Leave It to Beaver
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this classic, squeaky-clean 1950s sitcom is an icon of American pop culture. Although it's certainly dated in look and dialogue, many of its themes about growing up, sibling rivalry, social adjustment, and parent-kid relationships are still pertinent today. That said, the fact remains that it's a very isolated look at a white, American suburban middle-class family. Today's savvy school-aged kids may find it unrealistic, simple, or boring (the black-and-white cinematography alone will probably be enough to turn a lot of them off).
What's the story?
This classic sitcom follows the trials and tribulations of the Cleaver family -- little brother Theodore \"Beaver\" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers), older brother Wally (Tony Dow), and doting parents June (Barbara Billingsley) and Ward (Hugh Beaumont).
Is it any good?
Who doesn't respond to LEAVE IT TO BEAVER? It's post-war Americana at its prime and has had a huge following (perhaps even more than when in first aired in the late '50s and early '60s) for decades. Even today, the latest generation is getting to know and love the Beave, Wally, Eddie Haskell, thanks to syndication. At its core, Leave It to Beaver focuses on issues related to growing up and family relationships. While older kids may quickly tire of this clichéd family and their predicable plot lines, younger school-aged kids will probably relate to a lot of the storylines and may also enjoy getting a peek at the life in the late '50s -- the cars, the dress, even the dialogue.
The most obvious objection to Leave It to Beaver is that it represents the less-admirable values of its era along with the good stuff. The characters are almost uniformly white and well-off, and '50s gender stereotypes are out in full force: Ward works, and June stays home to take care of house and kids. That said, Ward does acquiesce to June and treat her as a partner in raising the boys; look past her pearls, dress, heels, and lipstick and you'll find a strong role model, decision maker, and problem solver.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the differences between life now and how it was for the Cleavers then (with the caveat that this was fiction then, too, and that most '50s moms probably didn't spend all day in a dainty dress and pearl earrings). Does the show offer a realistic depiction of family relationships? How are today's families different than the Cleavers? What's the definition of family today? Parents can point out the show's lack of minority characters and talk about the history of the post-WWII Baby Boom generation and how the Cleaver family exemplifies those times.