What do you see as the most important effect of the media on society’s attitudes?What do you see as the most important effect of the media on society’s attitudes towards femininities and...

What do you see as the most important effect of the media on society’s attitudes?

What do you see as the most important effect of the media on society’s attitudes towards femininities and masculinities and why?

Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Spoiler Alert! Snow White and the Huntsman~

I saw this movie last week and it certainly wasn't the sterotypical fairy tale where the princess needs complete saving because she is too frail to do anything for herself. There are men throughout the story who help her to ascend to the throne, (i.e., huntsman, dwarves, childhood friend) but she stands alone with her crown in the end. All of the men are there at court, but she stands alone as queen in the end rather than second in command to a husband king. The message is clear that women can ascend and reach their own personal potential alone and not have to be saved like past fairy tales.  But I felt badly for the man who loved her who stood in the back just watching and without any medals around his neck to show appreciation. (The other men got medals, but he didn't) It is interesting, though, that whenever past fairy tales had men saving women, the men also married the woman and placed her next to him on her own throne. I wondered why that couldn't be the situation here and it is because if she married him, then she would automatically be placed higher than her anyway.

So, we are seeing a shift from helpless princesses being saved by princes to princesses saving themselves with men's help, but not sharing in the glory. I'm torn because I understand why she had to ascend to the throne alone, but I also wanted him to be next to her, too.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Parenthood was once the core of the programmed television script. There are still shows that are family oriented, but I wonder if our definitions of femininity and masculinity have drifted away from relationships with kids. It seems that not too long ago, Bill Huxtable and Clair Huxtable from "The Cosby Show" were defined in their gender roles as both professionals and parents. 

The adult characters of many early 1980s, the 60s and 70s too, were significantly anchored by their role as parent. 

We might argue that the current image-oriented idealization of men and women (mentioned in several posts above) implies a superficiality that has effectively abandoned any substantive definition of men and women according to their roles as mothers and fathers. 

Is this why people take their three year olds out to the cafe and let them run around while the parents play on their tablets in a haze of faux-superstar oblivion, eschewing the parenting that even a TV parent would have felt necessary 20 years ago?

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In terms of appearance at least, the media has conditioned us to accept (and maybe expect) a very high standard of beauty in both the female and the male body. We see countless examples of physical perfection (whether real or computer enhanced) in the media, but no one who can match that level of outward flawlessness in our everyday lives.

However, I'm beginning to wonder if we may become desensitized to the idea of "media beauty" at some point, since we see so much of it. Maybe we are already.

As  far as the non-physical aspect of gender, I can only speak from a male perspective. In the media, men are often presented in terms of "heroic" qualities or actions. Think of the movies and tv shows we watch. It's one amazing death-defying feat after another. Most of us go through our "real" lives without committing such an act. In what way are we heroic, or even "worthy"?

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I whole heartedly agree with bullgatortail and mwalter822. The media has created an idealized standard of what men and women should look like. As noted, advertisements and commercials always depict men and women with strong sexual appeal; the subliminal message is "this could be you." Sadly, this has become the norm in our society; the media has defined for us not so much what the perfect man or women should be but the "standard" man or woman. It has created unrealistic expectations of gender definition.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the first part of Post #3 about the way in which men and women are depicted in the media and in TV commercials. Most woman pictured are remarkable beauties with larger-than-life physiques; the men are handsome with six-pack abs. This is certainly not an accurate depiction of the average person, and it only creates viewers who believe that physical beauty is far more important than inner strength and conviction.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The media still contributes in defining gender and gender attributes.  However, the media also plays a role in breaking stereotypes as well as enforcing them.  Historically, there have been television shows and movies that have broken barriers, such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  By depicting unconventional relationships and characteristics, the media brings these into the national conversation.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems that the media is pulling away from the traditional stereotypes. people no longer only see women promoting cleaning products and men promoting tools. Instead, both genders are seen promoting products historically promoted by the opposite gender. Hopefully this change allows viewers of the commercials to recognize that "gender roles" are not as strict as they have been in the past.


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A few days ago there was a reportage of an African-American woman who is not gay, but is an advocate for gay rights because she feels that this struggle is analogous to the civil rights struggle.  With more positive comments from other heterosexual people, there was a clear message from the media that equality, etc. for gays is good.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the biggest role the media plays is defining/ propagating gender roles.  Most people watch TV and get their definition of cultural norms from the shows and programs they watch.  In many ways, it it more influential than real life to some people.