Home > #3, Media grammar > That 70s Show creates stereotypical 70s subtexts

That 70s Show creates stereotypical 70s subtexts

That 70s Show is a sitcom, comedy show that is supposed to personify the lives of teenagers growing up in the culturally explosive and rebellious period of the 70s.  The show follows six high-school kids from the made-up town of Point Place, Wisconsin.  The point of view of the show is through the eyes of these rebellious rock n’ roll-loving teenagers that (supposedly) shows the fun-loving side of the 70s: drinking beers, smoking marijuana, listening to rock and cruising around in the car with friends.  The audience expects this fun-loving part of the show because many of these viewers grew up in the 70s and find the show to be a fond reflection of that decade.      

Print media, such as the NY Daily Times and CNN.com have ran stories about the ending of the show and where the actors are now.  The show debuted on the Fox network in 1998, but since then it has aired on many other broadcast and cable outlets, such as ABC Family and MTV.  

The ambiance of the 70s is definitely over stereo-typed in this show.  Although the “love generation” culture was a big part of the 70s, not everywhere in the USA were going through the same revelations of the 70s as Point Place is in the show.  Many of these stereo-types insinuate certain subtexts in the show that, while obvious to the viewer, are also what make the show appealing to those viewers.

For example, a reoccurring theme that happens throughout the show is the presence of “the circle” which is a technique the producers use to reenact the marijuana smoking circles that were part of the 70s culture.  Although it is not out-right stated that the kids on the show are smoking marijuana, it can be assumed by their behaviors and the presence of smoke in the scenes.  This habitual act in the show plants a subtext that marijuana smoking is ok and that rebellious teenagers have been doing that for decades. 

Even the music that is played in the show is categorized as the “hippie rock” music of the 70s, with lots of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Alice Cooper.  However, I think that this use of older music (while essential to the context of the show) puts a limit on the show’s connectivity with the online environment.  Many shows now-a-day feature songs by new artists that can be found online through the TV network’s website to a link to the artist.  Since 70s music is in the past and doesn’t belong in the context of the internet, there is not really any way for the audience to connect interactively online.  But this could also be because the type of people that are drawn to this show (baby boomers all grown up?) don’t find themselves intrigued by the interactivity of TV shows through multiple types of media like younger generations are.

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Categories: #3, Media grammar Tags: ,
  1. tessdoez
    January 15, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Based on the popularity of this show and how many seasons it ran, don’t you think that it’s possible that the audience drawn to the show was a bit more diverse than just baby boomers? How did the show actually bring together the nostalgia of the 70’s while also appealing to audience members who were born much later on?
    Can you give a more in-depth analysis of how elements of the show, such as “the circle,” are part of its unique grammer? The circle and other unique devices contribute to the audience’s understanding of the culture and enjoyment of the show, making the audience feel as if they are in on a “secret.” These structural elements could also be a clue as to why the show appeals to a greater range of age groups than just those alive in the 70s.
    Good job pointing out the subtext that the use of marijuana is harmless.

  2. tessdoez
    January 17, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Your blog contains several spelling and grammatical errors (e.g. recurring and stereotype). Please revise and repost for credit.

  3. amymnewman
    February 3, 2011 at 2:24 am

    Hey Tess,
    I reposted the rewrite under the same title with “rewrite” at the end. Thanks for your comments!
    ~Amy

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