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Culture and the Social Construction of Gender Media Assignment Podeschi Honors Social Science Id like to encourage you

you to be more aware of how culture is both a powerful background element in our lives and how we often learn values, beliefs and norms even when no explicit lesson is being taught. I want you to pay close attention to the portrayal of male and female characters in fictional media you consume for the next few weeks and write a 23 page paper summarizing what you learn. My only requirement is that you base your paper on at least THREE different FICTIONAL television shows, each at least 30 minutes long. And rather than watching multiple episodes of the same show, you are to watch THREE different shows, i.e., one episode of each of three shows. You can of course watch more than this if you wish. My apologies if you dont watch much television. No reality shows, documentaries, or historical fiction please. Since I know sometimes students watch tv shows online or on DVD, please also make sure each program is from approximately the same period. You should take notes as you watch, and you should pay attention to both the personality characteristics and behaviors of the male and female characters. It may be worthwhile also to take note of the apparent esteem/status and/or occupation of male and female characters. Do not restrict yourself to these suggestions; let the data speak as well. To write your paper, study your notes for patterns via comparative analysis (compare male to male, female to female, and female to male characters). Patterns worth writing about do not need to be perfect/absolute.

In fact, in qualitative work like this, if you see the same type a couple of times it is often worth writing about. In the paper, describe the important patterns you discover, illustrate them for claritys sake, and then discuss what you see as the significance and/or implications of your findings. Your paper IS NOT TO BE A TRANSCRIPTION OF YOUR NOTES. You are to process and digest what you learn about the portrayal of male and female characters. Tell me what male characters had in common. Tell me what female characters had in common. Tell me what was common to both genders. Figure this out by comparing characters and their traits. In other words, study your notes and reflect on the IMPLICIT MESSAGES ABOUT GENDER, i.e., about what lessons the shows teach us about WHAT MEN ARE and WHAT WOMEN ARE. This paper will be due March 29

Jamie Wagner Dr. Podeschi Honors Principles of Sociology April 3, 2012 Culture and the Social Construction of Gender Media is one of the many agents of socialization that continually teach culture to those who consume it. This paper analyzes three television shows, exploring the roles of gender that each one presents. The shows include two live action sitcoms ( Seinfeld and That 70s Show) and one animated comedy show (King of the Hill). One random episode of each show was watched, and each had a run time of about 22 minutes. By observing the roles that males and females had in the shows, implied messages can be discovered. Seinfeld, That 70s Show, and King of the Hill each presented male characters that were intentionally made to seem oafish for comedic effect. The spacey Kramer from Seinfeld had a storyline in the episode based around getting revenge on a cable company for once not meeting an appointment time. Kelso in That 70s Show was a hopeful police officer who got constant Ds and ended up accidentally burning down the police academy throughout the course of the episode. Dale, the resident stooge in King of the Hill, became obsessed with writing down stories and jokes that his friends told, becoming irate when he realizes there wasnt much to talk about. There were no women in these shows that showed this kind of intentional comic relief. These situations seem to show that only males do dumb things. The female characters are naturally contrasted with these men, showing a more practical and sensible side. On the other hand, the stupidity of these men could stem from the fact that males make up the majority of each shows cast. This may mean that the blundering men are comedic only due to circumstance. Still, it seems clear that there were dumb guys who had no female counterparts, sending the message that there are very stupid men in the world.

Seinfeld and That 70s Show also have similarities in terms of men who seem to be sexually charged. In Seinfeld, George, the balding, stocky loser character, has an obsession with the actress Marisa Tomei. He is intrigued by her beauty and deeply saddened when he has an opportunity to go on a date with her, but he is already engaged. His obsession drives him to watch various films with Marisa while fantasizing that she is in his presence. Fez from That 70s Show was presented as a socially awkward foreigner who at one point assigned values to different family member embraces, including a cousin kiss and a hug from a large breasted aunt. In a similar manner, Eric (the male lead of the show) expresses displeasure when his fiance, Donna, suggests eliminating sexual contact until they are married. These three characters seem to suggest that men are pigs, sometimes reaching maniacal and downright creepy statuses due to their sexual obsessions. George looks at Tomei as a sexual object, while Fez seems to simply enjoy physical contact of any kind. Eric, while clearly loving Donna, is reluctant to give up carnal relations. These examples portray mens values as being sexual in nature, implying that sex is a priority for many men. The episode of King of the Hill challenged that sexually enthusiastic male image; Bobby, the boy who was a focal point of the episode, had a more wholesome reasoning for wanting to be with a girl. As Bobbys friends began to spend time with their romantic partners, he became lonely. This inspired him to find his own girlfriend by any means necessary. This characters intentions challenge the sex-crazed male image that the other two shows made clear. He sees females not as sex objects, but instead as objects that can help him overcome his boredom. Bobbys youth could play a role in his innocence, contrasting the adults of the other two shows who are only interested in bodily relations. Still, this episode of King of the Hill acted as an advocate for males who dont become stereotypical girl watchers.

The female characters had different intentions for their interests in men. When she found out that Jerry made a lot of money, Elaine from Seinfeld visibly became interested in him. They are portrayed as friends, but Elaines urges to be in a relationship dont emerge until she realizes his wealth. In this case, Jerry represents a man as a success object, and Elaine represents a woman who wants to latch onto him for his money. This portrayal sends a message that says women will cling to men just because of financial success. It also implies that men need to be wealthy in order to have women interested in them. The teenage Connie in King of the Hill was infatuated with a certain boy not only because of his physical appearance, but also because of his academic success. Similar to Jerry, this unnamed boy is also representative of a success object due to his intellectual ability. This boy isnt explained any further, so his specific character traits and personality are unknown. The fact that beauty and brains alone serve as justification for desiring a man implies that teenage girls can be shallow when choosing partners. Both Seinfeld and King of the Hill imply that woman can be judgmental, and that men need to have some degree of success in order to be desirable. That 70s Show challenged the norms established by the other two shows in terms of womens reasoning for choosing partners. Brooke in That 70s Show said that she respected the honesty of her oafish boyfriend, Kelso, after he admitted that he burned down the police academy. She doesnt judge her partner in terms of intellectual ability or career success, as she continues to love him even after he causes serious mayhem. The message that this example conveys is that women can value personality traits. Brookes faith shows a message that it is acceptable to judge people on what is inside, and that not all people a re shallow or judgmental. This show takes a more optimistic approach, showing that women can be forgiving in even the most extreme circumstances.

Seinfeld, That 70s Show, and King of the Hill present varied views on culturally accepted gender norms. Characters intentions relationships varied between gender; two shows showed that males value sex, and two shows showed that females value success. One show argued with each of those norms. All three shows portrayed male figures that were humorously dim-witted. Overall, watching television to interpret messages on gender can reveal, reinforce, and challenge cultural values.