Men and women are portrayed in very specific and re-occurring ways in the media. First we can look at how men are presented to understand the consequences and challenges raised by such portrayals.
Media Portrayal of Males
In the media a male is represented as stoic, strong, emotionless, leader, physically youthful and muscular and as an authoritative figure that exhumes high levels of influence. Males are also depicted as over women and in the role of protectors of women who are unable to protect themselves. The image presented sounds pretty good, heck its attractive and alluring to other males and females however, the results of engendering these stereotypes leads to conflicts in the viewing public.
Other males are expected to act in the same manner that males are depicted in the media and the resurgence of the typecast behaviors reinforces the desire for such traits. In real life men are led to believe that being cold, emotionless and controlling of women is the accepted behavior when in fact it may not be. The effects of the portrayal of males on television leads to real life problems such as arguments, violence, misunderstanding and emotional conflict within the person and their relationships, these effects cause a dis-connect between reality and the models that males see in the media.
Also, the friendship relationship between males on television is limited to the sidekick role in which there is humorous relief but no real emotional or inter-personal involvement. The relationships lack a facet of reality and are one-dimensional as they focus is primarily on the superficial. In the real world male-to-male friendships have the tendency to be disingenuous and because of the reflection in the media. Males are not expected to share their thoughts or innermost feelings because the socially constructed reality as shaped by the media does not provide a reference point for such behaviors. Males are given the excuse to be cold and dis-connected because society accepts the social reality presented by the media and adopts those as characteristics and expectations from males. A man opening up or showing emotions violates the expected behavior and is seen as weak and often ridiculed.
Media Portrayal of Females
Women are depicted very differently from men in the media. In reality women are less often represented in the media. The media is pre-dominantly focused on male characters. Think of voice-overs, the voices are typically male because the media presents them as more trustworthy, definitive and knowledgeable. Even in media aimed at youth and children the appearance of female characters is miniscule and when used they are depicted in roles that are very one-dimensional or hysterical. Female characters in youth television are maintained as homemakers, weak or the person in distress needing to be saved.
The female representation in the media is focused on the woman being a subservient character to male roles, weak, a homemaker, a caregiver, a mother, and hysterical. The representation takes on negative stereotypical behaviors that are re-enforced through society and their involvement with the media. There are cases where a woman is given a position of power but she is typecast as being mean, vile, dominating and having slept her way to the top. The merits of her accomplishments are robbed by the negative character portrayal. Take note that even when women are used in roles that give them power it is given to them by their sexuality an object of desire by a male. Thus the woman is objectified and de-humanized. The power that is granted to the female character is almost sinister and villainous she is able to exhumer power and control through the use of her feminine wiles; she can seduce people with her charm, sexuality and underhanded use of emotions and fragility. Females are more often represented as being young, thin, and tall and having hips an overall physical image that is not realistic. The woman is expected to stay young even in the years of maturity passing the 40’s. The woman is expected to bend, pull, tie and twist any part of her body to grasp on to the youth and attractiveness to stay relevant and to be able to be meaningful. When a woman is depicted as old she then turns into the punch line or object of ridicule in most media accounts. She must frantically find a way to cover up her age.
The representation of females creates a false reality for women who are socially expected to reflect what they see in the media. Women are not able to fit into the characters modeled for them and in their real life’s are continually in search of the fix for their deficiencies. The added negative effects of the stereotyped and hyped up media portrayals of females has been linked to a rise in young girls having eating disorders, emotional and other psychology maladies because of the stress of being like the right woman on the screen.