The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Family pictures

Fifty years ago, we thought they looked like Leave It to Beaver, but it isn't and never was so black and white

Fifty years ago, black-and-white TV shows taught us about family. Mom contentedly vacuums in high heels. Dad's never too tired to put down the paper to offer his children advice. And children are infinitely respectful: If they blunder, they accept the consequences of their behavior cheerfully. These Leave It to Beaver families lived in neighborhoods surrounded by similar families.

But look closer at these "traditional" families and you find the picture wasn't altogether accurate: None were poor or represented cultures other than white and European. None produced an illegitimate child. Divorce was a word used in narrow fashion, as in, "Wally, please divorce yourself from those chores and go bowling with your friends." Given these holes in reality, did these "traditional" models ever truly define family?

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March issue

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