"Shame Yourself": 1950s American Television and the Discreet Disruptions of Gertrude Berg

Paul Babiak
2016 unpublished
This article undertakes a re-examination of the comedy of The Goldbergs-a popular American serial that made its start in the early days of radio and was then adapted to television in the late 1940s. Under the guiding hand of its creator, Gertrude Berg, and through the dominant character of Molly Goldberg, the archetypal Jewish mother, the show expresses a distinctively feminine subjectivity whose tacit contestation of the dominant mores of 1950s American society can be recognized in numerous
more » ... ized in numerous "discreet disruptions" that permeate the series' episodes at the levels of narrative, character and relationship, and performance style. The show's unique approach to comedy can be summed up as working to produce a particular quality of laughter: the laughter of "voluntary self-deflation," connoted by the Yiddishism "shame yourself."