Gender in Media

693 words | 3 page(s)

Expected gender roles are portrayed across all media, including children’s shows. This can be damaging, such as when more frequent and more interesting male characters make children think that men/boys are more important than women/girls. For this project, three children’s shows were selected. All are rated G, considered suitable for all ages. However, Rugrats is most likely to be viewed by children ages 0 to 5; Teen Titans Go! ages 5 to 9; and Scooby-Doo ages 9-12.

Rugrats is the adventures of four babies/toddlers and their older cousin, “adventures” such as rolling down a hill or hiding inside a rock. Major characters include: Tommy, who always wears a diaper, and is mostly portrayed as courageous and intelligent; twins Phil and Lilian, who dress similarly but Lil has pink shoes and Phil has blue shoes, Lil has a squeakier voice, but otherwise they are mostly the same; Chuckie, who appears slightly older, is more nervous, with a nasal voice; and Angelica, the older cousin usually with pink ponytails, with a high-pitched voice, portrayed as bossy, tattling, and mean. Despite some more liberal gender roles among the adults, the children are portrayed according traditionally: Clothing colors, less pleasant girl voices, the “ringleader” Tommy but the “bossy” Angelica. Why isn’t the girl smart and charming, and the little boy disliked?

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Teen Titans Go! depicts adventures by a group of teens/robots. The depictions are the least realistic of the shows reviewed. They have more fantastical adventures, as fits more fantastical creatures. Main characters include: Raven, half demon and half human, she wears black under her purple robe, who is usually quiet but easily enraged and passionate; Cyborg, half teen and half robot, he is the biggest and precipitates much of the action, although also silly, easily scared, and sometimes lazy; Robin, wearing an outfit with a yellow/black cape, controlling much of the action, sometimes obsessive, paranoid, or silly; Starfire, with long pink hair, and strapless top and mini-skirt, with a passionate, fearful, but kind personality. Clearly, the characters look and act according to gender roles, with the boys initiating much more action for the group than the girls; and the girls more gentle.

Scooby-Doo portrays a small group of teens and their Great Dane Scooby-Doo, who get into many scary adventures. However, the apparently male Scooby and Shaggy usually save the day. Shaggy is a lanky, goofy male, wearing green and brown. Velma is extremely intelligent, even a genius, with eyeglasses, orange and red clothing, heavyset; although caring, she can be sarcastic. Daphne is even more stereotypically feminine, with an hourglass figure, which she shows off in revealing pink dresses. Velma, the genius, is the least attractive, and Daphne is the pretty, ditzy blonde. Fred, the good-looking guy, is always proclaiming he will “save” Daphne, but the dog is the rescuer.

There are a variety of gender-neutral monsters in both shows for older children. It is interesting that genderless characters are typically portrayed as monstrous and evil. This may explain adults’ apparent low tolerance for gender-neutral people in real life. It is important that we become familiar with gender-neutral positive characters in entertainment media, so that we develop more tolerance.

All of the shows have a degree of sexism, particularly in the contrast between boys in charge who are portrayed positively and accepted by all the children, versus girls in charge who are almost always negative, “bossy”. The gender roles seem to become more enforced as the children are older. The twins in Rugrats are male and female but little different, suggesting more flexibility of roles. The characters in Teen Titan Go! are too oddly drawn to have much impact, but there is a relatively shapeless character in a mini-skirt and long hair. The characters in Scooby-Doo seem the most stereotyped, such as the “rescuing” males, and the super-intelligent but not physically attractive female versus the attractive ditzy female with the impossible figure.

Children could be very socialized into gender roles by these shows, but hopefully encounter enough real-life role models to counteract the images they see here. These shows struck this author as anachronistic, and not worthwhile entertainment for children because they are too boy-prominent.

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