The Nuclear Family as Self Fulfilling Prophesy: Representations of Kin in TV Parenting Programmes
Kin within reality TV parenting <ul><li>Reality TV focuses on the nuclear family </li></ul><ul><li>Kin, particularly grand...
Reality Television Parenting Programmes
The Nuclear Family and Kin <ul><li>Sociology of kinship, structuring social relationships </li></ul><ul><li>‘ another fune...
The Nuclear Family and Kin <ul><li>Sociology of ‘The Family’ </li></ul><ul><li>Centrality of the Nuclear Family Household ...
The Nuclear Family and Kin <ul><li>Sociology of ‘families’ </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges hegemonic norms of heterosexual ma...
Childcare advice <ul><li>Pre-dates the printed word </li></ul><ul><li>Uses any media available in a given society </li></u...
Childcare advice as ideology <ul><li>Philosophical and religious tracts promote methods of raising children as part of ‘th...
‘ The end of the family’ <ul><li>The extended family is dead and buried? </li></ul><ul><li>The nuclear family is under gra...
A psychologist says… <ul><li>‘ Historically, parents learned about child-rearing methods and strategies from their own par...
The Irish state says… <ul><li>‘ In the past, most western societies could claim a normal parenting pattern whether an exte...
And a health promotion journal… <ul><li>‘ In traditional societies, parentcraft is another of the things to be imparted in...
So what about the mother-in-law? <ul><li>‘ the ones who had little enough time for their own families or who successfully ...
What does ‘reality’ mean? <ul><li>Constructed texts, heavily edited </li></ul><ul><li>Following people acting for camera i...
Findings
Deviant families? <ul><li>Criticism of sensational style </li></ul><ul><li>Featured families structure is quite ‘normal’. ...
Additional kin featured <ul><li>Grandmothers Evelyn and Peggy </li></ul><ul><li>Uncle Thomas </li></ul>
Kin as Unimportant <ul><li>Supporting roles to allow narrators to speak over background visuals </li></ul><ul><li>Replacea...
Kin as a problem <ul><li>Narration refers to kin as ‘problem’ even when they are not present (HTT) </li></ul><ul><li>More ...
Passive Kin – obstructing and incompetent <ul><li>Thomas and the ‘bold house’ </li></ul><ul><li>Threat of young working cl...
Passive Kin - Victims <ul><li>Parents ‘choose’ to have children </li></ul><ul><li>Grandparenthood (or Aunt or Uncle-hood, ...
Kin and fatherhood <ul><li>Kin are less silenced when a mother parents without a father  </li></ul><ul><li>Difference betw...
So what is the father role? <ul><li>More established in existing literature </li></ul><ul><li>Baby Entertainer, Bumbling A...
Audience Interpretation <ul><li>Role of different kinship positions are not the same as that of parents, and this is a goo...
Granny’s Job <ul><li>They noticed that the job of granny as presented in the programmes was not the same as their idea </l...
Audience Interpretation <ul><li>‘ It’s hard with Grannies. I have a friend, and the child came down, and the mother said, ...
Audience Interpretation <ul><li>-Well I don’t watch a lot of them now, but sometimes I see them and I never seen a grandpa...
Other Kin <ul><li>‘ He must have felt awful when he was told he was doing wrong. Maybe that’s why he disappeared ’ </li></...
Discussions and Conclusions <ul><li>Kin are minimised – their role is presented as unimportant or even threatening </li></...
Conclusion <ul><li>Most kinship ties symbolically eradicated </li></ul><ul><li>Tolerated if mother parents alone, whereby…...
Conclusion <ul><li>Nuclear Family as self-fulfilling prophesy in Reality Television as in Sociology </li></ul>
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The Nuclear Family as Self Fulfilling Prophesy: Representations of Kin in TV Parenting Programmes

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In this seminar I will be exploring representations of grandmothers and other kin in TV parenting programmes. Grandmothers exist just one step outside the nuclear family. They could therefore more accurately be described as kin, or existing within kinship networks, that existing in ‘The Family’. As such, the presence of a Grandmother in a family home can, theoretically, act as a disrupter and threat to strict interpretations and definitions of the family based on modern nuclear family ideals. In this paper I will be arguing that within Reality Television Parenting Programmes this is exactly what happens, and results in a presentation of grandmothers in passive and negative terms only, the most dominant two being Grandmother as interfering but incompetent and Grandmother as helpless victim.
In contrast, discussions with focus groups show audiences with a complex interpretation of these messages, underplayed by a very different concept of family roles with clearly acknowledged space for grandmothers.

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  • Why is it interesting to look at Grandmothers? Grandmothers exist just one step outside the nuclear family. They could therefore more accurately be described as kin, or existing within kinship networks, that existing in ‘The Family’. As such, the presence of a Grandmother in a family home can, theoretically, act as a disrupter and threat to strict interpretations and definitions of the family based on contemporary nuclear family ideals where households are ‘supposed’ to be composed of Daddy, Mammy, two point four children and a dog. In this presentation I will be arguing that this is exactly what happens, and results in a presentation of grandmothers in passive and negative terms only, the most dominant two being Grandmother as incompetent and Grandmother as helpless victim
  • Highlight picture of Jo Frost – Supernanny is best known (5 million viewers) Highlight picture of David Coleman – will be looking closely at Irish versions Play clip, back to this screen
  • Reference: CC Harris 1969
  • Reference: Barrette and McIntosh 1982
  • Meade and Wolfstein From industrialisation onwards high infant mortality rates and mother blame Eugenics brought concern for controlling women’s and children&apos;s risky bodies Dies out between 50’s and 70’s
  • Uncertainty and Barbie dolls Reference?
  • Summarising these ideas parenting training is put forward as, by necessity, replacing something that existed in the past, historically, or in traditional societies. That ‘something’ is a complex entity, but has at its core the extended families capacity to teach parenting skills to each subsequent generation. This capacity is presented as having suddenly ruptured, or broken down, some time around or after the 1950s.
  • Stress mother=mother in law Key 1950’s experts – Hugh Jolly and Dr. Spock, also women’s magazines problem and advice pages Even as experts justify that they give advice, in part, because ‘granny’ isn’t doing her job any more, so they find that granny may actually still be giving advice, and it doesn’t always equal their own. And so warnings against the advice of grandmothers appear form the 50’s onwards.
  • Play 2 clips Evelyn 12 mins to 13.34 Peggy 17.35 mins
  • In this transcription Evelyn Struggles to care for the boys when Emma is in beauty college (although the camera tells a very different story to the narrator here, showing mother daughter and grandchildren resident together and granny involved in many ways, not only when mother is out of the house) its all too much for her, and as a result the boys walk all over her (therefore, they are not being ‘parented’ while in her care)
  • ‘ In many cultures of the world, a child is thought to embody the relationship between its parents and the relationship its parents have with other kin. The child is thus regarded as a social being, and what is reproduced is a set of social relationships. At the least, the child reproduces parents’ relational capacities in its own future to make relations itself, as often indicated for instance in marriage rules.’ (Marilyn Strathern, p294) There is no choice not to consume, but ‘ What is ‘extended’ is the choice to have children’ (Marilyn Strathern, p295)
  • One reading of these portrayals would suggest that a subtle, overall message is coming across that on the one hand childcare is mothers business only, in the process of actually carrying out the work, but decision making requires a father. If no father is available then this decision making role may then (possibly must then, if mother is under a certain age) be filled by a grandmother, as mothers decision making capacity requires just as much supervision as fathers nappy changing and baby feeding capacity does.
  • The Nuclear Family as Self Fulfilling Prophesy: Representations of Kin in TV Parenting Programmes

    1. 1. The Nuclear Family as Self Fulfilling Prophesy: Representations of Kin in TV Parenting Programmes
    2. 2. Kin within reality TV parenting <ul><li>Reality TV focuses on the nuclear family </li></ul><ul><li>Kin, particularly grandmothers, disrupt this portrayal – they are family, but not nuclear </li></ul><ul><li>They therefore disrupt and threaten messages about ‘normal’ family life </li></ul><ul><li>In response they are framed in passive terms by the programmes, neutralising and minimising their role </li></ul>
    3. 3. Reality Television Parenting Programmes
    4. 4. The Nuclear Family and Kin <ul><li>Sociology of kinship, structuring social relationships </li></ul><ul><li>‘ another funeral My brother's fiancee's father has died and the funeral is tomorrow in London. As one of the only members of the family in the country I feel rather obliged to go, so I'll be catching an early train tomorrow (the kind with standing room only), and then hopefully getting back […] in time to change….’ Livejournal post 17/4/08 </li></ul>
    5. 5. The Nuclear Family and Kin <ul><li>Sociology of ‘The Family’ </li></ul><ul><li>Centrality of the Nuclear Family Household as unit of analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Imbued with moral idealism of the right- ‘should’ and ‘ought’ versus ‘is’ and ‘does’ </li></ul>
    6. 6. The Nuclear Family and Kin <ul><li>Sociology of ‘families’ </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges hegemonic norms of heterosexual married couple as only valid family form, but </li></ul><ul><li>Still reinforces rather than challenges the idea of the nuclear household as key unit of society </li></ul>
    7. 7. Childcare advice <ul><li>Pre-dates the printed word </li></ul><ul><li>Uses any media available in a given society </li></ul><ul><li>Nowadays thought of as books or classes </li></ul><ul><li>Reality Television c. 2004 </li></ul>
    8. 8. Childcare advice as ideology <ul><li>Philosophical and religious tracts promote methods of raising children as part of ‘the good life’ </li></ul><ul><li>Science versus mothers – the need for advice </li></ul><ul><li>Eugenics – raising a healthy nation </li></ul><ul><li>Replaced by? </li></ul>
    9. 9. ‘ The end of the family’ <ul><li>The extended family is dead and buried? </li></ul><ul><li>The nuclear family is under grave threat? </li></ul><ul><li>Socialisation no longer happens in the home as it should? </li></ul><ul><li>‘ because there’s always issues there, drink, drugs, depression ’ (Meeting with community health worker, 2007) </li></ul>
    10. 10. A psychologist says… <ul><li>‘ Historically, parents learned about child-rearing methods and strategies from their own parents or from extended family members with previous parenting experience. … Presently, parents are more likely than ever to turn to professional experts, either by purchasing self-help books or by obtaining consultation services, when they want parenting advice’. (Sommers-Flanagan) </li></ul>
    11. 11. The Irish state says… <ul><li>‘ In the past, most western societies could claim a normal parenting pattern whether an extended family or community or nuclear family model. Many Western societies now report that their previous family ‘norms’ have undergone dramatic change’ (Best Health for Children report) </li></ul>
    12. 12. And a health promotion journal… <ul><li>‘ In traditional societies, parentcraft is another of the things to be imparted in the family context, the accepted pattern being handed down from one generation to the next, but for a variety of reasons in our industrial and technological age the traditional frame has been broken without any provision, at least west of the Iron curtain, of an adequate substitute’ (Royal society for the promotion of health 1973 p11) . </li></ul>
    13. 13. So what about the mother-in-law? <ul><li>‘ the ones who had little enough time for their own families or who successfully mis-managed their own children and are now straining on the sidelines wanting to have a go at the next generation’. (cited in Hardyment, 2007, p322-3) </li></ul>
    14. 14. What does ‘reality’ mean? <ul><li>Constructed texts, heavily edited </li></ul><ul><li>Following people acting for camera in an unscripted, relatively spontaneous way </li></ul><ul><li>Major debate about use of children </li></ul><ul><li>Audience responses may be less critical, closer to hegemonic readings. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Findings
    16. 16. Deviant families? <ul><li>Criticism of sensational style </li></ul><ul><li>Featured families structure is quite ‘normal’. </li></ul><ul><li>Supernanny 21 couples from 23 families </li></ul><ul><li>Irish version differs </li></ul><ul><li>Families in Trouble 3 couples, 3 single, one co-parenting </li></ul>
    17. 17. Additional kin featured <ul><li>Grandmothers Evelyn and Peggy </li></ul><ul><li>Uncle Thomas </li></ul>
    18. 18. Kin as Unimportant <ul><li>Supporting roles to allow narrators to speak over background visuals </li></ul><ul><li>Replaceable babysitters </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Susan’s father in ‘Honey We’re Killing the Kids’ </li></ul>
    19. 19. Kin as a problem <ul><li>Narration refers to kin as ‘problem’ even when they are not present (HTT) </li></ul><ul><li>More subtle, but still problematical, Evelyn and Peggy (transcription handout four) </li></ul>
    20. 20. Passive Kin – obstructing and incompetent <ul><li>Thomas and the ‘bold house’ </li></ul><ul><li>Threat of young working class male symbolically ‘removed’ from family setting by camera </li></ul><ul><li>Life is ‘better’ for Carlins when Evelyn is replaced by childminder </li></ul><ul><li>Peggy’s changes ‘the hardest thing she ever did’ </li></ul>
    21. 21. Passive Kin - Victims <ul><li>Parents ‘choose’ to have children </li></ul><ul><li>Grandparenthood (or Aunt or Uncle-hood, etc) not so actively chosen </li></ul><ul><li>Kin are presented as unfortunate to have these extra burdens lumbered on them </li></ul>
    22. 22. Kin and fatherhood <ul><li>Kin are less silenced when a mother parents without a father </li></ul><ul><li>Difference between grandmothers Evelyn and Peggy one example </li></ul><ul><li>Evelyn fills the ‘father void’ </li></ul>
    23. 23. So what is the father role? <ul><li>More established in existing literature </li></ul><ul><li>Baby Entertainer, Bumbling Assistant and Line Manager (Sunderland, 2007) </li></ul><ul><li>Carefully gender neutral language reinforces presentation of parenting = mothering </li></ul><ul><li>Granny can be seen filling same space </li></ul>
    24. 24. Audience Interpretation <ul><li>Role of different kinship positions are not the same as that of parents, and this is a good thing </li></ul><ul><li>Grannies get most attention </li></ul><ul><li>Granny’s job is to give unconditional affection without discipline </li></ul>
    25. 25. Granny’s Job <ul><li>They noticed that the job of granny as presented in the programmes was not the same as their idea </li></ul><ul><li>They were not critical of this </li></ul><ul><li>They were critical of the lack of discussion in programmes of when Granny’s job is hard </li></ul>
    26. 26. Audience Interpretation <ul><li>‘ It’s hard with Grannies. I have a friend, and the child came down, and the mother said, come and sit on my knee, and the granny said, no, I’ll take him, and the child ended up with the granny. </li></ul><ul><li>Because it’s hard, if your daughter is at home, you still mother her, so you mother her kids, but that’s not always right </li></ul><ul><li>They should show that more’ </li></ul>
    27. 27. Audience Interpretation <ul><li>-Well I don’t watch a lot of them now, but sometimes I see them and I never seen a grandparent </li></ul><ul><li>-I saw one and the wan’s mother was there. She lived on her own with the children, and she was helping her out in every way that she could, now. She was very good with her. </li></ul><ul><li>-They generally are, [Mary] </li></ul><ul><li>-She would give in to the child. She had to stop doing that, you see. </li></ul><ul><li>-The grandparents will give in to </li></ul><ul><li>-The granny or the </li></ul><ul><li>-The granny will give in to the child </li></ul><ul><li>-They will try the granny, because if they don’t get something off of you, they will get soft with the granny. That’s part of being a granny. </li></ul>
    28. 28. Other Kin <ul><li>‘ He must have felt awful when he was told he was doing wrong. Maybe that’s why he disappeared ’ </li></ul><ul><li>Audiences had little to say, but noted and showed discomfort at the ‘disappearance’ of male kin </li></ul>
    29. 29. Discussions and Conclusions <ul><li>Kin are minimised – their role is presented as unimportant or even threatening </li></ul><ul><li>Not unique to TV, started at least by the 1950s in parenting books </li></ul><ul><li>But reality TV intensifies issue, makes it unavoidable as discourse </li></ul>
    30. 30. Conclusion <ul><li>Most kinship ties symbolically eradicated </li></ul><ul><li>Tolerated if mother parents alone, whereby… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Kin support must be female </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mothers may gain assistance but never share responsibility (and a power struggle may be necessary to achieve this) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Strong audience acceptance, but mediated with some sense of loss, sadness, frustration and even humor </li></ul>
    31. 31. Conclusion <ul><li>Nuclear Family as self-fulfilling prophesy in Reality Television as in Sociology </li></ul>

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