Television Aspiring Women: But is it Really?

Are females really breaking stereotypes?

Have times really changed since the birth television?

Well, in my previous blog post I gave some reasons to why there has been a  significant change in how women are portrayed in television today. Decades of female actresses have fought classic Hollywood stereotypes, proving there’s more to women then just their “long legs and point hair” (Marry Tyler Moore). However, even though we have arrived at the decade of fluid and experimental storytelling as well as character development, somehow the roles are still bounded by a clear divide in how women and men are portrayed on television. In an Indiwire online article named “Sorry, Ladies: Study on Women in Film and Television Confirms the Worst” the writer claims “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World.” Moreover, another article in the Huffington Post titled “Women In The Media: Female TV and Film Characters Still Sidelined And Sexualized, Study Finds,” disagrees with my previous post, indicating there is still a great deal of struggle and sexism within the industry, writing “for every Carrie Mathison the brilliant, complicated spy Claire Danes plays on “Homeland,” there are six “Real Housewives.”

Furthermore, the article is about the the study done by sociologist Stacy L. Smith analyzing 11,927 roles on prime-time television. She looked at female characters’ jobs, clothing, body shape(size) and how often they spoke, if not at all.Smith found that there needs to be more of “aspirational” female roles. Also her findings reported”female characters are sidelined, women are stereotyped and sexualized, a clear employment imbalance exists.” The female characters are portrayed as relatively thin, wearing clothing that highlights their most prominent physical features, and have a tendency of being submissive and weak when its matters of the heart. Research concluded by implying that show-runners and creators need to make more “substantive female characters in media channels popular with young people.”

Lets take a look at Scandal for example, as it both agrees and disagrees with Smiths findings. Scandal is a political thriller following a character named Olivia Pope(Kerry Washington), who has a well established “crisis management” firm in D.C. So in this case, the female lead has a strong and powerful character, however, she is in love with the President of U.S. and is having an on again/off again affair with him. The character seems to handle herself well in any situation, except when it comes to her emotions. This is typical stereotype in society of how women are “emotional” which is being portrayed on prime-time television. Also the actress chosen to play Olivia Pope is beautiful, skinny, always dressed professional but in a “sexy” way. This confirms Smiths findings about the women being sexualized on screen.

Kerry Washington(Olivia Pope) and Tony Goldwyn(President Fitzgerald) did a spread for Guide Magazine:

“A National Affair” Olivia and Fitz, Guide Magazine

The heading writes ” Will the Scandalous love between passionate politicos Olivia and Fitz survive all the lies and betrayals?” Other media outlets follow television by promoting these behaviors that aren’t “aspirational” at all.

So to answer the question whether females are REALLY breaking stereotypes in television, the answer isn’t black and white, more of a grey. Even though the amount of female leads and stronger female roles have increased significantly since the birth of televised entertainment, there are still a quite few barriers and millstones women must cross to be truly equal in television.


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