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Representations of Gender and Age in Television Commercials: A Content Analysis
Unformatted Document Text:  Gender & Age in Commercials 21 The frequency of characters in different age groups is the first indication that age does make a difference in terms of how characters are portrayed. Male characters were significantly likely to be older than females and their appearance was more evenly distributed across the age spectrum. Although we would reasonably expect more male characters in each age group, given that they outnumber females in general, the distribution of characters was actually quite skewed. Nearly half of all females on television commercials were young adults, and the number of female characters in this age group was virtually equal to the number of males in this age group. Teen females actually outnumbered teen males, although not overwhelmingly. In contrast, among children and middle-aged adults, males were shown twice as frequently as females. Seniors of both sexes were shown infrequently, but they were portrayed in nearly equal numbers, unlike some recent studies (see Roy & Harwood, 1997). Perhaps the most blatant message viewers might take away from this age distribution is that young women are particularly important to our society, and that youth is less important for men than it is for women . Older women (65 and over) arguably fare the worst in terms of gender stereotyping on commercials. Not only are they the least frequently seen group of females (except children), but in comparison to other females, they are also more passive and heavier in weight. They are overwhelmingly likely to be shown in the home, and they are the only group never to be shown working as a primary behavior (compared to one-third of senior men.) They also exhibit less job authority than any other female age group (again, except children, for whom this concept is arguably inapplicable). Finally, they are least attractive, least suggestively dressed, and least likely to engage in alluring behaviors than any other female age group. In contrast, teen girl characters fared much better. They were never shown engaging in domestic activities as their primary behavior. Rather, they were typically shown having fun. They were depicted in a diversity of ads, and they were the most active age group among the females. Although still on the slim side, they were right in the middle of the other age groups in terms of their body size, as well as in terms of their attractiveness. Moreover, they were unlikely to engage in alluring behaviors.

Authors: Mastro, Dana. and Stern, Susannah.
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Gender & Age in Commercials 21
The frequency of characters in different age groups is the first indication that age does make a
difference in terms of how characters are portrayed. Male characters were significantly likely to be older
than females and their appearance was more evenly distributed across the age spectrum. Although we
would reasonably expect more male characters in each age group, given that they outnumber females in
general, the distribution of characters was actually quite skewed. Nearly half of all females on television
commercials were young adults, and the number of female characters in this age group was virtually
equal to the number of males in this age group. Teen females actually outnumbered teen males, although
not overwhelmingly. In contrast, among children and middle-aged adults, males were shown twice as
frequently as females. Seniors of both sexes were shown infrequently, but they were portrayed in nearly
equal numbers, unlike some recent studies (see Roy & Harwood, 1997). Perhaps the most blatant
message viewers might take away from this age distribution is that young women are particularly
important to our society, and that youth is less important for men than it is for women
.
Older women (65 and over) arguably fare the worst in terms of gender stereotyping on
commercials. Not only are they the least frequently seen group of females (except children), but in
comparison to other females, they are also more passive and heavier in weight. They are overwhelmingly
likely to be shown in the home, and they are the only group never to be shown working as a primary
behavior (compared to one-third of senior men.) They also exhibit less job authority than any other
female age group (again, except children, for whom this concept is arguably inapplicable). Finally, they
are least attractive, least suggestively dressed, and least likely to engage in alluring behaviors than any
other female age group.
In contrast, teen girl characters fared much better. They were never shown engaging in domestic
activities as their primary behavior. Rather, they were typically shown having fun. They were depicted in
a diversity of ads, and they were the most active age group among the females. Although still on the slim
side, they were right in the middle of the other age groups in terms of their body size, as well as in terms
of their attractiveness. Moreover, they were unlikely to engage in alluring behaviors.


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