Research Assessment. Representations of Families. Shortland Street, The Simpsons

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Research Assessment. Representations of Families. Shortland Street, The Simpsons

The families portrayed in New Zealand’s medical soap drama Shortland Street, and Matt Groening’s satirical cartoon, The Simpsons, display dominant messages and values associated with the family unit, and explore the issues that arise surrounding its role in people’s lives.

Both texts consider the importance of the unity of the family and its effects on the individual members. When the Hudsons first arrived on Shortland Street they displayed strong traditional values of a nuclear family and emphasised communication, later changing when Te Hana falls for another man. When married, both Te Hana and Joe took their role as parents very seriously treating their children, Mihi and Tama, positively and with respect, which in turn gave their kids security and self esteem. The family always took time to sit down for dinner and showed a keen interest in each other’s lives. Consequently, they functioned as a whole, providing security and belonging. Mihi and Tama talked to their parents about anything. eg. Mihi confides in Te Hana her feelings for someone she liked and asks advice. Mihi values the togetherness of her family and how she identifies with them. When her parents separate and she moves in with the Heywoods, she is disappointed they don’t sit down to family meals. Adam, Marshall and Barb are incredulous when they find her about to prepare a meal.  “What are you doing?”  We see a close up of her observing them scoff fish and chips in front of the television, and recognise the displacement she feels without her family. However, after the separation this value of communication and the idea that family should be there to support you is still conveyed. Tama and Mihi retain their close relationship.  Mihi asks Tama’s advice about how she should react to Marshall’s behaviour. “Mihi, why are you trying to change him now?”

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In comparison to the Hudson’s traditional family values the Heywood’s family is dysfunctional, and reflect the increasing trend of single parents and broken homes in society. Barb, a single mum, does not have a parental relationship with her sons, such as that of Te Hana’s or Joe’s, rather they are her friends. Barb’s priority is having a good time, and she tends to reject the traditional idea of responsibility that being a mother brings. Marshall, the youngest at 17, does not expect her to tell him what to do and she doesn’t. Whilst they care about each other, they ...

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