Corporal Punishment and Primetime TV

by Doug Snauffer

The subject of corporal punishment is seldom addressed on TV these days, but that hasn’t always been the case.  Television periodically changes to reflect society (or perhaps vice-versa), and the idea of paddling a child is pretty much taboo in our time, particularly on TV.  But back in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and even into the ‘80s, most fictional parents lived by the motto “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” At least that’s what TV producers wanted viewers to believe.

The issue was addressed — with a bit of a twist — on the CBS sitcom Family Affair.  In the episode “Love Me, Love Me Not” (12/5/66) young Jody (Johnny Whitaker) witnessed a friend being spanked.  8The boy’s father explained to Jody that he only punished his son because he loves him and wants him to behave and to stay out of trouble. This led Jody to question his Uncle Bill’s (Brian Keith) love since Bill had never paddled him.  His solution was a streak of bad behavior that would leave his uncle with no alternative but to discipline him. But Bill, being a relatively new and inexperienced father, was hesitant to resort to corporal punishment.

Brian Keith (left) and Johnny Whitaker in Family Affair.

Bill was eventually clued in to the cause of Jody’s bad behavior, and this time gave him a swat on the behind — with his hand, not a paddle — to which Jody responded with a big, satisfied smile. read article