CLASSICAL GAS -
TITULAR DOMINANCE IN I LOVE LUCY
The relative societal prominence accorded to male and female American marriage partners is contrasted for the period 1951 to 1957. Relative esteem is derived and quantified from data contained in historical records.
During the 1950's many Americans observed and kept detailed notes of their
neighbors' activities. The records concerning two such families were examined.
One family, the Ricardos, consisted of a husband, Ricky, and a wife, Lucy.
In 1953 they became the parents of a son, Little Ricky. The second family,
the Mertzes, consisted of a husband, Fred, and a wife, Ethel. The data for
both families was examined. The data was in the form of episodic descriptions
of important and/or embarrassing incidents in the families' lives. Each
episodic description was summarized by a descriptive title;
we computed the number of times each individual was mentioned (cited) in these titles.
NOTE: The data is organized by academic year, rather than by calendar year.
1951-52: 35 episodes, 16 citations
Lucy: 9 (56% of citations)
Ricky: 4 (25% of citations)
Fred: 1 (6.3% of citations)
Ethel: 2 (12.5% of citations)
1952-53: 31 episodes, 17 citations
Lucy: 12 (70.6% of citations)
Ricky: 4 (23.5% of citations)
Fred: 1 (5.9% of citations)
1953-54: 31 episodes, 17 citations)
Lucy: 6 (35.3% of citations)
Ricky: 6 (35.3% of citations)
Fred: 2 (11.8% of citations)
Ethel: 3 (17.6% of citations)
1954-55: 30 episodes, 11 citations
Lucy: 4 (36.4% of citations)
Ricky: 4 (36.4% of citations)
Fred: 1 (9.1% of citations)
Ethel: 2 (18.2% of citations)
1955-56: 26 episodes, 17 citations
Lucy: 14 (82.4% of citations)
Ricky: 3 (17.6% of citations)
1956-57: 26 episodes, 24 citations
Lucy: 14 (58.3% of citations)
Ricky: 2 (8.3% of citations)
Fred: 1 (4.2% of citations)
Ethel: 1 (4.2% of citations)
Little Ricky: 6 (25% of citations)
Historians have tended, wrongly, to see the period 1951-1957 as a sociologically dormant era. It was in fact a time of turbulent, dynamic upheaval in the United States. As the data make clear, the period began with women playing a dominant role in community life. During the middle years, men assumed near parity with women. By the end of the era, though, women had regained - and indeed surpassed - their their original level of dominance. A close examination of the data pertaining to Ricky and Little Ricky further indicates that by 1957, adult American males had lost prominence to such a degree that their positions in society were being usurped by young children.
Andrews, Bart, Lucy & Ricky & Fred & Ethel: The Story of "I Love Lucy," Dutton, New York, 1976
1] A citation of "the Ricardos" was counted as one citation each for Lucy Ricardo and Ricky Ricardo. After Little Ricky Ricardo was born, a citation of "the Ricardos" was counted as one citation each for Lucy, Ricky, and Little Ricky.
2] A citation of "the Mertzes" was counted as one citation each for Fred Mertz and Ethel Mertz.
3] A citation of "Little Ricky" was NOT counted as a citation for Ricky.
4] A citation of "Ricky" was NOT counted as a citation for Little Ricky.
5] During final year of the study, neither Fred nor Ethel Mertz was cited
individually. They were cited (and counted here) once each only because
the 1956-57 data contained a citation of "the Mertzes" ("Lucy
Misses the Mertzes", February 11, 1957).
Because of the paucity of data pertaining to the Mertz family, the results concerning Mertz data are statistically less significant than the results concerning Ricardo data. The overall trend is clear, however.
6] During the final year of the study, Little Ricky Ricardo rose to prominence. His father Ricky was never cited individually that year. Ricky was cited (and counted here) twice only because the 1956-57 data contained two citations of "the Ricardos" ("The Ricardos Visit Cuba," December 3, 1956, and "The Ricardos Dedicate a Statue", May 6, 1957). It is possible that the family's anonymous (and likely unsuspected) chroniclers simply lost interest in Ricky as his sociological importance waned.
© Copyright 2002 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)