Breaking Free from Gender Roles

Morgan Deisz

Daneen Bergland

Popular Culture

13 August 2015

Stereotyping Women in Media

          Women’s portrayal in popular culture has been an on going debate for years. They have been seen as stay at home moms, taking care of the kids waiting for their adored husband to come home. Shows like Family Guy, Modern Family and even The Office all show women in these stereotypical roles. As we approach 2016, we are starting to see more TV shows with males being the “stay at home dads” and the women are focusing on their careers, but even those shows still portray the mom as “naggy” and the dads as immature and incapable of taking care of their kids. Even as TV shows are branching out to show stay at home dads, the negative view of wives in media is still very strong, because women are only seen as irritating house wives and rarely seen pursuing a career.

The portrayal of the naggy housewife is crudely depicted in the cartoon show, Family Guy. Lois is a stay at home mom who is married to Peter; an immature, selfish husband working at a brewery. The relationship between them is very skewed, Lois is generally parenting Peter and telling him how dumb or arrogant he is. The writers of Family Guy really show their opinions of wives. In early seasons Lois is only shown when Peter does something wrong and Lois is there to nag at him and tell him how irresponsible he is. On the website “TV tropes” which analyzes different TV shows and the characters, they point out that Lois, “in the first season, she was a calm mother who always was wiser than Peter. Over the other two pre-revival seasons (actually starting with “The Son Also Draws”), some flaws began to show in her seemingly perfect persona, yet she was still a nice person to have has a mother. When the show came back, however, she essentially became a female version of Peter” (Family Guy The Griffin Family / Characters – TV Tropes). If it’s not bad enough, how they illustrate Lois as a bossy wife, they make it worse by making her take on the same characteristics as her doltish husband. Luckily, there are some other TV shows out there that are not so crude and negative toward women.


The TV show Modern Family is a good representation of an intense housewife, partially pursuing a career. Clair is married to Phil and they have three kids together. Phil works as a real estate agent while Clair is mostly seen as a housewife till the later seasons where she does get a job at “Pritchett Closets & Blinds” (Modern Family Wiki). The relationship with Clair and Phil is pretty typical for most sitcoms. They have the more “ideal” picture perfect home and family, and the idea of a nuclear family is still very present in the show. The viewers of this show, and the larger part of society do not feel like a family should look this way any more. From the textbook “Media, Gender and Identity” they state that. “The UK’s Nation Centre for Social Research (2000) reported that their annual survey of social attitudes had found that:

The traditional view of women as dedicated house wives seems to be all buy extinct. Only around one in six women and one in five men [mostly older people], think women should remain at home while men go out to work. (Gauntlett, David)

The view of a “perfect” nuclear family is changing, and it’s time that TV shows embraces the change and updates the roles of wives, by making moms more empowered and career driven. However, viewers may be concerned about the well being of the children on the show. Women are generally more nurturing and understanding that men, if the rolls change will the kids be suffering? This question can be better examined when looking at the TV show, The Office.




The Office is a “mockumentary” showing an empowered woman, who can juggle being a mom and focusing on a career. Pam Beasley is one of the main characters that starts out really timid in the show and later develops into a more assertive woman who makes her dreams of being an artist, a mom, and a sales woman possible (The Office (US) / Characters – TV Tropes). This portrayal of women is pretty rare in sitcoms; they generally do not express a woman’s career goals in the show, let alone show the viewers how important her career is to her.


A possible down side to this super mom portrayal of Pam is that it shows that she has two kids, goes right back to work after having them and the writers do not touch on the fact that the kids are in day care during the day, but just shows her working all day to go home to two kids. In the peer-reviewed article “TV Parents,” it expressed how parents in TV shows are seen as “super human” and are able to do more than is humanly possible as a parent. It also analyzed how people actually interpret television shows; how each person interprets it differently but at the same time they experiences it in the similar ways. (Elizabeth Kuhn-Wilken) We are effected by TV shows and The Office shows how parents are super hero’s, but in reality people are not like this. There is a clip in the episode “Jury Duty” where Jim was gone of Jury Duty for a day, but called in sick for the rest of the week saying that the Court Trail was going to take the whole week. This turned into a big issue when the office found out he had lied about how long the trial actually took. In order to show his coworkers the reason he took the extra time off which was to be at home with his new baby and wife, he brought his family to work to show how much help Pam needs. When Pam brings the kids in, the kids instantly start crying, throwing a fit and the whole office is in shock and end up sending Jim home with his family to help out. This scene is really nice emphasizing that you cannot be a super hero alone, but sometimes working as a team can make it more realistic.


Although dads are becoming more involved in the “house wife” role, the negative view of women in media is still a big issue. In many cases they are viewed as whiny, irritating, and have to fit the perfect picture. But most importantly, women are hardly shown pursuing a career, and if they are, they are these super humans who juggle work, family, an immature husband and everything else. TV shows need to stop portraying woman as magician being able to juggle so much at once, and start showing a significant other in the picture helping out and working together as a team. It’s time for a realistic TV shows that accurately interprets what it is like being a woman in today’s society.



Work Cited

Elizabeth Kuhn-Wilken, Toni Schindler Zimmerman, Jennifer L. Matheson, James H. Banning, Joanna Pepin, Supernanny’s Solutions for Families: An Ethnographic Content Analysis of Parenting Messages on Reality Television, Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 2012, 24, 4, 316

“Family Guy The Griffin Family / Characters – TV Tropes.” Family Guy The Griffin Family /      Characters – TV Tropes. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.

Gauntlett, David. Media, Gender, and Identity: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.

“Modern Family Wiki.” Modern Family Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.

“The Office (US) / Characters – TV Tropes.” The Office (US) / Characters – TV Tropes. N.p., n.d.            Web. 30 July 2015.


One thought on “Breaking Free from Gender Roles

  1. Great post! This has always been a common role in popular culture! I do think that is starting to change, for both dad and mom roles. Which is great! We are finally starting to see the lines between mom and dad blur. I like how you used Family Guy. Lois’ character has always been an interesting one to me. In some episodes she’s the perfect housewife who has to put up with Peter’s shenanigans, while in others she’s awful! Like the episode where she takes a modeling job and starts doing drugs and partying. Great use of pictures here too!

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