Monday, March 31, 2014

Modern Family: Just Like Yours or Mine

Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd’s comedy Modern Family is about three separate yet related families.  The series shows the lives of Jay Pritchett and his second wife Gloria Delgado. She has a son Manny Delgado from her first marriage and they have an infant son, Joe.  Jay has two kids from his fist marriage Mitchell and Claire.  Mitchell and his life partner Cameron Tucker adopted their Vietnamese daughter Lily Tucker-Pritchett.  Claire and her husband Phil Dunphy have three children Haley, Alex, and Luke.  Modern Family is an attempt at showing a regular family going through life’s daily struggles.
            Modern Family gives a humorous look into the lives of this extended family as they deal with common issues such as entering college or high school, petty fights, dating, and work conflicts.  The series tries to be honest in the way it portrays these families and their interactions with each other.  Modern Family displays an accurate portrayal of a family’s interpersonal issues while still depicting female stereotypes. 

            Claire is very controlling, anxious, and overbearing.  When the series started she was a stay at home mom, which gave her the opportunity to be more involved in her children’s lives.  She does all the household chores such as cooking and cleaning which gives her the chance to snoop through her children’s rooms.  In the episode Not in My House Haley accuses Alex of looking through her diary but really it’s Claire.  Both Dunphy parents like to think of themselves as hip and cool, so Claire likes to be involved in what is going on in her children’s lives.  She also enjoys activities like driving them around so she can ease drop into their conversations.  Claire depicts the typical mother character.  She wants to know what is going on in her children’s lives, and struggles with the line between being a friend and a parent to her children. 

            Phil is a laid back father.  He likes to joke around, actively play with his children, and practice magic.  Claire is the more uptight and dominate one in their marriage.  She has the say in what overall happens with their children and sometimes she acts like a mother to Phil.  The topic of Claire going back to work is brought up after Luke and Manny have a career day at their school.  Claire says, “I thought I would be going back to work when the kids got older, but it’s not as easy as you might think.  People aren’t exactly lining up to hire a woman who is almost 40 and has been out of the job market for 15 years” (ABC).  Shortly after she decides to go back to work she but has a minor freak out about leaving her kids even though they are all old enough to fend for themselves.  She starts to work for her dad at his closet business, but feels different than her peers because she is the boss’s daughter.  Modern Family does a great job of representing a mother that took time off work when her children were young and now is going back to work, but I find it a little controversial that when she does go back to work it’s for her father.  Claire is a very strong-minded yet overly controlling woman and she seems capable of get a job on her own but to keep the comedy flowing it’s interesting to see her work together with Jay.  She tries to make sure she is not treated different than the other employees.  Claire can be obnoxious or overbearing at times but she is always depicted as a caring and loving mother and wife.
  Sofia Vergara plays Gloria, Jay’s sassy second wife.  She is the stereotypical depiction of a trophy wife.  Jay likes to show her off to his friends and Phil has a very obvious crush on her.  She always has her hair and make up done as well as dressing to show off her curvaceous body.  And she always wears some kind of high heals.  Claire often gets annoyed with Gloria and does not have the best relationship with her.  In the episode Coal Digger, Manny and Luke get into a fight at school because Manny keeps calling himself Luke’s uncle.  Later on in the episode Luke blurts out that his mom called Gloria a “gold digger.”  This causes a fight between Claire and Gloria because Gloria does not feel welcome as part of their family.  Gloria tries to hang out with Claire and do little activities with her like yoga or shopping but Claire always manages to give off a cold vibe.  Modern Family shows the awkward relationship of a new step mom and daughter that are around the same age.  They often do not see eye to eye but they are still family and they care about each other.  It has been brought up that Gloria is a stereotypical Latina mother, but Sofia Vergara defends her character in saying, “there is an existing stereotype, but it ‘goes more toward seeing us as all about our families, hard working, standing up for ourselves, ultra protective of our kids’” (Valdez).  Gloria’s character is sassy yet smart, she will do anything for her family and would just like to be accepted by everyone, including Claire.

            Haley is Claire’s oldest daughter.  She is the outgoing and partying type.  She deals with many issues that teens go through such as first relationships, heartbreak, school troubles, and overbearing parents.  Claire just wants to be involved in her children’s lives but Haley sees her more as a burden.  As the series continues and Haley comes back from college after getting kicked out she starts to have a more functional relationship with her mother.  Haley’s character is the more ditzy daughter.  Her parents worry about her common sense and academics.  They think she is too concerned with her social life and boys.  In an episode Phil even says that Haley is not that smart but she will marry a smart boy one day.  Her parents are not fond of her on and off again boyfriend Dylan so they have tried to set her up when given the chance.  Haley is the more troubled daughter.  She has issues with academics and boys, which shows a stereotypical teenage girl.  All of the incidents that happen with Haley may not happen to everyone but many young adult women go through struggles of fighting with their parents, or experimenting with dating.  Haley’s character is developing and changing into a more mature and responsible young adult, which is better than the stereotypical “dumb blonde” character she’s been portrayed as before.

            Alex is the middle child but she has the brains of the family.  She is always shown as caring about her academics and less about her appearance or boys, which is the opposite of her older sister.  She is portrayed as the stereotypical nerdy one in the family.  She often likes to show off her intelligence by out smarting her family members.  Everyone in her family is aware of how smart and condescending she is about her intellect.  They will even try to avoid one-on-one situations with her so they do not feel beneath her.  Her character is slightly starting to care about her looks and boys but she is still the stereotypical nerdy one in the family.

            Modern family is a great portal of the average American family.  They show many common and uncommon incidents that happen to families.  It shows the relationship conflicts that family members have with each other and is relatable for many people.  The only concern is some female stereotypes are very prevalent throughout the program and sometimes shine a negative yet humorous look onto these stereotypes.  Overall Modern Family is a show that will continue to grow and prosper as American families can relate to the award-winning program.


ABC. "Ep421 Career Day." ABC. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

IMDb., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Valdez, Maria G. "Is Sofia Vergara 'Modern Family' Character A Stereotype? Actress Defends Latina Gloria To Critics." Latin Times. N.p., 01 Oct. 2013.        Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Orange is the New Rainbow? The Netflix Original Representing Sexual Fluidity

Orange is the New Rainbow: Representing Sexual Fluidity

The Netflix original, Orange is the New Black is based off of Piper Kerman’s memoir of the year she spent in a women’s low security federal correctional facility. Piper lands herself in prison because ten years ago, as a recent graduate from college she had a lesbian lover who worked for a drug cartel and convinced her to smuggle drug money internationally. Ten years later, piper gets sentenced to 15 months in prison. She is also engaged to Larry, a male, but things get messy when she lands in prison with her former girlfriend Alex.

While in prison Larry struggles with Pipers sexual identification. Larry believes that sexuality is binary, that a person is either heterosexual or homosexual, but studies that have arisen in the 20th century have introduced the idea of sexual fluidity which argues that ones sexuality lands somewhere along a spectrum. According to research done by Diane Richardson, she argues that “sexuality is not determinate and unidirectional, but complex, dynamic, contingent, fluid, and unstable,” (Richardson, 464). She argues against the binary view of sexuality and offers another point of view, that sexuality is fluid and constant. Candace Walsh argues in her article in the Huffington Post “Sexual Fluidity and Orange is the New Black,” that “it is easier to believe that people are either Gay, Straight, or Bi-Sexual,” (We will talk later about characters that are!) but sexual fluidity offers another view of sexuality.  One does not have to fall into a certain category but has the freedom to flow along the spectrum.

In Piper’s case, in her lifetime she has fallen in love with both a woman and a man and the reason its so confusing to Larry is because he wants to know if she is straight or a lesbian. When she doesn’t have answers for him he gets frustrated. But because gender is fluid Piper shouldn’t have to choose between being straight or gay. In episode 5 “The Chickening,” Piper has a visit from her sister and Larry. Larry ends up realizing that Pipers ex-girlfriend Alex is in prison with her and she tells him the reason she didn’t disclose this to him was because she didn’t want him to worry. When he asks why he would be worried her sister says, “that she’d turn gay again.” Piper responds by saying “you don’t just turn gay you fall somewhere on a spectrum.” (“The Chickening,” 36:00). Piper challenges the misconception that sexuality is binary by directly telling her sister that she is wrong to think “she [might] turns gay again.” In a blog by Robin Hitchcock, she discussed Orange is the New Black’s portrayal of bisexuality. She states that when Piper eventually falls for Alex again while in prison “it doesn’t make her fall out of love with Larry, defying the common portrayal of bisexuality having some kind of a toggle switch,” (Hitchcock, 2013).

Piper, however, is not the only character on the show that represents gender fluidity. There are an array of characters that represent all ends of the gender spectrum. One of the characters, Nicky Nichols is a lesbian who is also having sex with a ‘straight’ girl engaged to a women. The ‘straight’ girls name is Lorna Morello and she goes through the same struggles as Piper. She wants to get married to her fiancé when she gets out, but at the same time she doesn’t want to stop having sex with Nicky. She eventually does end her relationship with Nicky as her release date comes closer. But does this mean that she is straight? Is she gay? Because sexuality is fluid, and not binary, Lorna falls somewhere along the spectrum and doesn’t need to identify as one or the other.

There are characters that do fall onto the straight or gay categories. Nicky, for example, clearly falls into the ‘gay’ category. So does Alex, Piper’s, ex-girlfriend. Characters like Dayanara Diaz clearly fall into the ‘straight’ category. Dayanara has an affair with one of the rookie prison guards and ends up sleeping with him and gets pregnant with his child.

Then there is Sophia, the black transsexual character. Sophia’s character is played by Laverne Cox, a real life transsexual. Orange is the New Black’s inclusion of a transgender character played by a real transsexual woman is so revolutionary because there are very few representations of transgender individuals in the media. In a Huffington Post article by Julie Zeilinger Cox states that “we don’t see enough multidimensional portrayals of trans women and women in jail who are of different races, ages, [and] body types,” (Zeilinger, 2013). Including a transsexual woman in the show’s cast expands its diversity and reach.

By including women on all ends of the spectrum, Orange is the New Black offers more viewers characters that they can identify with. By representing characters that have such a broad range of sexual identities, it challenges the audience’s idea that sexuality is absolute. It offers a new way of thinking, that sexuality is fluid and can move along a spectrum. Hitchcock’s article references a flashback Piper has where she states “I Like hot girls. I like hot boys. What can I say? I’m shallow,” (Hitchcock, 2013). Maybe it’s just as simple as that. Someone can like hot girls and hot boys. We shouldn’t put someone in a ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ category because a person is free to be attracted to whomever they find attractive whether that’s just boys, just girls, or both! Orange is the new Black does a revolutionary job of representing the idea of gender fluidity.

Works Cited

Hitchcock, Robin. (August 8, 2013). “Bisexuality in ‘Orange is the New Black.” Bitch

Kohan, Jenji (Writer), & McCarthy, Andrew (Director). (July 11, 2013). “The Chickening.”
[Episode 5]. In Lionsgate Television (producer), Orange is the New Black. New York: Netflix.  

Richardson, D. (2007). Patterned Fluidities: (Re)Imagining the Relationship between
Gender and Sexuality. Sociology, 41(3), 457-474.

Walkley, A.J. (August 23, 2013). “Bi-erasure in Orange is the New Black.” The

Walsh, Candace. (August 5, 2013). “Sexual Fluidity in Orange is the New Black.” The

Zeilinger, Julie. (August 14, 2013). “Laverne Cox, ‘Orange is the New Black’ Star, on the
Necessity of Diverse Female Characters.” The Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Girls: The Rise of the Anti-heroine and Viewership

Girls: The Rise of the Anti-heroine and Viewership

Anti-heroinism is the process by which characters in a novel, or in this case a television series, lack the qualities of a traditional heroic figure (Antiheroism). The casting of characters that maintain this sense of anti-heroinism has become an increasingly popular phenomena throughout the past few years with shows such as Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, who do not possess qualities typical with that of the static roles typically seen with woman. They are beginning to stray away from the societal norms typical of women and more towards individualized characteristics of each woman, both positively and negatively. Lena Dunham encompasses these traits in her characters, who possess anything but traditional qualities with her television series, Girls. The television series exemplifies the increasing importance to view women in more realistic terms as empowering in their own rite, through identities such as vulnerability and self-doubt. Through the use of realistic lenses, she is able to attract an audience that would not be considered typical for a show of her material, that of 50 year old white men.

When Girls premiered, HBO determined that the twenty-something female characters were generation-defining and breaking boundaries that had never been broken up until this point, defining the show as a “younger, grittier Sex in the City” (Fallon). Considering the reviews and buzz about young, sexy, and generation-defining for twenty-somethings population, it was surprising to hear that according the New York analysis, that this demographic was not the largest viewer. In fact, the single largest demographic was “white dudes over 50,” making up 22 percent of the audience (Fallon). Continuing to delve into the viewership, 56 percent of the show’s linear audience, those who watch it on HBO or through a DVR, but not online is male as well. Continuing into these statistics surrounding the show, why are these numbers evident?
Is the reasoning for male viewers because of the numerous sex scenes and Lena Dunham’s continual unconventional nudity? Or are they legitimately curious about the lives of average women in New York City? Online sources seem to point to these two reasons being primary focuses on male viewers. However, I believe differently. Yes the nudity may be appealing, something that I would say is realistic and refreshing in contrast to other shows, but I think there is more to it. Old men may be tuning in for Lena’s unconventional body and nudity but leaving with a sense of something else. If 50-year-old men are tuning in, the women they are potentially watching are approximately the ages of their daughters, if they do in fact have them. Their curiosity may peak due to the interest in what their daughters may be up to when they are not with them. They may feel a sense of longing to “save” these women, because they weren’t raised properly. The anti-heroinism persona that is reflected in all of the women may be why this demographic tune in, so they can understand the contemporary women that is their daughter. I would like to think this demographic is trying to delve into the hearts and souls of their daughters, trying to better understand the diverging lifestyles that make up our once normative society.
Although this demographic of 50-year-old white males is interesting to analyze, there is still a large audience of women that are factored in through Video on Demand viewers, which consequently are predominantly female. A 63 percent of viewers who watch Girls on demand are female. Even after “video on demand and linear viewership are factored in, the show still has more male viewers” (Fallon). Therefor concluding that women are finding the show, they are just doing so in an unconventional ways. Even when they do find the show, the viewership is primarily male dominated, something that ratings cannot necessarily truly define reasons for why.

The appeal with the women seems to be the easier demographic of the two to understand. However, there are several factors when considering why female viewers identify, and some do not. Twenty-somethings seem to be increasingly intrigued of the alternate lifestyles that differ from the traditional paths their parents went. Hannah’s parents are continuously brought into the picture when placing their lives in juxtaposition with theirs. They are a traditional household, of which have been married longer than they have been apart. This normative household is held next to the life of Hannah someone who in the first season is seeing someone primarily for hook up reasons and minimal emotional needs. The juxtaposition of this lifestyle, something that continues to become more dominant, with that of that traditional parental lifestyle is something to take note of.
Although the two audiences seem to be viewing for differing reasons such as identification with the generational understandings or sex scenes; Girls has a wide audience viewer demographic that continues to fascinate researchers. This genre is a movement that Dunham has become a part of, something that is transgressive and changes the way society views women. Equally important, it challenges and critiques the honest portrayal of sexuality and experimentation of drugs, something considered taboo in most shows. The rise of the anti-heroin will continue to play an integral role in the equalization of female leads on screen and why shows have a wide audience range. "There's this cultural shift, this trend at the moment in publishing ... it seems there's a lot of female writers writing about transgressive antiheroines and it will continue to push through to make change” (Baillie).

 Works Cited

"Antiheroism.", n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

Baillie, Andrea. "The University of Iowa Libraries." Proxy Login -. The Vancouver Sun, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

Fallon, Kevin. "Does HBO's Girls Actually Appeal More to Old Men? - The Week." The Week. N.p., 15 June 2012. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.
Desperate Housewives
Escapism and the Social Audience:
Desperate Housewives as a Model for the Modern Soap

            I noticed something peculiar lately: Even years after closing its final season, Desperate Housewives remains a popular, closely-followed, often-replayed television phenomenon. Running for an impressive eight seasons, Desperate Housewives almost immediately acquired an obsessive cult-like following, and the degree of its widespread popularity prompts an immediate question: Just what is it about the show that viewers find so appealing?  It is the consideration of the interactions between show and audience that make Housewives such an interesting point of departure for an analysis of mass culture, especially as it pertains to the American female.  In her essay Soap Opera and Utopia, Christine Geraghty interacts agreeably with critic Richard Dyer’s contentions, regarding soaps as escapist modes of entertainment.  “Dyer proposes that entertainment functions by offering ‘the image of something better to escape into, or something that we want deeply in our day-to-day lives” (Geraghty, 217).  Desperate Housewives certainly finds itself well within the bounds of this assertion.  On a base level, the sex of the protagonists (if not merely the very title of the show) immediately establishes a common identity between characters and primarily female audience.
            The women in the show are relatable on the basis of gender and their positions as mothers and wives.  Yet this does not alone sustain interest; there is a dire need for something more provocative, something fresher.  The escapism afforded by Desperate Housewives is operated by a simple means.  The women in the show are attractive and wealthy.  They provide something to be wished for.  The primarily female audience is provided with a glimmer of hope– that the drab, monotonous life of a housewife can, indeed, evolve into something sexy.
            I would suggest also that the beauty and material wealth– or as Geraghty and Dyer call it, abundance– of the housewives is not believable enough to maintain a substantial audience.  The popularity of television has exposed the audience to such a wide range of soaps that there must be a far more complex threshold of relatedness in order for a show of such a nature to attain success.  Thus, current renditions of utopia in television must be corrupted on a sub-surface level in order to solidify themselves as legitimate.  The image of the happy, wealthy housewife is instantaneously (and stupidly) gratifying.  Yet, it is the gossipy, violent, and overtly sexual tensions underlying this glamorous foreground that make the show that much more appealing.
            Desperate Housewives provides a mode of escapism not only because of its extravagance but because of the chaos underlying it.  The show is in a complex subliminal dialogue with its female viewer, telling her that the lives of the housewives are also marked by daily strife.  This is the threshold of a raw and provocative relationship between viewer and soap.  Yet this common ground is not sensational or attractive as it is.  The difficulties of the women in the show could not be those of the female viewers.  A real housewife would not want to watch Bree struggle to fix a vacuum or watch Gabrielle scrub dog feces from her child’s jeans.  So, the show sexualizes and romanticizes the struggles of life as a housewife, so that the audience member not only escapes into a world in which she is an attractive, sexual, and wealthy individual, but also one who’s problems are romantic and even dangerous.  It’s inherently clear that the housewives of the soap are, indeed, desperate.  They’re all severely depressed, egomaniacal, possessive, and sexually frustrated.  But their desperate situations– unlike those of their giddy home-making viewers– concern murder, infidelity, suicide, alcoholism, and sensuality.  Desperate Housewives achieves such high levels of popularity precisely because it sexualizes and romanticizes not only the basic roles of its characters but also the struggles that they face.  The bad is made sexy and fresh as well as the good.
            As a whole, the show seems to muddle many of the preconceptions about the organization and strategic appeals of American soaps.  Like it’s dynamic approach to utopian escapism, the show seems to tinker with certain soap-genre stereotypes.  Geraghty claims that the “energy” inherent in US soaps can be attributed to strong male characters, as opposed to being provided by strong female characters in British soaps.  But Desperate Housewives is different.  Men in the show, while often intelligent and attractive, are rarely viewed favorably.  While complex and appealing, the men are often cheap, perverted, misogynistic, and wholly flawed.  For instance, Bree’s husband is a masochistic sex addict; Gabrielle’s lover is an attractive young man who mows her lawn– and a high school student.  Somehow, regardless of their surface appeal, the men in the show are all somewhat corrupted, inadequate, and only temporarily satisfying.  For the most part, the housewives– however vain– are in control, not the men.  Geraghty’s claims about “abundance” are relatively well-aimed.  The utopia of Desperate Housewives is set agains the backdrop of materialism– wealth is an ever-present reality in the show.  The women rarely want for anything, setting the stage for more dramatic and complex problems.  “Intensity” and “transparency” are what eternalize the drama of the show.  The viewer knows and sees all, while the public in the show might not.  The characters are all vulnerable and prone to unexpected outbursts of emotion; as women, this furthers certain controversial stereotypes.  The women all seem to be at least partially unstable and psychologically discombobulated.  I would argue that this is a further strategy to employ viewer escapism– which is nearly synonymous with a gross attachment to the show.  While the female viewer indulges in the pleasures and scandals of the housewives’ lives, she is also fed the message that these women are unstable.  This is a trick of good screenwriting.  The show makes it obvious that the characters are all slightly luny.  This obviousness fuels the viewer’s ego: If she is smart enough to realize that the characters are crazy, she can indulge shamelessly.  Thus, she can take pleasure in the fantasy while still holding herself above the show, because she is sane and the characters are not.  Despite all of its dramatic appeal and inherent sexiness, the show nonetheless leaves its female viewers feeling “better” than the women they’ve just watched on television for an hour.  All things considered, it is the nature of “community” that is most prevalent in Desperate Housewives, but also most simplistic.  The illusion of community created is the very premise of the show– that these housewives are, on a surface level, close friends.  Yet the very source of entertainment in the show is the lack of community on a sub-surface level.  Beneath the title of “friendship” exists complete and utter chaos, fueled by gossip.  Thus, as Geraghty asserts, the real community is established in the relationship with the audience.
            As technology evolves, so do the marketing strategies that supplement shows like Desperate Housewives.  As social networking becomes a part of daily life, producers and media marketers employ the powers of Facebook and twitter in order to advance their own advertising capabilities.  I find the use of Facebook in particular to be a curious point of analysis when examining Desperate Housewives as it relates to mass culture and Geraghty’s assertions of utopia and escapism through soaps.  The Facebook page of Desperate Housewives has nearly 11 million “likes” on its profile page, meaning that many people are subscribed to electronic updates and alerts regarding the show and its stars.  Yet, the interaction between the show’s Facebook page and its fans is not merely related to production or tabloids.  The page also facilitates discussion, regarding what’s happened in the show, what might happen, and how entertaining the soap itself actually is.  In this sense, Facebook has furthered the attachment discussed in Geraghty’s essay– it has expanded the utopia escape beyond not only the television screen, but also beyond personal interaction.  “ is not simply present in the soaps themselves, it is also experienced in the interaction between the programs and their audience.  Soaps offer a common currency to viewers which permits the enjoyment to be shared with those who do not watch the programs together” (Geraghty, 221). 
            The widespread integration of Facebook into daily life has magnified significantly the show’s ability to, as Geraghty claims, “unite disparate audiences” (Geraghty, 221).  The realm of unification now extends beyond the living room; beyond the workplace; beyond the bar or pub.  Now, interactions are depersonalized, and a fan or follower of the soap can talk excitedly about the next episode or the a character’s behavior on a publicly accessible and worldwide stage, interacting with the click of a mouse with millions of other viewers.  Thus, the escapism takes on a new and far more incestuous and addicting form.  Viewers can gossip, just as the characters in the show gossip, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, unhindered and unimpeded by the restrictions of phone conversations, work schedules, or to-do lists.  Suddenly, the television show is as much a part of the audience’s life as any other communicative commodity.  The Facebook page lends a face and a personality to something that previously could not transcend the bounds of an LCD screen.  The excitement on behalf of the viewer is realized through a direct interaction with the soap.  The audience can now take an active role in a literal medium of interaction, not only with others, but with an electronic personality of the show itself.  Facebook allows a soap to bridge the gap even further between the sphere of the private and the public, integrating itself fully into the framework of daily life.  As Geraghty claims, the viewing of a show is merely a portion of the experience.  Much of the infatuation comes with the pleasure and excitement of carrying the gossip from the screen to the real world, indulging in conversation and discussion with others of a mutual experience.  Facebook allows that escapism to extend even further into the realm of real life.  The question of whether or not this is an insignificant luxury or a shallow poison prompts a separate, equally complex point of analysis.
            Desperate Housewives is an experience, and for its primarily female viewers, it is a source of indulgence, self-righteousness, and gossip, creating a vessel for escapism.  The popularity of the soap can be attributed to its dynamic nature as a source of pleasure and common ground.  The utopia discussed in Geraghty’s article is thus brought to life through a complex web of linkages between reality and fantasy, allowing viewers to identify but at the same time separate themselves from the characters of the soap.  In the context of modern drama, it seems to be this strategy in particular that nurses viewer attachment.  Modernity and technological advancement has also played a pivotal role in expanding the sphere of escapism beyond the confines of personal discussion to the broad forum of social media through mediums like Facebook, which create an artificial personality for all that the show embodies.


Geraghty, Christine. "Soap Opera and Utopia." Comp. John Storey. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A reader. Harlow: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006. Print.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Appearance over Ability: How Female Sportscasters Struggle to Gain Credibility in a Male Dominated Industry

As with breaking into any male-dominated career field, female sportscasters have endured a great amount of criticism regarding their abilities and knowledge in the sports industry. Women like Lesley Visser, Hannah Storm, and Erin Andrews have paved the way for women by proving that it is possible for women to make it big in sports along side of men. The numbers of successful women professionals in the sports industry continues to raise year after year, however, so do stereotypical gender criticisms. As public viewers, we are not exposed to the daily struggles and harassment that these women go through on a daily basis by being a woman in a male dominant profession. The following blog will focus on these gender-biased viewpoints and how gender affects credibility, creates double standards, and alters the public’s perception of female sportscasters.
            The first gender-biased stereotype surrounds the idea that female sportscasters are inferior and less credible to their male counterparts simply because they are not a male (hence they can’t possibly know anything about sports). Okay, am I missing something, or is this stereotype basically implying that females are unable to enjoy or research sports to the capacity that men can? Regardless of your sex, sports journalists are required to do a large amount of outside research and work just as hard as male sports journalists do. Sure, the majority of women on the sidelines have a pretty face, but that pretty face is almost always accompanied by a knowledgeable discussion that comes out of that pretty mouth.
            Oregon Ducks Sportscaster Jill Savage stresses the importance of doing ones research in order to compensate for this credibility issue in a short creative film thesis by Jillian Kay. “…read everything, know absolutely everything so you can answer any questions so if they do ask you something, you know the answer. You have to work a lot harder to gain their respect right off the bat because they think that you’re just a pretty face and that’s why you got the job (Savage, 2011)”. In the interview, Savage stresses how important it is for female sportscasters to be correct constantly in order to be valued as credible and that just one mishap can destroy ones credibility.

            The second gender-biased stereotype deals directly with the appearance aspect of female sportscasters. This stereotype focuses on the belief that female sportscasters only make it in the sports industry by being beautiful. Yes, I will not argue that good looks can help an individual secure an interview for a job. However, those that believe in this gender-biased stereotypical belief cannot apprehend how difficult it is for female sportscasters to balance a line of femininity once they land a career in sports casting on television. Women in any profession, especially those on television, are expected to meet the social definition of femininity, yet also meet the criteria for professionalism. The television audiences make it known whom they want to watch and who they find attractive on television by criticize outfits, hairstyles, make-up, etc. Women are expected to avoid conservative clothing without being too suggestive, which often times creates a double standard for women sportscasters. This double standard creates a damned if you do, damned if you don’t type of situation for sportscasters. For example, if a man tries to dress attractive, he won’t get penalized, however, if a woman tries to dress attractive she will be walking a fine line and will often end up getting scrutinized by the public eye.
            This issue of femininity goes beyond dress and ones physical appearance. Personality qualities such as assertiveness and confidence are often scrutinized and are commonly considered as being “unfeminine” due to its frequent association with being a male dominant personality characteristic. Because of this, females are often regarded as being too “pushy” or sometimes even going so far as being considered a bitch for simply trying to compete along side their male counterparts. University of California, Berkeley Linguist Professor Robin Lakoff suggests that women in male dominant professions often are caught between two forms of male prejudice based on the type of language they use. According to Lakoff (1973, 1975), when women use tentative language (i.e. hedges, disclaimers, and tag questions), men seem to enjoy conversation but often perceive the woman using the tentative language to be unintelligent and incompetent. However, when women avoid using tentative language, men tend to view them as intelligent and competent while also ostracizing them for being unfeminine and referring them to names such as iron maiden and bitch. This connection that Lakoff makes between language use and gendered stereotypes directly relates back to the double standard that female sportscasters encounter on a daily basis. If ones appearance on television wasn’t enough for a woman professional to worry about, now she must worry about sounding too masculine? Give me a break.
            The media and public’s perception make up the final gender-biased criticism that can make or break a female sportscaster’s career on the sidelines. Often times, the media primarily focuses its attention on the non-sport related issues such as: what the female sportscasters are wearing, who they are dating, or how their hair looked during their interview, which ultimately causes the viewer to lose focus on the interview itself. Because of this, female sportscasters lose credibility simply because their interview alone does not receive public attention. Heather Dinich, sports reporter for The Baltimore Sun, suggests that the public’s perception of female sportscasters is shaped falsely in regards to their work ethic in the sports industry. “… that is what has translated into the public perception - not standing on a practice field at 7:45 a.m., or leaving a press box alone after midnight. It's's poll to find "America's Sexiest Sportscaster," not an Emmy for the work they've done” (Dinich, 2005).
            In a short creative film thesis called Female Sportscasters: Challenging a Male-Dominated Industry, Rebecca Force, a Broadcast Journalism instructor at the University of Oregon shares her experiences of being a news director. Force explains how she frequently received more calls from the public commenting on her female anchors hair than she received about the quality of any of their reporting or journalism that they shared with the public (Force, 2011). Force’s comments ultimately validate the public’s obsession over physical appearances on television. 
            Unfortunately, this stereotype is not likely to change in the near future. The pressures that media place on women by evaluating their physical appearances create an unsteady future regarding equality in this male dominant industry of sports. According to a study conducted by university researchers Marie Hardin & Stacie Shain (2005), the majority of the respondents to their survey believed that opportunities for women are better than ever but that female sports journalists have a tougher job than men, due to the fact that they are not taken as seriously by fans in comparison to their male counterparts. This study by Hardin and Shain proves that gender-biased stereotypes create double standards which make these thick-skinned female sportscasters work twice as hard as their male counterparts.
            In conclusion, it is evident that it is highly unlikely that the public’s excitement over which outfit Erin Andrews will be wearing for the next Super Bowl appearance will be ending anytime soon. However, women are taking a stand and growing thick skin to survive in this industry and it is being noticed. Erin Andrews or Suzy Kolber ring any bells? These two have proved that women can broadcast sports just as well, if not better than their male counterparts. An inspiring comment made by Rebecca Force during her short interview can act as an inspiring statement for upcoming female professionals in the field. She stated, “You have to be a very good journalist, until there simply aren’t any criticisms left” (Force, 2011). According to all past, present, and aspiring female sports journalists and sportscasters, it is important to recognize and accept the fact that we cannot change the way our audience create evaluations based on ones gender, physical appearances, dress, or public profile. On the other hand, what is important is to demand respect by working hard, providing extensive research, and earning credibility by providing consistently correct answers to questions. By providing these qualities, those who appreciate quality sportscasters will give credibility, which is vital for all women in this industry. To receive credibility when credibility is due, regardless of gender.


Dinich, H. (2005, August 17). The stereotype that won't die hurts women sports reporters' credibility. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 30, 2014

Hardin, M. & Shain, S. (2005, September 1). Female Sports Journalists: Are We There Yet? ‘No’. Newspaper Research Journal, 26(4), 22-32. Retrieved March 30, 2014

Kay, J. Female Sportscasters: Challenging a Male-Dominated Industry [Video file]. Retrieved from

Lakoff, R. (1973). Language and woman’s place. Language in Society, 2, 45–80.

Lakoff, R. (1975). Language and woman’s place. New York: Harper & Row.