Up to date information about children's entertainment – film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy

Sexist Stereotypes Pervade Children’s Media –

Three years ago, while watching children’s television programs and videos with her then 2-year old daughter, Academy Award winner Geena Davis noticed a remarkable imbalance in the ratio of male to female characters. From that small starting point, Davis went on to raise funds for the largest research project ever undertaken on gender in children’s entertainment (resulting in 4 discrete studies, including one on children’s television). The research showed that in the top-grossing G-rated films from 1990-2005, there were three male characters for every one female – a statistic that did not improve over time.The concern was clear: What message does this send to young children?

Davis started her own nonprofit, and over the course of the next three years, with the help of USC Annenberg School of Journalism professor Stacy Smith, Davis began research to assess portrayals of males and females in children’s media. On January 30 and 31, 2008, at the University of Southern California, under the auspices of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Children in the Media (GDIDM) she presented the findings at a forum for studio heads, writers, educators and students. Here are links to the results of this conference:

GDIGM Releases New Findings (Press Release 2-1-08)

What follows are excerpts from the most in-depth content analysis of popular G-rated movies and gender in kids’ TV ever conducted.

G-Rated Movies
Dr. Stacy Smith and her team at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California analyzed the portrayals of male and female characters in 101 of the top-grossing G-rated movies from 1990 to 2005. They tracked the gender of 3,039 individual speaking characters, 1,210 characters who spoke in groups, and 47 narrators. The researchers also examined other variables including physical appearance, age group, role within the story, ethnicity or cultural background, and occupations characters held.
TV for Kids 11 and Under
Dr. Smith and her team randomly sampled 1,034 shows from 12 network, public broadcast, and cable outlets between June 12 and August 18, 2005 to assemble a typical week of children’s television programming. The researchers used more than 75 criteria to measure the story centrality, demographics, occupation, body/clothing, appearance, likeability, and personality of speaking characters.

G-rated movies and certain TV categories need more females as main characters, minor characters, narrators, and in crowds.
3 out of 4 characters in G-rated movies are male. This pattern remains steady even when the data is analyzed from multiple perspectives (major characters, characters in groups, movies released in the 1990s versus the 2000s).

In TV made for kids 11 and under, the bad news is that in TV-Y and TVY7 there are twice as many males as females, while the good news is, TVG is almost balanced at one for one.
G-rated movies and certain TV categories need more characters of color, especially female characters of color as main characters, minor characters, narrators, and in crowds.
In the 101 highest grossing G-rated movies 1990-2005 characters of color are most often sidekicks, comic relief, or villains.

In TV aimed at kids 11 and under, three-fourths of all the individual, speaking characters are white. Girls of color are least likely to see themselves reflected in media made for kids.
G-rated movies need to create more female characters with aspirations beyond romance.
In G-rated films, Dr. Smith and her researchers discovered that often female characters have no personal aspirations beyond romance i.e. romantic love or marriage.
G-rated movies need to create more women and girl characters that are valued for their inner character, too.
In G-rated films, Dr. Smith and her researchers discovered that most often plots with female leads revolve around physical appearance and ability to attract a mate.
Share this page on:
Entertainment News for Kids:
Join KIDS FIRST! on Twitter Join KIDS FIRST! on YouTube Join KIDS FIRST! on Instagram Join KIDS FIRST! on Tik Tok Join KIDS FIRST! on Facebook