Jump to content

Gender on Television


  • Please log in to reply

2779 replies to this topic

#1

Sikamikanico

Sikamikanico

    Couch Potato

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 12:33 PM

Basically I created this thread to have a place to vent about the problems of gender roles on television. As forward thinking as it can be sometimes, television is completely ass-backwards when it comes to portraying females; particularly teenage/pre-teen girls. Teenage girls are rarely portrayed as anything but fashion-obsessed, boy-crazed morons. For every Angela Chase or Claire from SFU, there are at least ten Lizzie McGuires. As a teenage girl, I feel offended that we are treated more like caricatures instead of people who think and feel just like everyone else. So come here to bitch about the unrealistic portrayls of women and men on television.
  • 0

#2

LeeLeeDiva

LeeLeeDiva

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 1:02 PM

The first thing that comes to mind for me (and I hope this in keeping with what you meant for thread) is the whole fat guy/hot wife thing. I've ranted about this in other threads but it is one phenomenon that I absolutely cannot stand. I find it totally unrealistic, not to mention sexist, that guys like Jim Belushi and Kevin James are paired with the likes of Courney Thorne Smith and Leah Remini. Please! And "Average Joe, Down's Syndrome Joey Strikes Back? Uh, no. Those women may not be beyootiful, but where are the very overweight women? Where's the female David Daskal?

I'm still waiting for the show that features a thick woman and hot husband. Shallow maybe, but I want some parity in my shallow TV viewing.
  • 0

#3

Sikamikanico

Sikamikanico

    Couch Potato

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 1:29 PM

Fear not, LeeleeDiva, things like the fat guy/ hot wife syndrome are exactly what I'm talking about. Somehow, these intelligent, witty, gorgeous women fell in love with these unattractive (except for Kevin James, I think he's kind of cute), doltish, irresponsible, louts who constantly seem to take them for granted. Even more unbelievable is the fact that the audience is supposed to find these "quirks" attractive also. When a loud, overweight woman is on television, she is played for laughs but when a loud, overweight man is on television the audience is supposed to take him seriously.
  • 0

#4

mamurd

mamurd

    Channel Surfer

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 2:51 PM

good topic!

I can only think of one example of a fat woman/hot guy couple, and that was on "Days of Our Lives". I don't think they're on anymore (I don't regularly watch the show), but Craig and Nancy (played by Kevin Spirtas and Patrika Darbo) were on for quite a while. And, from what I saw/heard, she was not playing the "jolly fat woman" stereotype, and they had a healthy sex life. Sadly, that's the exception.
  • 0

#5

Miki The Brain

Miki The Brain

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 2:52 PM

Sikamikanico, WORD. If they're not bubbly, boycrazy girls, then they're loners or otherwise ugly, misunderstood, and unliked (see Darlene from Roseanne). There's no in between usually. (The Gilmore Girls is one of the few shows that did this part of adolesence well)
  • 0

#6

joanne3482

joanne3482

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 3:52 PM

They're not on anymore but Craig and Nancy were a good couple. I always appreciated how a large woman was portrayed with her loving husband, he didn't cheat on her with hottie nurse, or hottie receptionist, or hottie size zero cafeteria worker since he was attractive and you know how those soaps love to have their couples break up.

The converse happens with boys, they are mostly either the sports star and hot and jackassy, the bad boy who is hot and jackassy or the geeky, nerdy guy who pines for the hot girl. And of course the geeky girl who pines for the bad boy and sets him straight. Have they ever in the history of TV kept a bad boy bad?? He wasn't redeemed through the love of a good woman?

My personal least favorite thing... how is it all women are evil harpies the second they get married?? ie Monica from Friends, (and I am embarrassed to admit that I ever watch this show) Lucy Camden, etc.
  • 0

#7

Eegah

Eegah

    Stalker

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 3:53 PM

One teenage girl that started out as an exception was the title character in Joan of Arcadia, though lately that's changed with her being completely ignorant about things like Bat Mitzvahs and the Pythagorean Theorem, and thinking standing in a washing machine is the best position for turning it on. I'm hoping the writers will realize no one likes this soon.
  • 0

#8

Jael

Jael

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 4:05 PM

He's not exactly "hot", but on Reba, the guy left the thin one for the fat one. Also, the daughters aren't boy crazy (one is married with a daughter and the other is more into school than boys), but they do separate the women and the girls into the "dumb blonde" and the "smart readhead".

ETA: The Parkers has both the flaw and the flair. The character of Kim isn't exactly thin, but she tends to date the hotties. Her mom, on the other hand, destroys any gain from this by being the fat woman "stalker" to the professor, who is thin and only likes thin women. I was hoping they would take the opportunity to have an overweight woman date a nice-looking guy (which is the only reason I ever watched the show), but they didn't.

Also: I was just on another thread and got reminded of the greatest "big girl gets hot guy" pairing on television: Overton and Sinclaire on Living Single. She is large and lovely and he is fine!

Edited by Jael, Apr 5, 2004 @ 4:34 PM.

  • 0

#9

cal331

cal331

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 7:23 PM

My personal least favorite thing... how is it all women are evil harpies the second they get married?? ie Monica from Friends, (and I am embarrassed to admit that I ever watch this show) Lucy Camden, etc.

Lucy didn't only get shrewish when she married her Robo-Husband, her IQ dropped 50 points. She used to be confident, self-assured and (comparitively) intelligent now she whines, simpers, and doesn't know why you should balance a checkbook, let alone how. Seventh Heaven is not only possesses, but is proud of its Dark Ages gender role attitudes. Actually, Medievel peoples were probably more enlightened. Eleanor of Aquitaine would have kicked Brenda Hampton's ass after reading her scripts where women constantly submit to the will of men, where even male children believe they have the right to dominate adult women, and where a woman seeking to fulfill her romantic desires on her terms is shunned and cast out.
  • 0

#10

TheCustomOfLife

TheCustomOfLife

    Stalker

Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 7:32 PM

Even though I didn't like them together, I liked how they portrayed Anna Stuart and Matt Crane's respective characters in a May-December pairing on Another World. They didn't ever try to paint Anna's character, Donna Love, as a cradle-robber. It was something that just happened. IIRC, they got close when Matt helped Donna get back all of her money.
  • 0

#11

MaggieElizabeth

MaggieElizabeth

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 8:50 AM

I'm glad this thread turned up. I've been on the soapbox about this for eons, particularly the portrayal of adolescent girls. The number of smart, strong, and rewarding adult women characters has increased in the past twenty years, but where girls are concerned, the picture has been much slower to change. But rather than speechifying on the subject again, I prefer to ask some questions of my fellow posters.

I am trying to gather material for a conference presentation on the depiction of adolescent girls on television, and I'm trying to canvas public opinion. I thought this could be an excellent place to start.

Why are teenage boy characters more frequently identified by their intelligence than teenage girl characters? Are smart boys perceived as more likeable than smart girls? If so, just why is that?

Why are airhead girls (e.g. Lizzie McGuire) so popular with viewers?

When smart girls do appear, why are they usually depicted as, if not unattractive, painfully insecure? (e.g. Grace Manning and Willow Rosenberg; despite being two of my favorite "Gamma girls," I kept wishing they had a little bit more confidence and pride in their own abilities.)

If intelligence is not unattractive or undesirable in a girl, why is it so often presented as such?

Any opinions would be tremendously helpful.
  • 0

#12

cgchimes

cgchimes

    Video Archivist

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 10:03 AM

I think Ren on "Even Stevens" is a mostly positive portrayal of an ambitious, intelligent teenager.
She's smart, pretty, and attracts boys! Imagine that :-)
I'm more annoyed by the lack of older women on TV. Older men are lacking too, but the ones that exist seem to be portrayed as wise mentors (think cop/lawyer shows), while women just take up space.
  • 0

#13

Sikamikanico

Sikamikanico

    Couch Potato

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 11:58 AM

MaggieElizabeth, I think an overall sweeping answer to questions 1,3, and 4 is that Hollywood is pretty much run by intelligent, older men who unfortunately have rarely matured emotionally passed their teen years. Television series and movies pretty much allow them to convey all their fantasies that have never been actualized in real life. Therefore the smart guy is likeable and funny and he gets the hot, popular girl. Intelligent woman are either rare or just nonexistent. As for question number 2, I think that the public likes their opinions of teenage girls reaffirmed. Ren Stevens was a great character on the Disney channel as was Miranda from Lizzie McGuire yet the character of Lizzie McGuire is the one Disney promoted the most. I really think that while this issue has always been in existence, it has never been as bad as it is now. Remember how Nickelodeon had all those great teenage female characters like Clarissa (Clarissa Explains It All), Ellen (The Adventures of Pete and Pete), Caitlin (Caitlin's Way), and Alex (The Secret World of Alex Mack) who were bright, intelligent, quirky girls who were never treated as being less than equal to their male characers? What happened? Has anyone seen that show All Grown Up (based on Rugrats)? Every young female character on that show has been massacred within an inch of her life. I always though that Rugrats was a great feminist show (Lil never minded playing with all boys, Angelica was bitchily assertive, her mom was a lawyer who took no shit, Phil and Lil's mom was a sweats-wearing weight lifter who had her husband take care of all the housework) but they completely disempowered every female character on All Grown Up; it's both sickening and disheartening.
  • 0

#14

Brahmsian

Brahmsian

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 12:31 PM

Have they ever in the history of TV kept a bad boy bad?? He wasn't redeemed through the love of a good woman?

Gilmore Girls, the show miki the brain mentioned in the post just above yours, joanne3482, has done this. Twice as a matter of fact. They've kept Jess a self-pitying creep who acts as if he's the only guy who ever had a less-than-perfect childhood with only occasional hints that he was on the verge of changing his ways. They did have Rory fall for him, to my great annoyance, but they haven't redeemed him yet.

It's also arguable that they made Tristan Du Grey even more of a bad boy than he had been as a result of *not* getting the good girl. In Season One he had been the handsome rich kid who expected every girl he looked twice at to be wowed by his looks and the fancy car his parents had given him. In Season Two he also became a juvenile delinquent who (with the help of some of his buddies) broke into a safe owned by a friend of his father's. There was some doubt left about whether the change had any connection with Rory's emphatic rejection of him in the Season One finale but the possibility wasn't ruled out.

PS: Don't get me started on what's happened to poor Dean since Season One. I do enough ranting about that on the GG board. :-)
  • 0

#15

mbridgii

mbridgii

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 12:41 PM

Let me add what may or may not be a view from the Y-chromosome set...

The concept of the fat guy/hot chick married couple doesn't bother me in and of itself; Phil and Vivian on "Fresh Prince" and Carl and Harriet on "Family Matters" prove it can be done well. The couple on "Nikki" was cool and "King of Queens" was OK before they tried to emulate "Raymond"'s idiot-shrew formula.

The problem is that the men on all these shows are stupid. If there is a wrong thing to say, they will say it. Any man can tell you that it's better to say nothing than to say the kind of ridiculous prattle that springs from the mouth of "writer" Ray Barone (I know he writes sports, but it's not the sports journalists who are stereotypically dumb).

I blame Tim Allen for this. Everything was going relatively well until "Home Improvement" became this big hit. Suddenly, men everywhere were grunting and burping and displaying the "me no understand chicks" bit. There's no style or flair; just a bunch of blue-collar slobs.

RE: "The Parkers" - what would really be cool is if the Professor actually started a relationship with a heavier woman. Maybe that would snap Nikki out of what is apparently still the embarassing stalker situation on TV.
  • 0

#16

healing fish

healing fish

    Stalker

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 12:45 PM

Gilmore Girls...has done this. Twice as a matter of fact. They've kept Jess a self-pitying creep who acts as if he's the only guy who ever had a less-than-perfect childhood with only occasional hints that he was on the verge of changing his ways. They did have Rory fall for him, to my great annoyance, but they haven't redeemed him yet.


Then again, Jess was hardly a bad boy. He wasn't cool enough to be. He was just a pathetic jerk, and he continues to be a pathetic jerk.

And I agree that Gilmore Girls has generally been very good at avoiding gender and relationship stereotypes.

Edited by healing fish, Apr 6, 2004 @ 1:36 PM.

  • 0

#17

Phishtar

Phishtar

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 1:05 PM

The concept of the fat guy/hot chick married couple doesn't bother me in and of itself; Phil and Vivian on "Fresh Prince" and Carl and Harriet on "Family Matters" prove it can be done well. The couple on "Nikki" was cool and "King of Queens" was OK before they tried to emulate "Raymond"'s idiot-shrew formula.
The problem is that the men on all these shows are stupid.

Yeah. The numbers, and the fact that it rarely happens in reverse, are annoying, but what really bugs me is that I can't figure out what these women are doing with these stupid, stupid, men. King of Queens bugs me less, I think, because Kevin James is so sweet and charismatic (though I haven't watched it lately). Marcie and Ted worked really well on Married, With Children 'cause it was pretty clear Marcie hadn't married him for his brains. I agree that Home Improvement was probably the precursor to it all. Another reason to hate that show...

Edited by Phishtar, Apr 6, 2004 @ 1:08 PM.

  • 0

#18

healing fish

healing fish

    Stalker

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 1:37 PM

but what really bugs me is that I can't figure out what these women are doing with these stupid, stupid, men.


I love that the Simpsons has parodied this cliche so well.
  • 0

#19

soxom2

soxom2

    Couch Potato

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 2:04 PM

I'm more annoyed by the lack of older women on TV. Older men are lacking too, but the ones that exist seem to be portrayed as wise mentors (think cop/lawyer shows), while women just take up space.

cgchimes, though I agree that this is rare, might I tentatively suggest Maxine Grey from Judging Amy as a counterexample? Neither the character nor the show is for everyone, but she certainly counts as a wise, forceful woman with a role and goals.

Edited by soxom2, Apr 6, 2004 @ 2:04 PM.

  • 0

#20

emace

emace

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 2:52 PM

I think this proves I am in desperate need of a life, but what bugs me is how animated male characters can be hideous looking, but the women ones all have to resemble the Power Puff Girls or Kim Possible. On the "Family Guy" the males even get to have double chins and be the "stars" (used broadly) of their shows.
  • 0

#21

Brahmsian

Brahmsian

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 3:00 PM

I just wish more people shared your opinion on Jess's lack of coolness, healing fish.
I'm afraid you and I are in the minority there, however.

Then again, the stubborness of the people who *do* think he's cool may be distorting my perceptions of their actual numbers. It wouldn't be the first time something like that has happened to me.
  • 0

#22

Daisy Duke

Daisy Duke

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 3:36 PM

Jess was never, ever cool, and he needs to take his whiny ass to Happy Days, if he wants to be a "bad boy." I don't care where he goes as long as he leaves Gilmore Girls.
  • 0

#23

Vacationland

Vacationland

    Couch Potato

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 3:43 PM

Physical attributes aside, intelligent female TV characters who dare to practice gender transgression and take on stereotypically "male" career roles are often (though not always) punished for it, or are effectively neutered by them. The brainy, successful women in lines of work traditionally reserved for men (or those who portray characters who have authority or power over male characters) rarely have happy family lives, successful or lasting romantic relationships, positive parent/child interactions, or live out the kind of lives their male counterparts are afforded.

Smart, powerful women on TV are frigid, controlling, humorless bitches. They're absentee parents whose children are troubled and/or unseen, or they're unable to have children at all (and are always secretly tortured by this fact). They're divorced, or have bad marriages or are widowed (and have virtually no sex life at all). They get physically or sexually assaulted. They get cancer and develop substance abuse problems. They're demoted at work, or their career is regularly placed in jeopardy. Basically, they get punished. Think about it...

Dr. Jennifer Melfi on The Sopranos (Psychiatrist, with power over charasmatic mob boss): raped, verbally abused, divorced, sex life apparently confined to dream sequences.

Dr. Dana Scully on X-Files (Doctor, FBI Agent): single, infertile, virtually nonexistent sex life, abducted, cancer, multiple assaults, demoted at work, rocky single motherhood, forced to give up child for adoption.

Dr. Kerri Weaver on ER (Doctor, Hospital Administrator): physically disabled, target of sexual and workplace harassment, rocky romantic history (with change of sexual preference mid-series), usuccessful search for birth mother, miscarriage, gay life partner relegated to a handful of episodes (while other characters' SOs get lots of screentime), and of course the macha gay Latina firefighter life partner is slated to die painfully, because she's an even worse transgressor.

Catherine Willows and Sara Sidle on CSI (scientists in law enforcement): Catherine's an illegitimate former stripper with a [now-dead] bastard ex-husband. She's frequently verbally abused or threatened by suspects at work. Her ability to do her job is often in question; her ethics, sketchy. Sara's a humorless no-lifer with a string of bad-news infatuations and a budding substance abuse problem.

Detective Olivia Benson on L&O:SVU: child of rape, alcoholic dead mother, frequent target of sexual and verbal harassment on the job, single, no kids, no romantic life to speak of...well, you get the picture. There are dozens of other examples; these were just off the top of my head. Makes me crazy!
  • 0

#24

mbridgii

mbridgii

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 3:59 PM

What annoys me is that, many times, female characters seem to be brought on a show solely as the object of some guy's affection.

Case in point - NYPD Blue. Any time a woman pops in who isn't a criminal or a victim, one of the squad members is going to have a relationship with her. If she appears in more than one episode, it's just about guaranteed - it's like "why else would you want her around?"

I still don't see how Charlotte Ross's character could be attracted to Sipowicz. I really thought the two were only friends until McDowell ended up expecting - you never saw them so much as kiss. Connie has such great abilities as a detective, but in the last eps I saw she was reduced to being jealous female over Andy and Diane (another victim of precinct love).

Is it possible for TV men and women to work together without the appearance of romance?
  • 0

#25

selkie

selkie

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 4:09 PM

I'm still miffed about NBC's interference with Homicide. Yeah, push Tom Fontana to get rid of the competent, but not conventionally pretty Kay Howard, and by the end of the series run, replace her with the incompetent beauty queen Michael Michelle played.

Compared to say, Tim Bayliss, Kay was actually one of the saner people on the show. Anf though she never seemed to talk about it much at work, we got glimpses that she had a reasonalby happy personal life.
  • 0

#26

Divaah46

Divaah46

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 6:24 PM

Oh dear Goddess in Heaven. Do Not Get Me Started on Everybody Loves Ramyond. Let's see, we have one Overcontrolling Mother, one Shrewish Wife, and The Most Pathetic Possessor of a Penis ever, Raymond Barone. He doesn't have any clue how to be a father or a husband--Not like his dad was the best role model either, with *his* whining and bitching.

And then on the "reality" shows, the women are all scheming evil witches or sluts.

And people wonder why I'm a feminist...
  • 0

#27

mbridgii

mbridgii

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 6:49 PM

Regarding Frank Barone, at least when rotten things came out of his mouth, he meant to say it. Ray comes off as ridiculous because these stupid things just flow from his mouth as if he has no concept of what is being said until it's all out.

Good old Michael Michelle. After she left "Homicide", she joined "ER" to be Benton's token black girlfriend (since Corday made too many angry). Did she even have anything to do other than be there to calm Benton down?

Another concept: the Lifetime movie. Here is the network that is supposed to be empowering women, yet every movie is some woman in jeopardy. Married to some ogre of a man who apparently didn't act like that before they said "I do". Yet she won't (or can't) leave until White Knight enters the picture to show her how different things can be.

Otherwise, she's trying to "have it all" (job, home, family). In the end, family always wins out. Which it should, but it shouldn't mean that the woman always quits working to be her kids' mom. Luckily, Dad makes plenty of money and doesn't need to see his kids.
  • 0

#28

MetropolisGal

MetropolisGal

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 7:53 PM

Smallville owns this topic.

Boring, whiny, needy Lana Lang is so popular that everyone ends up crushing on her and stalking her - even the future Superman worships the ground she walks on - while smart, cool, sexy Chloe Sullivan never gets any play, and if she does, then you know the guy is going to turn out to be a psycho kryptofreak.

At least Chloe breaks the "dumb blonde" stereotype.
  • 0

#29

rosiebloom

rosiebloom

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 10:28 PM

Anyone tired of the Rebecca Howe/Joyce Davenport archetype: intelligent career women as snide, icy, ball-cutting bitches? They are usually a position of authority over the dofus male leads or in competition with them, and use the opportunity to degrade and humiliate them, while sarcastically rebuffing their romantic advances. They same to imply that being a competent, feminist, career oriented woman means being a super kingkong kameha-meha biatch.

Edited by rosiebloom, Apr 6, 2004 @ 11:15 PM.

  • 0

#30

brighid

brighid

    Fanatic

Posted Apr 6, 2004 @ 10:41 PM

When smart girls do appear, why are they usually depicted as, if not unattractive, painfully insecure? (e.g. Grace Manning and Willow Rosenberg; despite being two of my favorite "Gamma girls," I kept wishing they had a little bit more confidence and pride in their own abilities.)


I think I've said this before but there's always American Dreams' Patty Pryor.

Edited by brighid, Apr 6, 2004 @ 10:41 PM.

  • 0