An American Family

From Academic Kids

An American Family is television's first documentary-style reality show, shot in 1971 and aired in the United States on PBS in 1973. The show was 12 episodes long, edited down from about 300 hours of footage, and chronicled the experience of a nuclear family, the Loud Family of Santa Barbara, California, going through a divorce. The parents had five children and one of them, Lance Loud, was a gay 20-year-old man who occasionally wore lipstick and women's clothes and took his mother to a drag show in episode two of the series. Scholars sometimes mention that Lance came out of the closet on TV, but this is technically incorrect—he was simply gay without announcement or drama; his family says that they had known for quite a while. As such, Lance was the first openly gay character on television and has become something of a gay icon.

On airing, the show drew 10 million viewers—phenomenal viewership for PBS in 1973 (or even presently)—and drew considerable controversy.

In 1983, PBS broadcast American Family Revisited; and in 2003 PBS broadcast the show Lance Loud, shot in 2001, visiting Lance and his family again at Lance's request: Lance was 50 years old, had gone through 20 years of addiction to crystal meth, and was HIV positive and dying of Hepatitis C.

As seen in An American Family, the members of the Loud Family are:

  • William C. (Bill) Loud (born 1923)
  • Patricia (Pat) Loud (born 1928)
  • Lance Loud (19512001)
  • Kevin Loud (born 1955)
  • Grant Loud (born 1956)
  • Delilah Loud (born 1958)
  • Michelle Loud (born 1960)

Reference

  • An American Family: A Televised Life, Jeffrey Ruoff, (University of Minnesota Press; 2002) ISBN 0-8166-3561-7

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