Common Stereotypes of Men in Media


Media Awareness Network gives a good summary of the pathetic media attitudes towards men.

The Joker is a very popular character with boys, perhaps because laughter is part of their own “mask of masculinity.” A potential negative consequence of this stereotype is the assumption that boys and men should not be serious or emotional. However, researchers have also argued that humorous roles can be used to expand definitions of masculinity.

The Jock is always willing to “compromise his own long-term health; he must fight other men when necessary; he must avoid being soft; and he must be aggressive.” By demonstrating his power and strength, the jock wins the approval of other men and the adoration of women.

The Strong Silent Type focuses on “being in charge, acting decisively, containing emotion, and succeeding with women.” This stereotype reinforces the assumption that men and boys should always be in control, and that talking about one’s feelings is a sign of weakness.

The Big Shot is defined by his professional status. He is the “epitome of success, embodying the characteristics and acquiring the possessions that society deems valuable.” This stereotype suggests that a real man must be economically powerful and socially successful.

The Action Hero is “strong, but not necessarily silent. He is often angry. Above all, he is aggressive in the extreme and, increasingly over the past several decades, he engages in violent behavior.”

Another common stereotype…

The Buffoon commonly appears as a bungling father figure in TV ads and sitcoms. Usually well-intentioned and light-hearted, these characters range from slightly inept to completely hopeless when it comes to parenting their children or dealing with domestic (or workplace) issues.

Needless to say there is no category The Knight.


14 thoughts on “Common Stereotypes of Men in Media

  1. What I find surprising here is the late placement and “Another common stereotype…” lead-in for “The Buffoon”. TV sitcoms, comedy films and ads would be mostly dad-free were it not for Buffoons.

    Home Improvement, King of Queens, The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Honeymooners/Flintstones/Jetsons, Mad About You, Father of the Bride, Parenthood, the Cosby Show….

    An incompetant Dad is a loveable, bumbling idiot. Sure he screws things up in really stupid ways; but he’s a dad, he supposed to. Mom, meanwhile, is the voice of reason in all of those, bailing dad out of jail for the 8 hotdogs/12 buns incident in Father of the Bride, calming a frantic dad in the Cosby Show, etc.

    Mom, of course, loves dad anyway. Her major flaw seems to be that she trusts dad at all. Watch a re-run of Mad About You and imagine that Paul Riser is writing the show as a broad charicature of his relationship with his wife. He would have to be the luckiest guy in the world to be such a bumbling idiot and have her love him.

    About the only sitcoms (about families) I can think of that don’t follow this pattern are the Brady Bunch (where the kids are the screw-ups, to generate “valuable lessons”) and the SHOCKING I Love Lucy where mom-to-be (very late in the shows run) is the screw-up and dad is the voice of reason.

  2. In this list, Dad is an afterthought and synonymous with Buffoon, not altogether surprising in a culture that is more and more convinced that gender roles and the family structure are pure social constructs.

    I think we can safely say that the prevailing attitude equates authority figure, father and buffoon.

  3. I disagree. Mom is and should be an authority figure. Many gender roles clearly are constructs: I can find, for example, no received dictate that family finance is the father’s job; it is a social construct of many (though not all) cultures.

    To demand that certain roles be filled by the mother and others by the father: (1) denies the (historical and current) reality that many children WILL lose one (or both) parents and/or (2) writes off some children as hopeless losses.

    That popular culture often paints the father as a buffoon in comedies does not in any way domonstrate that society equates authority with fatherhood, nor authority with buffoonery.

  4. Family Man,

    I do not dispute that Mom is and should be an authority figure or that “many gender roles are constructs”; however, I do not believe that fatherhood and motherhood are themselves mental constructs, even when considered more broadly than simply in their biological sense. Both men and women bring different but complementary gifts to the table of marriage and family life.

    My position neither denies the historical fact of one parent families, nor writes children of such families off as “hopeless losses.” Still, we do no one any favor by ignoring what is in the best interests of everyone. The situation in Newark is a case in point.

    If the buffoonery of fathers in the media has nothing to do with authority, then what is it all about? Why are fathers picked on so much?

    The fact is that, in the Judeo-Christian tradition of our country, fathers have been considered the head of the household. In the media, Dad is a know-nothing, because, not only does he think he knows something, but he also has the hardihood to think that he knows what is best for everybody else. Father Knows Best was a house Hollywood built on sand.

    Think of the Honeymooners back in the 50’s Ralph Kramden was not a dad, but he was head of the household, and he all too often, and very foolishly, asserted his authority:

    Ralph (at the top of his lungs and with his eyes popping out): “I’m the boss. You’re nothing!”

    Alice (loudly, but in control of herself): “Big deal! You’re the boss of nothing!”

    The all too common dereliction of duty on the part of husbands and men has made it easy to make Dad the whipping boy for societal ills. I do think that much of modern culture is a revolt against patriarchy, to which concept authority belongs in a essential way. In fact, it is not the exercise of authority that is the problem, but its exercise without chivalry.

  5. Family Man,

    I may be reading too much into your post. Apologies in advance if I am. That being said…

    Sure, mom is and should be an authority figure in the family but, from a Catholic perspective, the father is the head of the family and first in the order of authority. (See Arcanum -Leo XIII, Saint Paul -Eph. 5:22–24.) The fact that society has largely rejected this truth does not negate its importance, but has instead clearly demonstrated the relevancy of the familial structure as taught by the Church. Radical feminism has set itself in opposition to these traditional roles, and we continue to witness the destructive wake of the rebellion in an overwhelming display of broken families – of which single parent & “hopeless losses” children are exhibits A & B. Adopting a philosophy that conforms to this destructive paradigm is the denial of reality, not pointing out the solution. Certainly, familial authority alone isn’t the sole cause of our troubles, but conforming ourselves in any way to the wisdom of Holy Mother Church is never a step in the wrong direction.

  6. Steve,

    Here’s the disconnect:

    In discussing one idea, you said: “…from a Catholic perspective…” later referring to it as “…this truth…”. In going from calling patriarchy “a Catholic perspective” to “this truth” you’ve jumped a hurdle. I am discussing facts, you are discussing dogma.

    In rejecting any other “philosophy”, you tag them as “radical faminism” and a “destructive paradigm” to which you attribute “the destructive wake of the rebellion in an overwhelming display of broken families”. You seem to equate equality with “radical feminism”, consistent with your view that women are beneath/subservient to men. Again, fact (there is no reason for a gender-based hierarchy) vs. dogma (men are head of the family and first in authority).

    Much of what is blamed on single parent families is much more closely linked to poverty (to which single parenthood is, in turn, linked). Attributing poor educational outcomes, increased crime, etc. to single parent families is like attributing lung cancer to using breath mints.

    Yes, users of breath mints have higher lung cancer rates. = Yes, single parent families do have higher drug abuse rates/higher violent crime rates/lower educational outcomes.

    This is likely because smokers (who have even higher lung cancer rates) use breath mints more than most. = This is likely because the poor (who have even higher drug abuse rates/even higher violent crime rates/even lower educational outcomes) have single parent families more often than most.

    Whatever the “destructive wake” you attribute to rejection of the “relevancy” of a male-dominated family structure dictated by a male-dominated church, all I hear is “post hoc ergo propter hoc” from a supporter of a system eager to blame current societal problems on the declining influence of his chosen system.

  7. Family Man,

    Sorry I missed this. I essentially agree with Steve.

    Your suggestion that criticism of radical feminism is a repudiation of equality does not follow. Radical feminists want to be like men. Follow the history of feminism with respect to abortion. At times such feminists have defended a woman’s potential for motherhood, and at others they have considered pregnancy a desease and the fetus a parasite. Regardless, their support of abortion has been almost universal. According to their vision of equality, birth control and abortion are necessary for gender equality. Thus they are the ones who believe in their own inferiority.

    Few women would deny that motherhood carries with it not only biological but also profound psychological and social dimensions which are gifts to them that truly distinguish them from men. Most also would grant that their capacity to bear life also places them in a position of vulnerability to men, that is either overcome through mutual respect or through the mechanical control of their fertility through birth control or abortion.

    Whatever may be your position in the abortion debate, this question clearly illustrates profound differences between the sexes and the need for women to be respected and protected. Hence the husband as protector if he is honorable, or a man who is derelict of his duty, if he is not. Scoff at this as you like, but is nearly the universal experience of human history.

    You wrongly surmise that equality means “no difference,” or that hierarchical authority is contrary to mutual respect and mutual submission. Actually the patriarchical system of the Church which you denegrate is based on mutual submission. Read Ephesians Chapter 5. Yes the Church/Bride of Christ is obedient to Christ, but Christ for his part, dies for his Bride.

    In respect to fatherlessness, poverty and crime, if you care to research you will find that studies have shown that both poverty and crime is in fact related to single parent fatherlessness. You seem to treat the question as though any analysis of fatherlessness is by definition an attack on single parent families. It is not. We need to wholeheartedly support parents in whatever situation they find themselves, but we also need to be honest about the real problems they face.

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  9. +J.M.J+

    How about Hank Hill from “King of the Hill”? He is definitely not portrayed as a buffoon. His wife, Peggy, tends to overreact to situations while Hank comes across as the voice of reason most of the time. No, he’s not perfect, but he’s much, much better than his animated counterparts Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin.

    In Jesu et Maria,

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  11. Regarding Family Man’s inclusion of the Cosby Show on the list of buffoon dad’s, I’m not so sure I agree with that. That’s not to say that Bill Cosby’s character didn’t have some quirks that were often played for laughs, but that is hardly the same as a character like Homer Simpson, Al Bundy or other buffoon dad’s on TV. One need not be humerous and a buffoon.

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