Tropes are used in the media to depict a person or thing in a way that is universally understood. Many times, a trope correlates to a certain stereotype, such as the dumb blonde, the hardworking husband, or the corrupt boss. Tropes are used in all forms of media, as characters and symbols that the viewer immediately recognizes. Through my research of tropes, one that particularly stood out to me was one of the typical housewife. Although this trope really came to be universally recognized during the 1950s, the ideal image of a woman running the home, and being devoted to her husband has been around for hundreds of years and continues to be relevant today.

     The first image I chose to study is a still from the show Mad Men. This image is of a solemn woman standing in a kitchen smoking a cigarette. She is very put together, from her hair to the way she dresses, most likely looking beautiful to please her husband’s male gaze. She has a sad, distant look on her face. The kitchen is clean, and looks typical of the 1960s. From viewing this image, one can immediately tell that this woman is a housewife. Her location, in the kitchen, contributes to this interpretation. In the past, it was a common conception that a woman belongs in the kitchen, cooking for her husband and family. The look on her face is not happy, as she looks regretful and reflective, possibly questioning her role as a housewife in society. Mad Men is a show created in 2007, but it is set in the 1960s, a time when it was typical for a wife’s one job to be dedicated to her husband. This image attempts to depict the trope of a happy housewife in a more accurate light. Whereas 1950’s-60’s media may have shown housewives as content to their position, this still from Mad Men shows a wife who, in a moment of solitude, seems to be extremely unhappy. The colors in this image may also have an effect on the way we view the housewife trope. Instead of the bright and cheery colors often associated with housewives, this still is drenched in darkness, giving the scene an even more melancholy mood. This trope really represents the inner thoughts of a housewife, how she may actually be depressed about her life, and not just her happy outer appearance.

     The second image I chose depicts the housewife trope in a far different light than the Mad Men image. This image is the cover of an issue of the comic Blondie. The illustration depicts a typical nuclear family, with the father on the couch while his wife is serving him and his children nag him. The image is comical, with the whole family wanting something from the dad, while he is trying to relax, but is unable to with all the action around him. The father has a thought bubble above his head imagining his money flying away when he spends it on his family, while his wife is simply thinking about a new hat. The scene is very bright and colorful, giving the whole image a lighthearted feel. In this cover, the housewife trope is representing the wife as an almost thoughtless creature, spending her time serving her husband and thinking about shopping. Her character here is an archetype housewife, whose main purpose is to be a good wife. The imagery of her money making husband sitting while she stands serving him helps to highlight her housewife status even further. Like the Mad Men image, the wife is very put together, with her hair done and wearing a nice outfit. However, she looks very joyful to be serving her husband, unlike the woman from the first photo, who seems depressed. Her character overall in this cover represents a woman who is only skin deep, putting her husband above all else, with her interests in shopping coming in at a close second.

     A full discussion about the housewife as a trope would not be complete without incorporating a 1950’s advertisement. Ads during this time were drenched with the stereotype that a woman’s job in life was to cook and clean to keep her husband happy. The ad I chose was produced sometime during the 1950s, and shows a woman receiving a vacuum cleaner as a gift, and appearing to be overjoyed by the gesture. The woman isn’t as dressed up as in the previous images I chose, however, her hair is still done and she is wearing a pretty pink robe. The text in this advertisement contributes to the woman’s housewife position, as it talks about how receiving this vacuum would make cleaning the house easier for the wife, essentially pleasing the man in the end. The ad is clearly directed to women, specifically housewives, as it immediately assumes women are the only ones doing the cleaning in the relationship. This ad, as most ads in the 1950s, uses the housewife trope to sell their cleaning and kitchen products, as it was almost universally agreed upon that these were a housewife’s job, and they need to take care of their husbands above all else. This ad uses the trope to represent how women should be dedicated to her man, by giving her a gift that doesn’t really benefit her but makes keeping a clean house for her husband easier.

     Although the traditional ideas about a woman’s place in society have been changed, the trope of the dedicated housewife is still easily recognizable. In all of these images, we see a beautiful woman in the natural habitat of a housewife; in the kitchen, serving coffee to her husband, and receiving a vacuum she can use to clean the house. These are all things associated with the housewife stereotype and contribute to the trope of a dedicated housewife that is still prevalent today.


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