Academic journal article Applied Semiotics/Semiotique appliqué

Social and Ideological Stereotypes in Children's Toy Advertisements in Greek Television

Academic journal article Applied Semiotics/Semiotique appliqué

Social and Ideological Stereotypes in Children's Toy Advertisements in Greek Television

Article excerpt


The study of toys as material objects and also of children's advertisements as toys' visual material, leads to a spiral scheme, where the channel (advertisement) and the message (toy) cross, forming signs as "forming mediums", as "carriers of meanings" and as "practice, goal" (Duroy, R. & Kerner, G., 1995). It is the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic semiotic analysis, which is applied in the present study. Advertisements are signs and at the same time the advertised products are signs themselves. Hence, we search the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic elements of the visual material and the product-message in two levels.


In the schematic representation (Figure 1) the arrow stands for the advertised product, the toy. The spiral that moves around it and progressively through time/space stands for the advertisement, which concerns the toy, presents it piece by piece and which ends with the "reformation" of the product and the reference to its name. However, the question that remains is if, eventually, different toys serve the same aims/goals. Are girls still getting prepared to become good and caring mothers? Do boys still learn how to play war? In other words, do contemporary toys promote the same old stereotypes, and in what level do they reflect the structures of our society? It has been argued that contemporary toys have not ceased to form stereotypes; (Brown, N. M., 1998). And if that is the case, then why do we insist in giving our children the same old kind of toys and stereotypes?

Many people think that traditional toys constitute healthy stereotypes for their children. Mothers who express their worries through letters on the Internet condemn the Barbie stereotype (the young, modern woman, which possibly represents them), but favour the traditional mother role represented by baby dolls (Mastellou, E., 2006). Eventually, is it natural for girls to grow up and become mothers and for boys to be aggressive? If the term "gender" did not exist in our society, would children still choose to play with certain toys?

Research on monkeys showed that male monkeys preferred and played longer with "male" toys (a car and a ball), whereas female monkeys preferred "female" toys (a doll and a pot). Both groups played equally with "neutral" toys (a book and a stuffed dog) (Garcia, R. A., 2002). Researches such as the above claim that the children's preferences for their toys and the discrimination between male and female toys does not depend on social impacts only, but it also depends on biological factors. Still, these researches do not explain boys' preferences for dolls or girls' preferences for football, irregardless to their sexual preferences as adults.


As mentioned in the introduction, the aim of this paper is to explore the use of gendered codes, dominant ideologies and stereotypes, the tracking of discourses in the advertising text, as well as to examine the social practices in the media, which form "social and cultural changes" (Fairclough, N. 1995). Taking into consideration the above aims, the analysis focuses on the visual representations and their technical and structural features, which are the final products of the TV text in the media, without studying the audience's/receivers' response.

The aim of this research is the proposal/production of an inter-scientific analysis model for the purposes of children's TV advertisements. Fairclough (1995) argues that we can form three types of questions about visual material. How are subjects represented, what is the relationship between them, which identities are being structured? According to these three questions, we assume that any part of any text can represent and form relations and identities at the same time.

In our sample we detect the social values and social stereotypes, the representations of gender and childhood, as they appear in the children's advertisements, through the signifieds and the codes, which are traced on the moving images, as well as the oral and written text. …

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