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Negative Conventions On Television Essay, Research Paper

At the very moment somebody turns on a television, he or she is presented with a whole new world of beliefs, means, and values. Channel to channel, viewers are presented with different images and sounds that shape our world. The contents on television exposes society to negative stereotypes that portray racist, sexist, and aggressive conventions. Since more people are tuning into television, it is important that the message it bestows to the viewers has a positive influence. “Not only is their an increase in the average time American adults spent watching television on an average day, but also by the increase in the percentage of heavy viewers and the decrease in the percentage of non-viewers” (Xiaoming, 1994). I wish to approach this review by looking at how different mediums of television portray negative stereotypes. My specific interest is in the contents of music videos.

To gain a better understanding of the audience that is affected by television, one must look at who the majority of the viewers are. According to research done by the journalists in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media: “1) Women watch more television than men; 2) Those of lower of lower socioeconomic status watch more than those of higher SES; 3) Black people watch more than white people; 4) People over 50, especially women, watch more than others; and 5) The fewer the people living in a household, the more the viewing by individuals” (Xiaoming, 1994). Therefore, the majority of the audience that is affected the most by television’s negative stereotypes are women, minorities, and elderly people. The different mediums of television that portray these negative stereotypes include music videos, commercials, and reality based police shows.

The first negative convention that the television displays is racism. One medium that produces racist stereotypes are music videos since producers create videos for particular genres, which are defined by race. “Music videos produced for fans of a certain musical genre should not look anything like the videos produced for fans of other, very different musical genres” (Black, Tapper, & Thorson, 1994). The majority of the musicians in rap and soul videos are black while the majority of the musicians in country, heavy metal, and rock are white. When society views these videos and sees a specific race for a musical genre, they connect the two variables and assume that a particular type of music coincides with a specific race.

It is also evident that different channels show a majority of the videos produced by one musical genre for a specific race. “Chi-square test revel a significant relationship between channel and rap, soul, country, heavy metal, pop, and alternative rock. VH-1 shows the most pop videos, TNN shows the most country videos, while BET [Black Entertainment Network] shows the most rap and soul videos” (Black, et al., 1994). For each channel, the musicians presented in the videos are mostly of one specific race. As stated before, when viewers watch these different channels and see a specific race for a particular musical genre, they connect the two variables and assume rappers to be black or country singers to be white.

Furthermore, it is evident that minorities do not appear often in music videos. “Classic rock videos showed the fewest minorities and country videos rarely showed minorities” (Black, et al., 1994). Minorities are primarily seen in rap and soul videos while there are nearly invisible in country, rock, and heavy metal videos. This segregation against minorities is unfair and unjust. It means fewer jobs for available for minorities and gives minorities less of a chance to be seen in music videos.

The second negative convention that television displays is sexism. One medium that produces sexist portrayals are commercials as the role for females are much different then for males. One major difference is that there are more males than females. “Males appeared more often [54.4%] than females [45.6%] in the sampled MTV commercials” (Healy, McLeod, & Signorielli, 1994). Since there are more males in commercials, it is harder for females to enter the media business and this puts much more pressure on them to get the fewer roles.

Moreover, it is much harder for women to get roles in commercials because their appearance plays a greater part in the qualifications to be in a music video. “Almost three quarters of the men were rated as having an average bodies, while more than three quarters of females characters were rated as having very fit or beautiful bodies” (Healy, et al., 1994). This discriminates against women who may not be fit, muscular, in shape, or attractive but still want to be in commercials. Moreover, this negative stereotype shows society that all girls must be thin and beautiful to be popular and famous.

Another sexist stereotype that commercials portray is specific gender roles for men and women. “While commercials with only male characters included products reflecting fun and action, commercials with only female characters focused on products related to looking good” (Healy, et al., 1994). This sets a negative example to the viewers who see these commercials and accept certain gender roles. The designations of roles for women and men send the wrong message because the reality is that gender roles cannot be distinguished.

The third negative convention that television displays is aggression. One medium that produces aggressive stereotypes are reality based police shows. “These programs not only strongly over-represented violent crime, but also over-represented the percentage of crimes that are cleared or solved by enforcement personnel” (Oliver, 1994). When there is overly aggressive behavior in television programs, its portrays a negative image to its viewers who are subjected to the violent behavior.

Furthermore, the inclusion of different types of aggressive behaviors sets the wrong example for its viewers. “In terms of receiving aggression, a large percentage of criminal suspects [38.5%] and police officers [21.7%] were portrayed as receiving at least one type of aggressive behavior” (Oliver, 1994). When different types of aggressive behaviors are shown, the viewers are more likely to watch and use these different types of aggressive behaviors if faced in aggressive situations. Verbal aggression, physical aggression, threat of physical aggression, unarmed physical aggression all have a bad influence on the viewing public when seen.

Another aggressive stereotype that reality based shows portray are violent crimes. “Of the index crimes portrayed in these programs, 87% of criminal suspects were associated with violent crimes” (Oliver, 1994). When watching these programs, it is likely that a child or teenager will see these kinds of shows and get a bad example from it. Watching violent crimes occur on television only produce negative attitudes and do not look at the reality of police work since “FBI statistics classify only 13% of all index crimes as violent” (Oliver, 1994). The observation of aggressive behavior produces a negative stereotype that the public sees and relates. This unnecessary need to show violent crimes only brings negative influences on the viewer and is only present to get better ratings.

The contents on television exposes society to negative images that portray racist, sexist, and aggressive conventions. Unfortunately, our society will never be free of negative conventions since ratings play a major role in what is seen on television. What makes the statistics so scary is that the future of television and the contents of its medium are unknown. What is known is that the people who are being segregated the most such as women and minorities are the people who watch the most television and thus sets a bad example for the viewer. Furthermore, television is not the only medium of media that portrays these negative conventions. Movies and advertisements also play a major role. Therefore, instead of trying to eliminate the problem, steps must be taken in dealing with and understanding the conventions. Society must distinguish between the fantasy produced in the media and the reality of our lives. Furthermore, society must deal with the issues of racism, sexism, and aggression and be more critical since they affect our lives so much. Since more people are watching television, society must control the negative conventions portrayed or we will be less tolerant of what we watch and more social problems will arise.


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