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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Essay : Gender-Issues-In-Cartoons

Gendered roles are evident in all forms of the media. For my research, I decided to view the gender construction in cartoons. After viewing the Cartoon Network for a day, I decided that Dexter’s Laboratory would be the best show to document the gender roles and common ideologies of men and women in society.
Dexter’s Laboratory is based on the tale of a child genius. A small, red-headed boy genius, Dexter lives in a quiet suburban neighborhood with his mother, father, and older sister Dee Dee. Quite often, Dexter slips away to his fully-equipped bedroom laboratory to solve problems ranging from saving the world to defeating schoolyard bullies. Dexter is sometimes left struggling to fix or clean up the damage done to his laboratory by his older sibling.
Dee Dee does not share Dexter's passion for science, preferring instead to be an adorable ballet dancer. Dee Dee often times throws a monkey wrench into Dexter's great plans. She breaks into Dexter’s lab and always seems to cause trouble because of her lack of knowledge in the science field. Dexter tells Dee Dee "don’t press that button Dee Dee, you don’t know what you are doing". When the characters are shown in a school environment, Dee Dee, who is older than Dexter, is always shown in the classroom with Dexter’s young classmates. 

This cartoon illustrates some common roles that men and women are put in by the media. First, the boy, Dexter, is smart, and is pursuing a career in science. Dee Dee is shown to be the dumb blonde, who’s only ambition is to be a ballerina. Her lack of intelligence is also shown by her being in the classroom with younger children. This construction of the character’s abilities is central to the views of women being inferior and simple-minded, versus men who are smart and use their skills in a more efficeint manner. This also implies that men are better at math and science, while women are best suited for dancing or homemaking skills.

The cartoon also portrays the femme fatale theory. The woman lures the man and then causes his downfall. In the cartoon, Dee Dee entices Dexter into playing some game. She then uses one of Dexter’s own creations to destroy or hinder him. Usually, she turns him into a giant or even a girl with the use of his experiments. As Dee Dee is wallowing in her victory over Dexter, he is plotting an idea to get revenge. His revenge usually leaves Dee Dee crying or running to their parents for help. This writing shows that Dee Dee is unable to solve her own problems, unlike Dexter. Dee Dee is being the stereotypical emotional female who needs help from others to resolve her issues. Dexter is "being a man". He cannot let a girl defeat him and as a man, he must use his brains and rely on himself to get himself out of bad situations.

Dexter’s mother is also placed into gender constraints by the media. His mother is always wearing an apron and cleaning gloves. Whether she is going to the market, meeting at the school, or eating dinner, the apron and gloves are always on. These clothing items limit her to one position, as that of the housewife. This reinforces the hegemonic ideal that a woman’s place is in the home. Her role, as portrayed in the cartoon, is to cook and clean. Dexter’s father is more likely seen reading the newspaper or leaving the home to go to work, bolstering the doctrines that make the man the breadwinner of the home.

The emergence of biased gender roles in cartoons may well be the reason that most of the stereotypes of women and men exist to this day. Children will grow up thinking that this view is normal because it is so blatantly displayed in the media. 


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