Mainstream Media and Gender Stereotyping

Topics: The Simpsons, Gender, Marge Simpson Pages: 6 (1636 words) Published: October 21, 2013
Katherine Pomykacz [996888783]
Media Lab 7: Feminist Analysis

Mainstream Media and Gender Stereotyping
It is well understood that the mass media holds the power to reinforce dominant social understandings of males and females, further producing discriminating social systems (Ott, 2010, p. 180). This is done through the media’s ability to naturalize the link between various biological traits (born by males and females) with gender norms (of femininity and masculinity). Stereotyping can occur when a “misleading or simplified representation” is produced, usually by blending realistic aspects of life, material conditions and social roles (Ott, 2010, p. 180). These categories of gender stereotyping can be identified through such popular television shows as: The Simpsons and The Honeymooners. The popular sitcom entitled, The Simpsons depicts an American working class nuclear family that “define culture, society, way of thinking, and exploits the problems that Americans face every day” (Hodge, 1999, p.1). Within the episode: “Homer Alone”, the characters will resemble the typical gender and family roles, and at times contradict them through their actions and personalities (Hartman, 2009).

The first scene opens with a sped-up version of Marge’s (Homer’s Wife) daily routine. The combination of cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her three children and husband lead to her breaking point (Hartman, 2009). At this point, it is evident that “the price of motherhood” entails overworking and under-appreciation from her family (Hartman, 2009). Marge decides to travel on a relaxing vacation, leaving her household duties to her husband (Homer), and childrearing to her sisters. During her leave, Homer struggles with tending to the children and keeping the house in order. Once Marge returns home, the family realizes how much they missed and need her to properly function as a family (Hartman, 2009). The episode does highlight the intense labour involved with taking care of the home and family (which has been devalued and unacknowledged), but a resolution is only found once the well-constructed gender norms are re-established (Miller, 2009, p.2).

In the situation comedy show entitled The Honeymooners depicts a working class man (Ralph) and his wife (Alice). The episode: “Brother Ralph” explicitly defines gender norms and stereotypes through its characters and their attitudes toward work, home-life, and leisure activities (Marx, 2011).


Katherine Pomykacz [996888783]
Media Lab 7: Feminist Analysis

Within this episode, Ralph is temporarily laid off from his job as a bus driver and must accept Alice’s plea to land a new job as a typist. Ralph becomes jealous and embarrassed by his wife’s new position and insists he meet her new (male) boss and that they work at home (Marx, 2011). As Alice and her (handsome) boss are working, Ralph learns he has been rehired and violently throws Alice’s boss out of the house (Marx, 2011). Alice is both angry and flattered at Ralph’s violent jealousy. She and Ralph are extremely happy to return to their customary roles. This episode illustrates the necessity of maintaining a traditional division of labor within the household (Marx, 2011). It is possible to break-down gender stereotypes into three separate sub-categories, all of which analyze the male and female notions that can “gloss over the complex characteristics that actually define a social group” (Ott, 2010, p. 180). Therefore, one can analyze The Simpsons and The Honeymooners through an: active or passive, public and private, and logical or emotional (Ott, 2010, p. 182). Ideas of masculinity convey images associated with a man’s agency, activity, control, and physical strength (Ott, 2010, p. 182). In addition, ideas of femininity are associated with images of weakness, innocence, and vulnerability (Ott, 2010, p. 182). Homer and Marge Simpson both fulfill these feminine and masculine stereotypes (Vernay, 2012, p.1). It is evident that...
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