For my next installment I will be looking at a show I’ve never personally watched but have heard of extremely often: Saved by the Bell. Saved by the Bell ran from 1989 to 1992. My mom and aunt recall this as their favorite show during their teenage years and loved to watch it. When searching for episodes and clips to watch this show I found it difficult to find them on places such as YouTube so that those reading along with my blog could also view them though if you do have Hulu it is available on there. Due to this the only full length episode I could find on YouTube for everyone to watch is actually a “lost” episode from 1989 but for the sake of this blog it will have to do.
In the episode I looked at it follows 4 of the main characters as they travel through a world similar to The Wizard of Oz where they see other popular television characters such as Alf as the wizard is on a quest for the next big Saturday morning show. While the show was interesting I didn’t feel it added much to what I am studying though it did use an interesting marketing technique of connecting popular television shows in the same universe. The only part I found very relevant was at the beginning of the episode when A.C. and Lisa comment back and forth about finding their friends and A.C. says it “sounds like a mans job” to which Lisa replies “Hey, I think a girl can do this just as well as a guy” and A.C. replies “okay come on”. Here I find the episode trying to be progressive and show the male and female characters as equals by Lisa being upfront about her ability to do what a man can do.
While the episode didn’t help me much I decided to look more into scholarly articles on Saved by the Bell. When searching for the show I found the article Sex‐role stereotyping in FCC‐mandated children’s educational television by Mark R. Barner. The article uses Saved by the Bell as an example and describes how males have more representation in television while females tend to be more sexualized than their male counterparts. Without doing much research into Saved by the Bell I think it is easy to see this just by looking at the featured image for this blog post and society in general. In the main cast of the show only 3 of those pictured are female while 5 of them are male though the numbers do vary throughout the television shows run. For those of you who also may not have watched Saved by the Bell I am sure you have seen boys wearing t-shirts featuring an image of main cast member Kelly Kapowski typically in a crop top or bra such as in this image of Justin Bieber wearing said shirt. While the show may not have intended for her to be a sex symbol it seems as if she became one anyway even to generations after the 1990s.
We’ve reach one of my personal favorite 90s television shows: Sister, Sister. The show ran from 1994 to 1999 and starred Tia and Tamera Lowry as twins separated at birth due to being adopted by two different people. The show explores the dynamic between sisters during the 90s plus the twins and the parents trying to come together as one family. The girls go through high school and both have boyfriends. For this blog post I will be analyzing the sisterly dynamic presented in the show in an effort to understand femininity and sibling relationships during that time while also looking at the girls and their relationships with their boyfriends.For this blog post I will be analyzing the sisterly dynamic presented in the show in an effort to understand femininity and while also looking into the family dynamic. While both Tia and Tamera both have romantic relationships in this show I will not be focusing on that part as much.
So far this is the only show in this blog series that I have seen full length episodes uploaded to YouTube so those can be found here for those interested. While all 4 seasons seem to be available for the sake of this blog post being a reasonable length I will only be looking at season 4 episode 17: Model Tia. In this episode Tia and Tamera befriend a photographer online who wants to photograph Tia. Their parents tell the girls that it isn’t safe for them to go because they don’t know this person. Tamera sets up an appointment for Tia to meet the photographer and Tamera tagalong but Tia cancels the appointment. After this Tamera tells Tia that Tia is going to Harvard but Tamera has nothing so this modeling gig could be her only shot. Tia then goes to meet the photographer on her own though the photographer starts to act very suspicious and tries to get Tamera to do things she is uncomfortable with. Tia comes to her rescue but the photographer won’t let them leave. Their parents eventually find the girls and save them before warning them about the dangers of the Internet.
I think this episode hits on a lot of points relevant to my specific research but is also relevant to the Console Living Room as a whole. The driving point of the episode is Tamera feeling hopeless about her future since she did not get into a fancy college like her sister did. Because of this she thinks she isn’t smart or talented so her only hope for a future is to model since she is pretty. While sibling rivalry and comparison have been a common trope it is interesting to see it played out in 90s television.
For this series I found further research done on 90s television, TGIF: Thank Goodness It’s Family: Family Messages in ABC’s 1990s Friday Night Lineup by Kourtney Hanna Smith. In this reading the author discusses the changes from the traditional family to a post modern family such as the one seen in Sister, Sister. I think this is an important attribute because it helps to remove the stigma from both adoptive and single parents by showing that they can just as well raise a family. This is seen in my episode that I looked at because it shows the parents doing normal things parents do such as enjoying each others company while also protecting their children from harm.
I continue my blogs with what many consider even to this day their favorite show of all time: Friends. This cult classic started in 1994 and ran until 2004 and led to the creation of superstars such as Jennifer Aniston. Over these 10 years Friends targeted many social issues such as condom use while also being a family friendly show. For the sake of this blog post I will try to only look at 90s era Friends episodes though how the television show evolves over time is important.
I will be describing one the most iconic storylines in Friends history: WE WERE ON A BREAK! This line is one of the best known from the film franchise and focuses on another important topic when looking at femininity in the 90s: the different meaning of words between males and females. The book A Cultural Approach to Interpersonal Communication has a section titled A Cultural Approach to Male-Female Miscommunication discusses this exact problem when looking specifically at American society.
To give context to the scene, Ross and Rachel are having a rough patch in their relationship to which Rachel recommends they “take a break.” Ross takes this to mean they relax and cool off such as going to get frozen yogurt but Rachel replies that she means a break from each other. While Rachel means she wants some space from Ross to think about their relationship while still being committed to each other, Ross takes this to mean they are broken up. During this time Ross sleeps with another woman and then famously exclaims to Rachel who is upset about the news “we were on a break!” This leads to many other characters throughout the show making comments to both Ross and Rachel about the events surrounding their break and taking up different viewpoints.
When looking at this scene I would take Rachel’s side since I believe the couple had not officially broken up while when I asked my boyfriend he was on Ross’ side of the argument. When looking at this in the context of the 1990s I think this had the possibility to shape the lingo of girls and boys who watched the show. Since Friends aired every week those who watched the show often could easily pick up on the words used in the series and then add them to their own vocabulary thus using it in the same meaning as their favorite characters.
This example is something I also plan to look further into during my paper and see how different words have different meanings to males and females since the book I linked above had a lot of relevant information that could be used when looking at 1990s television. I also plan to look at other television shows and see if there are linguistic trends that can be traced between them in regards to femininity and relationships during this time period.
For my next installment of Television and the 90s Chick I’ll be looking at a 90s classic, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. My project focuses on all aspects of femininity and sexuality in 1990s television so I am looking at television from different races, ages, social groups, and locations so this one is a good point of view in regards to different races and social classes in comparison to Full House since the Banks family is an upper class black family while the Tanners were a middle class white family. For background on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air you can check out its IMDb or Wikipedia pages. A good source to look into for race in 1990s television is <em>Color by Fox by Kristal Brent Look in which she discusses the development of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The basics of the show are this: it ran from 1990 to 1996 and starred pop culture icon Will Smith as Will Smith “a street-smart teenager from Philadelphia” who moves in with the Banks Family in Bel-Air in order to get away from the trouble in his neighborhood. At this point I’m sure you’re thinking “what does The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air have to do with 1990s femininity?” well I’ll tell you. The show features many strong female characters such as Aunt Vivian, Ashley, and Hillary. During the series it shows how Will and the other men of the show such as Will, Uncle Phillip, and Carlton interact with women while also showing the reactions, experiences, and troubles of the male and female cast members.
Moving on to look at some actual footage of the show I will be mostly looking at scenes from this YouTube video, which is titled Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Funny Moments. The first I will be looking at starts at 00:33 and features Will in the basement with his new girlfriend Kathleen and they are kissing. He makes a comment to her saying “I love you for what is on the inside” then as they are kissing he accidentally pulls a piece of her weave off her head before screaming and throwing it to the side. This here shows Will in an attempt to be progressive by saying to his girlfriend he doesn’t only care about her looks but loves her for her personality and character. This statement is then put to the test as they are kissing and he accidentally grabs the hair off of her head and is immediately scared of it. This puts into perspective Will’s understanding of female identity, especially of black women such as Kathleen, who often wear weaves. While he appreciates her trying to look pretty for him, he does not understand the work that goes into it and when must come face to face with it he is scared.
The scene continues with Will sitting on the floor with the weave now on his head as he sings “I’m stuck in a basement sitting on a tricycle, girl getting on my nerves. Going out of my mind, I thought she was fine but I don’t know if her body is hers.” Here the shows dialogue mentions two things I want to discuss: Kathleen’s bodily autonomy and the craziness of all women. While this show is based on comedy it is still making comments about the world in a large context. In a society where plastic surgery and ways to change ones body for “the good” run rampant, I wonder if comments such as these could shape a generation and create the world we live in today? Clearly Will does not find Kathleen’s attempt to be conventionally beautiful good enough due to the flaws such as Will’s ability to remove the hair. This could lead to girls making more permanent changes to their bodies in order to appear “natural”. The crazy woman trope is another common aspect of television, especially sitcoms such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. We see it briefly mentioned in this episode so I won’t go into too much detail now but will come back to this topic in future blog posts.
For my project I will be analyzing a different 90s television show every week to see how women and femininity were both portrayed and possibly influenced during this decade. To start off I will be looking at Full House. This is a family classic that almost everyone, boy or girl, watched as they were growing up. I feel this gives me a good starting point since it is one of the penultimate television shows of the 1990s. To view Full House I watched Nickelodeon since they sometimes play these episodes at night and I also watched YouTube clips such as the classic episodes about Stephanie and Michelle getting “married”. For the sake of this blog series on Television and the 90s chick I will be mainly using YouTube clips so that the videos I am discussing here are easily viewable to you guys though I will be doing outside reading about the series in general.
So onto the discussion of Full House. During my viewings of both of the children’s weddings it shows different perspectives of femininity in the 1990s. In the episode regarding Stephanie she says to Harry, “I wish I could move out but I’m stuck living here until I get married.” While at this point in the show Stephanie is still in elementary school so it’s not like she would be moving out anyway but the writers decided to make the reason given for not moving out that she isn’t married yet. I think this is interesting because I never would’ve thought much about this when I previously watched this episode but going and looking back it is pushing ideals on the viewer subconsciously. Full House sticks with conservative values of a woman not leaving the home until she is married and becoming dependent upon a husband instead of her father. I think shows such as Full House that had a wide reach have the opportunity to create a noticeable impact on young children and teens by discussing values such as these even if they are suppose to be jokes.
While Full House does include situations such as the one above it also does a good job of giving strong female role models such as Becky. She cohosts Wakeup San Francisco with Danny and is shown as an equal partner to him. She also is strong willed and witty when dealing with other characters on the show such as when having a debate with Jesse and Danny about her cooking. Finally, it deals with stereotypes regarding women such as pregnancy and how it impacts the couple’s relationship while also giving social commentary on these stereotypes.
Future research into this topic could include looking at changes between Full House and Fuller House to see if there has been any change in the portrayal of femininity in the show and if it has updated itself for modern day television.