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TV History: The Honeymooners

by Christine Becker

This clip was uploaded for an assignment in Prof. Christine Becker's FTT 30461: History of Television class at the University of Notre Dame in Spring 2017. Check the commentary dropdown menu for a student's analysis of the clip.

Jonathan Hayes on "Mama Loves Mambo"

by Christine Becker

When looking at this clip of The Honeymooners, one is able to notice the main character Ralph is a white blue collar irritable man whose statements and gestures accurately display what the 1950s was like. The domestic comedic sitcom highlights the journey and everyday situations that Ralph and his wife Alice undergo. Through the selected clip individuals are able to watch how Ralph engages with his wife in addition to the expectations that he sets out for her. This clip also touches on the social context and audience of 1950s television. The show alludes to much more disputed ideas of racism, sexism, and comedy. However, the clip shows a heighten sense of sexism and what is means to be a man. This scene is important because it gives one a scope back into the 1950s, a period of white dominance and a period of when all men were dubbed as the primary providers and expected women to follow a certain pattern of domestic behavior.

World War II had just ended and many families were recovering from the aftermath, many families were doing well. It had been known as the boom era, because more babies had been born, improving economy, and establishment of suburban families. The 1950s was a time where many privileged american citizens visioned peace and prosperity to come regarding war and economics. The civil rights movement was another notable part of the 50s. Television didn’t endorse the Civil Rights movement, but instead hinted at the racial, socioeconomic, and sexist problems within society through scripted sitcoms such as the Honeymooners.

The show allowed for white collar individuals could relate to Ralph and Alice’s love and hate for each other and coop with their own day to day problems. This show also manages to raise eyebrows regarding gender roles and would not be a show that would be accepted in current times. This is to say that times have changed and sitcoms created in the 1950s were able to get away with certain jokes because the jokes scripted had truth to it and served as the norm. This was pure 1950s comedy, the show had significant viewership because of its storylines and blue collar characters.

Within the clip, Ralph is aggravated with his wife because she has taken time to learn a new dance, than cooking him a nice warm meal. Alice touches on women’s rights and Ralph dismisses her notions because he sees his view as the truth. He is heard saying, “We won’t discuss it anymore. Your mambo days are over. If you want to wiggle, wiggle over to the stove and get my supper.” He also seen the scene blaming their neighbor Carlos who is dubbed as a gentlemen as the reason he is not receiving his hot meal from his wife. Ralph believes that Carlos’s way of treating women is giving his wife and other females foolish expectations for men. Alice just wants Ralph to be more appreciative and compassionate toward what she does for their family on a regular basis and Ralph states, “I forgot that you’re a woman? How could I? You’re always yapping. What do you mean I don’t treat you like a woman?! I let you clean, I let you sow, I you clean, I let you wash the windows, I let you clean up. Boys don’t do that Alice.” Then he goes on to thank her for all she done and yells to her, “Now go get my supper”. The audience in the background is heard laughing throughout the scene, because Ralph’s irritability and ignorance was satirized, the satire that the show has created offers truth to the social context of the 1950s and the gender roles given to men and women.

It is clear that Ralph is the breadwinner and he asserts himself as so. He just like many other men in the 1950s saw themselves as the breadwinners of the family and their wives as the maintenance of the house. Audience members enjoyed Ralph’s character because his irritability was obnoxious, but hilarious. He was a man in the 1950s who saw the female gender as housewives and he felt that everything revolved around him. This scene is an accurate representation of what one can expect to come across on the television in the 1950s. Discourse about gender role and sexism wasn’t at it’s highest point, but it was mentioned through domestic sitcoms. It was satirized and emphasized in a way that had many individuals question the problems that existed while others saw it as the normal and necessary role for men and women.

- Written by Jonathan Hayes

"Mama Loves Mambo," The Honeymooners

This is a clip from the episode of The Honeymooners entitled "Mama Loves Mambo," Episode 23 of Season 1, which first aired on March 3, 1956, on CBS.

from The Honeymooners (1956)
Creator: CBS; Frank Satenstein, Writers: Marvin Marx, Walter Stone
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Christine Becker