Friday, July 15, 2011

Difference of Gender roles in My Wife and Kids

In today’s society popular culture is now mainly incorporated with what we as people like to watch, listen to, and surf on the internet. TV shows has became a major part of popular culture predominantly because it’s a good source of entertainment. Being that so many people watch TV, television producers are given lots of power and have a big influence on people’s lives. TV producers decide what to put on TV, how they want to put, and when they want to show it, leaving them with a broad verizon on how to entertain their audience. Along with millions of other people I’m too a big fan of television and one of my favorite shows growing up was My Wife and Kids because of its humor and how I can relate to their family by also being African American. Although this show is very funny, it also shows a strong difference of gender roles between the husband and wife; also Mr. Kyle uses his male dominance to help define what it means to be a woman along with degrading his wife especially in this one particular episode.
The show is based on Michael Kyle, who is a loving husband and father. Michael sometimes can be seen as a modern day patriarch that uses a blend of humor on how he runs his household. Michael is married to Janet Kyle and they have been together for 17 years which has lead to the production of three children; the oldest Michael Jr., then Claire and the youngest Kady. The show is focused on the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Kyle and how Michael Kyle uses his distinct parenting style to raise the children. Even though the show is mainly about what I just stated there are many underlying messages that one can depict from the show such as how Michael has majority of the power because of his gender and the often degrading of Janet “Jay” Kyle.
When I found out that we had to analyze a TV show and one particular episode, I immediately thought about My Wife and Kids and this episode from season 2 called “Thru Thick and Thin”. I thought this episode would be perfect example how television always have an underlying message behind the production and that if you sit down and analyze you can figure it out. Just from the title one would think the episode would be either about how there is some type of struggle or something about “thick” and “thin”. The episode is about Jay’s return to the family because she was away taking care of her injured mom, but more importantly this episode was more focused on how she gained weight while she was away. The whole episode was more focused on how Jay was now “fat” according to her husband Michael standards and not that she was finally home from being away for a while. During most of the episode Michael kept commenting on her weight even though he did so in a joking manner, he made it clear that he didn’t like that fact that she was now fat.
The problem is that even with the joking Michael is using his masculinity and power to somewhat degrade Jay about her weight. In America and shown in this episode, it’s expected that women to be more on the thinner side and that when they are fat it is automatically a problem. In our society today there is a big gender difference when it comes to appearance. In the media women are meant to be beautiful and when they are not they are quickly talked about by other women and men. But on the other hand in the media men don’t really have to worry about their appearance it mostly how much money they have in their pocket. In Jennifer Pozner’s piece “The Unreal World” she briefly touches on how women are represented in media and how it differs from men. Her explanations are about reality TV, but they connect to My Wife and Kids because both the producers from reality TV shows and other TV shows all have the same concept on how they want to display women on their shows. Pozner talks about the difference when she states “Where women are valued as “perfect 10’s” simply for being pretty, passive and intellectually, unthreatening, reality TV tells us that all men need is wealth” (pg.98) Pozner’s idea relates to the episode of My Wife and Kids that I talked about because in the episode Michael is so focused on his wife’s weight and how he can get her to get on a diet. Every other second in the episode there was a joke about Jay’s weight or fat jokes and Michael made it very know he couldn’t accept the fact that she was fact because he thought it made her less beautiful.
The way Jay’s weight is magnified and talked about in the episode of My Wife and Kids is directed resulting from the producers ideas about women; it’s also important that the producer is male. In the entertainment business just like most other aspects of our society males have majority of the power which allow them to dictate most things. This idea relates to James Lull’s definition of Hegemony where he states “Hegemony is the power or dominance that one social group holds over others” (61). Hegemony clearly exists in My Wife and Kids because of the dominance the male producers have over the female characters in the show like Jay. Lull also said that “hegemony is more than social power itself; it is a method for gaining and maintaining power” (61).  Males will always maintain they power if they continue to show or make episodes of TV shows like the one of My Wife and Kids, where Jay is subtly being degraded to millions of viewers about her weight and appearance.

Lull, James. "Hegemony." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text-reader. By Gail Dines and Jean McMahon. Humez. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage, 2003. Print.

Pozner, Jennifer L. "The Unreal World." Learning Gender. By Amy Kesselman, Lily D. McNair,     and Nancy Schniedewind. 4th ed. McGraw-Hill, 2006. 96-99. Print.