Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Ideologies of (ABC) Family

In the article, "Ideological Analysis and Television" by Mimi White, White looks at television through the analytical eye of ideological criticism, exposing the intricacies in writing, producing, financing and even watching television. White states that when we sit down to watch television, we are sitting with the notion that we will be entertained (p 172.) The events that appear on the screen in front of us is not something we critically analyze (under usual circumstances), but rather something we just accept as "they way things are" in that particular situation. White reveals that while a "variety of perspectives and topics [are] expressed in a show, [they] are ultimately contained by dominant conventions and norms" (p 192). This can be seen in the relatively new ABC Family show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
The show revolves around the main character, a 15 year old girl, getting pregnant after having a one-night stand at summer camp. While you might think that even the mention of a teenager getting pregnant on television, much less a whole tv show centered around it, is fairly progressive for basic cable, the show is written and produced by Brenda Hampton (aka the woman who brought us the lovable god-fearing uber-family featured on 7th Heaven). So of course after this 15 year old girl gets pregnant, the subject of abortion is brought up for about 5 seconds before being completely ignored. The rest of the season revolves around her decision of whether she should keep the baby or put it up for adoption -- surprise, surprise, she keeps it. While Mimi White does speak of the ideological problematic and how it recognizes that there is not one specific ideology that permeates all of television/media, this specific outcome does seem to be more dominant than its alternatives. Other examples of television's (unwanted) pregnancies with little to no discussion of abortion include: Friends, Lost, Desperate Housewives, and 90210. In all of these series, different perspectives or solutions may be discussed but the solution is almost always the same. The woman who is faced with a pregnancy at a troublesome point in her life must birth the child and usually, keep it as her own. Thus, the dominant ideological view that abortion is not acceptable is naturalized by keeping the discussion to a minimum or writing it off completely.


  1. I recently learned that abortion is the most common surgical procedure in the United States, yet it almost never appears on television. One exception is in Sex and the City, where Samantha was mentioned as having two abortions and Carrie as having one, but when Miranda got pregnant she went so far as to schedule the appointment, and then backed out. An episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation that showed a character getting an abortion was banned in the US for three years.

  2. For as common as it seems this procedure is it seems like it should be televised more... I think that shows should stop being scared to write abortion procedures in because I feel that because it is so common, that more viewers could be able to relate to it, or at least identify with it.