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Representations of Gender and Age in Television Commercials: A Content Analysis
Unformatted Document Text:  Gender & Age in Commercials 6 females is problematic because it over-emphasizes the ephemeral characteristics of youth and youthful appearances (Chapkis, 1986; Kilbourne, 1993). In addition to disproportionate portrayals based on age, voiceovers have also been identified as heavily male dominated (Bartsch, et al., 2000; Browne, 1998; Coltrane & Adams, 1997; Coltrane and Messineo, 2000; Hong, 1997; White & Kinnick, 2000). As the ultimate voice of authority and credibility in a commercial, voiceovers are important indicators of status. Many scholars have argued that voiceovers indicate with whom expertise, intelligence, and trustworthiness should be associated (see Bartsch, et al., 2000; Bretl & Cantor, 1988). If this is the case, the domination of males as the preference for voiceovers clearly points to men as the authority. Products. As critics are quick to point out, sheer quantities of female portrayals provide only one piece of the picture. Indeed, the quality of these portrayals provides the other, necessary piece to understanding contemporary images of gender on television commercials. One way the quality of imagery has been evaluated has been in terms of the products with which different characters are affiliated. Generally speaking, products indicate the preoccupations, competencies, and values of those associated with them. In general, females have most commonly been associated with domestic products, such as cleaners and cosmetics, while men have more often been depicted with non-domestic items, such as cars and cameras (Bartsch, et al., 2000). Specific products with which women have more often been associated include pain killers (Craig, 1992), body products (Kaufman, 1999), personal products, and clothing (Signorelli, McLeod & Healy, 1994). Men were found to appear significantly more often in ads for cough and cold products (Craig, 1992), computers, and electronics (Kaufman, 1999). Appearance. In addition to the sex and age of characters and the products with which they are commonly associated, significant attention has been paid to female’s appearance in commercials. Many scholars note that emphases on women’s bodies and exaggerated beauty standards are the norm in television commercials. In their examination of MTV commercials, Signorelli, McLeod, and Healy (1994) found that most women (75%) were depicted as having very fit or beautiful bodies, compared to three-quarters of men depicted as having average bodies. Similarly, females were rated overall as more

Authors: Mastro, Dana. and Stern, Susannah.
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Gender & Age in Commercials
6
females is problematic because it over-emphasizes the ephemeral characteristics of youth and youthful
appearances (Chapkis, 1986; Kilbourne, 1993).
In addition to disproportionate portrayals based on age, voiceovers have also been identified as
heavily male dominated (Bartsch, et al., 2000; Browne, 1998; Coltrane & Adams, 1997; Coltrane and
Messineo, 2000; Hong, 1997; White & Kinnick, 2000). As the ultimate voice of authority and credibility
in a commercial, voiceovers are important indicators of status. Many scholars have argued that
voiceovers indicate with whom expertise, intelligence, and trustworthiness should be associated (see
Bartsch, et al., 2000; Bretl & Cantor, 1988).
If this is the case, the domination of males as the preference
for voiceovers clearly points to men as the authority.
Products. As critics are quick to point out, sheer quantities of female portrayals provide only one
piece of the picture. Indeed, the quality of these portrayals provides the other, necessary piece to
understanding contemporary images of gender on television commercials. One way the quality of
imagery has been evaluated has been in terms of the products with which different characters are
affiliated. Generally speaking, products indicate the preoccupations, competencies, and values of those
associated with them. In general, females have most commonly been associated with domestic products,
such as cleaners and cosmetics, while men have more often been depicted with non-domestic items, such
as cars and cameras (Bartsch, et al., 2000). Specific products with which women have more often been
associated include pain killers (Craig, 1992), body products (Kaufman, 1999), personal products, and
clothing (Signorelli, McLeod & Healy, 1994). Men were found to appear significantly more often in ads
for cough and cold products (Craig, 1992), computers, and electronics (Kaufman, 1999).
Appearance. In addition to the sex and age of characters and the products with which they are
commonly associated, significant attention has been paid to female’s appearance in commercials. Many
scholars note that emphases on women’s bodies and exaggerated beauty standards are the norm in
television commercials. In their examination of MTV commercials, Signorelli, McLeod, and Healy
(1994) found that most women (75%) were depicted as having very fit or beautiful bodies, compared to
three-quarters of men depicted as having average bodies. Similarly, females were rated overall as more


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