30 May 2006

Final Project!!!

“They don’t need men or do they? A content analysis of female characters in TV sitcoms.

For females in print ads: http://delcarpio.blogspot.com/
For females in movies: http://hmm0013.blogspot.com/

”Two-sentence summary of findings:
In TV shows created for women, female characters were portrayed as strong, opinionated individuals, while the female characters in TV shows targeted towards men were very passive and quieted in their semi-stereotypical roles. However, in the androgynous TV shows, female characters took on traditional roles for our amusement, in which they obeyed numerous stereotypes.

Summary of the previous study:
The previous study, incorporated together on
http://www.girlsinc.com/ic/page.php?id=3.1.12, contains many different case studies and facts that all tie into this idea of how female characters are portrayed in the media. The first study conducted by Dawn Currie (“Girl talk: Adolescent magazines and their readers”, 1999, University of Toronto Press) reveals that the number of female characters in the media does not directly correlate with the 51% of female population in our society today. Women are much accounted for in reality, than on our TV sets. Next, a study by Children Now (“Fall colors: How diverse is the 1999–2000 TV season’s prime time lineup?”, 2000, Oakland, CA) discovered that 83% of women depicted in TV shows are typically in a relationship, dating, or married. Nancy Signorelli (“Reflections of girls in the media: A content analysis, a study of television shows and commercials, movies, music videos, and teen magazine articles and ads”, 1997, Children Now & the Henry J. Kaiser Family) found that female characters were more likely to be shown in a traditional role, rather than an established occupation, in which they had great responsibility, worked with men, and made important executive decisions. In each particular case study, the numbers and representation of women in the media has slightly improved, but should this slight improvement be enough to satisfy women in our society today? These studies all clearly indicate that the answer to this question is no because women have worked had to get where they are now, and the media should indeed reflect their accomplishments and achieved status in our society.

Its most important foundation literature and how it relates to your own project:
The study conducted by Nancy Signorelli (“Reflections of girls in the media: A content analysis, a study of television shows and commercials, movies, music videos, and teen magazine articles and ads”, 1997, Children Now & the Henry J. Kaiser Family) is the most applicable study used by the previous content analysis because it examines favorite TV shows among young girls. This previous study depicted women as both positive and negative role models, however, the majority of popular TV shows portray women in very stereotypical roles concerning their appearance, personal life, and occupation. These unorthodox stereotypes deceive young women into rearranging their priorities and their self value. Also, this study reminded us not to get sucked into some of the storylines and plots of these shows, but to examine the actions of each female character in order to determine her cultural impact.

Corpus and method:
My corpus encompasses 30 minute sitcoms viewed by men and women. I viewed three very different shows, one targeted towards women, Sex and the City, one targeted towards men, South Park, and one targeted towards both sexes, Everybody Loves Raymond. The method I used consisted of both quantitative and qualitative content analysis. Each female character that appeared in the show for longer than 5 minutes was coded first by their gender, and then for their age demographics. I also used descriptive analysis in order to identify their occupation/role, relationship status, clothing, and behaviors. The coded categories for each female character were taken from the above content analysis (http://www.girlsinc.com/ic/page.php?id=3.1.12).

The female characters in each of the three shows were portrayed extremely different. First, in a show that I absolutely love, Sex and the City, each of the five adult characters are in some type of relationship. However, I coded two of the four main characters to have a progressive role. Keri, who is a columnist, is in love with Russian artist. He has asked her drop her life in New York and move to Paris with him. Although Keri is portrayed as a independent woman throughout the who, she agrees to move with her lover at the end of the show. Even though her character knows absolutely nothing in regards to cooking or anything else in the kitchen, I coded her as traditional, because she quits her job, clings to her lover, and ultimately leaves her entire life to move for a man. Charlotte was also played a traditional role is consistently shown cleaning, looking for love, and is extremely upset that she cannot become pregnant. Samantha, a progressive, only needs men for sex and is very independent. She now has a serious boyfriend, but never focuses on him. Instead, she is passionate about her career and her “little-big problems,” as I like to call them. Miranda, another progressive, is a very outspoken working mom. She may not be the most nurturing mother of friend, but you can rely on this character to always speak her mind. I found it very intriguing that female characters in a women’s TV show were shown as strong and independent on the surface, but the more you analyze them, the more they begin to take on stereotypical roles in which they are dependent upon men.
A TV show primarily targeted towards men, South Park, contained only two female characters in the episode I watched. Neither of these characters played a significant role, and as you may know, none of the main characters in South Park are actually female. Lucky me, this happened to be an episode in which they introduced insignificant, very forgettable female characters. The first character, Penny, came to the four main characters because she had lost her precious teddy bear and needed these boy detectives to find it for her. She was a very young, innocent looking girl, wearing pig tails. The girl was young enough so that the male characters wouldn’t be attracted to her. After the boys found her doll, she was dismissed from the episode. The next female character was a much older lady, who looked like anyone of our grandmothers. She needed the boys to find her freshly baked pie that had been stolen. She wore her purple bath robe, served her husband, and always had a pleasant attitude. So, to keep it simple, men rule in men's TV shows.

During the 30 minutes of Everybody Loves Raymond, a TV show targeted towards both sexes, the two main female characters took on very traditional roles. Debra, an adult housewife/mom is depicted as always having a positive attitude. She is that loving mom/relative who tries to understand you when everyone else has given up on you. This character constantly shows her love for her family through her individual care for each and everyone of them. Debra’s main responsibilities are to cook, clean, watch the kids, and maintain some type of order and balance in their lives. The comic relief is introduced with her mother-in-law Marie who continually nags and insults Debra (pick up on that stereotype?). Marie, the other main female character, is also a housewife/mom who is always doing depicted as serving others. If she isn’t doing laundry, then she is cooking of baking, all while receiving grief and sharp jabs from her lazy-ass husband. Marie is always ready and willing to take of her sons. She seems to take pleasure in serving the men in her life and feels as if Debra should be more like her. In these androgynous shows, the female characters seemed to share the amount of air time with the male characters, but the females are normally depicted in very stereotypical and degrading roles.

This mini-study directly correlates with the previous studies. I did indeed discover that women are dressed differently and displayed in an inferior manner compared to their dominate male counterparts. When comparing the different TV shows directed at various audiences, the uniqueness of these female characters is incredibly different. As mentioned in the beginning of my post, more information about women portrayed in other media (movies and magazine ads) can be found in my group members’ blogs. Are women displayed as less independent and in more stereotypical roles in TV shows targeted towards men? In shows like South park, targeted towards a male audience, female characters seem to be very passive and play very insignificant roles. Therefore, the male characters can dominate these precious 30 minutes, while the female characters are used for decoration of progression of the storyline.


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