Monstrous Outsiders: Inequality and Prejudice in “The Munsters”

Alan Corley
7 min readAug 12, 2020

The American television landscape of the 1960s was one that had become increasingly white and WASPish. Though early shows showed some diversity, such as The Goldbergs, (NBC & CBS, 1949-1956) which featured the home life of a Jewish family and touched on topics such as experiences with assimilation while maintaining links to their roots, networks were focusing programming to appeal to WASP viewers, resulting in shows that reflected “white, middle-class and conservative” (Tredy)¹ America; this shift occurred during the expansion of television access across the country, leading networks to create content that would appeal to such an audience. Despite this trend, programming was dotted with shows that subverted expectations, such as the eccentric Dark Shadows (ABC, 1966–1971). One of these shows was The Munsters (CBS, 1964–1966), a series infused with subtext and commentary on both civil rights and diversity in America during the 1960s. We see this clearly very early on, in the third episode of the first season: A Walk on the Mild Side.

Aftermath of riots that erupted in Detroit following a police operation (taken July 25, 1967)

Culturally the 1960s was a decade of severe contrast. Despite its reputation as the decade of love it was also a decade of profound change and clashes between conservativeness and liberalism. America was brimming with tensions between the white majority and both the immigrant and African American minority. Diversity in television at this time was low, as “disparate sectional assumptions about what counted as acceptable racial representation on television produced conflicts” (Torres)², slowly the development of visibility.

Premiering a week apart, The Addams Family and The Munsters featured similar premises, being satires of what the “dull WASPcoms were presenting elsewhere as the ideal American family” (Tredy). Despite their similarities, they were more marked by their differences. Aside from being a more visually gothic work, replete with cobwebs and heavy shadows, The Munsters was a more subversive creation, stemming from the placement of the titular family within the working class, whereas the Addamses were eccentric and independently wealthy. The Munsters stand in for the ideal American…

Alan Corley

Usually writing about old movies — BA English & Drama — MPhil Film Studies