Gender Representation in Sitcoms
The world of sitcoms has changed significantly since the 1950s. Back then, women were always portraying particular stereotypes that were firmly embedded in the society at that time. The female characters were only there to enhance the roles of their male counterparts. The current situation is less extreme but the representation of both men and women in contemporary sitcoms has remained polarized. Patriarchy remains dormant in most of the story lines as it is in modern societies.
In most of today’s sitcoms, men are portrayed as aggressive, rational, impulsive, rational, and clever. On the other hand, women are usually portrayed as submissive, gentle, emotional, irrational, and prudent in most instances. Men are the heroes in the story and they are the ones the audience looks up to. Women are seen to be play mere supportive roles in the sitcoms. They are usually less independent, often looking at the male main character for guidance and direction.
Stereotypes about women still abound in these sitcoms almost sixty years later. One of the biggest stereotypes about women in the sitcoms is based on physical appearance. Society has refused to acknowledge the fact that women can be both gorgeous and intelligent (Hill, 2010). In most sit-coms, the pretty girls are always portrayed as unintelligent while the clever girls or those with high paying jobs are often unattractive. Overweight women on these television shows are often the subject of ridicule by their male co-stars as well as the public.
Even when these female characters have professional lives, this part of their lives is usually ignored. The focus is on their family lives, their domestic chores, and the relationships they form throughout the show. On the other hand, the male characters’ jobs are over-glorified and form the basis of their characteristics and the entire show.
In my opinion, women need to be given roles that are more challenging in sitcoms. The story does not have to revolve around their love lives all the time. It is time we saw more career women on these programs who have managed to balance their professional and personal lives. It is time we see women actually managing to do it all.
Hill, L. (2010). Gender and Genre: Situating Desperate Housewives. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 38 (4): 162-169.