In this screen-addicted age, everyone is spending an increased amount of time confined to their screens. In a new study by Common Sense Media, the average teen spends more than nine hours of the day online or watching TV. Everything around us is being gradually condensed into screens as we now derive a majority of our information from what we see online. But as our dependence on technology heightens, is much of what we are watching perpetuating stereotypes and shaping our behavior in society?
Fan favorites such as Seinfeld, That 70s Show, The Brady Bunch, Sixteen Candles and The Little Mermaid are some of many shows and movies idolized by generations upon generations, remembered for their stories of humor and courage. However, each of them conveys or reiterates traditional gender roles and religious or racial stereotypes. For example, That 70s Show features a Hispanic character named Fez (short for Foreign Exchange Student), who is characterized by his illiteracy, his lack of basic understanding of English, and his libido. Other characters treat him as incompetent and constantly regard him as if he were a child — a common Hispanic stereotype conveyed in mainstream TV. The Brady Bunch, which is often excused as a product of its time, relays a considerable amount of gender stereotypes. The girls are confined to their dolls, fashion magazines, and sewing machines while the boys play football, ride bikes, organize their trophies or make airplanes in their blue rooms. The Little Mermaid, along with virtually all of the Disney princess movies, tells a story of a girl, stuck in her own misfortunes, longing for a marriage with a prince. Princess movies are of the few genres that some parents are boycotting entirely in attempts to teach their daughters to aspire for more and that strong women don’t need a man to rescue them.
It’s clear that much of what we watch is full of many derogatory and potentially dangerous stereotypes. Many of the prominent messages they convey do not align with society’s current gender, racial, and religiously-progressive age. Messages that suggest women are destined to perform kitchen and housewife duties are no longer the accepted norm. Although most of the shows that are especially responsible for conveying these stereotypes have long since stopped filming, they are still being broadcast on TV and their messages are passed on to younger generations. As a result, society will continue to carry false implications and ostracize one another based on stereotypes. Television has the power to deceive and relay information that we may not even realize we carry into our day-to-day lives.
Graphic: Nicole Kye