Silver Screen Artists

Leave it to Beaver: Understanding the the Portrayal of Family Values, Today VS Yesterday!

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Do the family values depicted on television several decades ago still exist, and do they hold value for Americans in today’s high tech world? Yes! The classic half-hour comedy “Leave It to Beaver” entertained a wide audience in the United States between 1957 and 1963. The show starred Hugh Beaumont as Ward Cleaver, a wise  and knowing father; Barbara Billingsley as his wife and soul-mate, June; and Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow as the couple’s two sons: Theodore (nicknamed “the Beaver”) and his goofy teenage elder brother, Wally.

Viewers watched the Middle Class Cleaver Family responding to a variety of contrived domestic issues every week. The episodes tended to center around the exploits of the innocent and sometimes mischievous youngest son. Beaver on occasion disobeyed his parents and teachers. His relationship with his sibling sometimes devolved into bickering. He frequently made foolish mistakes after ignoring the sound advice of trusted elders. For example, having been cautioned to take care of his belongings, Beaver lent his bicycle to another child who misappropriated it. He caught a frog, and tried to keep it as a pet. He engaged in numerous pranks, blunders and mishaps- many of them humorous.

Today, Americans still watch the adventures of the Cleaver family in re-runs. Compared with modern productions, the tame language, the general uprightness and decency of the central characters and the naivety of the situations they encountered in Suburbia, appear somewhat idealistic. Critics may rightfully point out that the “white bread” world of the Cleaver household does not reflect the genuine demographic diversity of the USA today. And the role of women in society has changed significantly. In this era, June Cleaver would probably spend less time working as a housewife.

But for several reasons, the series possesses a timeless quality: First, in many respects, from a creative standpoint, the show demonstrates quality. Classics gain exalted reputations for a reason and some very talented people contributed to Leave It to Beaver. Second, the value system depicted in Leave It to Beaver forthrightly expresses the views of millions of people today. While Beaver sometimes stumbled, he adhered to a system with inherent integrity. His parents wanted him to tell the truth, to respect the rights and dignity of himself and others and to develop his potential in a positive and constructive manner. Many people around the world share those goals.  

Third, in an era without community censorship, when programs often depict scenes of horrendous, shocking violence and depravity, a show with a moral message underlining most episodes offers a refreshing alternative. If Leave It to Beaver portrayed a saccharine global view, as some critics might imply, much of the programming today offers a far too stark alternative. Impressionable children in particular require noble role models. How else can they learn to esteem a high standard of personal conduct? The concerned and supportive family depicted on Leave It to Beaver presents a kinder world in terms of the respect accorded to each individual. Beaver’s parents, older brother, friends and neighbors cared about him as an integral part of their lives. That type of supportive environment offers stability to children and thus holds great value in an era of stunning and often unexpected global and technological changes. (SOURCE: pitlane.com)

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