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The Impact of American Sitcom to Our Society (my LSP 402 presentation)

Monday, September 7, 2009 § 3

A situation comedy or usually referred to as sitcom is a genre of comedy originated from radio. Today, sitcom mainly aired on the television. Sitcom usually consists of recurring character in a common environment as the viewers such as in home or work place. The plot somehow appeared very simple so that the audience can simply understand the point they are making because sitcom’s storyline basically is everyday occurrences in audiences’ lifestyle. Sitcom can give impact to the society in term of their lifestyle. Most of the popular sitcom aired from 1950’s until now having a similar theme, which is family, relationship and career issue. There is millions of sitcom broadcasted in this whole wide world, but today, I only interested talking about three sitcoms which I think give significant influence to the society. The sitcoms are I Love Lucy, The Simpsons and FRIENDS.

I Love Lucy was first aired on October 15, 1951 starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as husband and wife. The plot basically about their marriage and risen certain issues that considered taboo at that particular time. In 1953, 67% of American homes tuned in every Monday night just to watch this sitcom. Reported because of this craziness among the American towards I Love Lucy, television sell was increased. According to Nielsen’s Rating, the show never ranked lower than No. 3 and after the show, more sitcom being broadcast but none of these can compete with Lucy’s team. The most notable impact it gave to the society is the phenomenon of mixed marriage. Lucille is American citizen, while Desi is Cuban. During that time, mixed marriage can be considered taboo to the society even in America. Interracial marriage in the United States has been fully legal in all U.S. states since the 1967 Supreme Court decision that deemed anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, with many states choosing to legalize interracial marriage at much earlier dates. Multiracial Americans numbered 6.8 million in 2000, or 2.4% of the population. Even though this show not giving a direct influence to the mixed marriage, but most of the American at that time can accept the phenomenon of mixed marriage. Besides that, this show also raises the issue of feminism. Lucy is a feminist while his husband is a typical American husband who thought they are omnipotent in the house. Because of this theme, many sitcoms dare to raise feminism issue in their plot. Even the series showing a disgraceful husband character, but still it can capture a millions of audience from both genders.

Late 1980s, American and later early 1990s most part of the mesmerized by a dysfunctional family called The Simpsons. Rated as the longest sitcom ever aired in the world, The Simpsons give huge impact to the society. Coming as 2D show, the series never fail to entertain its audience for the last 20 years. Unlike Lucy, Simpsons’ main plot is about a nuclear family even still in the same theme (family). The most notable impact of this sitcom to the society is the catchphrases used. Mark Liberman, director of the Linguistic Data Consortium remarked: “The Simpsons has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our cultures greatest source of idioms, catchphrases and sundry other textual allusions.” The most famous catchphrase is Homer's annoyed grunt: "D'oh!" So ubiquitous is the expression that it is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, but without the apostrophe. "Cromulent", a word used in "Lisa the Iconoclast" has since appeared in the Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary of English."Kwyjibo", a fake Scrabble word invented by Bart in "Bart the Genius", was used as one of the aliases of the creator of the Melissa worm. Bart's rebellious nature, which frequently resulted in no punishment for his misbehavior, led some parents and conservatives to characterize him as a poor role model for children. In schools, educators claimed that Bart was a "threat to learning" because of his "underachiever and proud of it" attitude and negative attitude regarding his education. Others described him as "egotistical, aggressive and mean-spirited". In a 1991 interview, Bill Cosby described Bart as a bad role model for children, calling him "angry, confused, and frustrated". On January 27, 1992, then-President George H. W. Bush said, "We are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like The Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons." Various episodes of the show have generated controversy. The Simpsons visited Australia in "Bart vs. Australia" (season six, 1995) and Brazil in "Blame it on Lisa" (season 13, 2002) and both episodes generated controversy and negative reaction in the visited countries. In the latter case, Rio de Janeiro's tourist board–who claimed that the city was portrayed as having rampant street crime, kidnappings, slums, and monkey and rat infestations–went so far as to threaten Fox with legal action.

Beside family issue, sitcom also can be in the form of a group of young people living the same neighborhood having different kind of problems, various from family, career and relationship issue. FRIENDS is the best example. Premiered on September 22, 1994 FRIENDS being translated and aired in the most part of the world. The most notable impact of the series to the culture is Jennifer Aniston’s hairstyle called The Rachel. The Rachel been copied all around the world and reported the hairdo is the most copied hairdo since 1970’s The Farrah by Farrah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angles. Survey have been conducted to women in some country including America and half of them (48.1%) admit they did The Rachel during 90s. The series also impact the English Language. According to a study by a linguistic professor in University of Toronto, the character used the word “so” to modify adjectives more often than other intensifiers such as “very” and “really”. LeBlanc catchphrases “How Ya Doin?” become a popular part of Western English Slang, often used as pick up line and to greet friends. Following the September 11 tragedy, the ratings increased by 17% and interpret by the psychologist, viewers want to seek for a comfort. The Central Perk coffee house, one of the principal settings of the series, has inspired various imitations worldwide. In 2006, Iranian businessman Mojtaba Asadian started a Central Perk franchise, registering the name in 32 countries. The decor of the coffee houses is inspired by Friends, featuring replica couches, counters, neon signage and bricks. The coffee houses also contain paintings of the various characters from the series, and televisions playing Friends' episodes. James Michael Tyler, who plays the Central Perk manager in the series, Gunther, attended the grand opening of the Dubai cafe, where he worked as a waiter. Central Perk was rebuilt as part of a museum exhibit at Warner Bros. Studios, and was shown on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in October 2008.

We watched sitcom no matter American, British or Malaysian sitcom. Some of the sitcom brings significant message and some of it just a bag of crap. For me, a sitcom freak, I like watching them because some of the sitcom really open my mind and tell me how people would react in abnormal situations. I learn a lot from sitcom and no one can deny sitcom is the mirror of how we live our days.

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§ 3 Response to “The Impact of American Sitcom to Our Society (my LSP 402 presentation)”

  • Anonymous says:

    Dude, did u present this in ur uni?

  • Emma says:

    Wow, this is really interesting! =D I'm studying sitcoms for school and the impact they have on society, and this is really good. Its amazing that almost half the women in the 90s copied the Rachel hairstyle.
    Nice job. =]

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