Publication Year

2009

Keywords

I Love Lucy, sitcom, television, suburban, American culture, Cold War

Disciplines

American Politics | American Popular Culture | Film and Media Studies | United States History | Women's History

Abstract

I Love Lucy skyrocketed tot he top of the ratings in 1952 becoming U.S. television's first blockbuster. Even on January 20, 1953, the day President Dwight D. Eisenhower's inauguration, more viewers tuned in to watch I Love Lucy than the live coverage of the president. With such popularity, the show had considerable influence on American culture, while it also reflected the society it was entertaining. What can the germinal television show I Love Lucy tell us about the 1950s cultural and political conflict? The first season and a half, or the forty-five pre-maternity episodes, of Lucy illustrates the transition from the urban, ethnic comedy that predominated in vaudeville and on radio prior to World War II to the white, middle-class, suburban nuclear-family-oriented comedy that prevailed in early Cold War America. Lucy's transgressive potential is most evident in how it both challenged and reinforced gender norms and ideals as well as raising questions of interracial marriage with its central coupling of the Anglo-American Lucille Ball and the Cuban-American Desi Arnaz on and off the small screen. Additionally, the female network forged by Lucy and Ethel challenged gender norms and ideals in a way that was remarkable and largely absent on television until the 1970s in the midst of the second-wave feminism. These distinctions also account for the show's success and enduring appeal.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

History

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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