Television took off in America in the 1950s and into the early 1960s. This new form of media quickly came to dominate the American landscape in ways that reflected, shaped, and perhaps challenged social norms.
Your task for this assignment is to find and watch a single episode of an American TV show (fictional such as a sitcom not non-ficition such as a modern documentary about the past or an episode of a news program from the past) from this era and to write a paper of approximately 2 pages (2.5 pages is better than 1.5 pages) in which you analyze the messages the episode sends to the viewer about Cold War American society and culture.
You should craft an argument about how your sitcom or other fictional TV show episode reflects, interprets, or challenges the social order of the era as you understand it based on class readings, lectures, discussions, and in comparison to the more documentary programs you have been and will be watching for homework such as “A Date with Your Family,” “Duck & Cover,” and both “Boys Beware” and “Girls Beware” (all linked on Blackboard in the Ch. 23 and 24 folders).
– Find and watch an episode of a TV show from the 1950s or early 1960s. There are many shows to choose from sitcoms from the 1950s-1960s that depict family life are ideal: I Love Lucy, Donna Reed, I Married Joan, Dick Van Dyke Show, Honeymooners, Amos ‘n’ Andy, Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, Pride of the Family, Father Knows Best, I Dream of Jeanie, Flintstones, Jetsons, etc. You can likely find episodes available online for free by searching for the name of a program on youtube and some may be available through any streaming service you have such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc. If you’re unsure of the show you want to use or want more specific suggestions for an episode that deals with a topic that interest you, check in with me.
– Write an approximately 2-page paper in which you analyze your episode as a primary source informing you
about life in America during the Cold War. You should not merely provide a summary of what happens in the
episode. Instead, examine the situations, characters, meanings, and relationships presented for what they say (or don’t say) about topics such as family life, gender norms, class, race, manners, and general social order in Cold War America.
– Remember you will be evaluated in accordance with the rubric found on pages 6-7 of your syllabus.
III. Citing Sources
Because you are using a limited source pool that is mostly provided for you, a full bibliography and standard academic citations are not required. You should let me know the name of your TV show and episode somewhere in your paper’s introduction and you must still provide shortened citations to indicate when you are using (quoting or paraphrasing) specific materials from class. For the textbook and other reading materials, the author’s last name (Foner, Loewen, etc.) and a page number is sufficient. For class discussions and lectures, “Class” and the date is sufficient. You may use either parenthetical or footnote citations as you prefer.
Your paper should be double-spaced in a standard word processing font. These are typically Time New Roman or Calibri fonts in 11pt or 12pt sizes. If your writing program defaults to something radically different than this, adjust as needed. Similarly, your margins should be default of approximately .75 to 1 inch on all sides. Your paper should have a heading that includes your name, the course, the assignment and the date. This should be single spaced and should not take up more than 4 lines. You should also give your paper a title that is more interesting than simply “History Paper,” “Paper #2,” “TV Paper,” or something similar