Abstract

In this article I examine ways of narrating social issues affecting families and perceptions in changes to lived family structure. I argue that the drastic decrease in the number of married couples living with parents-in-law has not seemed to mitigate the historically fraught relationship between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, which remains an emotional touch point. This can be seen in the circulation of public discourses about this relationship. Rather than focus on the exact reality of these shifting prioritizations of affective weights, this article examines the ways public discourse (print media, TV dramas) about family relationships intersects with people’s real-life experiences with family. The extended family represented in the weekend television drama Life Is Beautiful showcases a laundry list of important contemporary social issues: divorced and remarried families, eldercare, homosexual relationships, etc. Although increasingly separated from actual co-residence, the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship gains resonance in public discourse and comes to stand in for other familial relationships.

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