1952 December 8

“I Love Lucy,” But Just Don’t Say She’s ‘Pregnant’

 

On the I Love Lucy show, Lucille Ball was actually pregnant, and this fact was incorporated into several programs. CBS Television officials initially ordered that a pregnant woman could not be shown on television and that the word “pregnant” could not be used. After consulting with some religious leaders, CBS relented about the pregnancy, but not the word. Instead, Lucy was described as “expecting.” The title of the show, “Lucy is Enceinte,” comes from the French word for pregnant. The following week’s show was titled “Pregnant Women Are Unpredictable,” but the title never appeared on screen. Go to January 19, 1953, for the birth of “Little Ricky.”

The entire affair was a classic example of the repressive culture of the 1950s regarding anything dealing with sexuality (but see the book cited below on how it all changed by the 1970s). The television industry adopted a self-censorship code on December 6, 1951, modeled after the Hollywood Motion Picture Production Code. The first known instance of television censorship occurred on May 27, 1944, when NBC cut off Eddie Cantor singing “We’re Having a Baby, My Baby and Me.”

See an excerpt from the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQtjSm9p-hA

Learn how television changed: Elena Levine, Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television (2007)

Learn more about the changing status of women (and sexuality) in the 1950s and early 1960s: Stephanie Coontz, A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s (2011)

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