How Gender is Portrayed in Kids Programs or Cartoons
In order to investigate the various styles of communication that are conveyed by cartoons, this study utilized both critical and multimodal methods of discourse analysis. The study explored the portrayal of gender stereotypes in Adventure Time, an American-based animated cartoon show. The researcher sough to determine how gender roles in this show differ from those of traditional stories, and the examples Adventure Time portrays to children. The results of analysis revealed that the show portrays untraditional roles for both males and females. Unlike in traditional stories, women have many functions and dimensions. Socialization of Children due to Media 5 5. Traditional Stories and their Effects on Gender Roles 6 6. Study 7 i) Questions and Aims of the Research 7 ii) Data 7 iii) Methods 8 7. Analysis and Results 9 i) Gender Representation of Female and Male Characters Through Multimodal 9 ii) Gender Representation of Female and Male Characters Through Discourse 10 8.
Equivocal in Representation of Gender 11 9. Interaction with the opposite sex was restricted; if children did the unexpected, they would be disciplined physically. Parents taught children of opposite gender that they were not equal. In the modern days, children access a variety of cartoons and media programs. In this process, kids learn about gender; more specifically, what is meant by being a boy or girl. The media, therefore, assumes a major role in shaping children’s attitude and behavior. One of the key aspects of critical discourse analysis (CDA) is investigating the relation between language and power. This makes it an appropriate method to analyze gender portrayal in cartoons. CDA looks at language as both a constructed and constructive system, and it underscores discourse as a way of conveying action (Gill 58).
CDA is a resourceful method of examining television programs since it recognizes language as a broad societal system with various semiotic meanings. Besides being a social system, CDA holds that language comprises elements of non-verbal communication (like gestures) that contributes to the identify of an individual. Gender identity is one the representations that can be made using discourse. Gender is composed of several meanings and non-verbal elements apart from language. Media and Identity of Gender The world has drastically changed in recent decades. Stereotypes (thoughts, assumptions or beliefs held that may or may not reflect reality) have greatly affected women. Tuchman insists that this may be harmful in bringing up children, particularly girls, for extinct societal constructions (152). It is thus important for the media to show people the reality.
This will help children accomplish their dreams and desires regardless of their gender identity. Socialization of Children due to Media The media has a great effect on children’s social learning process. This process affects the way children socialize. According to Dubow et al. Thus, this coded information will guide one into action on later occasions (Bandura 3). In support of this theory, Aubrey and Kristen maintain that gender-typed behavior is acquired through imitating and observing gender stereotypes in television programs (114). The theory argues that kids attend to TV programs that are geared towards them. By modeled events in the programs, children observe and extract what is suitable for each gender. Then, they actively restructure or transform information obtained from the program in the form of conceptions and rules.
Televised violence is useful in the sense that aggression is portrayed as a way of life (Griffin 369). Griffin further argues that Bandura cautioned that children, just like adults, learn behaviors and attitudes through televised modeling, and that television might potentially create a violent reality (368). Traditional Stories and their Effects on Gender Roles In order to compare gender roles in the Adventure Times, traditional stories such as Rapunzel and Snow White were utilized. This is because Adventure Time relies on a setting that is acquainted from them. Traditional stories usually involve passive beautiful females as well as good-looking princes, who always salvage the female. The above story has been turned into an animation by a company known as Walt Disney Company. Characters in Disney’s version follow a traditional stereotyped gender role, the same as that exhibited by characters in the original story.
England et al. observes that Disney’s male characters are more hermaphroditic while females demonstrate characteristics that are more traditionally feminine - such as being physically weak and sensitive (556). In analysis, the study explored portrayals of such stereotypes of either gender in Adventure Time. 19 James Baxter the Horse, 5. 11 Bad Little Boy and 5. 6 Jake the Dad. These episodes have materials that are relevant and greatly insightful on the representations of gender roles. In addition, they offer versatile data because they include various characters. They strongly portray their traditional believes where princes salvage princesses. Even though Adventure Time is based on the traditional setting where heroes rescue princesses, princes suffer from heart breaks while princesses work towards ruling their kingdoms and families. In the show, many traditional stereotypes are broken thereby providing inspirational role models to kids (Tuchman 165).
iii) Methods Data analysis in this study was accomplished using both the critical and multimodal methods of discourse analysis. The combination of these two methods enabled the researcher to critically analyze vital semiotic features of the cartoon program under investigation. The presentation of multimodal messages that are given by the characters was done as well. Additionally, the researcher assessed the appearance of the character in relation to what the tradition expects regarding gender appropriate appearance. The behaviors of the characters were also studied using discourse analysis. i) Gender Representation of Female and Male Characters Through Multimodal Princesses from various kingdoms make up the majority of women in the Adventure Time show. Each of them portray an element that is typical to the kingdom she comes from.
She is a scientist and also rules the Kingdom of Candy. In traditional stories, women do not have any occupation apart from their title. Notably, Princess Bubblegum is fully absorbed in her laboratory work. She represents an intelligent and ambitious woman. She often asks for help from Finn and Jake but not like in fairy tales where princesses are rescued from harm. Finn behaves just as a typical teenager like him would do. For instance, he cries when heartbroken; this shows that young males can cry too like girls. Jake, who is Finn’s roomie and adoptive brother is at his thirties. He, thus, acts as Finn’s mentor. Although he does not portray traits that are gender specific, he has a masculine and harsh voice.
However, Bubblegum proves that just because she is a woman and a princess, she does not need a boyfriend. Besides highlighting an independent and strong woman, Princess Bubblegum’ image reinforces the woman’s stereotype of choosing between a relationship and a career. Being a woman and a princess, she fully meets the society’s social behavior expectation by being polite and very diplomatic. Finn cannot express his emotions before Princess Bubblegum but he openly does so to others. Finn has always had feelings for Princess Bubblegum but he is considered very young in relation to Bubblegum’s age. The appearance does not always deduce the gender of a character. The gender identity of a character is, however, represented by their behavior.
Finn and Jake’s roommate, BMO, is an equivocal main characters. BMO’s appearance does not give us a clue on what his gender is. In addition, there are mixed signals from BMO’s behavior concerning his gender identity. Both gendered and non-gendered characters such as creatures and animals are often labeled a male gender in many children’s programs (Lemish, 2014). BMO, being a machine, represents an example of a character reaching past two genders. Swapping Genders The characters in a couple of episodes in Adventure Time are gender swapped. Events and characters in the gender swapped episodes do not make up the main line of the story. They happen in a story that is told by a character in the show.
The blue color, though, shows the status of a traditional hero. Prince Gumball wears pink and purple from head to toe just like Princess Bubblegum. Although he wears like Bubblegum, Gumball is on trousers. He has a crown that is smaller than Princess Bubblegum’s. His character differs from the traditional stories as he is seen as more feminine. It was also aimed at showing the examples the show sets to children. The show represents roles of males and females that are not traditional. In some episodes, there are behaviors that are questionable for a kids’ program. Such behaviors, however, targets a more mature audience. In traditional stories, female characters usually have one function. This study has provided a forum for further research on gender representation especially on Adventure Time.
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