Screening Gender on Children's Television: The Views of Producers around the World

Screening Gender on Children's Television: The Views of Producers around the World

Screening Gender on Children's Television: The Views of Producers around the World

Screening Gender on Children's Television: The Views of Producers around the World


Screening Gender on Children's Television offers readers insights into the transformations taking place in the presentation of gender portrayals in television productions aimed at younger audiences. It goes far beyond a critical analysis of the existing portrayals of gender and culture by sharing media professionals' action-oriented recommendations for change that would promote gender equity, social diversity and the wellbeing of children.

Incorporating the author's interviews with 135 producers of children's television from 65 countries, this book discusses the role television plays in the lives of young people and, more specifically, in developing gender identity. It examines how gender images presented to children on television are intertwined with important existential and cultural concerns that occupy the social agenda worldwide, including the promotion of education for girls, prevention of HIV/AIDS and domestic violence and caring for 'neglected' boys who lack healthy masculine role models, as well as confronting the pressures of the beauty myth.

Screening Gender on Children's Television also explores how children's television producers struggle to portray issues such as sex/sexuality and the preservation of local cultures in a profit-driven market which continually strives to reinforce gender segregation. The author documents pro-active attempts by producers to advance social change, illustrating how television can serve to provide positive, empowering images for children around the world.

Screening Gender on Children's Television is an accessible text which will appeal to a wide audience of media practitioners as well as students and scholars. It will be useful on a range of courses, including popular culture, gender, television and media studies. Researchers will also be interested in the breadth of this cross-cultural study and its interviewing methodology.


As I write this preface in my sabbatical office at the Center for Media and Child Health (CMCH; Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard School of Public Health, and Harvard Medical School), I find myself staring nostalgically at a poster for Gone with the Wind, one of the most formative movies of my childhood. I have criticized this film for its warm and romantic portrayal of the US South during the time of slavery, its emotionally exploitive constructions of the Civil War, and its stereotypical depictions of men and women. But at this moment I reflect on the poster’s reproduction of the famous romantic scene in which the handsome Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) assertively carries the submissive Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) in his arms, and recall that soon after this famous scene Rhett forces himself on Scarlett in an act that will result in her impregnation. And then I realize with shock that my cherished childhood cinematic memory is actually of a rape scene!

Each one of us carries powerful visual images from our childhoods of film and television characters that made lasting impressions on us, for whatever reasons, in different circumstances. We may envy them, aspire to be like them, identify with them, or wish to have them as friends. For over two decades now I have been researching these images and their gender stereotyping in media texts, teaching critical analysis skills, and working to raise critical consciousness about the power of visual images among students, media producers, teachers, parents, and my own relatives, friends, and colleagues. I have learned that many studies of portrayals of women and men on television point to a social world that differentiates between the two quite systematically, as well as providing children with restricted images of what it means to be a boy or a girl and limited visions of the kinds of men and women they can grow up to be.

As I reflect on images I have analyzed, many anecdotal episodes come to my mind from the period when I was gathering the data presented in this book. For example, jet lagged in my hotel room in Tokyo during the Japan Prize event of October 2006, I was zapping mindlessly among the available channels when I came across an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live with Zhang Ziyi, the Chinese actress of Ang Lee’s hit film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). Ziyi (who was twenty-seven years old at the time of the interview) has . . .

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