Gender Roles on Television by Angela Santomero
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~:: Angela Santomero ::~
What do we want for our children?
I want my daughters to believe that they can do anything that they want to do…within reason. I want my daughters to learn everything they need to know to go out into the world and make a difference. I want them to learn; first and foremost, what will make them happy.
Kids spend nearly 55 hours a week watching television, texting or playing video games. (The Daily Green)
What they see and hear truly affects their view of the world. I give careful thought to even the smallest details in my shows – what the characters eat, how they feel, what they do, which character traits go with which character, and whether or not they should be boys or girls. It’s important to me that we don’t show our characters eating sugary snacks and cakes for a “special occasion” because, truth be told, it’s always a special occasion on a television show. In addition, one study found that:
98 percent of food ads seen by children on top-rated shows were for junk food.
We know that boys are more reluctant readers, so we intentionally chose our main character, Super Why, to be a boy. We know that there are much fewer girls on television so we made our main character, Blue, a girl. And we made sure that she didn’t have long eyelashes nor a cute little bow. She is blue. And she is a girl.
But when I look at media, as a whole, for my own two daughters, I worry. As much as I can talk with them and model for them the type of women I would like them to grow up to be, I find that in media, women are still typecast in traditional roles, while men are portrayed as the more dominant figures. Women are stereotypically represented as dependent and emotional. Women are the mothers, and men are the bread winners. Women are under represented in television about 3:1.
“The fact that a majority of voice-overs on television are male, that there are more male news readers on television and that many of the major film directors are men indicates that it is the male who has the authority and the control of the world of television.”(Elena Beasley)
This presents the world through the eyes of men. When women are featured, their voices in commercials are often used to sell products such as laundry detergent, diapers and jewelry. And it should also comes as no surprise that advertisers typically use women as sex objects to sell products such as beer.
We know there are no limits to what our children can do. So why are we feeding our children the idea of limits in the form of media?
And what can we do about it?
Model behavior in your own lives that needn’t be so defined by gender
Talk with your kids about such issues when opportunities present themselves in your day to day
Limit the amount of questionable media our kids ingest..the same way in which we limit the amount of sugar they eat.
Keep their dreams and expectations for themselves free and unrestrained
And I’ll do my part by continuing to write strong, smart female characters that create their own destinies!
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ABOUT ANGELA: Angela has been changing the way children watch TV for over 15 years. She is a Founding Partner & Chief Creative Officer of Out of the Blue Enterprises LLC, overseeing all creative development with the vision to bring educational entertainment to a whole new level.
Angela Santomero is the Lead Creator, Executive Producer and Head Writer for Nick Jr.’s landmark preschool show Blue’s Clues. Malcolm Gladwell referred to it as “One of the stickiest TV shows EVER made” in his book, The Tipping Point. Her ability to integrate education, entertainment & active participation helped make Blue’s Clues a breakthrough program. Currently, Angela is the Creator, Executive Producer & Head Writer of the Emmy-nominated and #1 ranked preschool show, Super Why!, which helps build literacy skills through fractured fairytales & interactive games. She recently unveiled her latest, (the Mister Rogers’ spin off) Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood this week. She presently hosts PBS’ The Parent Show at PBSparents.org.
Angela is a Peabody Award Winner for Outstanding Children’s Programming, a Gold & Silver Parents Choice Awards recipient & has been nominated for over 35 Emmy Awards. Her blog, AngelasClues.com, approaches Parenting from her vantage point as a successful childrens’ media creator, to assist parents with the most important job of all!