Discuss the relationship between gender and the sitcom genre in one screened episode of one sitcom studied in this unit The Simpsons). Your discussion should pay particular attention to the ways in which generic conventions of the sitcom are employed as a means for exploring gender roles and/or sexual difference in the nominated episode and the series as a whole.
Gender in The Simpsons.
It is known in today’s world, that males and females are seen as two distinct separate classes, owing mainly to society’s expectations. Having been present throughout the history of mankind, reinforced and loosened over the ages, gender differences have been synonymous with day to day actions and are represented in every available medium. The notion that men and women are different is interpreted through their traditional roles. Men, being the dominant gender, is shown to possess heavy masculine traits, are physically stronger and are the ‘breadwinner’ of those around him, while women are seen to be fragile, require the help of men eventually and enforce a caring, forgiving nature. Having shaped itself from the simple thought that men are at the top of the food chain, they are thus given more opportunities in life, putting emphasis on their value above women. This is reflected in the roles of characters in sitcoms, as men usually take the form of the protagonist and are given main roles, with most of the issues and screen time directed around them. Women on the other hand are given stereotypical minor roles, such as the position of a housewife, or an assistant. Females also have their sexuality emphasized and objectified. Each gender is presented in a recurring pattern, enforcing how they are meant to act according to their sex. (Mattsson 1) Through analysis of this statement in relation to sitcoms, it is possible to view how gender roles are constantly reproduced and challenged, particularly in The Simpsons.
Since its inception on December 17,1989 The Simpsons has managed to stay timeless through its twenty-odd years, attaining the world record for longest running scripted series in television history while still enjoying praise and winning acclaimed awards from Time magazine and being awarded its own star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (The Simpsons) In its twenty five series (552 episodes to date), the adult animation sitcom has gained worldwide recognition with its well-known characters and plots spanning current as well as past contemporary issues, reflecting a heavy Americanized culture. As a sitcom, the show sticks true to its roots, generic societal roles and generic conventions are present, with a lack of character and series development. In each episode, a specific issue is faced and resolved. The Simpsons has been timeless because of its ability to portray reality and its day-to-day topics such as society, politics, consumerism, working culture and familial relationships in an entertaining way that reaches out to both children and adults. The use of humor and exaggeration is made to poke fun at the audience and balances between morality and controversy. (Gray, 6)The audience can capture and understand what is happening easily, as the stereotypical characters are riddled with clichés. (Henry 273) The story revolves around a nuclear family of five, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. Each character has been created to represent their specific gender roles. Homer Simpson is the main character of the show, represented to be the typical American father (as exaggerated and with satire in mind). Working at the city’s nuclear plant as an inspector, he is a blue collar worker who provides for the family, but is also seen to be impulsive, ignorant, careless and patronizing. His focus is mainly on junk food, beer and simplistic television shows that require minimal brain activity. (Erickson and Erickson 744). Marge Simpson is the housewife, the primary care taker of the family, portrayed as thoughtful, friendly and critical. She...
References: Erickson, Hal and Hal Erickson. Television cartoon shows. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2005. Print.
Gray, Jonathan. Watching with The Simpsons: television, parody and intertextuality.. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Henry, Matthew. "“Don 't Ask me, I 'm Just a Girl”: Feminism, Female Identity, and The Simpsons." The Journal of Popular Culture, 40. 2 (2007): 272--303. Print.
Jessamyn Neuhaus. "Marge Simpson, Blue-Haired Housewife: Defining Domesticity on The Simpsons." The Journal of Popular Culture 43.4 (2010): 761-781. Print.
Mattsson, Anna-Karin. "Gender in The Simpsons." Bachelor Thesis 1.287 (2009): 1-21. Lulea University of Technology. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
The Simpsons on FOX – About the show." The Simpsons. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2014. .
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