Men in the Media
Just like many other groups, men are stereotyped in media based on narrow and frequently incorrect assumptions that reflect and sustain socially endorsed views of gender. Men are typically shown on prime time television shows as aggressive, independent, in charge, powerful, athletic, the hero, strong, and in some instances they are shown degrading women. Many other stereotypes can be seen, but the majority tend to mesh together, creating a “masculine” image of men in our society.
Increasing these masculine images in media sets unrealistic and potentially dangerous representations of men for the young boys and teens in our culture to admire. For many years, the masculine images portrayed to us in media have only seemed to increase, showing men as even more powerful and aggressive than before. For example, if you look at superhero images in the 1970's, their biceps were measured at 12 inches while today the size has more than doubled to 26 inches. You can see some good examples of the evolution of powerful male characters when you look at older television and movie icons like Sean Connery or Clint Eastwood in comparison to today's Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Another important factor to look at when thinking about male stereotypes in media is the effects some of these masculine images cause. With many of the powerful male roles in today’s media, you can bet they tend to show numerous aggressive and violent scenes. Scientific literature regarding media violence has shown a correlation between media violence and real-life aggressive behavior and violence. A three year National Television Violence Study revealed 4 main findings: that almost two-thirds of all television shows contain violence, children’s shows contain the most violence, representations of violence are often glamorized, and perpetrators often go unpunished. After reading these reports, it isn’t surprising that 10%-20% of real-life violence may be caused due to media violence.
Stereotypes are powerful because they can affect our expectations of what men in our society should or should not be like. We start to look at television and movies for our role models and base our opinions of others off of people who don’t truly exist in our world. Stereotypes of men often narrow our perceptions of what men have the potential to be and do. They also create women’s expectations of men in relationships, and men’s expectations of other men in friendships or the work place. Also, because the typical stereotypes of men encourage them to be “manly”, there are many positive traits that are frowned upon if a male possessed them. The ability to show emotions such as fear, hurt, despair, and compassion, or even talk about these feelings are considered “unmanly” because of the stereotypes we have created for men. Then, to make matters worse, we tend to discriminate against the men who actually do possess these positive qualities as if they are not a real man.
In order to limit and decrease these "masculine" stereotypes we have created for men in our society, we need to stop praising the big, strong, macho and sometimes violent characters, and think about the values we really want to see in another human being. Does showing emotions really make someone less of a man; or more? For more information about this subject, I recommend watching all sections of Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity on YouTube.