Children's Television Throughout the Decades (1950-2016)

Children's Television Throughout the Decades (1950-2016)

Background

 

Children's television has long been debated for both its educational benefits and also for it's detrimental effects. Understanding the structure of children's television will give us insight into how children's television is beneficial or negative for the viewer. We are looking to critically analyze these shows to determine how children's television has changed over time and how it affects its viewers. To study the structure of these shows, we analyzed one episode of seven different shows over seven decades (1950-2016) and looked at:

  • General Show Details
    • Animated vs. Live Action
    • When the show ran
    • Other relevant information
  • Characters
    • Gender
    • Race
    • Stereotypes
    • Morals
  • Show Content
    • Educational or entertaining
    • Show Genre
  • Historical Background
    • What was going on at the time (wars, political events, trends, etc.)
    • School Policies during show's run
    • Cultural norms of the time

Popular Children's Shows 1950-2016

 

For our research, we analyzed one show per decade from 1950-2016. Our shows were selected based on their popularity and overall rating. Our analyzed shows are as follows:

Decade Show Title Rating*
1950's The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse 7.8/10
1960's The Jetsons 7.0/10
1970's Sesame Street 8.2/10
1980's Reading Rainbow 8.5/10
1990's The Magic School Bus 8.0/10
2000's Spongebob Squarepants 8.1/10
2010's The Powerpuff Girls (2016) 6.8/10

 *All ratings courtesy of IMDB.com

Show Analysis

 

1950's: The Mickey Mouse Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Details:

  • Live action
  • Black and White
  • Ran from 1955-1996

Characters:

  • All caucasian
  • All characters are joyful and well mannered
  • Characters display healthy and culturally appropriate morals for the time

Show Content:

  • Entertaining
  • Variety Show
    • Singing, dancing, skits, etc.
  • Made to embody vision of Walt Disney

Historical Background

  • School's still mainly segregated
  • Brown vs. Board of Education (1955)

 


 

1960's: The Jetsons

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

General Details:

  • Fully animated
  • Ran from 1962-1988
  • Hanna-Barbera Productions, also responsible for The Flinstones and Scooby Doo.

Characters:

  • Traditional nuclear family
  • All caucasian
  • All characters heavily stereotyped
    • Bumbling dad, airheaded secretary, hotheaded boss, trophy wife, ditzy teenage girl, etc.
  • Characters display questionable morals
    • Drinking, smoking, gambling, etc.

Show Content:

  • Non-educational
  • Slapstick comedy
    • Kicking robot, drunk robot hiccuping, etc.

Historical Background

  • Made during Cold War, specifically during the space race
  • Visible optimism for how science could positively impact quality of life in line with cultural attitude of the 1960's
  • 1961: First fully automated subway line opens in NYC. This episode of The Jetsons featured George (the father) losing his job to a robot

 

1970's: Sesame Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Details:

  • Live action with puppetry
  • Ran from 1969-Current

Characters:

  • Children of all races
  • Puppets
  • Frequent visits from celebrities of all genders and races such as Stevie Wonder 

Show Content:

  • Educational
  • Music / Singalongs
  • Number and Phonetic Exercises

Historical Background

  • Environmental movement beginning
  • First Earth Day recognized
  • First home personal computers manufactured

 

1980's: Reading Rainbow

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

General Details:

  • LIve action
  • Documentary Style
  • Ran from 1983-1999

Characters:

  • Host: LeVar Burton
    • Young, black male
  • Stories include:
    • Various cultures and races
    • Children of various ages and ethnicities

Show Content:

  • Educational
  • Viewers are guided through a series of stories by host LeVar Burton
  • Stories are always tied together through a theme such as a certain culture, period of history, event, etc.

 

1990's: The Magic School Bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Details:

  • Animated
  • Science Fiction
  • Ran from 1994-1997

Characters:

  • High energy, postive attitudes
  • Miss Frizzle: teacher who guided her students in inquiry based science lessons
  • Inquisitive, multicultural students

Show Content:

  • Educational
  • Fictional adventures on a "Magic School Bus" delves into real life science facts

Historical Background

  • Hubble Telescope launched into space
  • End of Cold War
  • Internet rises to prominence
  • First cloned mammal

 

2000's: Spongebob Squarepants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Details:

  • Animated
  • Ran from 1999-2012

Characters:

  • Mostly male characters
  • Diversity portrayed via many different kinds of sea creatures
  • Exaggerated Characters
    • Stingy boss, donut eating police officers, etc.

Show Content:

  • Entertaining
  • Show amuses and entertains with underlying themes of friendship and honesty
  • Slapstick comedy
  • Morals: Spongebob is guided by his intention to be friendly and helpful to everyone

Historical Background

  • Digital media on the rise
  • Spongebob Squarepants came out the first year Napster appeared (first major music download service) the way we are consuming media is starting to change.

 

2010's: Powerpuff Girls (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Details:

  • Animated
  • First episoded aired 4/8/2016
  • Reboot of show from 1997

Characters:

  • Female centric
  • All caucasian
  • All characters heavily stereotyped
    • Hippies, Meat-loving men, etc.
  • Main characters part of superhero team that must work together

Show Content:

  • Entertainment
  • Slapstick comedy
  • Morals:
    • Teamwork, balance, emotional understanding, mindfulness

Historical Background

  • This is a girl centric show being produced in a time when Feminism and Gender Equality are at the front of the social consciousness
  • The way we consume media now is largely digital and on demand, episodes are available to stream online

 

Interview

 

Conclusions

Television has evolved throughout the years by always reflected the cultural values present at the time. Teachers can use television in their classrooms as a tool to relate to students, as well as to supplement their learning experience through the engaging medium of television. 

Resources 

 

http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/

http://www.pbs.org/teachers/stem/

https://www.readingrainbow.com/