Thursday, December 10, 2009

Did Ozzie and Harriet Exist?

Posted by Michele Olson
If you are not of a certain age, I first have to explain to you what Ozzie and Harriet represent. There was a TV show that ran from 1952-1966 titled: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. It starred the real life Nelson family – husband and father Ozzie Nelson and his wife singer Harriet Nelson and mother to their young sons. (Ever hear Garden Party by the late Ricky Nelson? This was his life before music fame.) The hit became a picture of what was considered an ideal American life in the 1950s. It’s also the marriage standard that we often long for in today’s microwave society.

But are we remembering correctly?
Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and author of the 2005 book Marriage: A History, says it's "questionable" that marriages of the Ozzie-and-Harriet era were any more stable than those today. In the '50s, "divorce was harder to get, and there were fewer economic options outside marriage," she says.

In her book Stephanie shows the changes marriage has gone through from times past when women were socialized to obey the man, when no one even expected to marry for love. Dr. Dorothy Marcic of Vanderbilt University in reviewing the book said: “Back then, marriage was for economic and social reasons and family and society kept a couple together. Now we expect to marry for love, but as Coontz shows, love is the most fragile part of the equation. Thus, it has meant a change in how we see marriage, a change in behaviors. Not only do we expect emotional intimacy, but women (in Western societies, anyway) are more equal than before. And so marriage continues to evolve. Coontz also shows how robust the institution of marriage is: try to think of many other institutions that have survived for thousands of years. She also gives honest--and personal--insights into the difficulties of sustaining a happy marriage, as well as the rewards. Consider that married couples in Western countries are generally better off emotionally, economically and are healthier than couples living in other types of arrangements.”

So although we saw a huge rise in the divorce rate since the 1950’s we may not be looking at the story behind the statistics. With access to marriage preparation and marriage education at an all time high, perhaps our future will tell a better story than our past when it comes to thriving healthy marriages. At the very least, we can each do our part in our own relationships.

What do you think…have we idealized an era ? Did Ozzie and Harriet truly exist?


M. Denise Wilmer Barreto said...

Great post

As is the case in most scenarios - we don't know what went on when the "cameras were off". I think about the Lucy show that starred Lucille Ball her real life husband Desi Arnaz and how much I loved them only to be so shocked to get a picture of what their lives were really like when the cameras weren't rolling.

It is very easy (and very American)to idealize situations to fit our expectations and desires. Your post which sites the research about how marriage has evolved certainly points to the possibility that no era is without its issues.

The only era we can affect is the future state of marriages and partners like are on the right track. said...

Great point M!
Let's affect what we can, which starts first with our own relationships. Thanks for blogging!

Anonymous said...

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