Blog on Media Portryals
Richard Bursch’s writing: Five Decades and Three Hundred Sitcoms About Class and Gender had me thinking about what we are watching on television. He brought up amazing points saying that character’s depicting working class men are shown to be dumb, irresponsible, messy, and unreliable. Those in the middle class are shown as sensible, intelligent, and mature. One great example that comes to mind is the show Yes Dear. It has two sets of parents living together because one of them can’t afford rent (the working class family) The dad of the working class family is overweight. His wife constantly has to tell him how to take care of the kids. His children outsmart him and are shown to be out of control at times. Where as the middle class family has a calm, brilliant child. The father is very smart and calm. He constantly has to give the working class dad guidance in his day to day decision making. The working class dad is represented as a failure at life, at supporting his family, and the main element highlighted in his role is how stupid he is. The middle class dad is always the calmer one, he takes care of everything whenever a crisis arises, he teaches his kids manners, and is shown as a loving husband. I was trying to come up with an example of a middle class or upper class dad who’s unintelligent and is portrayed the way this working class dad is…I couldn’t come up with an example.The difference laid out in this show is exactly how Bursch describes in his writing.
Bursch’s piece talks about how inferior statuses are represented by using negative stereotypes of minorities, women, old, and young. These stereotypes are placed into character roles. The problem with this is that viewers aren’t consciously thinking about the negative images they are watching and the ways in which it affects their views of other members of the depicted groups. Think of children and teens watching shows with such inaccurate representations. They start believing and connecting these made up characters with how the real world works. If they see a dumb blonde and a dumb black person on television, that’s what they’ll assume all blondes and all black people are like.
Bursch also talks about how television can devalue higher status characters by making them have opposite characteristics. He gives example like men acting feminine and adults acting childish. They often will use this strategy when showing a person with contradicting status positions and the lower status characteristic will overshadow the high status characteristic. This is greatly degrading to both sides of the matter. For instance, a man in real life that is very feminine will be thought of as a less status for acting that way and women are thought of as being a lesser status because if men act like them, it is devaluing to them, so they are obviously a less status.
The whole reading is extremely interesting because you can think of numerous examples in our day to day life. It’s frightening how completely bias and discriminating these shows are.