English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #researchquestion

Portrayal of Women in Crime Television

How do crime TV shows portray women’s involvement in violent acts?


Our research question concerns how women are stereotypically pigeonholed into certain roles in television, specifically within the crime genre. Through our research on women’s representation in crime TV shows, we hope to explore the validity of the notion that women are wrongfully exploited on TV. During our initial research process, we were able to obtain information about gender representation across a large range of multimedia: from advertisements, to movies, and finally to TV shows. As we came across a particular peer-reviewed papers, we were intrigued by how TV shows dating back from even the 1970s victimized women and portrayed them as insecure and vulnerable individuals. An article analyzing the James Bond franchise points out how female characters have played nearly identical roles in all of the movies, most of which were minor or sexual partners of Bond. Furthermore, an article by Los Angeles Review of Books provided an interesting insight into the conflict that crime TV shows face in portraying deep, compelling female characters in crime shows as it uses Detector Kate Beckett in “Castle”, for example. We’re interested to see how crime TV, as a whole, employs female characters in their stories; are we getting more complex, motivated lead detectives, or damsels in distress?


The representation of women on crime TV doesn’t just affect crime TV and actresses in the business. Misrepresentation on TV can lead to a lot assumptions in young people, and when not corrected, they persist into adulthood. Through our research, we hope to discover whether or not such a problem exists with gender in crime television. Our question is important because the first step to change is understanding the problem. TV should represent genders equally, and although it doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic, it should be fair. TV is a huge influencer in the public’s lives, and crime a hugely popular genre within it, so it should present information that supports equality between genders.


Representation of Women in Saturday Night Live

Early in our research stage, our group decided to explore the representation of women in comedy.  Specifically, we were interested in NBC’s Saturday Night Live, as it has been continuously airing for decades, and thus, allows us to compare and contrast the ways women were portrayed in the mid-1970s and how they are depicted now.  Initially, all our research was about Saturday Night Live, but we quickly realized that there simply were not enough peer-reviewed articles about that one show!  After expanding our search to late-night comedy, we read several pieces regarding the male dominance of late-night comedy shows in general.  With this in mind, we brought those ideas back to SNL.  Instead of exploring simply numbers of women on the show, we honed our focus on more specific aspects of female representation on Saturday Night Live.  We will distinctly direct our research toward women of minority races and female characters with different sexualities.  On a broader note, we will look for the way women are presented in the first season and identify any change in those patterns in the most recent season.

Our specific research question is listed below:

How have women, especially those of minority races and different sexualities, been represented on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, and how have these roles changed as the show’s seasons have progressed?  Has the correlating portrayal of women noticeably changed over the duration of the show’s airing?

Since Saturday Night Live is currently airing its forty-fourth season, and most seasons are comprised of over twenty hour-long episodes, it would be impossible for five people to watch and analyze every episode.  For that reason, we will concentrate on the inaugural season and the most recent complete season of the show. Not only does this allow us to go into depth on a smaller amount of episodes, but it also gives us the chance to see stark differences in the ways women are represented on the show forty years ago versus now.  The content of our research is important because society has changed drastically in the past forty years, and comedy is an excellent reflection of society. Thus, evaluating the evolution of characterizing women on Saturday Night Live will paint a broader picture of the changing ways women are treated in society.  

To answer our research question, we will approach each episode in Seasons One and Forty-Three with a series of specific questions regarding the orientation of jokes on the show when they involve women, how cross-dressing is used in the show (whether for comedic effect or as an acknowledgment of lifestyle choices),  ways in which politics are presented regarding women, and critical reception of the show by female analysts. We will also delve into the representation of non-heterosexual characters on the show, and the corresponding change in society’s view of the LGBTQ community in the 1970s and in the 2010s. Additionally, we will explore quantitative data concerning the number of women credited in each episode, and we will further break those numbers down into guest hosts, main cast members, crew members, etc.  Once we have compiled substantial data from both seasons, we will compare the two seasons and explore the changes that occurred over forty years of Saturday Night Live.

Female Companions and Doctor Who Research Question

The question our group has chosen is: How have the portrayals of the female companions of the Doctor in the BBC television show Doctor Who changed over the course of the show’s run, including the old and new series? We arrived at this question after first selecting the show we wanted to talk about. We chose Doctor Who because it is a long standing show that spans many decades, and since the female companion is such a significant and constant aspect of the show, we felt that Doctor Who would be a good litmus test for the changes of societal attitudes as regards female representation in television. We decided to research societal changes in attitudes regarding women because understanding the history of sexism is necessary for understanding sexism today. Doctor Who is an especially good way to explore this question because fiction can be an unconscious reflection of the majority’s opinions as shows are often calculated to appeal to as many people as possible. Our question is important because we can understand the historical background of today’s attitudes towards women as represented by fictional female characters in a show that is enjoyed by many demographics, and has been airing through many more generations than the average television show does. We are looking forward to diving into this research project and discovering how women have been portrayed throughout the decades-long run of Doctor Who.

(RE)SEARCHing on the QUEST(ION) for Answers: Gender Within Parental Careers in Disney Channel

How are gender stereotypes associated with occupation reflected in the careers of parental figures and mentors in Disney Channel Original Series that have aired since 2000?

Prior to researching, as we all grew up watching Disney Channel in the early 2000s, we were interested to see how these shows may have influenced our own perceptions and biases. During our research, we were shocked to learn about the frequency at which children watch television; it is the strongest source of cultural socialization outside of a child’s own parents. The themes and social interactions portrayed on television are directly linked to what children will deem as normal. Thus, we chose to focus on children’s TV, as the information being conveyed has a stronger influence on their biases and perceptions of gender than it does on adults.

There was an abundance of information about the effects of parental mediation of television and parents’ careers on children, but minimal information about what the careers of fictional parents are portraying and the effect of that on children. Thus, we believe the adults whom younger characters look up to for advice and counsel will reflect on the beliefs of real children. Children’s values are being formed through the respected adults they encounter in real life, so it would be reasonable to assume that the same would apply to the adults they encounter on television. Furthermore, children will assume that they should behave like the role models they see on television. Therefore, if adults of the same gender behave like their gendered stereotypes, children will feel the need to adhere to these stereotypes, and expect those behaviors from their peers.

We chose to focus on shows created after 2000 because we discovered that shows created prior to 2000 frequently relied on characters that were stereotypically masculine or feminine, and we wanted to see if that held true into the turn of the century. We are planning to analyze the data in two ways: the average salary of the jobs held by role models and their job’s alignment with traditional gender stereotypes.

This research matters because the perceptions of gender stereotyping of the future generations are directly impacted by the shows that they watch. Children are easily affected by these stereotypes, and gender norms are already firmly established in their minds by the time they are 5 years old. The first step in eliminating stereotypes is to show the next generation an equal and fair world that doesn’t submit to gender stereotypes. If children are surrounded by stereotypes, they will associate them with normality, and will be less likely to notice inequality in the world and work to change it. People have commentated on the effect of seeing stereotypes on television, but few have analyzed specific shows to see if children are being exposed to stereotypes in the form of the careers of fictional parents. Through this research, we hope to gain a better understanding of how reflective the careers of adults in children’s television are to the real world. We also hope to expose where gender stereotypes are prevalent in television so that audiences can be more proactive about changing them.

Work Cited:

Durkin, Kevin, and Bradley Nugent. “Kindergarten Children’s Gender-Role Expectations for Television Actors.” Sex Roles, vol. 38, no. 5, 1998, pp. 387-402. ProQuest http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/225373743?accountid=11107

Witt, Susan. (2000). “The Influence of Television on Children’s Gender Role Socialization.” Childhood Education, 76(5), 322-324. http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/210380519?accountid=11107.


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