English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: Saturday Night Live

Annotated Bibliography for Analysis of Gender Representation in Late Night Television

Glascock, Jack. “Gender, Race, and Aggression in Newer TV Networks’ Primetime Programming.” Communication Quarterly, vol. 51, no. 1, 2003, pp. 90-100. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/216480842?accountid=11107.

This source determines the portrayal of minority characters on television shows over time. Jack Glascock compares the older networks to some of the newer networks and analyzes whether or not the portrayal of these minorities is changing at all. In particular, he focuses on the portrayal of black characters as opposed to white characters. He notices that black characters are often portrayed as more violent and aggressive because this appeals to younger viewers. He also notices the discrepancy between major male leads and major females leads. Stating that females are usually dressed more provocatively because it engages the viewers. This source is useful because it provides us with a framework to begin analyzing gender representation in television. It shows not only the major networks’ use of stereotyping but how their use of stereotyping has either decreased or increased over time. This is a good starting point because we get an idea of how strong the bias in television is currently.

Anderson, Jacqueline S., and Sharmila P. Ferris. “Gender Stereotyping and the Jersey Shore: A Content Analysis.” Kome, vol. 4, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-19. ProQuesthttp://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2089252706?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.17646/KOME.2016.11.

This source delves deep into gender representation in television popular among younger viewers. Jersey Shore holds a prominent place in pop culture with millions of viewers at its peak. It is no secret that reality television shows aren’t always reality and that most of the time they are scripted. Jacqueline Anderson and Sharmila Ferris analyze the representation of the female characters in Jersey Shore and notice the portrayal of females as seductive figures who play little role in the plot other than to engage the audience through drama they create. They compare the behavior of the females on the show to the males and provide evidence of the discrepancy. This source is useful for studying gender representation in television because it ensures that we cover all facets of television. Reality television can easily be overlooked since it is believed to be “reality” so there are no biases, but this is not true because most reality shows have loose scripts and are pushed in one direction or another by the network. We cannot be narrowminded by only analyzing fictional shows.

Bingham, Dennis. “”before She was a Virgin . . .”: Doris Day and the Decline of Female Film Comedy in the 1950s and 1960s.” Cinema Journal, vol. 45, no. 3, 2006, pp. 3-31. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/222247026?accountid=11107.

This source details the golden age of comedy for females, a time when females were more popular than males in lead comedy roles. Dennis Bingham details the rise of Doris Day, one of the biggest female film comedy stars of all time and analyzes her rise and fall. This source does not only focus on Doris Day however, Bingham broadens the scope of his research to see where females have stood in the comedy film scene since then and analyzes the statistics on males and females in lead comedy roles and compares the number of men and women landing these roles since the days of Doris Day. Although this source may not seem useful because it centers around film than television, it is important for us to look at this source to understand the trends in females and males playing leading roles in television and film over time. This is similar to the trend that can be analyzed in Glascock’s paper over biases and stereotypes in television over time, except this one is specific to gender representation.

Falk, Erika. “Stereotypes as the Basis for Humor in Saturday Night Live Parodies of Hillary Clinton.” Media Report to Women, vol. 45, no. 2, 2017, pp. 12-15. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1906364913?accountid=11107.

This source details Saturday Night Live’s writing of comedy skits involving the election. The election is a huge source of content for most late-night television shows and Saturday Night Live is no different in this regard. Erika Falk specifically analyzes the skits written by Saturday Night Live that are intended to serve as parodies of Hillary Clinton. She notices these skits are full of stereotypes and that these stereotypes are the humor that is appealing to younger audiences.  In the case of Hillary Clinton, a lot of the stereotypes are gender stereotypes simply because it is uncommon for a woman to run for office. This source is extremely essential to our research because we have chosen Saturday Night Live to base our research on. Saturday Night Live is one of the longest running shows on television and also one of the most influential. However, it has often been criticized for its lack of female cast and writers. For this reason, this source provides us with a crucial analysis of gender stereotyping by Saturday Night Live writers and creates a framework for the rest of our research.

Wilstein, Matt. “‘Saturday Night Live’ Mocks Trump’s Creepy Comments about Daughter Ivanka.” The Daily Beast, Apr 03, 2016. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/1786621027?accountid=11107.

This source shines a new light on Saturday Night Live’s representation of gender on its show, but once again not through the crew of cast and writers, but through the commentary, they provided on the election. The election being a huge source of Saturday Night Live’s content, Matt Wilstein notices the writers’ unison in defending Heidi Cruz over Donald Trump’s sexist remarks. Donald Trump made several remarks over “punishing” females over abortions and Heidi Cruz took offense to this. In return, Donald Trump attacked her in a Twitter rant and Wilstein remarks on Trump’s behavior as clearly sexist. Wilstein also remarks on Donald Trump’s creepy tweets over his daughter Ivanka as he constantly calls her beautiful and according to Wilstein, objectifies her. This source is important because it helps us to understand the position that Saturday Night Live takes on the oppression and degradation of females by powerful male figures. Saturday Night Live’s willingness to criticize and bring these comments to the spotlight help us understand the character of the television show when doing further research.

Fallon, Kevin. “‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: The Ladies Steal the show from Host Chris Pratt.” The Daily Beast, Sep 28, 2014. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1649028174?accountid=11107.

This source analyzes changes in the show’s cast after season 39. Season 39 came with a massive reboot in terms of cast and Saturday Night Live seemed to respond to the common criticism over the predominantly male cast by bringing in Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, and Taran Killam. Kevin Fallon states that the females played a major role in the new season’s opener and were a hit among audiences, praising them for various skits with guest host Chris Pratt. This source is essential because our research largely focuses on the criticism of Saturday Night Live’s lack of female cast and writers. Just like Matt Wilstein and Erika Falk, Kevin Fallon addresses some of the proactive methods that Saturday Night Live has been taking to combat this criticism. Although he praises the females for their performances and insists that it was a hit among the audience, he does note that the skits still focused heavily on gender stereotyping for humor which is important to take into account when studying gender representation on the late-night television show. The females were once again portrayed in a more provocative sense and were often playing certain roles simply for seductive purposes to gain appeal from the audience.

Women in Comedy, SNL (Bibliography)

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Doan, Alesha E. “‘What’s Wrong with Being Sexy?’ Why Political
Science Needs to Get Serious about Sexuality.” PS: Political Science &
Politics, vol. 44, no. 1, 2011, https://search.proquest.com/pqrl/docview/
839849726/3A78EBE88EB34B57PQ/18?accountid=11107. Accessed 17
September 2018.

This article discusses the manner in which the use of female characters is sometimes intentional in television, and more specifically, in comedy sketch shows. It draws upon specific examples from SNL and compares the popularity of female political characters versus those of the male gender. The author argues that while certain comments can be made by male characters, those same comments actually have much more resonance when spoken by females. She specifically investigates the portrayal of the show’s mid-to-late-2000’s era characters such as former president Barack Obama and his political opponent the late John McCain. The importance of these characters’ comments about sexuality is compared to comments made by female actors impersonating Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, two other candidates for the presidency. It is seen that the female characters’ quotes elicited a much more positive response from audiences than the male characters’. This article is valuable for research given that it places emphasis on the manner in which females are often used in comedy in order to generate a boost in audience morale and appreciation of the show’s content. The conclusions drawn in this article can be applied to females as a whole in comedy and television.


Fulton, DoVeanna S. “Comic Views and Metaphysical Dilemmas:
Shattering Cultural Images through Self-Definition and
Representation by Black Comediennes.” Journal of American
Folklore, vol. 117, no. 463, 2004, https://search.proquest.com/pqrl
Accessed 17 September 2018.

This article discusses the expectations of females and their roles in comedy and television. It deeply investigates cases pertaining to specifically African-American females in comedy. The author argues that they tend to experience much different expectations and dilemmas as compared to their male colleagues and fellow comedians who are not of minority races. She points out that in the past, women were not seen as fit to explore the field of comedy, and she shows that women of minority races still struggle exceedingly with this enigma of exclusivity in comedy to this day. This article is not only of value due to its mentioning of minority women in comedy but also due to its solid connection between societal enigmas in the past and the present. This connection through the passage of time allows for one to see the effects of previous societal beliefs in comedy that are present today. It is especially helpful due to its relevance in today’s comedy shows that include, or in many cases do not include, women of minority.


Press, Andrea, and Terry Strathman. “Work, Family, and Social Class
in Television Images of Women: Prime-Time Television and the
Construction of Postfeminism.” Women and Language, vol. 16, no. 2,
1993, https://search.proquest.com/pqrl/docview/198874239/abstract/
3FF771C22EDPQ/1?accountid=11107. Accessed 17 September 2018.

This article opens with a discussion on the tendency of television shows to undermine the day-to-day struggles of the average woman throughout her lifetime. The authors form an argument that leans towards the basis of an unrealistic portrayal of women on television. Societal ideologies are compared to the generalized female character on the majority of television shows. The authors place great importance on the early sitcom I Love Lucy and the role that Lucille Ball played as America’s woman on television. The article then investigates several other female-focused shows throughout several generations that correspond to the various eras of the development of feminism. The authors conclude that women’s roles as portrayed on television ultimately coincided with the changing roles of women out in the workforce and in their households. This article is undoubtedly valuable due to its comprehensive overview of women’s roles on television and how they changed as similar changes were observed out in society. This overview allows for a greater understanding of the stages of the development of feminism. It also helps in understanding the past and present and how these two entities practically determine the course of feminism, both on- and off-screen.


Romano, Tricia. “SNL’s Kenan Thompson and the Invisible Black
Women of Comedy.” The Daily Beast, 17 October 2013, https://search.
PQ/1?accountid=11107. Accessed 17 September 2018.

This article is focused on a quote by Kenan Thompson, a long-time actor and comedian on SNL. It pokes at the subtle truth lying behind a controversial quote of his that was centered on the fact that there are very few black women on both SNL and comedy shows in general. The author uses quotes from various sources that dig into Thompson’s words. She concludes that he is not necessarily wrong; there are multiple professionals in the world of comedy who also know and admit that black women in comedy are a very rare occurrence. Upon its publishing in 2013, the article directly states that since the show first aired nearly forty years ago, there have only been four black women on the permanent cast. This article is of great value due to its complexity in discussing the issue of minority women on SNL specifically. The multiple sources that are cited in the article give exceedingly important facts and quotes from insiders and showrunners on the show, and its focus on women of minority gives large insight to the gap that still exists in SNL and in the comedy business as a whole.


Schilling, Dave. “Why Sasheer Zamata Never Had a Chance on
Saturday Night Live.” Vulture, 30 May 2017,  http://www.vulture.
ce.html. Accessed 17 September 2018.

This article focuses directly on Sasheer Zamata, a young cast member of SNL who, compared to other cast members, did not last but seconds on the show. The author compares her short career run with other black females and holds an in-depth discussion on the history of black females on the show. He argues that over the show’s entirety, there has only been two black females who has managed to keep her place on the show: Leslie Jones and Maya Rudolph. It is concluded that personas that did not fit into the “white baby-boomer ideas of what is funny” had little to no chance of keeping their spots in the skits. The author concludes that black females other than Rudolph and Jones just have not seem to have “what it takes” to survive in the largely white world of SNL. This article is of value because it compares lesser known black females with those who were (and still are) staples in the show’s history. He notes that the disappearance of Zamata from the cast is just another case in the cycle of black women being overshadowed in comedy, especially on SNL.


Tally, Margaret J. “Television Women from Lucy to Friends: Fifty
Years of Sitcoms and Feminism.”The Journal of American Culture,
vol. 27, no. 2, 2004, https://search.proquest.com/pqrl/docview/
Accessed 17 September 2018.

This article is a review for Lynn Spangler’s book Television Women from ‘Lucy’ to ‘Friends’: Fifty Years of Sitcoms and Feminism. It goes over how Spangler recognizes how trends in television spark trends in society and vice versa. The author notes that Spangler makes an interesting point in noticing that women sometimes seem to enjoy unrealistic images of themselves, even though these images are mostly “regressive” in their portrayal of women’s roles in their careers and households. In this manner, the article brings some controversy to light; the reader is then allowed to see that these past observations by Spangler are indeed still relevant in today’s society. The article is valuable for research in the way that it serves to connect the dots of some underlying stigmas in television and comedy shows today. One can see that general audiences will sometimes continue to enjoy shows even though character portrayals are not ideal. It can also be said that television’s portrayal of women was just as important to real-world citizens in the early stages of television as continues to be now.

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