When I was a child, growing up in West Africa Liberia, the traditional roles for men and women were totally different. Women were known to be: child bearers stay at home moms and the caregivers of the family. Also, women were responsible for taking care of everything in the household such as: cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping etc. Men on the other hand, were regarded as the sole provider for the family. This gave me the perception that women and men are expected to do certain things in accordance with the gender roles their society dictates.
In Africa, I was able to see a lot of gender inequality that affected the majority of the women living in that country. However, because of my departure from Liberia to the United States, I was able to see the social difference of both countries. Since I arrived in the United States, my perception has shifted about the gender roles I was accustom to when I was in Liberia.
I was surprised to find that America had two types of gender roles, traditional and non-traditional; and even more surprising was that America’s traditional gender roles closely mirrored Liberia’s gender roles.
In traditional gender roles women were often subjected to various forms of gender inequality such as sexism and prejudice. A couple of decades ago, gender equality were more visible in society, and the media propitiated this idea on television, radio. This paper will analyze the gender roles by using two video clips from two of America’s popular television drama sitcoms. A semiotic analysis can be applied to these shows because of the symbols they carry.
A careful semiotic analysis of the popular television drama Bewitched and Jersey Shore, will show that women of this day and age are encouraged to be independent, career minded and are not submissive to their men like they used to be. The television drama Bewitched, which aired from 1965 to 1972, implied the ideal women is a women who: support her husband’s career, stayed at home, took care of her husband and kids and didn’t bother to find a career of her own.
However, in recent years, the popular television drama “Jersey Shore”, which aired from 2009 to 2012, suggest that in modern era, the ideal women has a career and does not depend on her husband or anyone else to provide for her and her kids. These TV shows reveal how the gender roles of women are changing in today’s society. The results of the changing roles are that the women in America are better educated. The first video clip I’m going to analyze is from the popular 60’s television sitcom “Bewitched”. Bewitched is an American television sitcom that was originally aired on the ABC television station.
The show follows the story of a witch who is married to a normal man and how she tries to live the life of a typical housewife. The two main characters are Dick Your, the husband, and Elizabeth Montgomery, the witch and housewife. Elizabeth Montgomery (aka the witch), was a powerful witch who gave-up her witchcraft to become a submissive housewife. According to Mary Pipher’s article “Saplings in the Storm”, the author proclaims that “Simone de Beauvoir believed adolescence is when girls realize that men have the power and that their only power comes from consenting to becoming submissive adored objects” (Pipher 350).
The author is saying that young girls reach certain age, and realizing that men are dominant and possess power over them. And as a result these girls become submissive to men. I watched a two minute scene from “Bewitched” episode “Just one Happy Family”. The portion of the scene I’m going to analyze opens up with an animated character of the witch flying close to the moon horizontally. Viewing this part of the show, one would think it’s a cartoon for kids, but shortly after, the title of the show appears on the screen.
The witch’s eyes twinkle several times and then, all of a sudden the picture changes and she’s in a kitchen with a frying pan in her hand and a tall gentlemen standing next to her. Without watching any other part of the show, one would think she is a maid in the house, one can’t assume the relationship between both characters without seeing other parts of the video. The scene continued with the women putting the frying pan on the stove and jumping in the arms of the man. Then smoke started rising from the stove and slowly filling the screen.
When the smoke clears the witch is gone and the man in looking around with confusion. He looks down and sees a cat (the witch). The cat started to rub against his leg. This is a sign of her willingness to be submissive to him. She had put herself down to make the man feel superior. The man then lifted the cat up to look at it closely, and with a bang and sparkle, the witch turns back into her human form and into the man’s arms. This displayed her morphing ability and how she uses her ability to meet her newly found love needs.
In Piper’s article, the author quotes Shakespeare’s saying that when young adolescent girls fall in love, they lose part of their inner direction and focus on what they can do to please their husband and the men around them (Piper 350). This tells us that the women wanted to please their husbands because of love. What they did not realize however, is that they thought they were doing these things for love; but in reality, they were doing these things because society dictated that love required them to do so.
There are numerous codes embedded throughout this episode. The episode starts in a living room; the husband is sitting on a table reading the newspaper while his wife (the witch) is serving him breakfast. This is a representation of a woman’s role in the home. The first dialogue between the two start with the husband telling his wife that he will be returning home late from work, and the wife responding by telling him she would like him to come home early. The husband sarcastically replies “is my evening with you worth more than my successes and goals? this indicates, that being dependent, women had no values or say in American culture. The man did what he wanted for the most part and his wife had no choice but to deal with it; it was not her place to argue with her husband. These are symbols of how women were viewed and treated in the 60’s and 70’s. Bewitched, sent a message to its audience about gender roles and how women in America should act. In the show, you rarely see the witch outside of her home; this reflects how society dictated that a woman’s place was in the home and doing the thing of the home.
This show among other shows of the 60’s not only reflected society but encouraged young women considering marriage to fit the mold of a housewife and caregiver. Basically it tells women to be like Mrs. Montgomery who gave up her power to become a submissive wife. Today however, different things are expected of women. To demonstrate how women are viewed differently in today’s society, I’m going to analyze a clip from Jersey Shore. An Analysis of this clip from “Jersey Shore” will show the various changes in the roles and behaviors of women over the past 20 years. Jersey Shore”, is a popular reality television series that was featured on MTV. The sitcom ran from 2009 to 2012 and was only shown in the United States. The series follows the lives of eight people sharing a house in Jersey shore in the state of New Jersey, in the United States. The cast members of this show are: Mike, Ronnie, Vinnie, Pauli, Angelina, J-Wow, Sammie and Snooki. Before these eight people were cast to be the stars of this show, they lived just like regular people. Some of them had jobs and others attended college.
Notably all four of the women on the sitcom had been currently enrolled in college when they were cast or they had already obtained a college degree. This is a significant sign that women are becoming more independent from men by earning their college degree and taking good jobs because of that degree. On a sitcom like Bewitched of the 60’s, the women stay home while the man worked because that was what society dictated. In the jersey show shows, however, the women worked and partied just as much as the men did with no gender restrictions.
Once they were cast on the Jersey Shore, they all lived their own lives as they pleased. There were no separate roles for either gender. They all shared the same responsibility. They all worked together, doing the laundry, the cooking and the cleaning. Another major change in the gender roles shown in jersey shore is that all of the women had been attending or had graduated college. In the 1960s the odds a woman receiving a good education was highly unlikely because they were discriminated against by the men who ran the colleges.
According to Melana Zyla Vickers article “Where the Boys Aren’t”, the author states that before the 1970’s, most college campuses were dominated by men. In 1972, Title IX, now known as the equal opportunity in Education Act, ensured that “no Person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”.
This bill was the pillar that gave women the opportunity to seek independence for themselves. After the passing of the bill, there were more women attending colleges across the United States than ever before. According to Vickers, “At colleges across the country, 58 women will enroll as freshmen for every 42 men” (Vickers 382). This is evidence of how American society has shifted the traditional understanding of women roles. Women have acquired and are still acquiring for themselves more rights from the government in the quest of gender equality.
Now even though American women have been given equal rights, there are other parts of the world where women are still being subjected to prejudice, inequality and sexism. In Shannon Abelson’s article “Gender Roles in American society”, the author claims that “women in American do not generally have a poor standard of living. They are certainly not plagued with the same concerns as women in many African, Middle Eastern and Asian societies” (Abelson, paragraph 7). The author asserts that American women have a higher status in society then the women in other countries across the globe.
Women are still being oppressed by men in some countries. For example, I watched a documentary on “The Discovery Channel” title “Afghan” Women Now”, the documentary was about the condition of the women in Afghanistan. The man being interviewed told the interviewer that women cannot be seen in public without any male companion, they are not allowed to leave the house showing their hair or face in public gathering. The man continued by saying the husband has the right to decide if he wants his wife to go to school, or to stay at home and have kids.
Even though the documentary shows how women are being oppressed in other countries and we Americans view these countries as human right abusers. It was not that long ago that America was oppressing their own women denying them certain rights. For example women were not allowed to vote until the early 60’s. Despite of the disparity American women when through, America’s society was able to recognize the issue before it could get out of hand. They made the change that allows both genders to have the same right. Jersey Shore, display a perfect example of the equality that both genders exhibit today.
The episode of Jersey Shore I’m going to analyze is season six episode eleven, the opening of the episode starts with a dialogue of what happened on the previous episode. Snooki and Vinny are having a conversation. Vinny asked Snooki “so you are going to hate me forever? ” Snooki replied “I just don’t want to be friends with you”. This is another sign that shows how women have the right to voice their opinion to men. Shortly after this small “catch up clip” the names of the cast members appear on the screen, followed by the title Jersey Shore.
The title is display in white writing, and it’s encircled with a red square. After the theme, the scene begins with all of the cast members sitting at a table with food that is already served. The men and women are all sharing the same table. This is gender equality. Next Pauli is shown alone on the scene. He states “this is the only show where two men are having sex with the same girl and apologizing to each other about it”. That statement is also a symbol to show that women of today are free to date or sleep with any men as they please without being looked down upon.
This is an example of how American women have equal rights as the men in today society. To conclude, gender equality has come a long way. Currently, women still struggle with their independence of gender disparity, but are still rising in educating and training themselves to be qualified for positions in the work place that are still currently dominated by men. The more independent women there are the more chances for society to prosper. No women should be subjective to any prejudice, or gender stereotype. We have come a long way and we can continue to improve gender equality.
Cite this Semiotic Analysis of Tv Shows
Semiotic Analysis of Tv Shows. (2016, Oct 07). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/semiotic-analysis-of-tv-shows/