- Select one fictional television show from the list below in which the family is prominent in the story lines, subject matter, and/or character. With pen and paper ready, watch at least TWO episodes of the same show to get a sense of the show's characters and themes.
NOTE: you can watch episodes of these shows on Netflix (live streaming), on Hulu.com, or network websites like ABC.com.
- As you watch, take extensive notes about how gender is depicted in the show. Consider the readings on gender and stereotypes as you do so. Imagine that the show's creators are making claims, arguments, and sending messages about different gender roles in the American family.
- Consider the following questions as you proceed; these may jump start your critical analysis of the show. Think of these questions as different ways to approach figuring out a thesis. Hopefully one or more of these questions will guide you as you view your program, helping you to understand what might be the messages about gender that the show is sending.
What is ASSUMED to be NORMAL and TAKEN FOR GRANTED for women/men in their different roles in the show you chose?
Are the characters represented in a traditional or non-traditional way for their gender? Do the characters break from traditional gender roles?
How is the characters' gender important or not important to the roles they play? For example, if the gender roles were switched, how would it change the show?
What do you see male and female characters doing or saying that reminds you of what you read?
Consider the appearance of male and female characters: how does what they look like (or how they dress) affect your impression of these characters?
What do your characters value? How do the values differ for men and women on the show?
Do the characters’ gender roles heighten the drama, or create funny moments? What do you make of that?
If your show is long running, how do the characters change over time? What do you think that means?
MOST IMPORTANTLY: In what ways do these characters conform to the gender stereotypes described in your reading, and in what ways do they challenge them?
Some suggested shows that center on the American family:
Up All Night
The King of Queens
The Cosby Show
Everybody Loves Raymond
The New Normal
That 70’s ShowTyler Perry's House of Payne
Make a suggestion! Clear it with me first.
This assignment is not graded, but it is a crucial preparatory assignment.
Assignment of the Discussion
- Develop four well-developed paragraphs about the TV show you watched, keeping a clear focus on the portrayal of gender in the show.
- In the first paragraph, give a brief summary of the episodes you watched.
- In the second and third paragraphs, discuss how gender roles play out in the episodes you watched. You may discuss the roles of one male and one female character, or the different roles of two female characters, or you may focus both paragraphs on one male or female character.
- In the fourth paragraph, discuss how gender roles either conform to or challenge the gender stereotypes discussed in at least ONE of the readings (the readings were assigned in Assignment 6 Viewing a Television Show).
- Provide clear and specific examples from the episodes.
- Provide quotes/paraphrases from the selected reading(s) to support your ideas.
- Remember to provide in-text citations in MLA format for both the TV show episodes you watched and the reading(s) you selected. Also remember to add a Works Cited at the end of your analysis. (Don't forget to cite each episode you watched, as well as the articles.)
- Post your analysis in TV Show Discussion in the Full Class Forums.
This activity will deepen your understanding of gender roles on television, and provide some practice with critical thinking and analysis, in preparation for the analysis essay due at the end of this unit.
I will grade this assignment on the thoroughness of your understanding of gender roles in the show, the clarity of the points you develop, and the support you provide from the episodes and selected reading(s). (50 points)
That 70’s Show is a long-running television sitcom that takes place in the late 70’s in Point Place, Wisconsin. It is known that throughout many generations the men of the household are expected to be the bread winners, while the women of the household take care of the essential housekeeping tasks. That 70’s show is an ideal representation of these roles and constantly reminds the viewer what the gender norms are.
In the most perfect episode to represent gender roles “Battle of the Sexists,” each character plot represents what society deems the gender norms to be. The episode starts off by informing the audience that Red, the father of the household, has been laid off of his long-time job at the power plant. Initially, Red tells his family that everything is going to be “fine” and portrays a very laid-back, acquiescent character until he finds himself being “bored” often around the house. Because he feels like it is his duty to contribute to the household as the man of the house, throughout the episode, he continuously tries to fix things around the house, even when they aren’t broken. For instance, when the family is sitting down at the table for dinner, Red senses something unusual and rocks the table back and forth, thinking there is an abnormal rock to the table. Thinking so, he decides he is going to fix the table by cutting the legs with a saw and leveling the table off. This is followed by another representation of gender norms where Eric Forman, the main character of the show and son of Red Forman, loses a basketball game to his girlfriend, Donna. As a result of this, Eric feels as if he doesn’treach his masculine expectations, and is also ridiculed by his friends for being “weak.” Later on in the episode, Donna challenges Eric to a game of air hockey and Eric loses to her again. Afterwards, Eric is shown in a dress depicting the societal standard that a man’s skill in sports is supposed to excel that of a woman. When it is evident that Eric is bothered by this matter, Donna seeks advice from her mother who tells her that “Women have to pretend to be weak and fragile so that men can feel superior.”
Gender norms are displayed in another episode titled “Eric’s Buddy” where Eric is assigned a lab partner for his Chemistry class. The episode starts off where Eric is seen leaving school with Buddy and discussing the components of their lab project. Before him and Buddy part ways, Buddy asks Eric if he is sure that he is okay being lab partners with him, foreshadowing Buddy’s homosexuality. Eric is kind of blinded by this matter due to the fact that Buddy is the owner of a stunning sports car and immediately asks Buddy if he can take a spin in it with him. Throughout the episode, Eric begins to hang out with his rich Chemistry lab partner a lot more frequently, immersing himself in the luxuries offered by his friend. However, Buddy views this in a different way and actually sees Eric as a love interest. All is well until Buddy finally makes a move on Eric on their way back home from a movie. Eric is stunned to say the least, and is totally uncomfortable around Buddy afterwards; moving away from him every time Buddy makes a sudden move like turning on the radio. While society is gradually accepting homosexuality and the LGBT community today, back in this era, homosexuality was very frowned upon and was least likely to be accepted. Men are expected to be interested in women only, and women are expected to be interested in men alone. This is not normal for Eric, and he is ridiculed by his friends when he tells them what happened.
Television has, and still does, play a large role in the creation of societal norms. The time period in the show alone lays a foundation for the roles that are expected based upon gender and each character represents some aspect of what the societal norm is. For instance, when Donna sees that Eric is bothered by her consecutive wins, she eventually lets Eric when to make him feel more like a man in this case. She merely conforms to the societal norms of letting the man be the masculine one in this aspect. The norms of this decade were in fact displayed perfectly given the fact that this was the time period before movements such as the feminist movement took off and people began to fight for their equality. However, these issues still arise today, and media is still a huge contributing factor to what it is expected of each gender.
That 70’s Show, “Battle of The Sexists” Season 1, Episode 4, September 4, 1998.
That 70’s Show, “Eric’s Buddy” Season 1, Episode 11, December 6, 1998.
Lantagne, Allison. "Gender Roles in Media." Huffington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2015.