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7 Cards in this Set

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Television began its full-scale invasion of American homes about fifty years ago. Early programming followed a strict set of self-imposed rules - the family unit was always comprised of a father and mother, both of whom happily coexisted with multiple children. Television programs such as I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, and Lassie, all adhered to this unspoken rule set with little variation. As the years progressed, the first generation of television viewers was growing up, and so too were its television programs.
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The idea of the gender role has been carefully intertwined with the television medium since its inception. In the case of the traditional female gender role, the first incarnation was the stay-at-home Mom. She was always in the kitchen, ready with full makeup and an evening dress, even at 7 AM. Men, on other hand, were portrayed as the breadwinner, working hard to support their wives and children. The lack of continuity with reality was apparent with these programs, and by the late 1960’s many of the shows were being replaced by programming which eschewed these traditional gender roles. Or did they? On the surface it may seem that Hollywood was broadening its social portrayals, resulting in a beneficial breakdown of the stereotypical gender role portrayals. The reality is that the medium of television benefits from
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pigeon-holing groups into new stereotyped roles.
In Hollywood, if they try something once, and it works, they will use it again and again and again. Some think it is because they lack creativity, and that is part of it. However, it mostly is because of the millions of dollars involved. It just is not financially viable for Hollywood to write characters as unique individuals. They find a profitable formula, and use it to death. This is just another brilliant side effect of capitalism.
I chose this issue because I am concerned in a broader sense with how Hollywood has been portraying, or not portraying, the individual. If we believe the propaganda fed to us by
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Hollywood, we all would be boxed into five or six pre-made roles. The book smart Asian who is good in Math, the black kid who plays every sport, but can’t read so well, the Latin girls with 3 kids by the time they are 18, and the gossipy, sexually promiscuous gay guy who only thinks about clothes. I am concerned in the lack of responsibility being accepted by Hollywood as they continue everyday try to make their gender and stereotyped roles in movies and television. The men and women in Hollywood have more power over free thought then anyone else in our lives- more than teachers, parents, even politicians. Not only do they refuse to recognize a responsibility with this power, they have cleverly made it “politically incorrect” to call them on this fact. I, like most here today, was raised to some degree by the television. The messages it conveyed to me as a child absolutely had an impact on the way in which I have been desensitized to things such as violence and sex. Now, if I were to state this to someone within the media, I
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would be met with statements such as ‘TV programs don’t have that kind of power. Video games don’t have that kind of power; you need to check your right wing, old fashioned views at the door.’ Well, I am here to say that I by NO means am a right wing conservative…..but I am a keen observer. And to make this a political issue misses the point entirely, it is not about politics, right or left wing. We as a country have been charmed by the media, almost entranced. We like what it represents, what it stands for, in this culture. In our world you are told your success hinges on your achievement as an individual, so naturally there is no higher honor than stardom, and fame. It is the penultimate “I made it!” But there is a dark side in this drive to individually succeed. Sexism and racism are alive and well within popular media. Just because you make a joke that is highly intelligent and thought provoking, makes it no less racist, sexist, or ageist. Hollywood is now hiding behind this “liberal”, intelligent humor, and actually
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releasing more and more denigrating media. They think because it is not obvious, that people won’t call them on it. I am calling them on it. All of it.
I used two television series for examples of Hollywood’s new gender roles, That Girl, a late 60’s and early 70s sitcom, and the more contemporary Will and Grace. I also used a few articles found by using Academic Search Premier and JStor, as well as two selections from our textbook, Signs of Life.
The bottom line is this. Our unfortunate affinity for two-party politics in the United States has skewed the way we all view societal issues. It has taught us all that if we don’t agree with some issue, that the only other viable option to take is the exact opposite. It has taught us to think it terms of black and white, right and left, both literally and figuratively. This narrow way
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of thinking has seeped into all aspects of American life, including the inability to see individuals for who they are. Until we as a society shut off our televisions and come together to discuss issues, rather than be told how to think, those in power will continue to force their antiquated notions down our throats. We have the ability to take away their power; turn off the television, go outside, read a book, heck, write a book. But instead of observing life through television, why not live it?
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