becoming less and less polite. I am worried about how children will be when I am an adult.