By Ebony W.
As we push into a new century and age there is definitely a decline in racism and sexism in our society. The question we must ask ourselves, is it gone? Though it may not be overtly visible in our society there is still a perception that the color of your skin or gender dictates the position you deserve in life. This can be seen in many primetime television shows. When watching primetime television there is definitely a feeling that something is missing. The lack of diversity and representations on shows tells me that there is definitely a barrier that is present, even though we have deviated from past representations. Stereotyping plays a major part in characterizations of minority or the “other” figure in primetime television shows, especially looking at the highest rated shows.
Gender roles on television have made a drift from the traditional housewife to portray women as strong fighters who can take on any situation. This can be seen in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where our heroine is made as the “one” who can save us from the demos that walk the Earth. Even though we do have strong representations of women on screen, there are times it can also be argued that women are still being pigeon held. For instance, even though Buffy is a strong female her “faults” lies in her emotions and constantly needing the companionship of a man. Still within a strong representation of a female character we are still reminded that she is not whole without a man in her life as if it is needed for her continued survival.
Roles based on ethnicity and race can be argued similarly in the same way, as more primetime shows are adding more diversity, but to what extent. When watching many primetime television shows the roles of minority characters are predominately portrayed as comedic, sidekick, or as if they are incapable/lacking in some way. This can be seen in many popular shows and even in predominately minority shows, such as The Cosby Show, The George Lopez Show, or similar the same stereotypes come into play. With both The Cosby Show and The George Lopez Show in which the prime focus was being a minority family that has reached the “American Dream”, yet in ways they were still seen as outcasts. Even though the portrayals moved away from the stereotypical roles as the help or thug that stigma still in ways remain as even prominent characters are often given second glances.
While representations of women and minorities have evolved in prime time television, as we are not presented with iconic archetypal characters such as June Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver or the non existent or stereotypical minority there are still stigmas being left and represented by many characters. What people see as the “other” will remain until we as a society are able to look beyond gender, race, and sexuality and see people for who they are and what they can represent outside the scope of gender, race, and sexuality. As you watch a show think about how characters are portrayed or influenced and look at the changes that are happening on the screen and think about whether the stereotypes being portrayed on screen are how you see them or we see them as a society or are we turning these stereotypes upside down to own them as they no longer represent the people we see on the television screen.