English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: english1102

Examining the Role of Women in the Labour Force According to the Ideals of Fresh Off the Boat

Within this episode, Jessica attempts to leave her life as a stay-at-home mom behind and join the workforce as a realtor. However, after her first attempt at the realtor licensing exam, she realizes that re-entering the workforce will be a much tougher nut to crack than she originally believed. One of the main challenges Jessica struggles with is her inability to accept the fact that she was a stay-at-home mom and has to cope with the struggles of others like her who have difficulty entering the work force. The difficulty within switching between the roles of motherhood to worker have long been a key issue in the battle for women’s equality within the labor market.

Jessica often aims to be the best at what she does, but she gives up easily when she faces opposition.

As the episode continues Jessica pretends to have earned her realtor license so as not to lose the respect of her husband, family, and friends and struggles with the concept of heavy competition within the workforce and her desire to avoid the label of stay-at-home mother. After hiding from her family and friends to pretend to be working she realizes that she will only be fulfilled once she has begun to work and is able to compete with the other realtors in the area.

Naturally this transition is one that must be balanced while Jessica maintains her duties around the home. It is her responsibility to both maintain her children’s grades and academic standing as well as to cook and clean around the house, which places a large amount of strain on Jessica. Due to her desire to work hard and to be better than everyone else however, she is able to overcome these barriers and maintain a healthy work-life balance that is often strained when beginning a new career. This episode highlights the difficult transition of women into the labour force as well as the rough odds of a woman being successful in the labor force when burdened by a family.

Expecting the Unexpected

The episode I have chosen to write about this time is episode eleven in the first season of Orange is the New Black: Tall Men with Feelings. In this episode, lots of dynamic changes occur in the plot, ones that drastically shift the situation of various characters and leave the viewers shocked. The main theme presented in this episode is that no matter how deep one may be committed to something, one should always be prepared to experience change. Not only will that person face unexpected adversaries, but he/she will learn more about themselves that they will realize.

An example is present when Piper did not realize Larry her fiance, knew that Alex her old lover was in the prison indeed and that Piper was having an affair with this woman who she previously loved. Piper found out when Larry appeared on the radio talk show and the whole prison tuned in. Larry made oblivious side comments about Piper’s secret personal situation in the prison, and when Piper realized, she confronted Larry over the phone about this unexpected situation. Ultimately, this led to them to temporarily breaking up at the end of the episode and Piper realizing that her anger towards Larry should be instead directed towards herself, as she let Alex intrude in their relationship and ruin the dynamics of everything.

Another example is when Dayanara, a fellow inmate of the prison, had an affair with John Bennett, a guard who had mad feelings for her. Dayanara loved him too, and accidentally got pregnant, in turn trying to have sex with the creepy hated prison guard in order to place the blame on him instead of officer Bennett. However, unexpectedly, other people in the prison found out about the situation and attempted to intervene, making Dayanara’s relations much more complicated than it originally was.

The point is, the theme conveyed in this episode is to expect the unexpected. The show writer does a superb job of creating these dramatic life-like events that are so relatable yet deep so that the audience is able to connect with the show on a deeper level.

The Unexpected Couple of Dayanara and Officer Bennett

A New Safety, Scenery, Screwdriver

For this blog entry, I will be focusing on the cinematography of the episode “Imaginary Enemies”. In this episode, there are a lot of major plot twists and surprises. Piper is struggling especially adjusting to prison life, she seems to be at a low point, hallucinating, but is pulling through day by day. We get a glimpse of Piper’s new roommate Mrs. Claudette and her backstory of how she got here. At first, Piper was afraid of Mrs. Claudette as a result of her serious demeanor and brevity to call out whoever she likes. Mrs.Claudette is well-known for her seemingly wise personality and courage as a person. Piper’s issue with the screwdriver and constant memory loss suggests her mental health may continue to decline and suffer as the show goes on. One of the inmates Mercy has gotten an appeal accepted for her case and was released at the end of the episode, creating a flush of emotions and change throughout this entire plot. This helped the prisoners see that there is possible hope in their cases, and to never give up.

With the cinematography, scenes in the prison were shot pretty blandly. There are numerous long takes when focusing on a specific person’s important commentary, likely shot to help viewers concentrate more on each individual’s traits and details they contribute to the overall plot. However, in the midst of sensitive scenes dealing with racism or stereotyping where the details aren’t as important to the whole plot, I noticed that there are much more quick cuts and switches to different parts of the environment.

A large detail noticed in this episode is the lighting of various scenes. In the prison scenes, the lighting was dull and it was clear enough to see items clearly and distinguish faces easily, yet it was obvious those scenes weren’t well-lit or anything like that. On the other hand, in the scenes where they throw it back to Mrs.Claudette’s past, the house present in the scene was extremely bright, and immediately lightened up the mood of the plot. Also, in Mercy’s farewell scene at the end of the episode, the lobby room was unusually more lit up than the other scenes in the prison. I believe the screenwriter intentionally did this to signify two different scenarios and that emphasize the fact that although all of these women are dangerous and potentially bad characters, the portrayal of these scenes reminded the viewers that the women had a previous happy life and the actions that led them into where they are right now(prison) are not necessarily just.

Boo with Piper’s stolen screwdriver

The Prevalence of Gender Stereotypes in Australian Television

Peer Reviewed:

  1. Gender Stereotypes in Advertising on Children’s Television in the 1990s: A Cross-National Analysis

Beverly A. Browne (1998) Gender Stereotypes in Advertising on Children’s Television in the 1990s: A Cross-National Analysis, Journal of Advertising, 27:1, 83-96, DOI: 10.1080/00913367.1998.10673544

In this journal, the author conducted a study aimed at exploring the presence of sex role stereotypes in children’s television advertisements and media. This study compares the areas of Australia and the United States, and in the past, several studies have shown that gender stereotyping was consistent in television advertisements in the 1990s, however results recently have shown that these specific gender portrayals are less prevalent in current television commercials in both the U.S. and Australia. It was found that although stereotyped body language is equally present in both countries, gender roles, voiceovers, and credibility have higher consistency with traditional stereotypes in United States commercials rather than Australian commercials. Despite this, gender stereotyping was overall found similarly between both countries, it was concluded Australian commercials tended to include more equal male-female ratio in advertisements. Also, Australia less often made girls shy or passive, and boys aggressive or directive. This source is highly useful for the project because it provides evidence for answering our research question and aligns directly with our goal, which is to compare gender stereotypes in television across the world; this source closely compares Australia and the United States.

  1. Journalist and Source Gender in Australian Television News

David J. Cann & Philip B. Mohr (2001) Journalist and Source Gender in Australian Television News, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 45:1, 162-174,DOI: 10.1207/s15506878jobem4501_10

This journal explores the occupation of journalism and its relation to gender in Australian television/news. Throughout history, journalism has been thought of as a mainly male dominated occupation; women who desired to join this field were often discriminated and looked down for trying. Although the ratio now has evened out more and the expectation is no longer that a reporter is always male, a week-long study of five Australian television networks showed that males were overall over-represented in the categories of presenters, reporters, and reliable sources. On the other hand, women were seen dominating the lower-frequency and lower-ranked topics, indicating a clear contrast with gender roles. This showed the author that even though women are increasingly participating in the field of journalism and television, figures of authority still appear to remain men; male reporters usually get the more important and viewed stories to cover. This source is very useful because it gives readers a glimpse of how gender roles are exploited in the news/journalism area of television, and will allow the group members to compare the conclusions and statistics with those of other countries.

  1. Gender then, gender now: Surveying women’s participation in australian film and television industries

French, L. (2014). Gender then, gender now: Surveying women’s participation in australian film and television industries. Continuum, 28(2), 188. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/1509454380?accountid=11107

This article discusses women participation in Australian television and film. According to the author, women are considered minorities in this field(concentrating on creative roles) and statistics have shown decreasing participation, causing under-representation. Gender inequality is seen as a consistent part of Australian employment: women on average earned 16 less cents each week than their male workers in similar fields. The author states that women in Australia have played vital roles in developing the television industry and increasing confidence in creativity for films. However, comparing this survey with a survey done in 1990/1991, women have not made much progress in the feature film area and the percentages indicate an actual decline in women’s participation, presumably discouragement and employment security in the area currently. A conclusive statement made by the article is that women are clearly a potential source of innovation for the film industry, thus this case is worth further investigation because it can lead to companies being more gender-inclusive in the near future. This source is useful for our project because it provides evidence that women are once again, under-represented in the film industry in Australia, and that although improvement over the years is seen, there is still the possibility of women receiving equal opportunity in comparison to men.

  1. Gender role stereotyping in australian radio commercials

Hurtz, W., & Durkin, K. (1997). Gender role stereotyping in australian radio commercials. Sex Roles, 36(1), 103. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/1308098752?accountid=11107

This article dives into gender role stereotyping in specifically Australian radio commercials. It has been shown multiple times that American television remains to embrace the traditional male and female roles and attributes of each gender. A study was done for Australian commercials: advertisements were randomly recorded from three popular radio stations and were looked into. The results determine that females and males indeed are displayed differently in these radio commercials, and that these differences once again, represent the traditional gender stereotypes that Western commercials embody in American commercials. Males represented 78% of central characters in commercials, while females represented a mere 22%. Males were the central authorities and had most influence and females were shown as dependent figures and users. This study confirms the continuation of gender role stereotyping patterns. It is useful for our research because it explores the gender roles of another area of media in Australia, this time being radio commercials. This source gives us a similar perspective seen in other areas of television, that women are portrayed as less influential roles and under-represented in yet another area of media.

  1. Sex role stereotyping in australian television advertisements

Mazzella, C., Durkin, K., Cerini, E., & Buralli, P. (1992). Sex role stereotyping in australian television advertisements. Sex Roles, 26(7), 243. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/1308100802?accountid=11107

This article talks about sex role stereotyping in mainly Australian television advertisements. Throughout history, television has been constantly scrutinized for biases in gender roles and including traditional gender role content, with males being intelligent and having most of the power/influence while women are shown as passive and subordinate. The author makes it clear that television is prominent as mass media and can serve as major pervasiveness in both attitude formation and socialization, linking the fact that equal portrayal of gender can change mass views and culture of television. A sample of television advertisements was grabbed from popular television and discussed by the researchers. This study indicated that men and women were clearly portrayed in align with the traditional sex-role stereotypes. 74% of central characters were men and 26% women. It was concluded that Australian television commercials overall conform to the classic criticized patterns of gender stereotypes present in Western television. This article provides support of gender differences in the Australian television industry, not just children’s television, which will help further answer the research question.

Non Peer Reviewed:

  1. Gender equity debate in film and TV divides the industry

Neill, R. (2018). Gender equity debate in film and TV divides the industry. [online] Theaustralian.com.au. Available at: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/gender-equity-debate-in-film-and-tv-divides-the-industry/news-story/1e85312b0ce8fde6b84fdf7d75c7a70f [Accessed 20 Sep. 2018].

This article works at discussing the gender equality debate in film, proposing that it is in fact creating differences within the industry. It talks about one industry being Screen NSW, not providing funding or participation for all-male panels. Several collaborators have secured funding for a recent film Ladies in Black, featuring a female-dominated cast. The author after continues to discuss the history and background of gender discrimination in the film industry, saying that female filmmakers in the past have been hindered by traditional stereotypes ranging from primary caretaker roles to male screenwriters dominating the decision-making process. Neill at the end, concludes that the debate is not necessarily going for separatism in the genders, but rather equal collaboration by both counterparts because gender should not divide workers, but unite them as a whole to create consistently better films. This article is vital for our research because it delves into the background information of gender discrimination and gives many examples of past films that support the argument. Also, it proposes a possible solution of equal collaboration and not female domination in this industry, and creates a foreseeable future if recognition by all filmmakers take place.

the story about a little guy that lives in a blue world

The first episode of Fresh off the Boat is about as provocative as one can get when it comes to social issues for POC and immigrant families in the US. The writers of this show certainly aren’t scared to put their opinions and experiences out there, I mean Eddie Huang even named the main protagonist after himself. I thought Arvin’s commentary about the irony of the title was interesting too, essentially remarking that the family isn’t really fresh off the boat (from China or anywhere), but really from D.C., a markedly American town… and by saying ‘American’, let’s be perfectly clear that I mean all kinds of Americans. Chinatown very much being included. For that reason, I felt that Arvin’s observation shone a riveting spotlight on the theme of the storyline: that all people, background and skin color aside, are equal, but are treated as if they aren’t.

Image result for cardi b sipping tea gif

uh oh…racism? *sips tea*

Personally, I enjoy the way that Eddie Huang brings us this theme. He doesn’t do so in a condescending or stark manner, but rather uses comedy, like Eddie’s quirky obsession with Nas, or the use of slang by the stereotypical ~cringy~ dad, plus a very stereotypical accent as the cherry on top. Because this theme is so provocative, especially in today’s political climate, the comic relief more effectively communicates Huang’s side of the story. As Eddie says as he’s preaching his life plan to his parents at the dinner table, he’s taking “a seat at the table” in a conversation far larger than himself or the show. By representing this Chinese American family as the focus of the story, and really by daring to tell their side of the story, Huang not only communicates the theme but tells it through a lens of respect and empathy which makes his message more tender and approachable.

Image result for fresh off the boat gif

and so is this theme, @Eddie

If we’re really honest, we all know people get treated differently, whether you lie on the side of privilege or not so much so. Overall, I have already really attached to the characters. I enjoy them. And I enjoy their story. The one with less privilege, the real one, the awkwardness, and the struggle. This theme, so clear yet so delicately presented, is still very much present and poignant in Fresh off the Boat. And so far, I’m diggin’ it.

Image result for i love it gif

i <3 fotb

Works Cited:

Huang, Edwyn. “Fresh off the Boat.” Season 1, episode 1, Hulu, 2015.

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