Is Modern Media Changing Social Norms?

It seems that I’m seeing more and more articles and news updates about how the media is affecting the kids. It’s normally never a good thing. Specifically pertaining to video games and violence.

However, I feel like the media of today is starting to change the mindset of people everywhere concerning the social norms related to sexual orientation and gender roles. Now, my last blog on the Fifty Shades book was focused on how books can actually send a dangerous message to impressionable minds, and admittedly after I finished the Fifty Shades of Grey book, I was terrified that girls everywhere would use that and the Twilight series as a template to how life should be. Then I read The Hunger Games.

I finished the entire series in three days (and I even watched the movie for the first time) and by the end of it I had hope for the future. Aside from the fact that the series was just absolutely amazing, the characters seemed to possess swapped gender roles. Now we’ve all heard about how men were the hunters and the women were the preparers. These are gender roles that have evolved over thousands of years (although in more present times hunting might be changed to working a job to provide).

We’ve slowly begun to branch out and now the social constructs are being challenged in a number of different ways. The most prominent way being women entering the workforce.  Despite our strives to break the gender roles that society claims we should possess, we still have things like the glass ceiling and the social stigmas associated with a man or woman taking on roles that traditionally belong to the other gender.

Now The Hunger Games, how exactly does that challenge gender roles? Well first of all we finally get a strong central female character! Katniss Everdeen, is the best female literary heroine I’ve discovered in recent bestsellers. Then there’s Peeta (and I’m such a huge nerd I feel obligated to mention, if you’re familiar with fandom lingo, I ship Katniss and Peeta real hard). The most obvious thing I’ve noticed concerning the gender role swapping is that Katniss is the hunter and Peeta is the one who hangs out in the kitchen baking bread and frosting cakes. I love it. Katniss wasn’t any less feminine because she hunted and Peeta wasn’t any less masculine because he baked. To me that right there reinforces to anyone reading that not conforming to gender roles isn’t going to condemn you to ridicule. The fact that the story is set in the future is kind of a nice in the sense that one day a girl hunting and a boy baking isn’t going to be scrutinized by the public.

But The Hunger Games isn’t the only form of popular media that depicts a hopeful future for the evolution of social constructs (well to be honest the lack of constricting gender roles was the only hopeful part of the Hunger Games series). Then there’s Doctor Who, the British sci-fi television show that’s been on TV since 1963. Not only do female cosplayers do a top notch job of exercising Rule 63 and turn the Doctor into a woman, but in recent years they’ve done some bits that I think are another great example of bringing down the social stereotypes associated with alternative lifestyles.

Meet Captain Jack Harkness. He’s a handsome time agent from the fifty first century and he’s pansexual. When we first meet Captain Jack, it’s not blatantly obvious that he’s pansexual. At most we might think he’s bisexual. Then the Doctor explains that Captain Jack from the 51st century and in the fifty first century everyone is pansexual.

Then there’s Madame Vastra and Jenny. For all intensive purposes, Madame Vastra is a lizard woman and Jenny is her wife and they live in Victorian England. You’re probably asking yourself what is the big deal with these characters. Well we’ve all witnessed the controversy of  alternative lifestyles (especially with the equal marriage debate going to the Supreme Court). Considering the fact that Doctor Who is considered a children’s TV show (even though it’s a really good TV show for all ages), and that it’s pretty much fact that children learn a lot of of their morals from TV and movies, isn’t it safe to assume that any child reading The Hunger Games or watching Doctor Who or any other form of entertainment depicting characters that are completely different than what is considered “normal” might gain a mindset of acceptance and not being bound to stereotypes that might make them miserable.

We always hear about the bad that the media causes, and how certain content should be censored. But aspects like these make me hopeful. Future generations who grow up reading or watching these will most likely have an open mind to different lifestyles and when you think about it, they could be the start to an evolving social construct of what is “normal.” These things don’t happen overnight of course, but these examples are representative of change. And change in a positive direction where people do things to make them happy and everyone is equal and harmful stereotypes are thing of the past.

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About achas002

University student with a love for Doctor Who.
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2 Responses to Is Modern Media Changing Social Norms?

  1. mchap016 says:

    I have to agree the examples you used do show how forms of media are helping to throw away past stereotypes of traditional patriarchy and masculinity. There are various shows out there that are diminishing the strain between different social groups and gender affiliations. However, with that being said I do still see how media can influence young adolescents in negative ways. I have recently watched the disney channel with my little niece and was outraged to see how they allowed a channel for kids to mimic that of mtv. The girls and boys on the show were talking about how boy crazy they were, they were concentrated on their appearance and “cute, hot” outfits rather than showing positive depictions of adolescents putting their energy towards school and furthering themselves. The sexual promiscuity depicted all over media is sending the wrong message to adolescents. Our identity is not something one is born with, it is something that is socially constructed, and media outlets have profound effect on ones social identity and construction of ones personality. There are internal and external factors that influence everything we do and people tend to mimic what they see being depicted through the media. For instance many people idolize celebrities and try to conform to their standards of appearance, and pursuit occupations in order to obtain the celebrity lifestyle that is so lavishly portrayed. Our society has been so focused on shallow existences, and media is something that is inescapable, it is all around us, whether we choose to follow it or choose to detach oneself and focus on important issues that aren’t so self consuming. There are people suffering from violence, malnutrition, and disese, however one does not constantly see those stories depicted in the media as much as other stories are. I see more media focusing leading stories about Kim Kardashian gaining baby weight rather than corruption of Child soldiers in Uganda.

  2. So are you saying that science fiction and fantasy are overall good for society? Because I think I would have to agree with that statement.

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