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The past five decades have experienced a significant shift in women role in the society as they become more active (Bickel, 2015). Nonetheless, in television, the males continue to be perceived as the dominant species; causing a further problem of patriarchy; this is in contrast to the shift in the workforce, which is continuing to grow. Television plays a crucial role in the American society and education; it is, therefore, vital to study the message that is conveyed in famous television shows to see how society views the male-female relationships.
In this paper, the role of women in television situation comedies will be analyzed, discussing the occasions of inequality, patriarchy, and misinterpretations that occur on television about gender roles. The influence that those women pose to other girls and women will also be examined. This research paper is therefore in tandem with the ongoing discussions all over the world about the role of women in television; it will assist in adding information about the topic.
In the United States, the hours that people spend watching television are very high (Taylor, 2016). People who spend a lot of time in front of TV can in some instances have their impressions about reality skewed due to what they are watching. As a result, it may be that watching a lot of situation comedies that focus on the relationships between men and women will affect an individual’s idea of reality and how men and women should romantically interact with each other (Peek, 2016). Situation comedies nowadays are very tactful in the manner in which they depict women. There are some who highlight women as knowledgeable individuals, while there are others who try to portray them as foolish or ‘blonde’ as they term it. Being that, television plays a central role in influencing trends such as fashion and other genres. Women or young girls who watch the comedies might end up thinking that the manner in which women are portrayed is real and that they should act in the way alike.
Television profoundly shows women in domestic roles; shows such as 'Modern Family' and 'Kings and Queens' are examples of sitcoms that display women in a domestic light. Women are typically shown when they are at home, carrying out household chores, taking care of their children and cooking; this is however not the reality, since women of today are highly present in both work and home environments. Situation comedies end up perpetuating gender stereotypes. The following is an analysis of “The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon” and how they depict women.
The Big Bang Theory
Majority of young university graduates are women; they are however still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science fields. In the media there still exist some stereotypes, which surround female scientists; for instance, males are more skilled than women in the society, female scientists tend to be too cold, unfashionable or too emotional. Television does not always realistically portray women in the science.
“The Big Bang Theory”, which is a CBS sitcom, features both females and males who showcase both scientific accomplishment and intelligence, suggesting the possibility of challenging gender constructions (McIntosh, 2014). However, the sexism towards females in the series is very discouraging for girls and women in the field of science. Penny, who is one of the female characters in the series, symbolizes a beautiful, but dumb woman; she is like a trophy to be earned and is portrayed as an opposite to the guys. Her last name is not even revealed on the show, symbolizing that she is not that important.
Amy and Bernadette are the other two female characters that entered the show in 2013, who are scientists just like the male characters. Amy is portrayed as a character who has a cold and masculine personality, with a frumpy look, resembling the stereotype that often surrounds women in science (Stratton, 2016). Bernadette has a squeaky voice, which makes her seem less smart in comparison to the male characters, posing as a disadvantage to females, since they are required to work harder to prove that they are more intelligent than their male counterparts. One of the leading characters, Sheldon Cooper does not think that women are as bright as him. He likes Amy who is smart, but he still devalues, mocks and considers her accomplishments as less meaningful (Stratton, 2016).
Young Sheldon is a spin-off of “The Big Bang Theory”, following the character Sheldon Cooper when he was nine, together with his family in Texas. The character who plays Sheldon is depicted as a brilliant child in comparison to his age, to the extent that he goes to high school when he is nine years old. His twin sister Missy Cooper is portrayed as a dumb character, since she is a girl. She is a beautiful character, who only focuses on her appearance, precisely the fact that her hair is gorgeous. That is an adverse representation, since young girls will see the sitcom and imagine that they are not supposed to be intelligent as young Sheldon is, and should only focus on their beauty.
In the series, Sheldon’s mother is portrayed as the stereotypical religious woman who has no interest and does not believe in science. She is focused more on ensuring that her household runs in a conventional manner. Her character does not believe in science and places her faith only in religion. In episode 12 of the comedy, Sheldon’s mother gets into an argument with his dad, since she had put money aside for emergencies and decides to buy Sheldon a computer. Mr. Cooper becomes angry, since he believes that his wife saving money is like de-emasculating him. There is no other female character in the sitcom who is more intelligent than Sheldon, not even his female teachers and grandmother. The comedy stereotypes women in the sense that only males are smart and women are supposed to be less intelligent in comparison to their male counterparts.
The gender inequalities that exist in both series are realistic, since women have to deal with such problems in their lives as scientists; this makes it difficult for girls to identify themselves with the rare female personalities that are found on television where boys are portrayed as heroes, while girls are viewed as being weak (Ceulemans, 2015). “The Big Bang Theory” highlights that sciences are not very friendly for women, which is not the case in the modern day society. The shows represent women in an inferior, undesirable way, compared to men that are unethical, since it leads women and young girls to believing that they should be like what is portrayed in the series. The shows do not regard the two sexes as equal. Restricting the power of women can be very catastrophic, especially for the girls and women that watch the shows, since they emphasize that women are only valuable while they are in relationships with men (Martin, 2015).
When women and young girls are exposed to the kind of television shows that are always valuing men and considering them to be superior beings to women, it creates a problem in a society, since there are people who end up believing that it is true. Young girls, for instance, think that sciences are only for men, and that for women venturing into sciences is not as attractive; this limits women’s capabilities, since they are only assigned domestic issues to handle.
Television results into a lot of expectations being placed on women in the sense that they should be perfect in balancing their work and life relationships (Taylor, 2016). A lot of shows end up depicting female characters in romantic and familial roles. Male characters, on the other hand, are highlighted when they are involved in work roles, which showcases them as more energetic, ambitious people who desire success a lot. Depicting women in such a manner is an aspect of patriarchy, affecting the beliefs of viewers about gender roles and women.
However, what is portrayed on the shows is usually not what is happening in real life, since we have many women who are intelligent and beautiful, and who are progressing a lot in their fields be it in sciences or arts. Women in the 21st century are breaking down the stereotypes that have existed for a long time, and they are shattering glass ceilings in their careers.
More realistic representations of women should be carried out in the shows on television. Women should be depicted as being equal with men and not any lesser; this can be achieved by an increase in the number of women who are involved in producing the shows. It is time for women to be showcased in a manner that is respectful and which highlights what honestly happens in their lives. Emphasis should not only be about how beautiful the woman or girl is or what she is wearing.
There is, however, hope, since there are other television shows that are highly rated, which display women as extremely intelligent, for instance, “Game of Thrones”, where some of the characters, such as Khaleesi who is highlighted as a knowledgeable and influential leader. Such depictions will assist in breaking down the stereotypes that have been created and perpetuated over the years. Young girls and women will be empowered to realize the roles that they have and how vital society cannot live without them.
Traditional gender roles are being perpetrated on situation comedies on television. The portrayal of female characters on television is cliché, where they are portrayed as domestic managers or being less intelligent than the male characters. Such kind of representation needs to stop, since television plays a significant impact on the lives of young girls and women. Female characters should, therefore, be shown realistically.
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Kumari, A. a. (2015). Gender Stereotyped Portrayal of Women in the Media: Perception and Impact on Adolescent. IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science 20(4), pp.44-52.
Martin, D. (2015). Women in science: are portrayals on primetime television negative, and what are effects of exposure to such content? Ph.D. diss., University of Missouri--Columbia.
McIntosh, H. (2014). Representations of Female Scientists in The Big Bang Theory. Journal of Popular Film and Television 42(4), pp.195-204.
Peek, H. S. (2016). Reality check: How reality television can affect youth and how a media literacy curriculum can help. Academic Psychiatry 40(1), pp.177-181.
Stratton, J. (2016). Die Sheldon dies: The Big Bang Theory, everyday neoliberalism, and Sheldon as a neoliberal man. Journal for Cultural Research 20(2), 171-188.
Taylor, L. D. (2016). Touchy Subjects: Sex in the Workplace on Broadcast, Cable, and Internet Television. Sex Roles 75(9-10), pp.476-489.
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