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How are male and female characters represented in two situation comedies of your choice?

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How are male and female characters represented in two situation comedies of your choice?

Situation comedies as a whole are a conservative representation of life mainly due to the fact they are screened at prime family times and want as large an audience as possible so try not to be too controversial. This means they very rarely challenge the status quo and re-enforce stereotypes. I am looking at how male and female characters are represented and whether the way they are represented challenges the stereotypes associated with gender differences.

The two situation comedies I have chosen are ‘Friends’ and ‘Man About The House’. As Friends was made decades after Man About The House it gives us a good insight into how male and female representations and attitudes towards the roles of males and females has changed over the last 30 years. Man about the house was produced during a time of women’s liberation whereas Friends is set in post-feminine times. As well as showing us the difference in attitudes towards gender over time they also show us the difference in opinion from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

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 Both sitcoms are based heavily on sex and relationships and the roles males and females have in this is important. In Man About the House Robin clearly sees his other two female housemates as sex objects and constantly makes jokes about getting into to bed with them. For example in ‘two-foot two eyes of blue’ when Chrissy suggests there is nothing to do the first thing robin suggests is going to bed together. George Roper, the landlord is clearly afraid and intimidated by women, in particular his wife. Mildred Roper is portrayed as a confident, sexual predator who happily flirts with young male Robin. Both Chrissy and Jo think that men are only after one thing, sex. In Friends Chandler, like George, is afraid of women. He is also scared of commitment. Joey is portrayed as a womaniser, he is always referred to as sleeping with women and never calling back. This is only made a bad stereotype by the fact he is not condemned for doing this, you could go as far as saying as he is praised for it. Ross although less scared of commitment is a serial monogamist.

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The synchronising motifs, due to their regular repetition, leave a lasting impression on viewers  about what they represent. One of the synchronising motifs in Friends is Monica’s obsession with cleanliness which enforces the idea that women are natural house wives. Another is Joeys obsession with food which portrays men as shallow. In Man About the House a synchronising motif is Robins obsession with sex and constant references of going to bed with Chrissy. This again suggests men only think about sex and see women as sex objects.

Both sitcoms were run at prime times so perhaps if they had tried to be more controversial and attempt to challenge more stereotypes they would never have become the popular shows they did. They could not afford to alienate any part of their audience because of economic imperative, at the end of the day both shows were made for one reason, making money. Man About the House attempts in a number of areas to challenge perceived gender roles but essentially it reinforces them and the few areas it does challenge them it is insignificant compared to the amount of times they don’t. Friends, despite set in a time we women are meant to be equal, still backs the old fashioned stereotypes of gender roles.

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