The artefact selected for analysis from a Media-Centred Perspective is the Emmy-award winning sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” that originally ran on CBS from 1996 to 2005. The show often revolved around an Italian-American father, Raymond Barone, living with his wife, Debra, and his children consisting of identical twins and a daughter. However, he also lives across the street from his parents, Frank and Marie, and his brother, Robert, with much of the show’s comedy being the parents and Robert constantly reminding Raymond and Debra of their company, much to the frustration of the two. One of the reasons the show was successful was due to its ability to realistically portray dysfunctional families with humor and its attempts to relate with its viewers, especially when referring to the amusing banter between the characters that set frequently within both Raymond’s and his parents’ houses. From this point, the Media-Centred Perspective can be utilized to examine the ways in which the show communicates its positive messages about family and marriage to its audience (of around 25-54 years of age, which is the typical age bracket for parents).
The first of the four media effects perspectives we will study about the show is media logic, and it is slightly present throughout. Even though the show started more than fifteen years ago, the interior of Raymond’s house, more notably the living room with the furniture and the kitchen with its dining table and cooking appliances, still resemble that of a modern home today. In contrast, the house of Frank and Marie looks dated with old-fashioned wallpaper, antique ornaments and paintings nailed to the walls, a hanging corded phone and a wooden TV set that Frank regularly watches, reflecting Raymond’s parents’ old age and their relatively simple way of living, especially since Frank had retired. Viewers would typically not pay too close of their attention to Raymond’s house since the house looks like the sort of place a modern family today would live inside, thus the show portrays Raymond’s house as being normal, and most objects in his house as normal too. Conversely, we would see Raymond’s parents’ house as outdated for reasons described above, which contribute to media logic. In addition, the fact that Raymond works as a sports columnist for the real-life newspaper franchise Newsday supports commodification. Some could argue that the show is also engaging in product placement, but it should be noted that Raymond and his family live in Long Island, NY, and Newsday headquarters is situated in Melville which is a hamlet in Long Island, maintaining the sitcom’s realism.
The next media effect perspective has to do with the social learning theory and how we would behave based on observation of the show. Throughout the sitcom’s run, there have been many stories viewers have observed that typically involve someone or some people doing something that is considered immoral or inappropriate, and the consequences that eventually arise as a result of their wrongdoing. From these episodes, viewers can watch the outcomes that unfold as a result of acts that people would not want to do in real life to educate viewers about the cause and effect of possible karma such as lying, arguing and, in the case of the men on the show, laziness. This is especially important since this is a family sitcom that depicts what a standard, middle-class family could go through anytime in their lives, and due to the majority of viewers being within the age bracket of even the characters of the show, it is vital that such trials and tribulations of the Barone family be present to aspire viewers to model behaviors that are positive in nature and to avoid behaviors that condone negative actions. All the characters in the show are considered symbolic models since each has their own strengths and weaknesses. In the case of the main character, Raymond, he is quite shy and neurotic (even of Debra), which are stereotypically seen as feminine traits. From this angle, we can see that Debra is therefore more dominant and influential within the entire Barone family than Raymond, even if she is another housewife living with a man that likes sports and sex. Thus, this perpetuates an inflected oppositional reading from a feminine perspective because even though the show seems to support patriarchy citing Raymond being the worker and Debra being the caretaker, the gender traits seem to have switched, usually for comic effect. In this case, women would particularly want to model Debra since she seems to be the most sensible person on the show compared to the other members of the family. On the other hand, Frank is extremely masculine exhibiting outspokenness, stubbornness and resentment of his wife, Marie, although there are some moments when he does turn over a new leaf. His countless stories of his days as a war veteran during the Korean War and how he is ashamed that his son, Raymond, is not “manly” enough, shows that he maintains the “tough guy” persona, promoting masculine hegemony. Frank is definitely not a man viewers would want to model. So, from two different houses across the road, there are two different feministic perspectives within the show.
Parasocial relationships definitely exist in Everybody Loves Raymond. The bond of intimacy is also extremely prevalent in the show since the five main characters are the only main characters that we really cared about throughout the nine years of its run. Since the show models a typical American family, many viewers (who are also usually members of a typical nuclear family) can strongly relate with many of the onscreen characters and their apparent human flaws, which gets the audience to know the characters as if they were in their own family, in spite of the characters in Everybody Loves Raymond having no idea who is actually viewing their story. Realism, as described before, is also ubiquitous throughout the show since it showcases typical family problems – albeit a bit exaggerated – and their subsequent resolutions. Furthermore, each character has their own personality with strengths and weaknesses, which enhances the bond of intimacy and the show’s somewhat realistic portrayal of an American family. Because most of the episodes take place within the family’s homes, and we often get to observe what all the characters go through everyday, we get to know them personally like members of our own family, thus contributing to privacy.
Finally, the cultivation theory of Everybody Loves Raymond reinforces the fact that, stereotypically, the male characters of the family are lazy and childish (Raymond), aggressive (Frank) and emotionally confused (Robert), whereas the female characters are rational and hardworking (Debra and Marie). The progressive development of characters overtime may occasionally contradict the initial cultivation theory, but most of the show’s time on the air reflected the typical family behavior in the real world and that the two genders within the TV show have drastically different mindsets and perceptions about family, which can also be seen true outside the TV show itself.
Despite the frequent arguing between characters that pervades mostly every episode in the series, Everybody Loves Raymond serves a primary, positive purpose: to teach real-life families, especially parents, how to make their own lives better and how to increase the bonding with other family members – and, of course, reduce possible hostilities. In other words, the arguments between family members convey the “argument” of the TV show.
- “Everybody Loves Raymond (TV Series 1996–2005) – IMDb”. IMDb, n.d. IMDB.com, Inc. March 15, 2012. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115167/>
- TV Land. “TV Land Scores Highest Rated Quarter in Primetime in Five Years”. March 29, 2011. Web. March 15, 2012. <“http://biz.viacom.com/sites/tvlandpress/Pages/ShowPdf.aspx?FileName=TV%20Land%201q2011%20ratings.pdf&ListName=Press%20Release&ItemID=322”>
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