Why Does It Matter? Socialization Theory and Feminist Television Criticism4
The Good Old Days? 1950s and the “Golden Age” of Television6
Few Women in Management in News9
New Age, Same Problems: Female Characterization in the New Millennium12
Future Directions and Conclusion15
Portrayal of women as leaders in television
When television executives report their core audience, women always come out ahead. For example, ABC's female audience almost doubled its male audience during the 2007-2008 seasons. Women on-screen, however, seem to reflect a different reality, making up only 43% of characters in the prime-time 2007-2008 season. As shown by studies going back as far as the 1970s, women onscreen not only fail to represent the proportional makeup of women in society, they also overwhelmingly show a stereotypically gendered version of women. This chapter aims to address the evolution of women's leadership in prime-time network scripted television from 1950 to 2008. Because of the way that women marginalized in television, it is important to study shows that have featured women as lead characters. Characters such as Lucy Ricardo (I Love Lucy, 1951-1960) influenced later female leads such as Ann Marie (That Girl, 1966-1971), Mary Richards (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1970-1977), and Murphy Brown (Murphy Brown, 1988-1998). Thus along with an introduction to socialization theory and feminist television criticism, this entry discusses some of the most influential female characters and women-centered shows of this period (Hammers, 2005).
Why does the leadership of women matter in media?
Why Does It Matter? Socialization Theory and Feminist Television Criticism
Though many argue that television is only entertainment, it is probably the most likely form of media to cross lines of class, gender, race, and ethnicity. As John Fiske and John Hartley (1989) state,
Everybody knows what it is like to watch television. Certainly; and it is television's familiarity, its centrality to our culture, that makes it so important, so fascinating, and so difficult to analyze. It is rather like the language we speak: taken for granted but both complex and vital in an understanding of the way human beings have created their world. (p. 16)
Television has the unconscious ability to shape our attitudes and cultural expectations. Television “is one of the ways our culture talks to itself about itself” (Johnson, 2007, p. 19). Moreover, television viewing starts early and it remains a consistent companion throughout the life cycle. Due to this extraordinary amount of potential exposure, what television presents as social norms often become real-life social and political norms. Indeed as Patti Valkenburg and Marjolein Vroone (2004) show, children learn from attitudes and behaviors depicted by characters on-screen.
Every few years television executives and critics feverishly announce that it is “the era of women.” Yet the numbers suggest that women have made only slight advances in both their proportionality of representation on the screen and in how they portrayed. From 2000 to 2008, there was only one prime-time network scripted television show that could be classified as a woman-led show (Desperate Housewives, ...