J. & C.'s Movie Reviews

Our Notes on Movies Made Public

Archive for February, 2009

Ideology Matters

Posted by J on February 16, 2009

From elsewhere on the web.  Both of these quotes are taken from the late ’80s/early ’90s, and judging by what we’ve seen lately, things haven’t really changed:

[…] The study contrasted “TV’s Dream Girls” in three different decades (those beginning in 1955, 1965, and 1975). It concluded that women in all three decades are depicted in ways suggesting they are not truly equal to men. The femmes come across as less important than men in TV dramas; they “are less likely to be mature adults, are less well educated, and hold lower status jobs.” Furthermore, women in the dramas tended to derive their identities from their marital status. “A majority of women are identified as either married or single, compared to about one in four men.”

We are edging up on the interesting part. Even though women in dramas are stuck in fairly traditional roles, the story line always takes the feminist side of any argument. (“Characters who deride women’s abilities are invariably put down by the script.”) This was not always true: Before 1965, say authors S. Robert Lichter, Linda S. Lichter, and Stanley Rothman, “22% of the episodes . .. rejected the feminist positions.” But not today — and here comes our fascinating fact. Of the thousands of dramas studied since 1965, “not a single episode derided notions of sexual equality.” Not one. Not even to break the monotony.

And then:

[C]rime is a far greater theme on TV than in the real world: The 263 programs reviewed by the Lichters showed 250 criminals committing 417 crimes. Second, murder is heavily overrepresented in TV crime: Homicides accounted for almost 25% of the crimes in the Lichters’ sample (vs. less than 1% in FBI crime reports). Third, business is wildly overrepresented among TV criminals: It was responsible for 26% of all the murders, for example. Also upping the unreality quotient was another finding of the study: that characters who are young, poor, unemployed, or nonwhite hardly ever commit violent crimes on the tube. For those seeking reality in prime time, we continue to recommend the ball game.

If we were to make TV shows and movies that reflected the federal government’s own crime statistics, we would be seeing a vastly different set of heroes and villains.

In the Leapfrog phonics videos that our children watch, there’s a character named Mr. Websley, basically a replica of Scrooge McDuck.  As a rich entrepreneur, Mr. Websley is always depicted as negative and gruff.  Each time we hear his name, the music plays an ominous DAHN-DAHN to indicate that this guy is somewhere between Captain Hook and Darth Vader on the evil scale.

Anyway, in one episode Mr. Websley puts an order into a factory that triples the factory workers’ workload.  This is seen as a slight negative, as it takes a father away from a child for a day and creates stress for everyone.  As if tripling business is a bad thing!  We need a few Mr. Websley to triple business today.  At least he is not depicted as a murderer, but we have probably seen a thousand businessmen who have murdered in Hollywood dramas — but we’ve never known one personally in real life.


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