Children, Television, and Gender Roles: Messages and Impact

This analysis was conducted by Nancy Signorielli and taken from the Journal of Adolescent Health Care. The study takes a broader look at television’s portrayal of gender and the impact it has on children’s gender identification and perception. In general, this study found that women are less represented on television than men and are also shown in less active roles than men. These images of men and women are not ignored or forgotten by children. Instead, the constant bombardment of gender norms affects how children believe they should behave, and how they believe other’s should behave as well.

Signorielli, Nancy. “Children, Television, and Gender Roles: Messages and Impact.” Journal of Adolescent Health Care, vol. 11, no. 1, Jan. 1990.

An Introduction to Female Masculinity: Masculinity without Men

In her book on Female Masculinity, queer theorist Judith Halberstam deconstructs the concept of traditional male masculinity by providing a contrast through female masculinity. Halberstam details the history of female masculinity from the nineteenth century onward. She discusses the formation of the female masculine identity and in doing so undermines the gender binary. Halberstam is arguing for a more progressive categorization of gender that incorporates rather than silences female masculinity.

Halberstam, Judith. An Introduction to Female Masculinity: Masculinity without Men. Duke University Press, 1998.

Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality

This book by renowned gender studies professor Anne Fausto-Sterling explores gender as a social construction. Fausto-Sterling reveals the paradoxical nature of gender through her discussion of the societal and medical treatment of intersex people. Fausto-Sterling argues for a more inclusive gender categorization.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. Perseus Books Group, 2000.

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and The Rest of Us

In her groundbreaking novel, transgender activist and playwright Kate Bornstein takes on the traditional concepts of gender. Bornstein argues that forcing people to choose in the gender binary does more harm than good and is ultimately a detriment to our society. Bornstein utilizes her own experience of transitioning from male to female to reveal the assumptions we all hold about gender and the ways they can harm those that don’t fit into our strict societal code.

Bornstein, Kate. Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. New York, Taylor and Francis Group, 1994.

The Empathy Gap: Masculinity and The Courage to Change

In this documentary, filmmaker Thomas Keith explores how the constant bombardment of misogynistic images and sentiments affects the way men treat women. He also looks at the typical expectations of manhood enforced by popular culture. Keith argues that this deadly combination devalues empathy in men and lowers their capacity to relate to or care for others, especially women.

Keith, Thomas, Director. The Empathy Gap: Masculinity and The Courage to Change. 2015.

‘Adventure Time’ Just Finished One of the Most Ambitious Seasons of Television Ever

In this piece written in 2014 and published in The Atlantic, David Sims talks about the various ways in which Adventure Time is transcending the children’s carton paradigm. Sims reviews Adventure Time’s massive 5th season and the complex themes of existentialism, nihilism and loneliness conquered therein. Sims points to to the subversive female gender roles presented in the show by Marceline the Vampire Queen, Princess Bubblegum, and Flame Princess. Sims reveals the true beauty of Adventure Time in it’s ability to convey deeply emotional, philosophical concepts in a straightforward, lighthearted manner.

Sims, David. “‘Adventure Time’ Just Finished One of the Most Ambitious Seasons of Television Ever.” The Atlantic, 18 Mar. 2014. Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

Castles In The Air: The Gorgeous Existential Funk of Adventure Time

The article is written by long time New Yorker contributor, Emily Nussbaum. Nussbaum dives fully into the philosophical side of Adventure Time. She discusses the adult themes that run throughout the show, transforming and aging in turn with the main character and sole human from the land of Oo, Finn.

Nussbaum, Emily. “Castles In the Air: The Gorgeous Existential Funk of ‘Adventure Time’.” The New Yorker, 21 Apr. 2014. Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

Adventure Time Season 4 Episode 13 “Princess Cookie”

In this episode of Cartoon Network’s animated series, Adventure Time, our hero’s Finn and Jake are asked to assist Princess Bubblegum in a hostage situation. A rogue Cookie has taken hostages in a bank and refuses to back down until he is crowned Princess of the Candy Kingdom. Cookie reveals how his childhood desire to be a Princess was once crushed by Princess Bubblegum when she laughed at him for wanting to follow in her footsteps. Jake takes pity on Cookie and tries to help him escape, ultimately falling short of Princess Bubblegum and her Banana Guards. Unwillingly to carry on if he can’t be a Princess, Cookie chooses instead to throw himself off a cliff.

Adventure Time, Pendleton Ward, Cartoon Network. 2012.

Adventure Time Season 5 Episode 17 “BMO Lost”

In this episode of Adventure Time created by Pendleton Ward, Finn and Jake’s Korean androgynous robot friend, BMO, is snatched up by an eagle and taken to a far away nest. BMO must then find his/her way through the forest to Finn and Jake with the help of his/her newly formed allies, a talking bubble and a baby named Sparkles. Upon finding their way back to Finn and Jake’s treehouse, Bubble confesses her love to BMO and proposes to the robot. BMO accepts, but not before Jake opens the door and laughingly pops Bubble. BMO cries out and mourns Bubble’s death, but then Bubble speaks and reveals she is now one with the air and will be with BMO forever.

Adventure Time, Pendleton Ward, Cartoon Network. 2013.

Steven Universe Season 2 Episode 17 “Sadie’s Song”

In this episode of Cartoon Network’s animated series Steven Universe, the main character of the show, Steven, catches his friend Sadie singing a catchy pop tune in her doughnut shop. Steven convinces the reluctant Sadie to perform the song at a talent show. With the help of Sadie’s mother, Steven provides Sadie with a snazzy wardrobe and choreography for her big debut. However, at the last second Sadie reveals she feels bullied into the performance and has no desire to perform. Steven takes Sadie’s place in the talent show, opting to wear her costume (dress, heels, makeup) and perform the song and dance himself. Steven is met with cheers and applause from the citizens of Beach City.

Steven Universe, Rebecca Sugar, Cartoon Network. 2015.