Blame the (single) mother.
The sociological theory by Raymond Pahl and Liz Spencer, Personal Communities: Not Simply Families of Fate or Choice argues that in contemporary life given relationships – those dictated by family or work – are no longer necessarily the priority in people’s lives. Instead, our chosen relationships – those we form freely with friends, for example - may have equal or more priority due to the high rate of divorce.
My research hypothesis is that single mothers particularly prioritise chosen relationships more so than given relationships in contemporary society.
Popular TV series that have a single mother as a main character, such as Murphy Brown; Absolutely Fabulous, The Gilmore Girls, Desperate Housewives and most recently Cougar Town, have been produced over the past three decades, and appear to reflect this social shift in contemporary life. The exegesis part of the Doctorate will explore the representations of the single mother and her chosen relationships in these television programs. One question to be explored here is whether the programs offer a positive reinforcement of this change in priorities, especially for that part of the audience who are single mothers.
In addressing this research hypothesis and to fulfill the literary journalism aspect of the Doctorate (25,000 words) I am interviewing four single mothers, using the qualitative methodology of purposive sampling. Each woman has been chosen because her life situation resembled that of the main character of each of the aforementioned shows, and was watching the show during the era in which it premiered. The aim here is not to make any grand claims about the effect of these programs on all single mothers, but to examine how these women interpreted the representation of life situations similar to their own, and especially their response to seeing positive portrayals of chosen relationships on screen. What role did these shows play in their lives? And were there resonances with the importance of chosen relationships in their own lives?
For the literary journalism component of the DArts, I am greatly influenced by Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. I intend to weave the single mothers’ stories in a multi-linear structure over a set time period, and if possible, reference the shows above so there is ultimately a cohesiveness to the overall doctorate. The actual stories I am yet to finalise but I am working towards relationship focused narratives that reflect the above research.