We haven't come that far, baby. In the 1970's male cartoon characters outnumbered female cartoon characters by a ratio of almost four to one. Research presented at the American Psychological Association's (APA) 105th Annual Convention in Chicago reveals that male cartoon characters still outnumber female cartoon characters almost four to one. Male characters are also still portrayed as dominate, powerful and aggressive. Female characters don't have any "character" at all.
Despite TV watchdogging, Cynthia Spicher, B.A., and psychologist Mary Hudak, Ph.D., from Allegheny College have found little change in the gender stereotypes that America's young minds are spending two to four hours a day viewing.
To see what progress has been made in portraying gender stereotypes in cartoon characters, Dr. Spicher and Dr. Hudak videotaped and categorized 118 cartoon characters from a single episode of each of the following Saturday morning cartoons: The Bugs Bunny/Tweety Show, Aladdin, Ninja Turtles, The Mask, Eek!stravaganza, Spiderman, Tick and Life with Louie. Characters were rated on sex, prominence, gender stereotyping, aggressive behaviors and occupational roles.
Carol Spicher and Dr. Hudak found that male cartoon characters are not only more prominent than female characters, but they also portray a broader range of masculine traits. "Male characters were powerful, strong, smart, aggressive and so on. Occasionally there's a token female cartoon character but she's like lime jello -- she's bland," says Dr. Hudak. And, even as women's occupational roles have changed over the past three decades, only a minute number of female cartoon characters are shown in non-traditional occupational roles such as doctors or police officers.
The study did not find that female characters were primarily shown as "damsels in distress." Male characters tended to be the center of attention whether they were aggressors or victims. And this predominance of males in aggressive situations "feeds into the stereotypical understandings of gender roles."
"These findings are disappointingly consistent with past research showing that the portrayal of gender roles on television in general, has been stereotypic, and that female characters have remained under-represented," say the authors. And, even more disappointing, Dr. Hudak adds, "cartoons are the kiddie version of what's portrayed on adult dramas at night."
"Cartoons, in their current state, are depicting significant differences in the status, behavior and capabilities of female and male characters. Thus cartoons tell cultural stories that can't help but inform young minds about who they are to become," the authors conclude.
August 1997 Presentation: "Gender Role Portrayal on Saturday Morning Cartoons: An Update" by Cynthia Hart Spicher, B.A., and Mary A. Hudak, Ph.D., Allegheny College. Session 4295, August 18, 1997, Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, River Exhibition Hall (C-2), .
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Outsourcing: 3 Ways To Stop Medical Research Brain Drain
- Helicopter Parenting: Good For Your Pets, Bad For Your Kids
- Why Climate Scientists Shouldn't Testify Before Congress
- Hope For Headshaking In Horses
- Soup From A Can Does Not Create Risk From BPA
- Cometary Globule CG4 - From God's Hand To The Mouth Of The Beast
- Adult Stem Cells Used To Grow New Hair
- "Nothing false about it. They are the only two groups that count, meaning everything else is window..."
- "Hank i stand corrected om the NIH issue and i agree that research should be bases not om politics..."
- "I once heard that the FDA was Milton Friedman's prime example of bureaucracy run amok. He would..."
- "... we have come to know a lot about interest groupsʼ smoothly oiled denial campaign to influence..."
- "None of this makes any sense but your use of the term allopathic smacks of homeopathy and other..."
- If you think the weather forecast for New York City was scary, imagine the hysteria this NASA data would have generated
- Corn co-products from wet milling fine for pig diets
- Holes in valence bands of nanodiamonds discovered
- What's happening with your donated blood and tissue sample? Do you care?
- Hemispheres: The 2 faces of Mars