September 28, 2014
Gender roles are nothing more than the belief that men and women have different behaviors and characteristics based on their sex. The media is partly responsible in creating this social norm through various forms of media which include television shows, films, and different advertisements. According to a Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan, “mass media not only gives people information and entertainment, it also affects people’s lives by shaping their opinions, attitudes and beliefs” (1964). Although the media uses certain tactics to reinforce the dynamics in American society that men are masculine and women are feminine, the hit television series Southland redefine gender roles.
Gender roles places individuals in a box. To society it is seen as unorthodox for a man to have feminine characteristics or a woman to have masculine characteristics. Aaron Devor once said, “the clusters of social definitions used to identify persons by gender are collectively known as ‘femininity ‘and ‘masculine’. Masculine characteristics are used to identify males, while feminine ones are used as signifiers for femaleness.” If a man or woman display both masculine and feminine characteristics, they are considered progressive. The television series Southland defies the stereotypical gender roles that most shows display. The show is more progressive in its depiction of gender roles. Southland is a crime drama that focus on the lives, experiences and interactions of a few Los Angeles Police Department officers. While the show has a great ensemble cast, there are two characters that stand out the most; John Cooper and Lydia Adams. Detective Lydia Adams, played by Regina King, is a very progressive female. Women are seen by society as weak, submissive, nurturing, and emotional but detective Adams break the mode. During an episode of Southland titled “Derailed” the audience sees a non-traditional woman for once. When she first appear on the screen she comes off as the usual female character I’d expect to see on television. She’s enjoying lunch with a friend, talking about being set up with a guy, when she receives a call being asked to do a favor. Although Lydia has feminine traits that delivers on screen, what makes her so progressive is not only her career choice but the characteristics she displays throughout the show. Lydia is in a field that is dominated by men. Her career choice is one of the reasons why she comes across as a progressive female. Gender roles effect law enforcement tremendously. Society feels that women are not physically nor emotionally strong enough to be a police officer. They feel that men are better equipped to handle a firearm, more aggressive, and make smart life changing decisions. But none of that is an obstacle for detective Adams. During the episode, Lydia is asked to protect a 15 year old teen, she valiantly said yes. Throughout the episode Lydia exhibits fearlessness as she does her job. She is strong, confident, and experienced. Although she shows the flexibility of being soft and nurturing in the way she communicates with the teen Janila, Lydia has very aggressive traits. She speaks with an assertive tone, she is not passive in the least. She gives the impression of being non-emotional in the way she handles herself with a gun, there was no fear or doubt. For example, “Gender role characteristics reflect the ideological contentions underlying the dominant gender schema in North American society. The schema leads us to believe that female and male behaviors are the result of socially directed hormonal instructions which specify that females find themselves relatively helpless and dependent on males for support and protection” (Devor). Most female characters on screen is dependent on a male lead to save the day, but Lydia is tough and independently save not only her life but the teens life. Even Lydia style of dress and...
Cited: "Derailed ." Southland . 21 May 2009. Television.
Devor, Aaron. "Gender Role Behavior and Attitudes." Sings of Life: Reading Popular Culture (2012). Print.
McLuhan, Marshall, 1964 “The Medium is the message” in: Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet.
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