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Representations of Gender and Age in Television Commercials: A Content Analysis
Unformatted Document Text:  Gender & Age in Commercials 23 Lest it appear that young adult characters enjoy the greatest liberation from traditional stereotypes, it should be noted that this freedom is only available for a small category of women. That is, those characters who are exceptionally beautiful, thin, suggestively dressed, and seductive tend to dominate this age group. The message to viewers may be that females can work, spend time outdoors and having fun, experience authority and activity… but only if they look and act sexy. It could (and has) been argued that women want it both ways; women are tired of images of older women that deny their beauty and sensuality, yet are dissatisfied with images of beautiful young women whose sexuality is spotlighted above all else. Perhaps a better way to frame the issue is by documenting, as this study does, the lack of diversity of representations of females in general. Given the present examination of characters on prime time television commercials, female viewers may not only learn that they are less important, credible, and professional than males, but also that traditional roles and behaviors are more appropriate at certain times of life than at others. The message likely to be learned from commercials, especially among young viewers, is that as they age, they can expect looser boundaries regarding roles and behaviors, but only if they concentrate on their appearance. Then, at the point at which youth and a youthful appearance are no longer possible, they should no longer expect to be attractive, dynamic, or romantic beings. Rather, they can anticipate a transition from sexy, dynamic women into homebodies who must rely on others to support them. This study demonstrates that advertisers still have a long way to go in creating realistic, equitable depictions of females across the life span. Because these images have the potential to influence beliefs about self and the social word, continuing to examine their quality and frequency remains considerably important. In addition to continuing to document these trends, it will be essential that future research in this area examine the impact of these enduring and pervasive representations on viewers of all ages.

Authors: Mastro, Dana. and Stern, Susannah.
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Gender & Age in Commercials 23
Lest it appear that young adult characters enjoy the greatest liberation from traditional
stereotypes, it should be noted that this freedom is only available for a small category of women. That is,
those characters who are exceptionally beautiful, thin, suggestively dressed, and seductive tend to
dominate this age group. The message to viewers may be that females can work, spend time outdoors and
having fun, experience authority and activity… but only if they look and act sexy. It could (and has) been
argued that women want it both ways; women are tired of images of older women that deny their beauty
and sensuality, yet are dissatisfied with images of beautiful young women whose sexuality is spotlighted
above all else. Perhaps a better way to frame the issue is by documenting, as this study does, the lack of
diversity of representations of females in general.
Given the present examination of characters on prime time television commercials, female
viewers may not only learn that they are less important, credible, and professional than males, but also
that traditional roles and behaviors are more appropriate at certain times of life than at others. The
message likely to be learned from commercials, especially among young viewers, is that as they age, they
can expect looser boundaries regarding roles and behaviors, but only if they concentrate on their
appearance. Then, at the point at which youth and a youthful appearance are no longer possible, they
should no longer expect to be attractive, dynamic, or romantic beings. Rather, they can anticipate a
transition from sexy, dynamic women into homebodies who must rely on others to support them.
This study demonstrates that advertisers still have a long way to go in creating realistic, equitable
depictions of females across the life span. Because these images have the potential to influence beliefs
about self and the social word, continuing to examine their quality and frequency remains considerably
important. In addition to continuing to document these trends, it will be essential that future research in
this area examine the impact of these enduring and pervasive representations on viewers of all ages.


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