Hollywood is a Vessel for Enforcing Gender Stereotypes
The media’s impact on gender roles in todays society can be seen in television programs that the population is exposed to everyday. Network shows like Desperate Housewives and Entourage prominently display how the media targets either gender. Desperate Housewives is intended to attract a primarily female audience, drawing from what society typically deems interesting to women: sex, gossip and scandal. The show portrays women as dainty, manipulative and sexualized creatures who crave most for the attention of men and superficial beauty rather than satisfaction in career.
The shows name even reinforces the idea that women should stay in the house, leaving the bread winning for the men. On the other hand, Entourage is tailored for the male population. The ale characters in the show are career driven, obtuse to emotional relationships and maintain a “devil may care” attitude. Men are portrayed as brash, aggressive and belligerent creatures, fueled only by their competitive nature and their ambition.
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What either show advertises differs as well.
Entourage urges men to focus on physical dominance, status, and career satisfaction while Desperate Housewives urges women to focus on outer appearance, trivial gossip, and romantic satisfaction. Both programs intend to attract viewers through different portrayals of what an “ideal” image of a man or woman should be, a denial of which would lead to issatisfaction. This in turn pressures the viewers to internalize the stereotype in order to satisfy what they believe to be their rightful role in life and achieve the same happiness as the fictional characters.
The effects of these television shows on the general public are deeply rooted in psychology. Shows such as Desperate Housewives and Entourage subtly make use of a principle known as the “self-fulfilling prophecy,” an assumptions about the future that directly affects the outcome (Gerrig, 2012). Gabrielle Solis, a character on Desperate Housewives, is a prime example of this. Solis, an attractive ex-model married to a wealthy businessman, is an avatar of sexuality and seduction. By looking gorgeous and flaunting her sexuality, she commands the attention of the men around her and plays with them like puppets.
She has affairs, lives a lavish lifestyle and indulges in her sexual activity, all the while seeming to look more and more desirable as the show goes on. Depictions like this give the targeted female audience an unfounded desire of superficial beauty, desiring the same sexual magnetism and attractiveness as Solis, so as to mimic the control she has over men. Consequently, the female audience is discouraged from pursuing career goals, as the life of a “housewife” seems to be one of leisure and excitement.
As a result, the targeted temale’s innate drive shi tts and changes ner tocus to the pursuit ot shallow beauty, romantic satisfaction and male attention. Ultimately, the female viewer looks more attractive and may have more success romance simply because of the extra effort and time they invested because of the shows influence. Similarly, in Entourage, the “self-fulfilling prophecy’ also works to reinforce the masculine personas the characters portray. The show mainly focuses on domineering male characters such as Ari Goldman, an arrogant but successful talent agent.
He is portrayed as someone who is successful and powerful in life because of his strong drive and aggressive attitude. In essence, Ari is someone who is good at his Job and knows it. Upon viewing Goldman’s behavior, the targeted audience may assume that success comes with aggression and ambition. As a result, the viewers may take a more aggressive and driven approach to their work, which likely may lead to improvement in work and satisfaction in their career. The “self-fulfilling prophecy’ motivates the viewers to onform to gender roles in order to achieve the apparent satisfaction of the characters in the show.
The principles regarding “self-fulfilling prophecies” inherent in the shows resemble a study detailed in Gerrigs Psychology and Life. Researchers conducted a study to understand the effects a parent’s expectations have on a student’s academic scores. The researchers believed that a parent’s predetermined expectations on a child would in turn motivate or discourage success. Upon completing the study, the results suggest that children whose parents positively reinforce them tend to score igher (Gerrig, 2012) as the children felt more motivated to prepare.
Comparably, both the audience targeted by Entourage and Desperate Housewives, as well as the students were exposed to an assumption which is not necessarily true and reacted to the stimulus accordingly. However, whereas the end result in the case of the students is a better academic score, the audience of the programs becomes conformed to the gender roles enforced by society. If watched by a child from an early age, these television programs can make the gender stereotypes inherent and instinctive. This is the main difficulty with culling existing stereotypes.
The roles portrayed in both shows will give a child a false sense of restriction; that women must be attractive, seductive and submissive while men are aggressive and ambitious. It can ultimately force children to feel like they must abide by the restrictions for fear of being ostracized or deemed “unmanly’ or “unfeminine”. Children will forget that, although counterintuitive, being male or female is not attached to any one trait, and may become discouraged if they do not fit into their prescribed gender role. The stereotypical portrayals prevent the young from freely exploring their mind and personality.
Ultimately, children become rapped trying to fulfill a role they may not be entirely comfortable with. Because of todays incredible accessibility of media, gender stereotypes are spread rampantly. This is harmful to society as it forces the more impressionable younger generation to adopt outdated gender stereotypes as its own. One’s gender as well as one’s personality should be something, which is explored alone. Being free to understand one’s gender comfortably can help to create a healthy perception, mentality, and behavior. A possible solution is to mix up the roles played by each gender, maybe depicting a strong career driven woman.