Sex, gender and media

Authored by: Marcia R. England

Routledge Handbook of Media Geographies

Print publication date:  October  2021
Online publication date:  October  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367482855
eBook ISBN: 9781003039068
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781003039068-19

 

Abstract

Sex, gender and media are broad concepts with innumerable dimensions to them. Their nexus is the power to inform ideology and norms. Media geographers explore representations and spaces of sex and gender in media in order to discuss this important intersection of power. Patriarchal understandings and representations of sex and gender have repercussions beyond the screen. This chapter examines the sexed and gendered spaces of media and the influence of those spatialities from a feminist geographic perspective.

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Sex, gender and media

As representations of space, media reflect the sociospatial through the spaces and places portrayed and through mediated social and spatial interactions. Media help to understand individual and social experiences as well as how people understand geographies, whether lived or imagined. Media feed ideologies of sex and gender, and mediated understanding of gender and sex show up in a number of different ways.

Examinations of media representations uncover mediated and social constructions of interpersonal relationships and geographical imaginations. Rosalyn Deutsche (1991, 18) states: “representations are not objects at all, but social relations, themselves productive of meaning and subjectivity” (quoted in Cresswell & Dixon 2002, 4). This chapter discusses how media influence the constructed and intersecting identities of sex and gender. Within this chapter, I trace some of the important geographical ideas in the examination of sex, gender and media. Three questions I ask in this chapter are:

  • How do media shape sex and gender?
  • What are the mediated spaces of sex and gender?
  • Where can feminist media geography go from here?

Qualitative methods (e.g. critical visual analysis) are typically employed to answer feminist geographical explorations of media. In critical visual analysis, Gillian Rose (2012, 20) asks geographers to contemplate the social in images including the production, the content and the consumption of an image: “the range of economic, social and political relations, institutions and practices that surround an image and through which it is used and seen.” Feminist geographers seek to understand the social in visual images by examining not only the content of the image, but its wider context (Roberts 2016). The social relations depicted in filmic or “reel” representations often elucidate social relations in “real” life (Dixon et al. 2008; England 2018).

How do media shape sex and gender?

Media’s power centers on their ubiquitous nature and their often subtle role in shaping society and individuals. The power of visual media stems from media normalizing gendered and sexualized structures and stereotypes. While subversive moments exist, media often reproduce traditional notions of sex and gender. Mediated sociospatialities produce and reinforce these patriarchal structures. Douglas Kellner (1995, 5) states:

Media stories provide the symbols, myths and resources through which we constitute a common culture and through the appropriation of which we insert ourselves into this culture.

Media are often not seen as constructs, but instead “how things are” (Hall 1995). Stuart Hall (1995, 18–20) argues:

Media’s main sphere of operations is the production and transformation of ideologies… Ideologies produce different forms of social consciousness, rather than being produced by them. They work most effectively when we are not aware that how we formulate and construct a statement about the world is underpinned by ideological premises; when our formations seem to be simply descriptive statements of how things are (i.e., must be), or of what we can “take-for-granted.”… In modern societies, the different media are especially important sites for the production, reproduction and transformation of ideologies… But institutions like the media are peculiarly central to the matter since they are, by definition, part of the dominant means of ideological production.

Media portrayals of the everyday create a sense that it is a reflection instead of a construct and a commodified image and ideology. Phillip Green (1998, 16) states: “When ideological discourse ‘works,’ it does so by… seeming to be just a believable story about real people and their lives. Whatever social roles are eventually to receive us, visual culture is capable of presenting these roles as natural.”

Media contribute to the formation of cultural and sociospatial identities by influencing how the viewers/readers/audiences see themselves, others and the spaces they inhabit. Representations of sex and gender roles demonstrate this—social constructions of sex and gender often demonstrate how patriarchy is upheld or subverted. Gender and sex often follow patriarchal scaffolds in many mediated images and spaces wherein manifestations of patriarchy upkeep traditional sex roles of the “active” male and “passive” female. Geography is key to understandings of how sex and gender are constructed in society. Media help to transmit these sociospatial constructions.

Representations of negative sex and gender stereotypes reinforce harmful sociospatialities of what, where, and who is to be valued. Affirming representations of sex and gender have the potential to destigmatize difference from the heteronormative and to legitimize identities typically not seen in mainstream media. Media can have liberating aspects, which destabilize patriarchal gender roles and understandings of sex. For Douglas Kellner (1987, 490), “Emancipatory popular culture subverts ideological codes and stereotypes, and shows the inadequacy of rigid conceptions that prevent insight into the complexities and changes of social life.”

Feminist media scholars work to critique patriarchal ideologies. One such way is the Bechdel-Wallace Test, which is a cultural understanding of media. To pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test (created by Alison Bechdel and Liz Wallace), a piece of media has to have the following components:

  1. it has to have at least two named women in it
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something besides a man

The test first appeared in Bechdel’s comic strip in 1985 and is inspired by Wallace’s reading of the following Virginia Woolf passage from A Room of One’s Own (2015 [1929], 74–75):

But how interesting it would have been if the relationship between the two women had been more complicated. All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. So much has been left out, unattempted. And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends… They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that… Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer!

Kay Steiger (2008, 104) described the Bechdel-Wallace test as “the standard by which feminist critics judge television, movies, books, and other media.” Neda Ulaby (2008, para. 7) argues that the test has saliency because “it articulates something often missing in popular culture: not the number of women we see on screen, but the depth of their stories, and the range of their concerns.”

The Bechdel-Wallace test is a good litmus test, yet geographic research on media often sidesteps the influence media have on sex and gender, which then negates the power of media to influence those aspects. Two recent edited collections on media geographies and mediated spaces (Adams et al. 2016 and Mains et al. 2015) only touch upon sex, gender and media in one chapter between the two despite the growing field of feminist media geographies. In Mains et al.’s Mediated Geographies and Geographies of Media (2015), Ken Hillis and Michael Petit write on gay/queer men and mediated experiences (webcams, social media, etc.). The lack of discussion of sex and gender in media geography needs to be rectified as media feed into understandings of self and others, what is to be embraced and shunned, and where one should go or avoid.

What are the mediated spaces of sex and gender?

Media repeatedly strengthen gender and sex norms and behaviors in space. In addition, media portray and legitimize social relations. Mediated understandings of geography shape understandings of sex and gender because people and places are sexed and gendered and imbued with sociospatial codings. Identities and spaces are socially constructed and sociospatial norms create geographies of sex and gender. Constructions of identity and codings of space are continually in flux.

Media produce virtual geographies, which are read by viewers of visual media texts through the act of participation/viewing (Craine 2009). Virtual participation leads to sociospatial relationships where the virtual and the body interact:

This engagement provides the biological self with the means to compensate for the loss of the corporeal in the virtual environment—the viewer/consumer can now simply transform that environment into a space more susceptible to human control. Thus the virtual digital environment becomes a fundamental part of human experience—there is a literal projection of the human into virtual space thereby allowing the viewer/consumer to construct a spatial simulacrum of the previously invisible circulation of information through this simultaneous grounding and dislocating of the viewer/consumer’s bodily experience.

(Craine 2009, 236) Virtual spaces can be liberating as they provide for new interpretations of places, identities and experiences. Sexuality and gender can be altered in virtual spaces—one can be whoever and wherever one wants to be there.

The internet and other technologies produce and reproduce sociospatial power relations while simultaneously situating themselves as not a component of that power (Haraway 1988). This, like other media, creates an artifice where the interactions and images are seen as natural, instead of constructed. In a discussion of “new social spaces,” Rob Kitchin (1998, 386) argues that the internet does not necessarily reflect the “formal qualities of geographic spaces.” The internet and its cyberspaces are often constructed as a space free from the body because there are no “real” bodies in cyberspace. Bodies on the internet can only be images, but those images are often meant to reflect reality. There is, of course, fantasy prevalent on the internet. Fantastic spaces can be liberating. One is not bound by one’s body. One can be anyone or anything.

Mediated bodies (and non-mediated bodies) are geographical. Bodies, while visceral and fleshy, are also socially constructed and their representations are key to social understandings of bodies and their “value.” Steve Pile (1996, 186) argues: “the contours of the body are the contours of society” and therefore, necessary to examine. As I have argued elsewhere, “it is important to acknowledge just whose bodies are being portrayed and the ramifications of those representations” (England 2018, xviii).

The corporeality of mediated experiences demonstrates the intertwined relationship between viewer and media. Representations of the body portray a public exterior that contains an interior, private site, and as such have complicated sociocultural ramifications and are important to feminist geography as both public and private spaces. The body contains—all in the same bounded (and yet porous) package—multiple scales and social meanings. Depictions of bodies in visual media contribute to understandings of norms (e.g. what is appropriate in a public space versus a private space; who is deemed beautiful by society; and who is worthy of representation) in a variety of settings. Mediated bodies reflect social constructions and have spatialities. When the naturalization of the body is disrupted through understanding the social construction of the body, there are cascading effects. The Nature/Culture dualism feeds into the Emotional/Rational, the Public/Private and the Body/Mind binaries (Rose 1993; Duncan 1996). Deconstructing one creates a domino effect of deconstruction on the others.

Dualisms and their intersectionality with sex and gender are important to examine in feminist media geography. Geographies of sex show ideas of norm transgressions and deviances. Where and what kind of sex happens helps to define norms. Geographies of sex in media happen in a number of places—including print media, visual media (e.g. television, movies) and on the internet. Real experiences have a reciprocal relationship with mediated worlds. Representations of homosexuality and LGBTQ persons can be detrimental or uplifting. Images may resonate for the wrong reasons when stereotypes are hurtful and damaging. There can also be a sense of identity affirmation and normalizing when representation matches the individual watching. As such, viewers who identify with media images that contain homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and queer people see some of their experiences reflected (e.g. a season of MTV’s Are You the One? that focused on queer dating). Media can also portray acceptance by family and friends or rejection by them.

Liminality is the state of between. Media are liminal spaces, which are spaces in, and thresholds between, dualisms. Liminal space occupies both sides of binaries at the same time or precariously perches between states, which can lead to transgression and deviance. As such, the liminality of media means that it can uphold or subvert patriarchy or occupy both sides of it at once.

Certain genres center on the liminal aspect of their narratives. For example, liminality is key to the “horrific” in horror texts. Characters and scenarios often both reify and deconstruct patriarchal constructions of sex and gender and their associated spatial manifestations. While horror films often portray violence against women, Carol Clover (2015) argues that these texts create a positive association with the female victim, or “Final Girl,” who ultimately defeats her tormentor (e.g. Halloween (1978), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)). Yet, the Final Girl often subscribes to patriarchal constructions of virtue (e.g. virginity). Two films in particular that upended this tension were Scream (1996) and The Cabin in the Woods (2010). Although considered “meta-horror” due to the self-aware plot lines, both films broke the mold of the stereotypical aspect of purity to subvert patriarchy. Rhona Berenstein (1996, 5) notes that gender norms can be disturbed:

It is as if the fiend’s toying with, and mixture of, elements that usually remain separate, such as male and female gender traits, force or invite human characters to cross boundaries as well… it is also a generic space in which human characters, male and female, behave monstrously and transgress the social rules and roles that usually confine them.

The fragility of gender and sex social constructions is read by some critics as a celebration of overcoming patriarchy. Ken Gelder (2000, 3) argues, “Horror can sometimes find itself championed as a genre because the disturbance it willfully produces is in fact a disturbance of categories we may have taken for granted.” Yet the punishment for transgression ends up actually reinforcing patriarchal norms in many cases. When patriarchal order is (re)established, the film concludes.

Stereotypes

Patriarchal stereotypes of masculinity and femininity as well as heteronormativity pervade traditional media and need to be uprooted by affirming representations. Harmful ideas of feminine and masculine standards of attractiveness are often represented in media. These images show a valuation of only certain types of bodies, of certain types of beauty. When these standards are challenged, the potential for the disruption of dualisms and traditional conceptions of gender increases. Some media contribute to conventional notions of gender and sex (e.g. sitcoms like I Love Lucy, King of Queens, Everyone Loves Raymond, etc.) while others take a more feminist stance on the portrayal of gendered bodies, behaviors and norms (Roseanne, Modern Family, black-ish, even Full House). Media which reinforce harmful stereotypes are slowly being uprooted by those that are more subversive, but patriarchal roots are deep.

Two stereotypes of patriarchal constructions of masculinity and femininity are the “tough guy” and the “damsel in distress.” The tough guy is seen as a hypermasculine figure. For Bob Mondello (2014, para. 2), these stereotypes harken back to the beginning of cinema: “Admittedly, silent films used a kind of shorthand for American behavior—stereotypes, to allow directors to brush in characters quickly without dialogue: women were almost always domestic, delicate and passive, while men were outgoing, strong and active.” The “tough guy” has been a common theme of movies. James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart were archetypes in movies such as Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and Casablanca (1942) respectively. “Gangster” movies and film noir cemented the trope. The character of James Bond (starting as a movie character in Dr. No (1962) and continuing today) deserves a feminist media geography anthology all on his own for his harmful stereotypes. However, the tough guy eventually changed in a number of ways, most specifically his physical form. He is brawny—a manly man like the leading men of the 1980s (e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone) or the savvy and (street) smart characters played by Harrison Ford (who stars in the Indiana Jones and Star Wars series), Vin Diesel (the Fast and Furious, xXx, and Riddick series) and Jason Statham (the Transporter, Fast and Furious, Crank, and Mechanic series) in the 2000s. Ben-Zeev et al. (2012, 54) put another spin on the “hypermasculine” males:

Perhaps the most poignant prototype of masculinity as a negation of femininity is the hypermasculine man, depicted in a plethora of popular culture media. The hypermasculine male is characterized by the idealization of stereotypically masculine traits, such as virility and physicality, while concurrently rejecting traits seen as feminine and thus perceived as antithetical and even inferior to machismo, such as compassion or emotional expression.

Disruptions of traditional notions of masculinity and femininity are the “musculinized” female and the “sensitive” male. In these images, more masculine females are shown as more proficient and powerful in fighting and physical prowess (e.g. Sarah Connor from the Terminator series, the Slayers in television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Letty Ortiz from the Fast and Furious series). They are, to use Yvonne Tasker’s (1993) term, “musculinized.” While not necessarily feminist figures, musculinized females can destabilize gendered norms. They are not damsels in distress and not “just” the pretty girl to fill a role or cater to certain audiences. Musculinization can disrupt gender stereotypes by:

restaging the relationship between women and violence as not only one of danger in which women are objects of violence but also a pleasurable one in which women retaliate to become the agents of violence and turn the table on their aggressors.

(Pinedo 1997, 6)
While the action genre tends to have more musculinized women than other genres, the upending of gender stereotypes of powerful bodies has become popular in reality sport, such as the Ninja Warrior television series shown in several countries worldwide (e.g. fan admiration of contestant Jessie Graff in American Ninja Warrior).

While the sensitive male trope is often used to feminize a man, it can also be used to connote intelligence. Usually less physically imposing than the hypermasculine male, they are often seen as the brains to the brawn or an element of humor. The television series M*A*S*H was noted for its intelligent humor (as well as its misogyny) in the 1970s and 80s, but leading star Alan Alda received backlash for his portrayal of the increasingly sensitive protagonist, Hawkeye Pierce. Bruce Feirstein quipped in his satirical Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche (1982): “We’ve become a nation of wimps. Pansies. Quiche eaters. Alan Alda types—who cook and clean and relate to their wives” (quoted in Ellsworth 2019, para. 4). While Feirstein’s book was satire, there was salience to the idea that “sensitive” equaled “wimp.” Fast forward to the popular 2000s sitcom Big Bang Theory, in which the stars are “wimpy” physicists. Decades later, sensitivity and intelligence are still often branded as weakness in a man and are often the source of humor in similar sitcoms.

Representations of LGBTQ experiences can help to “norm” them. They open up worlds to people who may not have direct experiences outside of heteronormativity. While sexuality stereotypes are common (often because they are easy for many to write/digest), the very presence of LGBTQ characters, actors and contestants in a variety of media provided room for change in the socio-political world. Changing “who” is/was present in media challenged many viewers but provided a non-confrontational space of learning about other people. Television sitcoms from Soap (Jodie Dallas) to Will & Grace (Will Truman and Jack McFarland) had gay characters that visited homes each week, slowly changing mindsets. In 2012, then US Vice President Joe Biden remarked: “I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anybody’s ever done so far. People fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand” (Brook 2019, para. 1).

When the first transgender male character was featured on a scripted television series, it was a pivotal moment in media history. The character’s story resonated with viewers and was recognized by the GLAAD Media Awards, “which recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and the issues that affect their lives” (GLAAD 2020). GLAAD’s Wilson Cruz stated, “When Degrassi introduced its large and loyal audience to Adam Torres, an authentic, multi-dimensional transgender character, the show not only made television history, but set a new industry standard for LGBT inclusion” (Adams 2013, para. 10).

Mental maps

Media inscribe mental maps by constructing norms in space. The previous sections detailed how media strengthen and instill ideologies of sex and gender. Certain, or sometimes many, public spaces are spaces of threat. Nancy Duncan (1996, 128) posits: “The public/private dichotomy (both the political and the spatial dimensions) is frequently employed to construct, control, discipline, confine, exclude, and suppress gender and sexual difference preserving traditional patriarchal and heterosexist power structures.” Media fortify the dualism of Public/Private through images of the public as dangerous:

Social critics, feminists, and academics all assert that the mass media contribute to the prevalence of fear of crime, and more specifically to female fear. They reason that the attention the media give crime and violence teaches women to fear, and continually reinforces those lessons through frequent portrayals of violence against women.

(Gordon & Riger 1991, 67) Texts that range from sitcoms to horror films to daily news outlets shape our constructions of space and place. Mediated geographies created mental maps of safety for women and LGBTQ communities. Mental maps are formed through everyday interactions with people and the media:

Direct involvement with violence; the “but-nothing-happened” encounters; observation of other women’s degradation; the impact of the media and cultural images of women; and shared knowledge of family, friends, peers, acquaintances, and co-workers all contribute to assessment of risk and strategies for safety.

(Stanko 1993, 159)
News and images of violence against women and LGBTQ persons (e.g. “gay-bashing”) create a sense of uncertainty about entering and participating in public spaces. Media, including news reports, movies and television, tell spatial mythologies through the images they broadcast or stream (Gordon & Riger 1991; Stanko 1993; Wekerle & Whizman 1994; Wilson et al. 1998). There has been pushback on these images. Reclamations of space and protests like Take Back the Night disrupt, challenge and protest sexual and domestic violence. But images in news feeds or in visual media combat those protests by shaping public space as a space to be avoided in the name of safety even though men are assaulted more than women in public spaces (Gerbner & Gross 1976; Gordon & Riger 1991; Wilson et al. 1998). Gerde Wekerle and Carolyn Whizman (1994, 4) point out: “Despite media focus on public violence and attacks by strangers, the most dangerous place, especially for women and children, is still the home.”

Some media bank on geographies of fear. The aforementioned horror genre feeds into the discomfort created by media stories and images. Horror is criticized for objectifying women and for communicating misogynist messages (e.g. virginity saves lives and sex equals death). In many horror texts, sexual repression leads to the mutilation of women’s bodies (foreshadowing the modern “incel” movement?). Yet William Schoell (1985) argues, “Scenes in which women whimper helplessly and do nothing to defend themselves are ridiculed by the audience, who find it hard to believe that anyone—male or female—would simply allow someone to kill them with nary a protest” (quoted in Clover 1994, 36).

Where can feminist media geography go from here?

Media (sometimes silently) shape our ideologies and norm our behavior—wherein their power lies. We are exposed to sexualized and gendered understandings of everyday space, which then influence our understandings of ourselves. As media become more entwined with daily life, the consequences of what they do to individuals and societies becomes paramount to examine. Social norms have changed as media increasingly permeate culture and society and change views of ourselves, others and the spaces we inhabit or imagine. Future research into media geography will need to incorporate the changes in how media are delivered to the viewer.

Mobile media inform conceptions of spaces, including geographical imaginations and mental mappings as we navigate the everyday (and the fantastic) through the lens of media. These new and familiar explorations create spaces that disrupt traditional sociospatial notions of sex and gender (e.g. David Morley’s (1986) pioneering work on the sociospatial role of television in the home). Morley (1986) demonstrated that the television, especially the remote control, was key to the notion that “a man’s home is his castle.” The male head of the family “guarded” the remote and claimed the television as his domain. This is shifting with mobile media, in which media are mostly controlled (with some limitations perhaps placed on children) by their consumers. The mobility of media will only become more important as “rooted” media (such as cable) decline in popularity in favor of streaming services. The ability of media to be mobile—more so than ever before—shapes our interactions with spaces and each other. Media’s literal place within our lives is changing. For many, the mobility of media has affected understandings of spaces that we inhabit as we consume media. It used to be that many homes had at least one television. With streaming services and apps, the television is no longer necessary to view television programming. DVRs have changed the temporality of media as well.

Reality television is another changing aspect of media. As scripted shows began to be seen as less profitable and “reality” gained popularity, more and more “unscripted” shows were produced. This is a phenomenon seen all over the world—“reel” shows that depict “real” life. Reality shows are starting to call their programs “unscripted” because of the nature of these programs. The moniker “reality” is often invalidated since many see a camera following participants around and filming their moves with producer influence as not a reflection of everyday life. Reality programming creates a reflection of the real world to some degree through its produced images in the reel world. Socioculturally, reality programming changes our individual and worldviews. But audiences are savvy. They constantly negotiate the distinction between the “reel” and the “real.” That being said, entertainment is often more a factor than authenticity (e.g. none of the cast of Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York are married).

While many reality shows have storylines that are scripted or heavily produced, there are still important aspects to examine. Many minorities (especially racial and sexuality) are produced as stereotypes in reality television (see Ragan Fox’s experiences and analysis of his time on Big Brother (2018)). For example, The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise is notoriously critiqued for its white heteronormativity. Yet LGBTQ visbility is at an all-time high in reality shows (e.g. I am Cait, RuPaul’s Drag Race) (Lovelack 2019).

The examination of the “where” of reality television potentially further links geography to the genre. Location plays a key role in many reality television shows (Big Brother and The Real World are set in houses, Love Island is set in a tropical villa and Paradise Hotel in a tropical hotel). The “setting” for the show factors into the authenticity for the viewer. Tropical locations may detract more from “plotlines” than shows set more in houses. Yet fantasy sites are part of the allure and romance of reality television as it adds something beyond the mundane. Ironically, many reality television sets restrict use of outside media by its participants (Big Brother, Love Island, America’s Next Top Model, MTV’s The Challenge). Of note in future research may be the role of place in setting the tone for social interactions (e.g. does a home reproduce more familial or intimate relationships than does a hotel?).

Conclusion

Feminist geography should continue to focus on the effects media have on identities and spaces. Feminist media geography demonstrates how space forms sexed and gendered ideologies and behaviors. Representations in media can both concretize and destabilize understandings of sex and gender. Media have a liberatory potential in that they can undermine patriarchal relations and understandings or can undergird traditional, patriarchal ideologies and codings of space. By understanding how media produce sexed and gendered geographies, patriarchal ideologies and norms are scrutinized and possibly weakened. Media influence social encounters and accepted behaviors in those interactions. Visual media code spaces and inform sexed and gendered identities. Gendered codings, in turn, shape understandings of sex and sexuality and represent patriarchal constructions of masculinity and femininity. Yet, the potential exists for feminist media production and representation to destabilize harmful constructions and ideologies. There is still a lot of room for growth. Although media have brought to light sex and gender issues, they often contain remnants of harmful stereotypes and geographical imaginations. Charisse L’Pree (2013, para. 8) states:

Media is not arbitrary, random, neutral or apolitical… It doesn’t matter if the film was not meant to be “deep.” Human lives are. Media characterizations have very real repercussions for real life. Even a film meant to be “just fun” can reject stereotypes and take on the difficult work of creating something that actually challenges what we think we know about people.

Understanding the role of media in gender formations and sexuality ultimately demands a need to understand how social power works both ideologically and spatially. It is key to examine how power infiltrates and informs sociospatial relations. When those roots of hegemony are discovered, a more inclusive society can flourish. Analysis of the role of media in creating, maintaining and disrupting patriarchy is more important than ever before in this time when calls for diversity, equity and inclusion are finally being heard.

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