Friday, May 2, 2014

Is Baby Daddy just another gender stereotyped sitcom?

Baby Daddy, premiered on ABC Family, is a series about three men raising a newborn baby. The three roommates, Ben, Tucker and Danny, know nothing about babies whatsoever. The baby appears on their doorstep within the first five minutes of the pilot episode. Ben is the father of the baby but the other two roommates help Ben take care of the child.   There are also two women that play strong roles in the series. Riley is an older friends of the boys and Bonnie is the mother of the brothers Ben and Danny. 

Is Baby Daddy just another gender stereotypical television series? From the title alone, we would hope this series would be breaking and blending stereotypes. Truth be told, this series might actually be condoning masculine stereotypes in our society today as well as sparking change for others. Although the title may be breaking gender norms, elements in this series especially on the masculine side are very stereotypical. The spark of change we instantly see is the role reversal of the father being in the picture ‘raising’ a child instead of the mother. I use the word ‘raising’ in quotations because you very quickly find out that the father, Ben, does not actually raise the baby without female help.  If anything, Ben and his two roommates use the baby to participate in typical stereotyped men activities. It is, however, a step toward change because it is reported that men are seldom shown doing housework or childcare in television. Usually when someone is shown taking care of a child on television is it the mother, which gives a negative stereotype on men as uncaring and uninvolved (Wood). Baby Daddy is taking small steps to change stereotypes by having the role reversal in the series. Along with that, Baby Daddy is also very stereotypical towards men but shows a spark of changes towards women and some men stereotypes. So as the series may be taking some steps forward, it is also taking many steps back. 
Many other television series are also seen portraying men with stronger stereotypes than women. The three men in this series are portrayed with the typical ‘manly’ stereotypes we see in everyday television. The pilot episode is a strong example of how the stereotypes are laid out for the rest of the series. Ben, Danny and Tucker have no idea what to do when the baby is on their doorstep so they call their friend Riley to come help. When Riley comes into the scene, the boys make her do everything with the baby as they stand there in awh at her womanly powers. The boys are even shown standing on the other side of the couch acting as if the baby were poisonous. Other stereotypical elements towards men shown within the first episode include drinking beer, duct taping diapers, getting the wrong kind of baby food and not knowing how to properly hold a child. All of these are common stereotypes for men because women are stereotyped to know these skills as if they were common sense. The series has portrayed men as incompetent fathers because they have no idea what to do.

As the series goes on, the baby becomes less and less involved in the show. They do however seem to get a schedule working and figure out how to raise a child, but it is all details we don’t see during the show. It is background information we assume as viewers. The men are usually seen passing the baby onto one of the female characters for care and providing. If the baby isn’t under the eyes of Bonnie (the mother) or Riley, the men are using her to attract women for their own sakes. The men are seen throughout the series going on baby dates with other single mothers or simply using the baby to start conversations with attractive women. I think this image of men and young fathers is damaging because it is portraying them as incompetent and uneducated as fathers. I think as a society we all know that both mothers and fathers are capable of raising a child on their own, but television series seem to like to portray this differently.
According to Forbes Magazine, men in the media are more likely to be seen as three stereotypes. These stereotypes include metrosexual pretty boys, a ladies man/skirt chaser, and a macho man. Tucker is portrayed as the pretty boy, while Ben is known for using his child to score dates with girls. Danny is portrayed as the macho man because he is a professional hockey player. It was interesting to see how these three most commonly portrayed men in media were all blended in this show. I think this is a reason the show is so successful. As an audience, we like to see similarities but also many differences. Viewers like to be able to relate to people, but also see an exaggerated role being played. If Baby Daddy were a series solely about three men raising a child, it probably would not have as high of ratings. I think the show throws the stereotypes off by placing a baby in the picture. It makes us think for a moment that these men are raising a child. Although they are still doing other manly things, the overall image of the series is supposed to be that they are raising a child successfully. That statement alone shows that there is a light of hope for stereotypes in this series, but unfortunately they don’t follow up with portraying the less exaggerated stereotypes towards men.
On the other hand, Riley is the most blended character on this series. She is not being portrayed as the per-usual women such as a housewife, mother or having nothing valuable to them. Although she is seen as knowing what to do with the baby, she has many other dimensions to her. We find out that she used to be a bigger girl who beat up and bullied Ben and Danny as children. Maria McConnell states women are portrayed as having desirable characteristics in media today. Baby Daddy shows this element but also gives a past story that portrays a different side of her. In the show, Riley is an attractive female. The way the series added the element of her previous fatness breaks typical women stereotypes. Women in the media are often shown as perfect and flawless. Knowing Riley ahs had a past weight problem brings her down to a real life perception. Viewers can relate to her instead of having her character on a pedestal. She is also the only character attending school. With Ben as a bartender and Danny as a professional hockey player, Riley takes on the role of being a successful law student. This breaks the stereotypes of women being stay-at-home mothers without an education. Another element against women stereotypes is the fact Riley does not enjoy talking about her feelings. She states this through the season although she sometimes talks about her love towards Ben and Danny. Among these elements, Riley is also seen as being motherly. I think Riley is breaking stereotypes in this series because of these specific elements. She has very different qualities compared to other women portrayed in media. The strong stereotypes of men throughout the series definitely overpower her stereotypes making the show overall very stereotypical. This one character does give us a spark of hope toward changing stereotypes in television. But like I said before, the series keeps taking one step toward change and multiple steps away.

Although I don’t agree with the stereotypes portrayed in this series, I do not think ABC Family would have succeeded as well without them. I think this says something about the society and television we are viewing in our everyday lives. The reason I initially got wrapped up in this series is because there are three attractive men raising an adorable baby. What girl doesn’t enjoy that type of scenery? It is something most female viewers would fall in love with within the first episode of the series. I think the extended male stereotypes are also something we enjoy; as we all seem to enjoy stereotypes played out and exaggerated on television. As the series goes on, I am attached to the show for many more reasons. The magnified stereotypes bring humor to the series, which most viewers enjoy. The concept of raising the baby is not shown in every episode and I think that is the reason for such success. As viewers, we all know the baby exists but it is not needed to keep us involved in the show. The baby is used more as a background story line. As a society, we like to see stereotypes of men and women magnified for our enjoyment, like Baby Daddy does. This series is a step toward change but is also condoning exaggerated stereotypes of men.

Casserly, M. (2012, January 1). Are Men the Latest Victims of Media Misrepresentation?.
Forbes Magazine .
McConnell, M. (2003, January 1). Media and Gender Stereotyping . Serendip.
Wood, J. Gendered Media: The Influence of Media on Views of Gender . Department of
Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel , 7, 31-39.


  1. I have seen a handful of episodes of this show but I hadn't really noticed these stereotypes. Your post really opened my eyes to the fact that the men are so stereotypical and really don't ever do much of the work of raising the baby. I like that you brought up how Riley used to be overweight, but I think that the fact that she's a stereotypically beautiful woman in the show really doesn't do much for accepting overweight women because it indicates that it wasn't ok that she was overweight.

    Overall great post!

  2. I really like this show so it was interesting to read this post! I originally used to think that this show would be breaking stereotypes since it was three men that were raising a baby, but now that i have read your post i can see that it really just brings out the men stereotypes. I enjoyed reading this post, i think you did a great job calling attention to the stereotypes that are presented.


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