English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #gender (Page 3 of 4)

Cookie Pouches and Feeling Sticks

As I mentioned last week, New Girl often flips the script on traditional gender roles.  Episode 4 of New Girl centers around Nick’s issues with his body image, an idea traditionally associated with girls and their eating disorders.  Hardly ever do we see men in media feeling insecure about how they look or their weight.  In this episode, Nick is “delicate like a flower” and incredibly self-conscious about his body weight and image after Jess points out his cookie “pouch” where he keeps his extra cookies.

Jess being oblivious, Nick being sensitive

Throughout the episode, Jess is the person in an aggressive/assertive role, trying to get Nick to talk about his feelings, while Nick is generally on the defensive and avoids the conversation topic.  Nick is also passive in that he doesn’t act until he is forced to when someone else acts.  This situation flips the power dynamic in which men are the ones who are aggressively pursuing something while the women are either passive or defensive, just like how Nick only talks to Jess when confronted and finally shows aggression by breaking the feeling stick when Jess gives it to him.  However, there is little to no initiation from Nick to act until Jess corners him to talk about feelings, and he then just tries to escape the situation as fast as possible.

A similar power dynamic is seen with Amanda, his coworker at the bar who Nick has been trying to hook up with.  At one point after another frustrating attempt by Jess to talk about his feelings, Nick shuts her down by saying that what he wants is “meaningless sex”.  When Jess disagrees, Nick insists that he does because he is male (that is, because he has a “bing-bong and chickadees”).  Yet when Nick tries to do so with Amanda, the one who wants to take it slow is the guy with Amanda asking Nick almost derisively about wanting to cuddle.  In traditional portrayals of women in media, they’ve been the people who want to slow down the relationship because it’s going too fast with the guy pressuring them into something they’re not ready for, while the guys have been the ones unsatisfied with mere cuddling that has romantic rather than carnal connotations.  In Nick’s case, he’s the one who is insecure and shy, such as when he’s awkward about taking his shirt off before sex, while Amanda is confident in her body and is going after what she wants.

While presented with the classic New Girl humorous flair, this episode brings up important issues about how body image issues shouldn’t be gendered, and New Girl helps to dispel this stigma and the more general problem of confining gender roles.

Gender in Jessica Jones

The gender spread in Jessica Jones is pretty even, but it probably edges towards more women. The main protagonist, Jessica, is a female, and the villain, Kilgrave, is a male. The other main characters on the show are Trish, Jeri, Pam, Malcolm, Will, and Luke Cage with the first three being female and the last three being male. Jessica Jones even features mental disorders such as OCD and a main character, Jeri, who is lesbian. The show definitely focuses more on female characters overall, but that is mainly due to the main protagonists being women. The show focuses on Jessica struggling to overcome and defeat an old enemy, Kilgrave, with the help of  a few friends. We see Jessica struggling in both her private and public life as it is thrown around by Kilgrave. However, the show also takes breaks to show the hardships of other characters such as Malcolm with his heroin addiction, and Luke with losing his wife.

Jessica Jones Characters

From what I’ve watched so far, the main characters making tough decisions are mainly Jessica, Malcolm, Trish, and Luke with most of the other characters just reacting to what happens and following orders. Jessica Jones definitely focuses more on women making the main decisions and driving the show than men, which is a nice switch up for a change.  This is important because most TV shows have men as the driving characters in the show who make all the decisions. It is important to show how women have to make tough choices and decisions on television.

Jessica Jones shows a lot more women in higher classes than men. A lot of women characters are very successful in jobs such as TV star, law firm owner, and doctor. The main male characters don’t have it as nice with them being a struggling heroin addict, small bar owner, and police officer. This show does a very good job of showing career women in television in high up jobs in society.  There is also a very big emphasis on mental illness in Jessica Jones with Jessica, Luke, and Will all having trouble with PTSD, and Jessica’s upstairs neighbor having extreme OCD.

Overall, Jessica Jones features and focuses on slightly more women than men, but does a very good job in representing multiple genders, races, and mental illnesses.

Power Play: Women Can Do It All

The Bold Type tends to turn gender representation into a battle of the sexes. Episode 6 is a perfect example of this.

There always seems to be a power struggle between women and men. This image represents that struggle.

Women make the decisions that matter while the men end up being the ones ignored even when they have valid points. For example, Sutton misplaced a valuable pendant that she borrowed from a fellow assistant of another company. Richard, Sutton’s forbidden lawyer boyfriend, advises her to come clean about the missing necklace strictly based on his legal expertise. Sutton ignores his advice, and Richard is left watching things unfold from the sidelines. Because this is a TV show, everything falls in to place so that Sutton gets back the pendant and is vindicated in her decision to dismiss Richard. If this were real life where things don’t always work out so rosily, not taking Richard’s advice would likely have been a tremendous mistake. The show glosses over these kinds of alternatives because women are right and men are wrong. Although I am all for women empowerment, the show could afford to work a little harder to strike a balance between how each gender is represented. Within the same episode, Kat is on a rampage to “take down the patriarchy” through a free the nipple social media campaign. She justifies her actions as fueling women empowerment and breast cancer awareness, but with Jacqueline’s wise words, she realizes that her fight was less about the cause and more about winning. Kat’s actions were stemmed in her need for control. Everything really comes down to power.

When I searched girl power, and this image came up, I knew that The Powerpuff Girls would be the perfect representation of the girls in The Bold Type. Sutton is Blossom. Jane is Buttercup. Kat is Bubbles. No further discussion is necessary.

Kat, Sutton and Jane make many impactful decision that affect the course of their individual lives and the supporting characters around them, but Jacqueline is a sun so massive that its impossible for them to escape her gravitational pull. Although Jacqueline exudes power, the looming male force of the executive board eclipses her power. In spite of the limitations of her control, no one can question that Jacqueline is the boss. Often times women in such positions of power are seen as cold, calculating and bossy which aligns with what Jane says to Jacqueline in a fit of fury.  Jacqueline invites Jane to see the other side of her which is when the show reveals that Jacqueline has a husband and two sons. Typically such a thing wouldn’t serve as a twist or a surprise in any capacity, but in all the preceding episodes Jacqueline was only shown as the woman in charge. The show establishes Jacqueline as a boss first and a wife and mother second as a weapon against gender roles. In traditional gender roles, women are supposed to be wives and mothers first otherwise they are neglecting their families for their careers. Being a good mother and wife and being a career women are not mutually exclusive. Jacqueline is a boss at work and at home. Likewise, every episode Jacqueline somehow manages to be the girls’ biggest critique and biggest cheerleader which just goes to show women can do it all.

This clip is not from the particular episode I describe in this post, but I think it perfectly sums up Jacqueline’s mindset as a boss.

Selected Sources on Gender Representation in News Media

All citations are in MLA 8.

Cranford, Alexandra. “WOMEN WEATHERCASTERS: Their Positions, Education and Presence in Local TV.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 99, no. 2, Feb. 2018, pp. 281-288. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0317.1.

Alexandra Cranford’s peer reviewed article examines the educational divide between female and male weathercasters. She establishes her argument by detailing the history of the “sexy weather girl” stereotype in the United States, and supplements that with data which show how men receive significantly more screen time and credibility in American television media. Cranford thoroughly explains the methodology of her study, which entails analyzing biographies of over 2,000 weathercasters, both male and female. Results showed that of those surveyed, there were significantly less female weathercasters on air with meteorology degrees than males (52% and 59%, respectively). From the data, Cranford concludes that male weathercasters are receiving the majority of “prime time” evening TV slots as compared to females, who in contrast mostly reported in the weekends and mornings. Cranford includes colorful graphics to visually illustrate her findings throughout the article. While the study presents well sourced quantitative analysis, the findings seem lacking, and this study would best be used alongside supplemental sources.  Discussion of the causes of the discrepancies implied future studies to explore sexist hiring practices, educational obstacles, and the influence of social media on weathercasters.

Ross, Karen. “Women, Men and News: It’s Life, Jim, but Not as We Know It.” Journalism Studies., vol. 19, no. 6, 2018, p. 824. 

This source by Ross, Boyle, Carter, and Ging uses the 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) report to analyze gender representation in news outlets across the England, Wales, Scotland, and the Republic of Ireland. The study, while not based in the United States, provides valid and usable data from economically and socially comparable nations. Analysis of the GMMP provides reputable data, as it is the longest running longitudinal study on gender representation in media at a global scale. It reported that overall, less women are sourced for stories than men, but their numbers are increasing since 2010. The report also found that women reported more on “soft” subjects like art and pop culture over “hard” subjects like health and politics. Qualitative analysis shows that gender stereotyping is rampant in the newsroom, both on and off air. This source accurately represents reputable data, a the GMMP is a worldwide measure of media representation. However, the report is orchestrated by a religious organization, so data may be presented with a faith-based spin.

 

Elmore, Cindy. “Recollections in Hindsight from Women Who Left: The Gendered Newsroom Culture.” Women & Language, vol. 30, no. 2, Fall 2007, pp. 18-27. EBSCOhost, prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=29324836&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Elmore’s 2007 paper, although already 11 years old, remains a strikingly relevant exposé on the stressful reality of being a woman in a news network. The study, actually conducted in 2003, was conducted through a series of interviews with 15 women of different backgrounds who all decided to leave their journalism careers behind. Elmore found that the participants faced exclusionary culture perpetuated by a male dominated newsroom. The interviewees also explained that women in the newsroom needed to feign masculinity and emotional apathy in order to navigate the male-dominated environment. These women also faced discrimination in terms of the stories they were allowed to report on and the sources they could interview. This source, although quite old, presents a compelling argument for the case of women in television news. Despite the sample size being relatively small, the source does a great job of humanizing the issue. Rather than women’s feelings being portrayed as a series of statistics, each woman’s personal experiences are woven throughout the article. This is a very usable source as it adds an element of humanity to my research.

 

Wagner, Laura. “Megyn Kelly Is Leaving Fox News To Join NBC News.” NPR, NPR, 3 Jan. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/03/508046088/megyn-kelly-is-leaving-fox-news-to-join-nbc-news.

This source, although short, makes an important point about the obstacles women in the newsroom face, particularly sexual harassment. Wagner describes Megyn Kelly’s departure from Fox News following her allegations of being sexually harassed by her former boss, Roger Ailes. The article describes one of the factors for Kelly’s switchover to NBC News being their offer of greater screentime. Although quoted as “one of the network’s biggest stars,” the article still explains that Kelly’s departure from Fox was voluntary, as the network offered a large sum of money to get her back, only to be faced with her refusal (Wagner). Similar to Elmore’s 2007 paper, this article presents a particular case of a woman choosing to leave her job at a particular news network over gender-related biases. Although not peer reviewed, the source reports on primary accounts of information, including a Facebook post made by Kelly herself. It is also published through NPR, a nationally funded public news outlet, so the reporting can be presumed objective.

 

Taub, Amanda. “The #ManPanel Problem: Why Are Female Experts Still so Widely Ignored?” Vox, Vox, 16 Mar. 2016, www.vox.com/2016/3/16/11245454/manpanel-problem-female-experts-ignored.

Taub’s article explores the source bias in news media. It explains how often times, panels of “experts” in televised news broadcasts are comprised of majority men. Additionally, sources in published forms of news media, such as electronic news outlets, are heavily biased towards men as well. Studying her own reporting, Taub found that only about 25% of her sources were female. She outlines reasons for the discrepancy, emphasizing society’s inherent bias towards men in positions of power and organizations’ promotion of senior officials, the majority of which are men. The article also explains the “confidence gap” and how many women in fields of study choose to self-censor in order to be taken more seriously in a male-dominated field. Therefore, the majority of experts on any subject will automatically be men, as women are confined in what they publicly say. This source, while well written, is still heavily subjective, so direct data from it will need to be cross referenced with other more objective sources. However, the article does provide several sources it cites embedded into the text, so it can be used as a tool to facilitate further research.

 

Taub, Amanda, and Max Fisher. “If Only Quoting Women Were Enough.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Feb. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/insider/interpreter-gender-bias-women-experts.html.

This article by Taub and Fisher does not particularly concern gender bias in television news. It does, however, explain that citation of female sources and inclusion in written articles is not enough to boost female representation in news media. The piece explains the institutional barriers that women face in fields of study and how they are at a disadvantage in men in every measure when trying to become an “expert” in any one field. Additionally, the study explores how women are quoted sparsely by media outlets, as it is difficult to extrapolate a complete story from the limited number of female sources on any given topic. Again, while this source does not directly examine gender bias in cable news networks, it does delve into a deeper issue that is still perpetuated by these organizations. Taub and Fisher’s work can be used as supplemental background for data sets provided in studies regarding coverage of female sources. Ultimately, while this source does not hit the target dead center, it still provides valid and useful information about gender biases in media.

 

Gender Representation (or Lack of) in TV Advertising

Ember, Sydney. “For Women in Advertising, It’s Still a ‘Mad Men’ World.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 May 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/business/media/for-women-in-advertising-its-still-a-mad-men-world.html.

While my group’s research question is centered around gender representation in international television advertising, this article provides insight into the people behind the scenes who are responsible for the advertisements that broadcast on TV and includes testimonies of women who are starting out in the industry and of the scant few who have reached the executive level.  Sexism continues to exist very prominently in the advertising industry, which has its influences on the gender representation in advertisement.  These advertisements reflect their creators, which are usually white men.  While there have been some improvements over the years in the industry, the article ultimately ends less optimistically, noting that there is still a lack of collective action taken to correct gender bias or even completely address it because of how deeply entrenched and aggravating the issue is in the advertising industry.  The lack of gender representation in the advertising industry translates to the lack of gender representation in the actual advertisements because of the lack of female voice in the process and development of the advertisements.

 

Peer reviewed sources:

Luyt, Russell. “Representation of Gender in South African Television Advertising: A Content Analysis.” Sex Roles, vol. 65, no. 5-6, 2011, pp. 356-370. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/880032319?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0027-0.

Luyt uses data from the study to support the hypothesis that there would be differences in gender portrayals in South African television advertisements that reflect the traditional societal roles.  South Africa provides an interesting environment for the study because of its long-standing racial inequalities that intersect with other social constructs, such as gender.  Luyt found that males were presented as dominant and the primary focus, while females were subordinate and often sexualized.  However, the author also points out that the data and current trends point to a gradual shift in the status quo that would require additional research.  Some results I found interesting were that females in the advertisements were often young adults, while males were often on the older side.  In addition, in comparison to males, females were more often portrayed as middle or upper class, as well as white.  The article presents a strong, evidence-based argument about the gender inequalities present in South African television advertising that possibly contributes to the preservation of societal norms about gender roles.  As a result, the article ties in nicely with our research question regarding gender representation in international television advertisements, both in comparison to each other and to the United States.

 

Michelle, Carolyn. “Co-Constructions of Gender and Ethnicity in New Zealand Television Advertising.” Sex Roles, vol. 66, no. 1-2, 2012, pp. 21-37. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/912293673?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0067-5.

This source presents information about the stereotypes in New Zealand television advertising regarding both gender and ethnicity.  One of the reasons I chose this paper was because of the intersectionality it presents with gender and ethnicity in New Zealand television advertisements.  Much like most other countries, New Zealand has its share of ethnic conflict and diversity.  Through the study, Michelle presents evidence that white people dominate advertisements and are often overrepresented, with gender affecting the type of advertisement, fitting with stereotypes about traditional societal roles.  While Maori/Pasifika men were stereotyped as athletes and sales workers, Maori/Pasifika women and Asians overall lacked representation in these primetime television advertisements.  While the study had some hypotheses supported, such as women being underrepresented as main product representatives, the data shows that overall gender and ethnic stereotypes remain prevalent in New Zealand television advertising.  The results from the study indicate how stereotypes continue to reflect traditional social hierarchies in New Zealand.

 

Mwangi, Mary W. “Gender Roles Portrayed in Kenyan Television Commercials.” Sex Roles, vol. 34, no. 3, 1996, pp. 205. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1308098639?accountid=11107.

This paper has an interesting departure from previous results with there being roughly equal numbers of women and men as main characters in television advertisements, as well as equal numbers of women and men depicted with occupations.  These characteristics are generally seen with the television advertisements of more developed countries, which provides a unique comparison with other African countries and with other countries that are culturally and politically different as well.  However, the advertisements still displayed confined, traditional gender roles for men and women.  Once again, women are more likely to voice-over advertisements for household products and are presented as more passive.  Women were also confined to four choices for jobs that reflect the traditional and ideal occupations for educated Kenyan women and tend to have an absence of men in these occupations.  As mentioned before, these results reflect those of developed countries in which television advertisements have increased their number of women as main characters but still largely confine them to traditional gender roles.  As with other studies in this annotated bibliography, the author stresses the importance of advertising, especially on television, in the formation and perpetuation of stereotypes and barriers to gender equality.

 

Nassif, Atif, and Barrie Gunter. “Gender Representation in Television Advertisements in Britain and Saudi Arabia.” Sex Roles, vol. 58, no. 11-12, 2008, pp. 752-760. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/225368430?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9394-6.

This paper covers a comparison of gender representation in television advertisements from Britain and Saudi Arabia.  This study fits well with our research topic because of the intercontinental comparison of two countries that vary vastly in political climate, social norms, media freedom, etc.  A trend with the studies is that women in these television advertisements are often younger and generally portrayed in domestic roles or related to household items.  These stereotypes are seen more prominently in Saudi Arabia’s television advertisements, although they are still present in British advertisements to a smaller degree.  As with Kenya, there was not a significant difference in the proportion of lead roles held by men versus women across both countries, but stereotypes cropped up when it came to roles, such as occupation, as well as the type of product being advertised.  These differences are more evident in Saudi Arabia’s advertising, partly because of the male-dominated society in which women are seen as in need of guardianship.

 

Nelson, Michelle R., and Hye-Jin Paek. “Cross-Cultural Differences in Sexual Advertising Content in a Transnational Women’s Magazine.” Sex Roles, vol. 53, no. 5-6, 2005, pp. 371-383. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/225366068?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-005-6760-5.

While this article covers differences in female representation in Cosmopolitan magazines across countries instead of differences in television advertising, the study provides interesting data about the role that culture and politics play in the representation of women in media.  The study covers seven countries, Thailand, China, Brazil, U.S., India, Korea, and France, that range in their political culture and social norms, which influences the representation of women, especially their sexuality.  The East Asian countries, China and Korea, had the lowest percentage of nudity, likely reflecting traditional Confucian values, while Thai and French advertisements had the most.  The results for Thailand were a surprise for the researchers because of the authoritarian regime and prominence of religion, though the openness of Buddhism toward feminine sexuality, such as including prostitutes, likely contributes to the unexpected results.  Western models featured in magazines from the other countries were also generally portrayed with more sexual imagery, while domestic models were more likely to be associated with products more closely related to the domestic sphere, such as household products.  With Cosmopolitan being a Western-based magazine that has now spread because of globalization and the subject of the study, there can be conclusions drawn about how these different variables are interacting in this world that is becoming increasingly smaller because of these interconnections among countries that lead to homogenization while also enforcing cultural differences.

Gender Inequality Within The News

Bernt, Joseph P., Katherine A. Bradshaw, and James C. Foust. “Pressured to Look Good: TV Anchors and Gendered Personal Appearance.” Media Report to Women, vol. 37, no. 3, 2009, pp. 6-11,19-21. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/210209195?accountid=11107.

 

News anchors are critical for ratings and business success. Overall, anchors do not represent racial diversity. In fact, often times they have similar looks, hair, and clothes. There is a lot of emphasis on physical appearance for news anchors, especially on women. They are judged based on attractiveness, rather than knowledge or ability to explain difficult material. Women who are ‘beautiful’ could keep their job, even if they were bad at being an anchor.This article provides a unique perspective on the judgements of women within the news world. The news is an entertainment medium, and there is fewer female characters. The women that are included are presented as younger and less powerful than men. This article provides important detail by explaining specific scenarios where women were harassed or fired for not meeting a standard of physical appearance, which is a crucial point in our gender representation analysis within the news because it reinforces the beauty standard which keeps male dominance intact.

 

Peer Reviewed

Cranford, Alexandra. “WOMEN WEATHERCASTERS: Their Positions, Education and Presence in Local TV.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 99, no. 2, Feb. 2018, pp. 281-288. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0317.1.https://gatech-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-explore/openurl?genre=article&isbn=&issn=1461670X&title=JOURNALISM%20STUDIES&volume=19&issue=6&date=20180101&atitle=Women,%20Men%20and%20News:%20It%27s%20life,%20Jim,%20but%20not%20as%20we%20know%20it&aulast=Ross,%20Karen&spage=824&sid=EBSCO:Social%20Sciences%20Citation%20Index&pid=&vid=01GALI_GIT&institution=01GALI_GIT&url_ctx_val=&url_ctx_fmt=null&isSerivcesPage=true&lang=en_US

 

Broadcast meteorologists face many stereotypes and the need to do attention grabbing stunts for views and ratings. Women face even more stereotypes in relation to the public’s perception of their intelligence and physical appearance. Women are often perceived to not understand science, which can limit the trust of the forecast. Others believe women are hired strictly for their sex appeal to boost ratings. Even as women began to get meteorology degrees, they still faced harassment and sexism. Many weather women are advanced scientists, and the role has evolved over the years, but the stereotype still remains. This source explains how the role a women has can be continually sexualized, even if she has the scientific and intellectual background required for the part. This is important in analyzing the way gender affects different roles within the news. The ‘weather girl’ role is fueled by the stereotype in regards to the intelligence difference between men and females, which is a common denominator in my research articles regarding women in the news.

 

Peer Reviewed

Engstrom, Erika, and Anthony J. Ferri. “From Barriers to Challenges: Career Perceptions of Women TV News Anchors.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 75, no. 4, 1998, pp. 789-802. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/216926995?accountid=11107.

 

Women face many societal, industrial, and personal expectations that create challenges in their career in the news. Women must have certain physical appearances, balance a role as a wife/mother, and manage family challenges while maintaining their career. In fact, women face a large overemphasis on physical appearance and gender based decision making. Women are expected to look young and perky, whereas men can be old and bald. There is also a gender bias in entering the industry, it is more difficult for women to enter the industry if they are a certain age or look a certain way. These problems are universal and can be applied to local news stations as well. They are often assigned “soft news” to report. This source is very valuable because it gives insight into the women’s perspective on what they believe their gender biased challenges are within the workplace and how they rank with other challenges.

 

Farhi, Paul. “Female Anchors Overtaking Men.” The Record, Jul 25, 2006, pp. E2. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/267170602?accountid=11107.

 

Women have surpassed men in becoming the majority of anchors and TV reporters in the United States. In fact, Green, the news director at Fox5 has said that it’s easier to find a strong female anchor than a strong male. This leads to some good and some bad. The good is in regards to equal-opportunity employment. The bad is that there is controversy that the “feminized” newsroom is changing the agenda. Women used to only have jobs in the news as “weather girls” to brighten up people’s days. Now, they are perceived as intelligent and credible from the anchor seat. This article is important because it is the most positive and pro-women article selected. It remarks to women as strong and credible, which speaks to the changing tides in 2018. It provides a unique perspective on the female majority within the news and how the structure of the news throughout history has changed.

 

Peer Reviewed

Hetsroni, Amir, and Hila Lowenstein. “Is She an Expert Or just a Woman? Gender Differences in the Presentation of Experts in TV Talk shows.” Sex Roles, vol. 70, no. 9-10, 2014, pp. 376-386. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1531890816?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0370-z.

 

There is a significant gender difference in the presentation of experts in TV programming. A study of Israeli talk shows where experts took part showed that men outnumbered female experts in a 1.7:1 ratio. Also, the female experts often discussed topics such as body grooming and child care, whereas the men discussed serious political topics. This gender difference within the news reinforces stereotypes about a woman’s place in society and their intelligence level compared to men. The article also touches on the fact that television is a main socialization agent which spreads beliefs. In fictional TV programs, experts are always male. This gives society the impression of male gender dominance. This is a valuable source because it examines not only the frequency of women in the news, but also their role within it. Women are often used as “a pretty face” rather than an intellectual expert, and this article explains the stereotypes that lead to these assigned roles and functions.

 

Smee, Thomas W. “Does a News Anchor’s Gender Influence Audience Evaluations of the Anchor?” Media Report to Women, vol. 32, no. 4, 2004, pp. 13-20. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/210165374?accountid=11107.

 

There is a difference in audience response to male and female news anchors. The anchors, usually the conveyors of information, are the ones being represented inaccurately. Minorities and women are often underrepresented within the news staff. Also, the audience is often looking for factors such as intelligence and honesty within their news anchors. These qualities are harder for women to be perceived as when they are not given equal opportunity as men to report on serious and and important issues. Women are often given subjective and lifestyle reports. Female reporters are often hired more for their looks rather than their ability to report. This article is important because it shows the perceptions of men and women anchors from the audience’s view. Women are often facing higher judgements based on the stories they are given, which is not their choice, nor a fair judgment. The audience would rather hear the more important news, which is delivered by men, so they associate the men as being more important.

Gender Representation in Children’s Television (Annotated Bibliography)

1.

Coyne, Sarah M., et al. “It’s a Bird! it’s a Plane! it’s a Gender Stereotype!: Longitudinal Associations between Superhero Viewing and Gender Stereotyped Play.” Sex Roles, vol. 70, no. 9-10, 2014, pp. 416-430. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1531890817?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0374-8.

This longitudinal study explores the gender stereotype of masculinity. It had 134 mothers of pre-school children report information over several years. The study takes into account the exposure of children to superheros (television and movies) and their amount of male-stereotyped play and weapon play that results from it. Boys are more likely to mimic the male-stereotyped and weapon play because they can relate to the superheroes. Since the superheroes are mostly boys or geared towards boys, young boys see them as a role model. But, girls who watched high levels of superheros were not more likely to use male-stereotyped play or weapon play than girls that didn’t watch as much because they can not relate to the shows and movies as much as boys can. This source is valuable because it is longitudinal so it portrays the effect on children viewing of these hypermasculine shows. It also details the social psychology behind imitating shows and why boys and girls react differently when they watch the same thing. Also, the comparison of boys to girls is extremely effective in this source.

 

2.

England, Dawn E., Lara Descartes, and Melissa Collier-meek. “Gender Role Portrayal and the Disney Princesses.” Sex Roles, vol. 64, no. 7-8, 2011, pp. 555-567. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/857999236?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-9930-7.

This article details how Disney princess movies have trended towards more egalitarian gender roles. In the study, they determined the frequency that princes displayed certain qualities and how often the princesses displayed the qualities. For example, some of the qualities are helpful, sensitive, curious, assertive and athletic. The rise of feminism affected their tactics because then princes began showing emotions and princesses became more assertive, but the plots often rely on the princess getting the man in the end. For example, while Pocahontas and Mulan deal with diplomacy and war, in the end they are paired off with their princes. The value of this article comes from the contrast from the 1930s to modern day and how Disney employs traditional gender roles. The paper suggests provocative ideas, but doesn’t necessarily have empirical evidence because the display of kindness (or any other trait) is vague and subjective. It overall details how it is hard for Disney to break from gender stereotypes, while still pleasing their consumers.

 

3.

García-Muñoz, Núria and Maddalena Fedele. “The Teen Series and the Young Target. Gender Stereotypes in Television Fiction Targeted to Teenagers.” Observatorio (OBS*), vol. 5, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 215-226. EBSCOhost, prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=82233901&site=ehost-live.

This article focuses on television for teenagers. It increases the information about the images of young people that are portrayed in teen television.The conclusions come from analyzing the social and physical descriptions, personality traits, and role in the plot of each character. The results are more than just which qualities boy characters or girl characters have, it is much more in depth. It introduces the idea that older people are underrepresented on television. Also, that almost all homosexual characters display traditional feminine qualities, which is based purely on stereotypes and not reality. This article is valuable because is important to know what messages teen shows promote because the teen years are when the identity is formed and teens should not have to be limited by stereotypes. While the article displays how powerful media is and the need for less stereotypes in television, it is a very limited study focusing on few shows and specific characters. It is overall easy to read, but some conclusions may not have enough evidence to be significant.

 

4.

Gerding, Ashton, and Nancy Signorielli. “Gender Roles in Tween Television Programming: A Content Analysis of Two Genres.” Sex Roles, vol. 70, no. 1-2, 2014, pp. 43-56. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1477375870?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-013-0330-z.

This is a content analysis of gender roles in teen television shows. The study used 49 episodes from 40 different shows that can be distinctly identified as either teen scene (geared towards girls) or action-adventure (geared towards boys). The results are displayed in percentage of male and female characters in both show categories that are attractive, show bravery/rescue, and use technical skill. Overall the analysis details how females were more likely to be attractive , while the males were considered more unattractive. Women have to be beautiful to be watched, but men can rely on personality alone in shows was one of the conclusions. Also, the analysis dissects how the ratio of males to females in the shows are 2:1, thus continuing the culture that men/boys are more important. The value of this source is that it takes into account television shows for girls and boys. Overall the focus is on teen television’s misrepresentation of females and it may not disclose how men are misrepresented on television shows, so it is overall more biased than some other articles.

 

5.

Steyer, Isabella. “Gender Representations in Children’s Media and Their Influence.” Campus — Wide Information Systems, Mar. 2014, pp. 171-180. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1108/CWIS-11-2013-0065.

This article details the negative influence sexist representations in media (including television) have on children’s development. In the era of “equal rights”, it is still common to see women underrepresented in television and to see them performing traditional roles. This scholar article argues that society is far from equal, but change starts with the next generation. Children who are exposed to non-traditional gender representation have more positive development, but this is not common. The article explains in depth how men outnumber women in children’s television. For example, the ratio of men to women is 2.6:1  in the 101 G-rated films taken into account. Not only are do girls see less of their gender, but boys are developmentally stunted. Females are often more attractive and intelligent than their male counterparts, which lowers boy’s self-esteem. Also, women are portrayed more as moms, while older men are seen more as bachelors, therefore a lot of television lacks positive male role models. The value of this article comes from its mixture of conceptual ideas with statistical evidence. It also gives equal thought to all children’s development, not just specifically girls or boys. It is worth reading because a lot of themes and stereotypes go undetected in children’s television shows and these just further promote inequality, but they are sometimes hard to point out because sexist representations are so deeply connected to our culture.

6.

Thompson, Teresa L., and Eugenia Zerbinos. “Television Cartoons: Do Children Notice it’s a Boy’s World?” Sex Roles, vol. 37, no. 5, 1997, pp. 415-432. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/225382192?accountid=11107.

This article explores a study of how 89 children perceive male and female cartoon characters differently. The article provides background in behavioral psychology and typical gender stereotypes in television including the job status, knowledge, and representation of characters. It reports that children noticed gender-stereotypical behaviors in cartoon characters including the stereotypical representation that boys are violent and active, while girls are more domestic and boy-obsessed. Also majority of the kids chose traditional occupations for their own futures. This is worth reading because the study results take into account factors like age and Mother’s working status, making it more reliable. It is also important because it explains in detail that kids are exposed to television at a young age and do not always separate the fantasy of cartoons from reality. The value comes mostly from the empirical evidence that supports that gender stereotyping begins at a young age and that it can be connected specifically to television because especially in the Humanities field there is not always evidence to support arguments.

Gender Roles in Children’s Television Annotated Bib

CherneyKamala London, Isabelle,D. “Gender-Linked Differences in the Toys, Television shows, Computer Games, and Outdoor Activities of 5- to 13-Year-Old Children.” Sex Roles, vol. 54, no. 9-10, 2006, pp. 717-726. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/225367898?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9037-8. This article analyzes the preferences of male and female children with regards to their sources of entertainment. It found that female children have a general tendency to watch more television while male children spend more time partaking in other activities. One of the more interesting findings was the opposing trend in the femininity of girls’ television shows and other forms of childhood entertainment. Girls’ choice of television tended to become more feminine as they grew older, while their other forms of entertainment tended to become less feminine over time. There was an noteable preference for entertainment within a child’s gender. However, this was more present in boys than girls. This article is relevant, because it shows the rapidity of the formation of gendered opinions in a child’s mind. While this focuses on a variety of forms of entertainment, the most relevant focus for our research is on television. One issue with the relevance of this source is that rather than focus on the effect entertainment has on a child’s gender stereotypes it focuses on the gender-stereotype’s effect on a child’s choice in entertainment.

Childs, Nancy M., and Jill K. Maher. “Gender in Food Advertising to Children: Boys Eat First.” British Food Journal, vol. 105, no. 6, 2003, pp. 408-419. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/224679133?accountid=11107. This article focuses on food advertisements and the roles of the genders within them. Based off certain categories such as main characters, primary product users, and voice overs, the study managed to quantify the bias. Despite the foods being advertised to both genders, the study found that there was a statistically significant gender bias within the advertisements – more so than for non food advertisements. Boys played a more dominant role in these commercials than females did. This therefore reinforces the idea of male superiority and dominance in a child’s mind. Furthermore, it might begin to instill the dangerous concept that females should consume less food, because food advertisements are not targeted for her. This article is important, because it shows how things that are not normally thought of as gendered could have a large impact on a child. Children spend an increasing amount of time watching advertisements, so it is important to be made aware of the effects on a child’s mind. While this is relevant to our research, because of its presence on television, it may be flawed because its focus is not on television shows.

Meyer, Michaela D.E., and Megan M. Wood. “Sexuality and teen television: emerging adults respond to representations of queer identity on Glee.” Sexuality and Culture, vol. 17, no. 3, 2013, p. 434+. Gender Studies Collection, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A343054749/PPGB?u=gainstoftech&sid=PPGB&xid=5342f42b. This particular study focused on adolescent responses to sexuality in the popular teen show Glee. In terms of the sexuality, teens were much more prone to notice the queer sexuality rather than the heterosexual. This is despite the shows major plot lines and main character focus on heterosexual relationship. This reveals teen tendency to relate sexuality with a nonhetersexual outlook. Many of the male participants in particular mentioned that they were ashamed to say they watched the show, because of their heteronormativity. The show involves song and theater which are normally associated with queer stereotypes, therefore the men were scared to be identified as nonheterosexual for their enjoyment of the show. The show was commonly viewed as progressive for its high population of queer characters. This study truly highlights a teens view on sexuality and the development of it through shows. It is relevant to our research, because teen audiences are still developing their minds based off the television they watch, yet it is clear that by the time they reach their teen years significant biases have already been formed.

Powell, Kimberly A., and Lori Abels. “Sex-Role Stereotypes in TV Programs Aimed at the Preschool Audience: An Analysis of Teletubbies and Barney & Friends.”Women and Language, vol. 25, no. 1, 2002, pp. 14. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/198879860?accountid=11107. This article is arguing that gender stereotypes begin to be enforced on children starting at very young ages thorugh popular television shows such as Barney and Friends and the Teletubbies. Through analysis of the roles of males and females on the show, this study found that males tend to be leaders while females just follow within both television shows. They also found that the traditional roles of mother and father were reinforced as caretaker and working man respectively. This is relevant, because it shows a lot about what standards modern society is pushing through to further generations. These shows are some of the first introductions children get about gender roles. Therefore, it is worth noting so that stereotypes can be corrected for further generations. This is exceptionally relevant in our research on gender stereotypes in children’s tv shows, because while it covers that topic, it narrows in on the very youngest audience. These are the first impressions youth have to form opinions on the matter.

Preston, Elizabeth, and Cindy L. White. “Commodifying Kids: Branded Identities and the Selling of Adspace on Kids’ Networks.” Communication Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 2, 2004, pp. 115-128. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/216483170?accountid=11107. This article focuses on the new role of children as consumers and how  children’s television networks are using this to sell adspace. Theses advertisers are branding children in a way that it is already idealizing what a child should look like and the kind of lifestyle they should live. When the child realizes they do not have that they proceed to asking their parent to buy them the product. This quickly brings the idea into a child’s mind that their worth is defined by the brands they use. This materialistic consumerism is being introduced to children at a very young age and they going to be influenced by these ideas as they become active citizens. This is relevant to our research for its mention of gender in these ads and how some brands are throwing away gender neutrality in order to target a smaller group better. This however is a minor point in the article and therefore might not be entirely relevant.

Schooler, Deborah, Janna L. Kim, and Lynn Sorsoli. “Setting Rules Or Sitting Down: Parental Mediation of Television Consumption and Adolescent Self-Esteem, Body Image, and Sexuality.” Sexuality Research & Social Policy, vol. 3, no. 4, 2006, pp. 49-62. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/858939798?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2006.3.4.49. This article studies the implications of parental involvement on a child’s self esteem and self acceptance. According to the results of the study, children whose parents simply sat with them to watch television experience higher self-esteems when they grow up. The higher the parental involvement in the child’s television, the higher the self-esteem. For girls, parental involvement was also correlated with positive body image. This is because for girls self esteem has a much higher correlation with body image than it does for boys. This journal seemed to show a particular bias against sexuality, because of its constant recommendations about how to remedy and avoid adolescent discovery of their sexuality. This is quite relevant to our research. Not only does it discuss the effect of gender in television on children, but it also describes certain effects of some of this television being filtered out. It is worth reading to find out the different effects television can have on young girls versus boys.

New Girl moving into her New apartment with New roommates!

I have finished watching the first two seasons of New Girl and there were numerous episodes that I could write about for my blog entries. Among those, I am focusing on the writing of the “Pilot”, the first episode of season 1 of New Girl for my first Blog Entry.

It was written by Elizabeth Meriwether. She wrote the plays Heddatron (2006), The Mistakes Madeline Made (2006) and Oliver Parker! (2010) and the romantic comedy film No Strings Attached (2011).

Elizabeth Meriwether, the writer of New Girl

The dialogue in New Girl is structured in conversations between the characters as the story-line is revealed. The dialogue here is very informal as it is the conversation between friends. The characters make jokes and use slang. All of the conversations are direct and there is no voice-over. This matters because it indicates that the show is emphasizing more on the conversations between the characters rather than the self talk. This means that they focus more on the relationship rather than individual characters.

Silence is used to move from one scene to another. This clearly indicates transition between scenes and therefore it is easy to follow the flow of the plot.

At the start of this show, there is a literary allusion. Jess referred her boyfriend cheating on her to the typical horror movies. Since it is the first episode of the show, there are also multiple recollection scenes. These throwback scenes allow us to know what different characters went through in the past. It helps us to understand the personalities of the characters and to predict the reaction of the characters in certain situations.

Jess finding out her boyfriend is cheating on her

I believe this episode stands out because it was a good way to start this show as it showed the background of each character. This helped the viewers to predict how the plot of this show is going to be. It also builds up the relationship between Jess and her three roommates and leaves the audience to look forward to different kinds of incidents this relationship might lead to.

New Girl < New Woman

Jessica “Jess” Day is the definition of adorkable, which, according to Urban Dictionary means a person who has an intelligent, quirky, and random personality and combines it with being adorable, cute, or beautiful. This is a very girlish trait (hence the name of the show, New Girl). But after 6 seasons, is Jess owning her womanhood?

Jess trying to be cool but just being weirdThe pilot begins with Jess, still recovering from a recent breakup, moving in with three single guys in the city. I remembered ‘season 1 Jess’ as being clingy, frequently confused, and a hot mess. So, for these blog entries, I decided to see where Jess was 5 seasons later. Starting with season 6 episode 1, I was surprised and a little saddened to see just how little Jess had developed as a character and how similar this episode was to the pilot of the show. The show begins with Jess grieving a breakup with another guy, Nick Miller, her long-time friend and one of the 3 dudes she moved in with in the pilot of the show.

Despite now being well into her 30s, Jess is very much still her old self, and not in a positive way. She’s still clingy, frequently confused, and a hot mess. She’s still trying to be a girl, rather than a woman. Do viewers expect Jess to maintain this girlish, needy character trait? I don’t think so. In fact, I bet viewers are waiting for Jess to woman up.

Jess needs to be a New Woman!!!

Cece, Jess’s best friend and the only other female character on the show, displays a level of confidence and composure that truly exemplifies womanhood. In this episode, Cece and her husband Schmidt buy a house- a major adult move. This shows how Cece has truly settled in and embraced her adulthood while Jess has not. Rather than supporting from afar, Jess chooses to spearhead the house hunt, acting as if she wishes she could go along and continue living with them.

In the second episode of season 6, Jess and Cece attempt to recruit voters for the presidential election. Instead, they end up getting wasted and scammed at a sorority house, not recruiting a single voter. This plot sequence is not abnormal in New Girl; Jess sets out on a goal with noble intentions, ends up screwing up ridiculously, hilarity ensues, and one of the three guys she lives with has to pick up the pieces.

Jess, surrounded by her male roommates (and Cece!) who have to take care of her and all her quirky ways

New Girl could do a much better job addressing gender. While Cece provides a nice foil for Jess in her confidence and street-smarts, both women are constantly being taken care of by the other characters in the show, all of whom are men. The male characters are far from perfect; however, from a ‘who is saving the day’ perspective, the men are holding all the cards.

 

“New Girl.” New Girl Wiki, newgirl.wikia.com/wiki/New_Girl.

“New Girl (TV Series 2011–2018).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt1826940/.

“Adorkable.” Urban Dictionary, www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Adorkable.

 

Suppress the Jess?

Suppressing the Jess

Jess’s awkwardness and eccentricity is what makes her unique and more relatable as a character because of her multifaceted personality.  She isn’t perfect, and her flaws and insecurities often mirror what we see in ourselves.  While the other roommates’ lack of full acceptance had been hinted at in previous episodes, their expectations for Jess are more thoroughly explored in episode three.

The premise of episode three is that the roommates will be attending a wedding.  However, the issue is that Nick’s ex-girlfriend Caroline will also be attending.  Through various flashbacks, we understand that Nick is still deeply attached to Caroline and can’t seem to let her go.  His attachment is borderline unhealthy and imitates the trope of a clingy (ex-)girlfriend who constantly wants some sort of attention and can’t seem to move on.  Jess is brought along as his date, but Nick refuses to let her be herself, which Jess reluctantly agrees to, jokingly stating the phrase, “suppress the Jess”.

The theme of the episode is how Jess preserves her eccentricity and continues to be herself in face of judgment and lack of support from those close to her.  Schmidt wants to hook up with Brooke, Nick wants to reconnect with Caroline, and meanwhile Winston gets into a competition with a child.  Each of the guys wants something different from the wedding, but Jess doesn’t have the ability to accommodate them all and nor should she have to.  She becomes just a tool for the guys to achieve their desires, yet they blame her when things fall through.  This situation is especially evident when Jess tries to fix Nick’s renewed fixation with Caroline but ends up scaring off Brooke from Schmidt.  One girl can’t do it all, and Jess finally realizes that in a symbolic move when she takes her fake teeth back to finally have fun at the wedding, which was all she wanted out of the event.  Besides being a symbol of her eccentricity, her fake teeth also represent her autonomy and power as a person since we lose them when we are not fully able to care for ourselves.

Intertwined with the main theme of the episode and interspersed throughout other episodes are threads of traditional masculinity versus femininity.  Schmidt’s characterization is often the most blatant portrayal of flipping the script on what is traditionally considered masculine versus feminine.  Schmidt used to be “Fat Schmidt,” with body image issues often being portrayed in media as solely an issue for women.  While coming on too strong in his conversations with Brooke, Schmidt has an entirely different relationship with Gretchen with her being assertive while he is more submissive.  In fact, he is essentially being used for his body like women tend to be portrayed in media with Gretchen having little interest in pursuing an actual relationship with him.

Pobody’s nerfect, and through the events in episode three, Jess grows as a person to reach self-acceptance and fulfillment, which redefines her future relationship with her roommates.

Girl Doctors? Not Nurses? Who knew?

Image result for meredith grey

You go girl!

Yeah, you heard that right.

Alex calls Meredith Grey a nurse in their first interaction. Rude, right? But it does give insight into how sexist the medical field can be. Women have traditionally been nurses, and men have traditionally been doctors. However, Grey’s Anatomy features a diverse cast of men and women of many different races and backgrounds. There are slightly more men than women, but overall, the cast is diverse. A daughter of an esteemed surgeon, a model, a know it all, and a slightly clueless guy are all competing and training to reach one goal: becoming a surgeon.

The main character, Meredith Grey, is a woman. She faces the same struggles as everyone in the internship program: little sleep, many patients, and lots of work. But, she also has to face the pressure of sexism, her very obvious crush on Derek, and her mother’s legacy. She’s realistic and relatable. The other characters all come from different backgrounds and face their own struggles besides those of the internship program.

While women do have some agency in the show, such as Meredith making decisions that saved Katie’s life and Dr. Bailey bossing others around, the higher-ups in the show are all men. The chief ultimately makes the decisions. Many of the female characters are interns or patients, so their decision making is limited. Dr. Bailey is the exception, though. She, affectionately dubbed “The Nazi,” has strict rules and a no nonsense attitude. As a senior resident, she does have the ability to make larger decisions. However, she does fall under the stereotype of an angry black woman.

Race is represented rather well, with there being asian, black, and white people intermingling and doing their work. Dr. Burke is a black man in a position of power, and Dr. Bailey is a black women with moderate power, which is often not seen and often looked down upon. One of the writers even said that the casting process was “colorblind” and that diversity was a main goal of the show. However, people of different sexual and gender orientations, as well as disabled people, are not represented well. Being gay is joked about and used as a prank in one episode. While the intern program may be too rigorous for people with physical disabilities, it can still represent mental illness and some disabilities better.

“The Talk” in Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat tackles sexual harassment and rape in episode 5 of season 1, albeit in a very surface level manner, so as to include comedy. The main focus of the episode is Eddie (the protagonist) trying to fit in with the other kids at middle school and, to do this, Eddie claims he has a dirty movie to coerce the kids to have a sleep over at his house. In fact, he has no idea what a dirty movie even is, and when the other kids come over to his house, Eddie shows a sexual harassment video that was meant to be shown at his dad’s workplace. The kids sat dumbfounded in front of the TV as they watched what they thought was a dirty movie. This video then spreads around the school, creating an epidemic of kids imitating the video, revealing that none of them know anything about what sex really is. For example, the boys would approach girls, and say something like, “If you select me as your boyfriend, I’ll select you for the promotion,” or “Hey girl, how bout we have one for the road?” Obviously, the kids had no idea what any of this meant.

This leads in all the parents giving “the talk” to their kids. Louis (Eddie’s dad) insisted on giving Eddie his version of the talk, which was very detailed to say the least. After he finished, he went out to talk to Jessica (Eddie’s mom), and she asked, “Did you tell him not to date rape?” When he responded no, she ran into Eddie’s room and assaulted him with a big stuffed animal screaming, “YOU LIKE THAT?!!”

Jessica assaulting Eddie with a stuffed animal

This scene is very comical, but it amazed me that a family show would discuss something like this. Generally, I would not expect a family sitcom to go into the topics of consent and rape. In most family sitcoms, it can be expected that “the talk” may happen, but they would rarely, if ever, even mention something like rape or consent. I feel as if introducing this into more shows, society – and the kids watching the show – would develop their ideas of sex to include consent, rather than what is normally shown on TV.

Of course, the show as a whole still over represents the male gender and includes many gender stereotypes. Particularly in this episode, Jessica, while giving a lecture on sexual harassment to a group of workers, ironically flirts with one of them, reinforcing the idea that women have an urge to be flirty. She also says that all women must cross their legs while sitting. Despite this, I still think that the show, and this episode in particular, is a step in the right direction for pop culture. Although Jessica’s talk wasn’t perfect, it is something that should be commonplace in all households.

Jessica wearing a no means no shirt

The Mindy Project’s Complicated Conversation about Gender

On the surface, The Mindy Project seems progressive (for television at least). The main character is a bold, unapologetic, minority women working as a doctor in NYC. Mindy is constantly underestimated and undervalued, but time and time again it is shown that she is critical to the success of her practice. In the eighth episode, “Two to One”, her other partners use their male majority to box her out of decisions until the final moment when she swoops in and saves the day from their misguidance. Mindy allows herself to have a high level of agency, even if her choices are not always respected by the other characters. There is no question that the show centers around Mindy, and it is certainly refreshing to see a female main character with so much power.

The show also leans into the idea of a romantic comedy being empowering for women. Mindy is active in her search for love, but she understands what she wants, and is unwilling to settle or compromise. Though she may desire a partner, she certainly doesn’t need one to have a fulfilling life. For the first part of the show, she is single, and is insanely successful within her job and personal life.

As the show is based mainly at a workplace, there is an interesting conversation to be had about stereotypically gendered jobs. Mindy is the sole female partner at her practice, working with three other male doctors. The nurse in the practice is male, which is refreshing for a job that is considered “pink collar” and is traditionally performed by a woman. However, some jobs are assigned to their conventional genders: the two secretaries are female, there is a stay at home mother, and a lawyer and a finance worker are both male. I’ve found that there is a relatively even split between the male and female characters, in both screen and speaking time.

However, the show lacks connections to gender in other areas. There is a distinct deficiency in the representation of LGBTQIA+, disabled, or mentally ill characters. All the named characters are straight, cis and abled, which leaves no room for gender intersect or interact with these areas. Furthermore, only the upper class is represented, with lavish NYC apartments, degrees from Harvard and Colombia, and no qualms about spending money. Gwen, Mindy’s best friend, is an excellent stay at home mom, who has a degree from Princeton and is married to a rich man. An interesting conversation is eliminated as Gwen never had to grapple with the debate that rattles parents: choosing between staying at home or having an extra income.

I truly commend the show for placing a minority women doctor at the helm. But, the show still makes tradeoffs: the lack of intersectionality within the show (apart from Mindy’s race) and humor that occasionally stems from blatantly sexist or offensive jokes. The show doesn’t handle gender representation perfectly, but it can still contribute to breaking stereotypes and increasing diversity within television.

Mindy explaining that a woman working and having a family are not mutually exclusive.

A Broad Gender Overview in Broad City

Broad City is unique in that female representation exists at the forefront of each episode in Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, but there often are more male characters in any given episode. The male characters tend to provide obstacles or annoyance like Bevers or comedic relief in a show that is mostly comedy, Lincoln. Abbi and Ilana’s characters often have to work around the stubborn and problematic male characters, yet they still have a high degree of agency. Characters like Lincoln, Ilana’s friend with benefits, are strung along at the whims of whatever Ilana is pursuing. At one point Ilana says that they had been together five months; Lincoln corrects her that has been eighteen months. Lincoln, played by Hannibal Buress, is the only character in the show with such little agency, and he is the most prominent male character.
Gender is often connected to the class of the characters. Abbi and Ilana struggle to fund all of their escapades, and in one episode they clean a strange man’s house in their underwear to fund their Lil Wayne concert dreams. The man is shown to be creepy, but Ilana still has much of the agency and desire to do so as she had advertised her and Abbi online. Abbi usually has her agency limited for comedic effects: her dead end job, following Ilana’s impulsive lead, and living in an apartment with her roommate’s boyfriend that she hates. Still, there are moments where she has agency such as when she fakes needing to get AIDS test results to get off work.
Race has little influence on the show as Ilana’s boyfriend and her roommate both are successful dentists and drug dealers respectively despite being minority males. Ilana’s character is the primary queer character, and it is never shown to impede her or slow her down. It more often comes up as she tries to get Abbi to do small vaguely sexual things. And while the bosses on the show are male, they have little role in keeping Ilana and Abbi from cutting work, so the show appears to represent gender and other representational axes in a very fair and often funny way.

See the source image

Here is an example of Lincoln being held at the whims of whatever Ilana wants to do.

 

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