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Occupational role portrayals of African-American women on prime-time television


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Occupational role portrayals of African-American women on prime-time television
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Jefferson, Shani Tyhirah
University of South Florida
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UPN network
Workforce statistics
Sweeps month
Dissertations, Academic -- Mass Communications -- Masters -- USF   ( lcsh )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: This study examined portrayals of African-American women shown in professional careers on prime-time network television during the May 2005 sweeps month. Specifically, the study compares these portrayals to actual U.S. Department of Labor workforce statistics to observe a possible similarity. Additionally, the study identifies any behavioral and conversational stereotyped attributes ascribed to African-American female characters shown in the workplace. A quantitative content analysis of four broadcast networks (FOX, ABC, UPN, and WB) ranked by Nielsen Media as having the highest rated prime-time television programming among minority households for 2003-2004 revealed that African-American female characters on network television are over-represented in terms of professional careers in comparison to their actual presence in U.S. workforce statistics.However, their actual presence in these careers is higher than that of African-American male characters on network television, which closely resembles the distribution of professional African-American males and females in the U.S. working population. The results also revealed that out of the four networks, UPN had a substantially greater number of African-American female characters in professional careers, but their representations include subtle messages of racial/ethnic stereotypical behaviors commonly associated with African-Americans.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Shani Tyhirah Jefferson.
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Occupational role portrayals of African-American women on prime-time television
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by Shani Tyhirah Jefferson.
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b University of South Florida,
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 74 pages.
ABSTRACT: This study examined portrayals of African-American women shown in professional careers on prime-time network television during the May 2005 sweeps month. Specifically, the study compares these portrayals to actual U.S. Department of Labor workforce statistics to observe a possible similarity. Additionally, the study identifies any behavioral and conversational stereotyped attributes ascribed to African-American female characters shown in the workplace. A quantitative content analysis of four broadcast networks (FOX, ABC, UPN, and WB) ranked by Nielsen Media as having the highest rated prime-time television programming among minority households for 2003-2004 revealed that African-American female characters on network television are over-represented in terms of professional careers in comparison to their actual presence in U.S. workforce statistics.However, their actual presence in these careers is higher than that of African-American male characters on network television, which closely resembles the distribution of professional African-American males and females in the U.S. working population. The results also revealed that out of the four networks, UPN had a substantially greater number of African-American female characters in professional careers, but their representations include subtle messages of racial/ethnic stereotypical behaviors commonly associated with African-Americans.
Adviser: Larry Leslie, PhD.
Co-adviser: Kenneth Killebrew, PhD
UPN network.
Workforce statistics.
Sweeps month.
Dissertations, Academic
x Mass Communications
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


Occupational Role Portrayals of African-American Women on Prime-Time Television by Shani Tyhirah Jefferson A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts School of Mass Communications College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: La rry Leslie, Ph.D. Co-Major Professor: Kenneth Killebrew, Ph.D. Kimberly Golombisky, Ph.D. Date of Approval: November 15, 2005 Keywords: UPN network, stereotypes, professional, workforce statis tics, sweeps month Copyright 2005, Shani Jefferson


Acknowledgements Praise be to my father GOD who consta ntly opens doors and bestows upon me the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to reach such an accomplishment. I am extremely grateful to Drs. Leslie and Go lombisky for their guidance, commitment, and understanding, all of which were essential in helping me to finally complete this thesis. My greatest debt owed to Dr. Killebrew for giving me an opportunity to prove myself. I cannot even begin to repay you for granting me the privile ge to attain such an invaluable graduate education. Lastly, I would like to thank former mass communications professor, Dr. Humphrey A. Regis, whom without his wit, accessibility, and enthusiasm, this study would be a mere conception. This thesis was made possible through th e love and support of my family. Words cannot express how much I love you guys.


i TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES ii ABSTRACT iii CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1 Statement of the Problem 2 Justification for the Problem 5 CHAPTER TWO REVIEW OF LITERATURE 9 Cultivation Theory 9 Cultivation Effects & Social Cognitive Theory 12 Televisions Contribution to Stereotyping 18 Occupational Role Portrayals of Women on Prime-time Television 22 Portrayals of African-Ameri cans on Prime-time Television 25 Research Questions 29 CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY 35 CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS 44 CHAPTER FIVE DISCUSSION 53 REFERENCES 58 APPENDICES 62 Appendix A: Coding Sheet 63 Appendix B: Attributes of 37 TV Pr ograms with Minority Female Characters 66 Appendix C: Sample of S hows Coded for All Networks 68 Appendix D: Prime-Time Progr amming Record Schedule, May 2005 69


ii LIST OF TABLES Table 1 Distribution of Television Shows in the Sample (May 2005) 36 Table 2 All Televised Occupations of Female Characters by Race/Ethnicity 45 Table 3 All African-Americans in Profession al Careers on TV and in the U.S. 47 Table 4 All Female Behavioral Ch aracteristics by Race/Ethnicity 49 Table 5 All Female Conversational Characteristics by Race/Ethnicity 51


iii Occupational Role Portrayals of African-American Women on Prime-time Television Shani T. Jefferson ABSTRACT This study examined portrayals of African-American women shown in professional careers on prime-time network television during the May 2005 sweeps month. Specifically, the study compares these portrayals to actual U.S. Department of Labor workforce statistics to observe a possible similarity. Additionally, the study identifies any behavioral and conversational stereotyped attr ibutes ascribed to AfricanAmerican female characters shown in the wor kplace. A quantitative content analysis of four broadcast networks (FOX, ABC, UPN, and WB) ranked by Nielsen Media as having the highest rated prime-time television pr ogramming among minority households for 2003-2004 revealed that African-A merican female characters on network television are over-represented in terms of pr ofessional careers in comparison to their actual presence in U.S. workforce statistics. However, their act ual presence in these careers is higher than that of African-American male characters on network television, wh ich closely resembles the distribution of professional African-American males and females in the U.S. working population. The results also revealed that out of the four networks, UPN had a substantially greater number of African-American female characters in professional careers, but their representations include subt le messages of racial/ethnic stereotypical behaviors commonly associated with African-Americans.


1 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION In the Saturday Forum, section of The Tampa Tribune on January 15, 2005, an insightful columnist wrote: In James Brooks Spanglish, Adam Sandler, a Los A ngeles chef, falls for his hot Mexican maid. The maid, who cleans up after Sandler without being able to speak English, is presented as the ideal woman. The wife, played by Tea Leoni, is a repellent: a jangly, yakking, ove r-achieving, over-exercised, unfaithful, shallow she-monster who has just lost her job with a commercial design firm. Picture Faye Dunaway in Network if shed had to stay home, or Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction without the charm (Dowd, 2005). Current trends in today s film and television progr amming are portraying the modern-day career woman as undesirable. Columnist Maureen Dowd (2005) says the media have depicted modern-day career wome n as objects of rejection rather than affection. A number of studies, she says, have found that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors (p. 15). For example, Dowd (2005) says, in the movie Spanglish, the ideal woman for Sandler is in the subordi nate position of housekeeper and is Latin. This compelling observation leads one to ask the following questions: In todays entertainment media, are audiences viewing im ages of lonely, competitive, emotional, promiscuous, and over-accomplished female characters in professional careers? Have we reverted to the former depictions of women as homemakers and secr etaries? Or, is art merely imitating life?


2 Meet Shant Smith, senior advertising executive at Pa rker & Long; although it is obvious, she is not reluctant to declare: I m a sist--an educated, strong sist, who remembers where she came from and knows where shes going. African-American actress Vivica Fox personifies the arrogance of this character in McHenry and Browns 2001 film, Two Can Play That Game In one particular scene, Shant says, Look at all these people up in here, gawking at the num ber of white faces in the room. Notice anything different? Me. Im 28 years old, a si st, and still made partner (McHenry & Brown, 2001). Shant enjoys a lavish life that includes not only a great career and nice home, but also close friends and a signifi cant other who share her success of having glamorous jobs and posh homes. However, Shant is unmarried and having problems in her current relationship that at times incl ines her to quarrel with other women--a stereotype all too familiar with the depiction of professional African-American women on television. Statement of the Problem Throughout todays entertainment media, ch aracterizations of women in reputable careers are no longer seen as contrary to reality. Many female characters in popular movies and prime-time television shows are depicted in professional careers. Women are no longer portrayed working predominantly in the home. African-Americans are less frequently shown in domestic and service work. But analyses of ethnic and sex representation on television dramas have reveal ed that the distribution of TV occupation roles per group do not compar e with population statistics (Seggar & Wheeler, 1973). These and other findings lead to a concern th at the presence, occupa tions, and behavioral


3 traits displayed by African-American female characters on prime-time television may be giving audiences a somewhat distorted view of racial/ethnic minorities in the world of work. Prior research has revealed that televisi on can disseminate specific, consistent, and often stereotypic messages about the world of work (Signorielli & Kahlenberg, 2001, p. 5). Over the past decade, most prim e-time television programs have been set in the workplace. According to Julianne Malvea ux (1997), if one were to spend an evening or a week consuming prime-time television programming, one would walk away with the sense that almost everybody is earning a cu shy living and money does not matter (p. 32). According to Signorielli (2001), the pe rcentage of women cast in professions increased from the 1970s to the 1990s, compared to gender-typed portrayals of women as homemakers and clerical workers during th e early 1960s (p. 346). Although female characters afforded roles as judges or su rgeons, their characte rizations contained disparaging behavioral elements in their continual struggle for competence, happiness and fulfillment in their pe rsonal lives (Signorielli & Kahlenberg, 2001, p. 5). Furthermore, previous research has suggested that these representa tions may not reflect actual U.S. labor force statistics (Signorielli & Kahlenberg, 2001). Subsequently, todays media may be providing audiences with a distorted view of the presence and characterizations of women in the workplace. In recent years, the focus has been on the prominence of roles played by minorities on television. Exposure to count er-stereotypical images of minorities on television can validate the idea that indivi duals do not fit in to all encompassing categories, and this can bring about cha nge in viewers attitudes and encourage


4 increased contact among differe nt races and cultures (She rman, 2002). However, this cannot be accomplished by merely changing the quantity and not the quality of the counter-stereotyped image. According to Hae-Kyong Bang and Bonnie Reece (2003), it is not just the quantit ative representation of ethnic groups (i.e., how many of them are present), but also the qualitative represen tation (i.e., how important the featured representations of them are) that influence audience perc eptions of them (p. 50). Therefore, the overall objective of this st udy is not only to iden tify the number of occupational role portrayals of African-American women on prime-time television but also to assess the extent to which those depictions may include subtle traces of disparaging behavioral characteristics. The purpose of this study is to examine present-day occupational portrayals of African-American women on prime-time ficti onal television program ming. Specifically, the study will determine whether character portrayals of African-American women include stereotyped behavioral and conversational traits and whether those portrayals accurately reflect the representa tion of African-American women in the U.S. workforce. The framework for this study arises from th e theory of cultivation, which asserts that television is a makeup of r ecurring images that cultiv ate a common view and common stereotypes through a relatively restrictive set of programs (Signorielli & Kahlenberg, 2001, p. 7). In order to further trace the presen ce and nature of such images, the analysis will borrow coding patterns from Dana Ma stro and Bradley Greenbergs 2000 study, The Portrayal of Racial Minor ities on Prime-time Television. Mastro & Greenbergs (2000) study assesse d the frequency and prominence of minority characters in major and minor role s on prime-time television during the fall of


5 1996. However, the researchers did not focus exclusively on occupational roles, but also compared character traits of African, La tin, Asian, and Native-Americans (ALANA) as well as Indo-Europeans (whites). The pres ent study will focus specifically on identifying the presence, frequency, and attributes of occupational role portrayals of AfricanAmerican women, but also will include an analysis of Latin/Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and Indo-European (white) female groups. African-Americans, as described by Mastro and Greenberg (2000), have achieved a niche of greater parity in the amount and variety of their fictional portrayals. In addition, Mastro and Greenberg (2000) assert no other ethnic minority group is sufficien tly observable to be studied within a traditional paradigm (p. 701). Aside from comparing the presence and frequency of occupational roles of African-American women, the study will attempt to identify the specific stereotypical behavioral and conversationa l traits their characters possess (Mastro & Greenberg, 2000; Vande Berg & Streckfuss, 1992, p. 196). Mastro and Greenberg (2000) assessed the attributes or characteri stics which have been associat ed with an ethnic stereotype (p. 694). Using the early study as a model, the present study will borrow from the coding of their variables related to behavioral and conversational characteristics ascribed to minority characters (Mastro & Greenberg, 2000). Justification for the Problem Television is a persistent supplier of im ages, some programs being all-inclusive, others exhaustive. Cultivation researchers a ssert that it is socially significant to examine how television networks represen t minorities (Mastro & Greenberg, 2000, p.


6 690). According to Mastro and Greenberg (2000 ), the nature of th e portrayals of ethnic minorities has been conceptualized as a potential contributor to perpetuating or diminishing racial stereotypes (p. 690). There remains a need for ongoing analysis of the patterns in which television portrays minorities and women, especially in the workplace (Vande Berg & Streckfuss, 1992, p. 204). An important value of this study is that it will enrich the basis on which the cu ltivation theory is f ounded and will ascertain whether todays occupational images of Af rican-American women include stereotyped traits. However, this study will not attempt to identify what effects these images have on an audience. Instead it will describe a specif ic type of repeated imagery that may evoke certain perceptions among an audience about female racial/ethnic minorities. Portrayals of African-Americans on televisi on are more pervasive than in earlier decades. According to Mastro, Greenberg, and Brand (2002), early content analyses found African-Americans to be und errepresented compared to their actual presence in society. In the 1980s, African-Americans made up roughly 11 percent of the actual U.S. population, yet their number of televised repr esentations only rose from six to nine percent between the 1970s to the 1980s (M astro, Greenberg, and Brand, 2002). Finally, in the 1990s, African-Americans began to constitute a proportion of the prime-time television population (11%) that approxi mated to their actual population of 12% (Mastro, Greenberg, and Brand, 2002, p. 335). In 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that African-Ameri can women made up 30.6 percent of management, professional and related o ccupations. Within that same category, African-American men represented 21.7 percen t (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2004). Therefore, the first objective of the study is this: To determine whether occupational role portrayals


7 of African-American women on prime-time tel evision are reflective of their presence in U.S. workforce statistics. In todays comedies, African-Americans have, to some extent, gained a level of equal occupational prestige in comparis on to whites (Mastro & Greenberg, 2000). According to Mastro & Greenberg (2000), this can be attributed to the emergence of several sitcoms, like the mid-1980s program The Cosby Show featuring AfricanAmerican families leading normative lifestyles w ith respect and intelligence. This led to more programs that presented non-traditional characters or counter-stereotyped casts who were not the common stereotype of ones particular gender, racial or sexual orientation group (Sherman, 2002). A television phenomenon, The Cosby Show (1984-1992) is credited with revolutionizing the African-A merican situation come dy genre by setting a standard for non-ridicule, by recognizing and celebrating African-A merican culture, and by presenting African-Americans as ably ne gotiating mainstream America with equal status (Means-Coleman, 2000, p. 95). More importantly, it showcased an AfricanAmerican family centered on a pediatrician father, lawyer mother and several upstanding upper-middle-class children, somethi ng that had never been seen on network television during that time (p. 95). From the 1970s to the 1990s, content anal yses found female characters shown in professional and managerial positions were portrayed as unmarried and employed outside the home in contrast to depictions of marri ed women who were shown most frequently inside the home (Signorielli & Kahlenberg, 2001). In addition, female characters in decision-making functions displa yed different traits from wo men shown in secretarial or operational functions. Signorielli and Kahlenberg (2001) assert, portrayals like these sent


8 a message that women cannot have higher stat us, better paying jobs and also maintain a successful marriage (p. 5). Therefore, th e second objective of the study is this: To compare the depictions of African-American women in professional careers to females of other race/ethnic backgrounds in professi onal careers on primetime television shows Since the 1990s, African-Americans have achieved equivalence to whites in terms of the number of occupationa l roles; however, according to Mastro, Greenberg, and Brand (2002), the quality and variety re mains debatable (p. 336). Early content analyses of occupational role portrayals re vealed sex-typed beha viors, with women especially, having portrayals as emotional or in need of emotional support, or as sympathetic and nurturing, and as lacking in terpersonal and occupational power (Vande Berg & Streckfuss, 1992, p. 196). Minority char acters, like that of Shant Smith, are depicted with behavioral traits that can s erve to promote biased racial attitudes and ethnic stereotypes (Entman, 1994). Decades ag o, minority characters were less likely to have an identifiable job. T oday, they are in distinguishable careers, but under what behavioral stipulations? Therefore, the final objective of this study seeks to identify any negative behavioral and conversational char acteristics among African-American female characters on prime-time television shows.


9 CHAPTER TWO REVIEW OF LITERATURE The present study rests on the assump tion that by examining the dominant attributes of occupational role portrayals one can produce a baseline of data that could then be applied in studies of how these images may influence viewer notions of racial/ethnic minorities. The following review of literature exemplifies how those images can affect viewer perceptions of members w ithin society. In order to understand the extent to which a media message can influen ce an individuals social reality, one must observe the ways in which mass media cultiv ation can occur and the consequences it can have on an audience. Cultivation Theory Almost thirty years have passed sinc e George Gerbner first introduced the cultural indicators research paradigm as the foundation for the cultivation theory. The paradigm, researchers have (Gerbner, Gr oss, Morgan, Signorielli & Shanahan, 2002), tracked the central streams of TVs primetime weekend-daytime dramatic content and explored the consequences of growing up and living in a cultural environment dominated by television (p. 43). The cultivation hypothesi s originated from the cultural indicators paradigm and is concerned with the effects of television viewing over a long period. It assumes that the media communicate inform ation about the social environment that influences perceptions about the social wo rld (Mastro & Robinson, 2000, p. 386). Thus, heavy television viewers, in contrast to light viewers, are more likely to accept the images


10 shown on television as representations of the real world (p. 386). Those images, values, and portrayals shown on most TV progr ams are virtually inescapable for regular and especially for heavy viewers (Gerbner, et. al., 2002, p. 49). Therefore, individuals who watch television news programs with im ages of crime and poverty are far more likely than non-viewers to perceive the world as harsh or mean, hence, there is a need to clarify the nature of these messages. Introduced in 1976, the cultural indicators pa radigm involves a three-tier research strategy which illustrates the consequences of living in a mass-produced symbolic and cultural environment dominated by televisi on (Signorielli & Morgan, 1990, p. 9). The first tier, the institutional process, examines how media messages are produced, managed, and distributed, including any underlying constraints that can influence the production of those messages (Signoriel li & Morgan, 1990). The second tier, or message system analysis tracks the recurring images in media content. This tier asks, What are the dominant, aggregate patterns of images messages, facts, values, and lessons expressed in media messages? (Signori elli & Morgan, 1990, p. 9). Initial studies immediately analyzed violence, minorities, gend er roles, and occupations in the media. Finally, cultivation analysis, the last tier, attempts to identify how exposure to the world of television contributes to an audiences perception of construction of their social reality (p. 9). The theory is focused not necessarily on the impact of one particular television program, but on the repetition of the messages or images within several programs and how it may impact viewers over an extended period. According to Signorielli and Morgan (1990) cultivation theory has evolved into a number of complex and dynamic abstract ideas. They report that sc holarly debates have


11 led to refinements and enhancements in th e methodology of cultivation analyses. For example, intervening variables and processe s have explained diffe rent outcomes; among the variables have been perceived realit y, active vs. passive viewing, the psychological mechanisms underlying cultivation, and applying cultivation analysis outside of the United States (Signorielli & Morgan, 1990, p. 10). Most cu ltivation analyses have focused on television because of its greater us e than several other media in the United States and its unique ability to portray repetitive and pervas ive message characteristics (p. 16). Signorielli and Morgan (1990) contend that cultivation is not a unidirectional flow of television images to an audience, but is the result of a conti nual interaction between messages and contexts (p. 21). It is both dependent on and a ma nifestation of the extent to which televisions imagery dominates vi ewer sources of information (p. 21). Therefore, audience involvement is important Television messages are derived out of the context of audience particip ation and behaviors. For example, personal interaction in the lives of the individual makes a difference in how he or she perceives reality. Yuki Fujioka (1999) found that mass media message s have more impact when direct human interaction is limited; this will be described in detail later in this manuscript (p. 52). According to Signorielli and Morgan (1990), the relationship between amount of viewing of depictions of crime and fear of crime is strongest among those who live in high crime areas; this illustrates the concept of resonance where everyday reality and television provide a double dose of messages that resona te and/or amplify cultivation (p. 21). The viewing patterns and orientations toward television from parents can either increase or decrease cultivation among adolescents (Signorielli & Morgan, 1990, p. 21). This,


12 along with other theoretical a dvances, has introduced severa l conditional processes that enhance, diminish, or otherwis e mediate cultivation (p. 21). Mainstreaming is a process that can serv e as both an indicator of vulnerability toward cultivation effects among an audien ce and as a general consistent pattern representing one of the conse quences of living with television. According to Signorielli and Morgan (1990), mainstreaming is the resu lt of heavy viewing and may absorb or override differences in perspec tives and behavior th at ordinarily stem from other factors and influences (p. 22). Te levision provides a strong cultu ral link between higher socioeconomic status (SES) segments of society and lower SES segments. The mainstream can be thought of as the commonality those segments share in terms of outlooks and values that heavy exposure to the features a nd dynamics that the television world tends to cultivate (p. 22). It is the direct result of heavy television viewing and diminishes the variation of viewer responses that are commonly associated w ith varied cultural, social and political characteristics of these groups, thereby inco rporating different views and converging disparate viewers into one homoge nous group (p. 23). Both resonance and mainstreaming clarify the e ffects of media messages. Cultivation Effects & Social Cognitive Theory One researcher conducted an analysis to explain why certain conditions enhance or diminish cultivation effect s through cultivation judgments that are made. L. J. Shrum (1995) assessed how the social cognition pe rspective can be used to analyze how judgments, in light of research findings, might plausibly be affected by television viewing (p. 403). His research draws on parti cular types of judgment s that are typically


13 used in cultivation research and then draws on social cognition research in an effort to explain how those judgments are made (Shrum, 1995, p. 403). He introduces two types of judgments that cultivation research can elicit: (a) those that indicate a persons perceptions of the prevalence of things, and (b) those that indicate a persons attitudes and beliefs (p. 404); these are first-order and second-order judgments, respectively. According to Shrum (1995), cultivation eff ects for first-order judgments have been shown to hold for multiple control variables while cultivation eff ects of second-order judgments hold less. Shrum (1995) only provide s explanations for first order judgments, where cultivation effects have shown to be more stable (Shrum, 1995). The present study will focus on first-order observations of the depictions of African-American female characters in the workplace. First-order judgments require researchers to provide some sort of quantitative estimate regarding the prevalence of particul ar objects, people, or behaviors (Shrum, 1995, p. 404). Like the present study, these judgments require percentage estimates, for example the prevalence of particular occ upations (i.e., percentage of the workforce employed as lawyers or police officers), the prevalence of crime, or the assessment of personal risk (i.e., percentage estimate of ones own chances of being involved in a violent crime) (Shrum, 1995, p. 404). Shrum (1995) contends that these types of prevalence estimates may be considered a subs et of a larger class of judgments known as set-size judgments (p. 404). Set-size judgments dete rmine the number of instances or percentage of instances of a particular categor y that occurs within a larger, super-ordinate category (Shrum, 1995, p. 404). For this judgm ent, one would estimate the percentage


14 of all minority lawyers on television ( super-ordinate category) and then estimate the number of African-American lawyers ( particular category) (p. 404). In a set-size judgment, we assume that pe ople are asked to esti mate the percentage of African-American female lawyers who are married. Shrum (1995) says that one way to approach this task is to search memory for as many examples of lawyers as one can recall, make a judgment as to each examples marital status, and then perform some sort of algebraic computation to arrive at a preliminary judgmen t (p. 405). People, however, may try to simplify the task and use a cogni tive shortcut and ba se their judgments on the qualities of the first few lawyers th at come to mind (Shrum, 1995, p. 405). For instance, their first example might be their family lawyer who may be a white male, or they may refer to a television program, like Ally McBeal or L.A. Law In this case, especially in reference to the characters on Ally McBeal, their judgment may be that a large proportion of female lawyers are unmarried. Shrum (1995) uses these examples to illustrate how a number of processing strategies may be undertaken to make a particular judgment (p. 405). In the first example an individual must scan memory for various examples, consider all of the informati on made available by this scan, then perform an algebraic weighing and balancing of the information to reach a judgment (Shrum, 1995, p. 406). This strategy is known as information integr ation or cognitive algebra and is used when time is available, and motivation to make th e correct or best deci sion is high (i.e., high involvement) (Shrum, 1995, p. 406). The second example, on the other hand, bases the judgment on the first piece or pieces of information that may come to mind. Shrum (1995) describes this as accessibility which refers to the ease or readiness to which


15 information is retrieved from memory ( p. 406). Accessibility bias occurs when information that is more accessible in memory is used disproportionately as a basis of judgment (Shrum, 1995, p. 406). Priming, a psychological process where a persons thinking is changed over a period of time increases the like lihood that a persons judgment of another person will be made on the basis of an accessibility bias. Certain conditions will lead to the choice of particular strate gies, but judgment strategies differ in terms of the effort they require. This concept, Shrum (1995) says, is confirmed by extensive evid ence showing that the judgment effort expended is a function of at least two things: involvement with the judgment and the time pressure to make the judgment (p. 407). Systematic or central processing the more arduous judgment process, occurs when involvement is high or time pressure is low (Shrum, 1995, p. 407). A less strenuous processing, otherwise known as heuristic or peripheral is more likely to occur when there is hi gh time pressure or the decision task is unimportant or uninvolving (Shrum, 1995, p. 407) Therefore, the process in which a judgment is made is ultimately dependent on an individuals vi ewing patterns, the individuals direct c ontact with the judgment, the signifi cance of the judgment itself, and the amount of time available for making the judgment. Yuki Fujioka (1999) found that direct contact is extremely important in diminishing unfavorable racial attitudes cultivated in an audience, particularly when personal contact is limited. He suggests that because whites represent the majority of the population, minority groups (e.g., African-America ns) are more likely to have interracial contact with members of the majority (Indo-Europeans) than with members of other (e.g., Japanese international) groups (p. 52). Hence his hypothesis that the less contact a


16 group (Japanese internationals) has with minor ities, the more television will influence their perceptions (Fujioka, 1999). Fujioka (1999) introduced the contact hypot hesis, which predicts that positive personal contact produces favorable change in racial attitudes and promotes interracial respect and liking (p. 53). This is evident through the in tegration of public schools and workplaces; an increase in the interaction of people and cultures has produced a society of mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds. While this did not co me without adverse struggles, the racial attitudes of whites toda y, collectively, are not what they were forty years ago. However, while there is indeed more racial intermingling, the contact hypothesis has produced mixed findings in r eal-life situations (Fujioka, 1999, p. 53). Fujioka (1999) attributes this to socioec onomic factors that have caused fragmentation and limited positive interracial contact among majority and minority groups within society (53). A survey among 83 Japanese internat ional students and 166 Indo-European students was conducted to measure stereoty pes of African-Americans and vicarious contact (television) variables (p. 52). Fuji oka (1999) chose to test for the influence of vicarious contact because previous research has found explicit visual images of AfricanAmericans to be more influential on those i ndividuals who lack or have limited direct contact with minorities than those individuals who have regular contact (p. 54). The results showed that Japanese students interaction with African-Americans was significantly lower compared to their in teraction with white s (Fujioka, 1999). Respondents were first asked to rate the le vel of contact they have with AfricanAmericans, whether formally or informally. Then they were asked in an open-ended


17 question to recall the most recent entertainm ent programs they had viewed and describe how African-Americans were portrayed in those programs. The results showed that Japanese overall ratings of African-Americans were lower (m ore negative) than those of whites for the following variables: rich, ha rdworking, intelligence, trustworthy, drug dealing, and education (Fujioka, 1999, p. 63) Like Shrum (1995), Fujioka (1999) used the social cognitive theory to explain why ones evaluati ons and interpretations (positive or negative) of television messages affect c onsequences of television viewing (p. 56). For example, the formation of stereotypes de pends heavily on how th e viewer interprets the portrayal of African-Americans on televi sion as being either positive or negative. According to Fujioka (1999), instrumental learning theories suggest that people prefer individuals who provide them with a favorable experience and dislike individuals who leave them with an unpleas ant experience. In terms of television effects, someone who has frequent positive contact with minorities will be unaffected by negative portrayals of African-Americans on television, versus someone who has frequent negative contact with African-Americans; the messages will affect each person differently. Thus, the study provides evidence that when firsthand information is lacking, television images can have a significant im pact on viewer perceptions (Fujioka, 1999, p. 67).


18 Televisions Contribution to Stereotyping Today, the average American watches a little over two hours of television each day, while the average college student vi ews an overwhelming three hours and 41 minutes of content each day (Bauder, 2005). Television has a remarkable storytelling function that can reach large numbers of people at one time. Its messages can construct viewers social reality by t eaching them about the intricacie s of society. Stereotypes are the result of messages that aid television in socialization. Stereotypes, according to Signorielli (2001), are conventional, standard ized images or conceptions; they are generalizations or assumptions that ar e often based on misconceptions (p. 343). Stereotypes lack originality ; they are dependent on th e commonly known and are often one-dimensional elements of portrayals of a particular person or group of persons (Signorielli, 2001). Stereotypes often target women, minorities, socio-economic status and sexual orientation. More importantly, television can encourage negative attitudes toward racial/ethnic minorities. Klaus Scherer (1970), identified televisi on as a major source of distinguishing something as simple as characteristics of our favorite superheroes and villains from as far back as the 1960s. Scherer (1970) studied how television (as we ll as comic books) are largely responsible for the ex istence of stereotyped judgments in person perceptions in post-Nazi-era Germany, by depicting heroes as tall, blond, and blue-eyed supermen while portraying villains as smal lish, dark-haired, dark-eyed, and sly-looking scoundrels (p. 92). Furthermore, during the Nazi era, Adol f Hitler may have reinforced this type of good-versus-evil stereotype, since his main ideology was glorification of what he referred to as the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan ( p. 92). Scherer (1970) posits that if these


19 images are shown in the mass media, the depic tions will be reflected in viewer judgments and they will consistently rate blue-eyed actors higher on positive personality attributes and lower on negative personality attributes than dark-haired, dark -eyed characters (p. 92). In contrast, if those same subjects we re to view counter-stereotyped heroes with dark-hair and dark eyes, they would evalua te those persons more favorably (Scherer, 1970, p. 93). Scherer (1970) analyzed two groups: 15 (n ine male and six female) students and 26 (15 male and 11 female) adults (p. 93). After viewing a series of movie clips and photographs, subjects were asked to rate their impressions of the acto rs (Scherer, 1970). Results indicated that blond-haired, blue-eye d types were viewed more positively than dark-haired, dark-eyed types. However, ther e were significant differences between the ratings from the two subject groups. After showing counter-stereotyped images of blond types, student subjects viewed the actors less positively than the adult viewers (Scherer, 1970, p. 95). Scherer (1970) says this may be attributed to lack of exposure of the younger generation to the Aryan ideology of N azi Germany and the excessive display of its blond-haired, blue-eyed representatives in the mass media (p. 95). Ultimately, Scherers study exemplifies how mainstream media can influence audience perceptions about members of society. Prior experimental and correlational studi es have shown that indeed counterstereotyped occupational portrayals can influence the atti tudes and aspirations of children (Wroblewski & Huston, 1987, p. 285). In a study of the effects of occupational stereotypes on adolescents, re searchers found that television serves as a source for occupational information and that it leads to sex-stereotyped views of the occupations


20 portrayed (Wroblewski & Huston, 1987). Acco rding to Roberta Wroblewski and Aletha Huston (1987), the amount of television viewed correlated with knowledge about occupations frequently shown on televisi on but not with knowl edge about other occupations (p. 285). The researchers admini stered a questionnaire to 65 children from fifth to sixth grades. The children were as ked to identify 25 of 60 prime-time network television dramas and comedies aired during 1987. They were asked to indicate whether they usually viewed the listed programs and to identify their favorite characters (Wroblewski & Huston, 1987, p. 290). Results indi cated that television portrayals were gender-typed more so than real life occupations. Males shown in nontraditional occupations were seen more negativel y in real life than on television. Wroblewski and Huston (1987) also introduced the gender schema theory According to the theory, through a series of experiences, children develop schemas or images of masculine and feminine attributes and activities (p. 286). Television can have two types of influences on those schemas: it could activate existing schemata or promote altered schemata (Wroblewski & Hu ston, 1987). More specifically, stereotypes shown on television can serve to activate existing schemata in children (p. 286). Children with a preponderant amount of sche ma are more likely to recall gender-typed information from television and, often times, will distort a message inconsistent with their schema. For example, the authors found that 5to 6 -year-old students who viewed films with male nurses and female doctors only recalled seeing the male doctors (Wroblewski & Huston, 1987). They remembered the data by matching them within the realms of their schema. The researcher s argued that the only way non-traditional occupational roles or schema-inconsistent information can be remembered is through


21 repeated images where viewers can have enough time to register the positive portrayals. The researchers assert that images on televi sion can influence schemas, attitudes, and aspirations of early adolescents, and that showing more consistent portrayals of women as lawyers, doctors, and police officers can have a profound effect on young girls (Wroblewski & Huston, 1987, p. 296). Throughout history, occupational role portrayals have b een stereotyped and more often sex-typed--meaning that career fields were far more limited for females than they were for males (Signorielli, 2001, p. 346). Some of the more common themes of stereotyped occupational roles were that more prestigious and high status professional law enforcement jobs were frequent among ma le characters, while female characters shared the less prestigious, less glamorous car eers like secretaries, nurses, teachers, and homemakers (Signorielli & Kahlenberg, 2001, p. 6). According to Signorielli and Kahlenberg (2001), during the 1970s and 1980s female characters in television shows were commonly seen in these traditional female occupations (p. 8). Marital status also became an important indicator as to whether female characters were cast in traditional fema le occupations like a secretary or nurse, or traditional male occupations like a police offi cer, doctor, or lawyer (p. 8). Single and divorced female characters were typically cast in traditional male occupations more often than in traditional female or gender-neutra l occupations (Signorielli & Kahlenberg, 2001, p. 8). Lastly, non-white characters or minoritie s, male or female, were most frequently cast in service or clerical pos itions (p. 6). In addition, ra cial/ethnic minorities made up only six to eight percent of prime-time television characters from the 1970s to the 1980s (Mastro & Greenberg, 2000).


22 Occupational Role Portrayals of Women on Prime-time Television Long before the shortage of minority characters on television, women of all ethnic backgrounds during the 1960s and 1970s were port rayed in ways inconsistent with their actual presence in the U.S. population (Elasmar, Hasegawa & Brain, 1999). Donald Davis (1990) asserts that wh ile changes have been made in televisions treatment of African-Americans, Hispanics, and others, littl e change has occurred in the portrayals of women (p. 330). Elasmar, Hasegawa, and Br ain (1999) compared the results of four studies conducted between 1971 and 1987 looking at the distribution of female characters on prime-time-television. In 1974, women made up 28 percent of major roles and were more likely to be shown in comedies than in any other genre (Elasmar et al., 1999). Female character roles increased in the late 1970s to 34.5 percent, but they were frequently cast in comedies or family dramas (p. 22). In a 1975 prime-time study by J.C. McNeil, 32 percent of characte rs on prime-time television were women and 44 percent of them were employed (Elasmar, et al., 1999) Findings from that study revealed 15 percent of women in both daytime and prime-time television were ethnic minorities; out of that, 12 percent had speaking roles and seve n percent had major roles (Elasmar et al., 1999, p. 22). Lastly, studies in the 1980s found few differences in gender stereotyping from previous years when women made up 29 percen t of characters on television (Elasmar et al., 1999). In order to identify the attributes an d actions of foreground characters in organizational settings and how they perf orm, Vande Berg and Streckfuss (1992) conducted a two-week study on 116 prime-tim e television program episodes on three


23 major networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC). They examined the ways in which female and male characters were portrayed, with a focus on equality of representation across industries, occupational roles, hierarchical position, depictions, genre and dramatic tone (p. 197). The researchers restricted the sample to regularly scheduled prime-time network programs, excluding all specials, m ovies, sports, and news programs (Vande Berg & Streckfuss, 1992, p. 197). The study used two forms of analyses: analysis of the foreground characters and analysis of the organizational actions performed by those characters. Foreground characte rs were defined as those ma jor and minor characters with speaking roles who serve an important plot f unction within an episode. The researchers chose to use dual analyses in order to identify significant differences in the organizational action that did not appear in the single overall ch aracter analysis (p. 204). This study, along with Mastro and Greenbergs (2000), not only quantified the number of women in professional careers, but also focu sed on the depictions of those characters within an organizational setting. Vande Berg and Streckfuss (1992) introduced the concept of organizational action as a useful contextual vari able to identify the behavior characters exhibited within occupational role portrayals. Five major behavioral categories are associated with organizational actions: interpersonal function, development and cultivation of interpersonal activities in the organization, which include s counseling, motivating and general sociabilities; informational function or disseminating information to and from organizational insiders and outsiders; decisi onal function (problem solving and conflict resolution); political function (display, de velopment, or use of power to accomplish individual or group self-inter ests); and lastly, the operati onal function, directly resulting


24 in manufacturing products, delivering servic es, or everyday work being done (Vande Berg & Streckfuss, 1992, p. 197). Female characters in managerial positions or decisional functions might exhibit different tr aits from women shown in secretarial or operational functions. Results indicated that female characters are far more likely to be portrayed performing interpersonal, counseling, and mo tivational functions in organizations, while their male counterparts were seen fulfilling informational, decisional, political, and operational functions in organizations (p. 204). In 1992, women were more likely to hold lower positions than males within the st atus hierarchy of their organization (Vande Berg & Streckfuss, 1992). The findings sugge st that television c ontinues to present career women as lacking the competitively ach ieved occupational st atus of their male counterparts (Vande Berg & Streckfuss, 1992, p. 205). Moreover, in a study by Donald Davis (1990) analyzing the portrayals of wo men on prime-time television, demographic variables identified most characters to be overly emotional, dependent, less capable as planners; dominated by men; and less intellig ent (p. 326). While shows like that of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Charlies Angels provided a progressive change in the roles of female characters, the por trayals were often undermined by what Davis (1990) refers to as scenes involving subliminal submissive ness and sexism. Needless to say, as Vande Berg and Streckfuss (1992) posited, televi sions world of work remained a mans world (p. 204).


25 Portrayals of African-Americans on Prime-time Television In 1970, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the Kerner Commission to study and make recommendations on the issue of improving media coverage of minority groups. His contention was the media seemed to encourage racial conflict by presenting African-Americans in negative and lim ited ways (Signorielli, 2001, p. 343). The Commission recommended an increase in the number of African-Americans among newscasters and television fi ction (Matabane & Merritt, 1996, p. 329). This was in response to widespread occurrences of vi olence stemming from r acial discrimination during the 1960s. In 1968, the Commission, formally known as the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, issued a report that iden tified broadcast television networks as having a significant role in the creation of an antagonistic schism between African-Americans and white America (Matabane & Merritt, 1996, p. 329). The Commission proclaimed that tele vision networks have a moral obligation to serve all of the nations citizens by representing thei r lives in both fiction and nonfictional programming (p. 330). Fictional portrayals of African-Americans on network television have changed dramatically since the 1960s. Paula Matabane and Bishetta Merri tt (1996) assessed the representation of African-American fictional characters on four prime-time television networks. They contend that during the time of the Commissions report there was a marked difference in the nations cultural and racial makeup as well as the marketplace of television and video delivery systems than the cultural makeup and marketplace during the 1990s (Matabane & Merritt, 1996, p. 329). Since th en, there has been a proliferation of


26 communications media and new technology that has led to the fragmentation of audienceswith more program choices and keener market competition (p. 329). The advent of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed for greater network/cable crossownership increasing monopoli zation by the very same corporate forces that were producing negative images of African-Americans; the same images condemned by the Kerner Commission (p. 329). Matabane and Me rritt (1996) assert that while we might criticize or applaud the visibi lity of African-American charac ters, there is a need to pay attention to the subtle messages in which ra cism and sexism are so often embedded in this era of supposed diversity and multicultura lism (p. 336). Therefore, it leads one to question whether the nation has progressed beyond the racist ideologies blatantly depicted in the media during the 1960s, or has the nation reverted back to where it started. According to Matabane and Merritt (1996) the influx of program competition and the rapid adoption of communi cations devices such as VC Rs, satellite services, and DVDs, have meant that television programs ar e given less time to establish themselves before being replaced by a new series (p. 330). Therefore, accord ing to Matabane and Merritt (1996) the only constant in network television is change ( p. 330). An issue of concern is that the values of the dominant class are reflected in television fiction, given that network executives who belong to that cl ass promote their own agenda or preferred values to help maintain the status quo (Matabane & Merritt, 1996, p. 331). In order to identify presen t-day portrayals of African -Americans, the researchers monitored episodes on four TV networks (A BC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) over a period of four weeks. Programs were coded for two types of information (Matabane & Merritt,


27 1996, p. 331): (1) characteristics of individual characters (i.e., demographics, physical depictions, roles played, and family relations hips), and (2) characteristics of individual programs (i.e., program setting, location, regi on, and racial composition of setting and neighborhood). A total of 142 African-American characters in 44 programs were analyzed; 59 percent were sitcoms and 31.8 percent were dramas (Matabane & Merritt, 1996). There were no all-African-American cast dramas or action programs (p. 332). Matabane and Merritt (1996) found the majority (60.6 percent) of AfricanAmerican characters were portrayed in positions of little power or significance. These positions were defined as having little consequenceor decision making power in the broader world, and included students, blue-c ollar workers, criminals, and unknowns (p. 332). Findings revealed 28 percent of African-Americans were cast in professional occupations and 10.6 percent were shown in law enforcement (p. 336). Another significant finding was that each network featur ed more males than females, with CBS and FOX having twice as many males than fe males (p. 336). There was also a large number of characters sh own with undeveloped bac kgrounds, unknown occupations, and unknown family connections meaning that many characters were not shown tied to a family or home life (p. 334). The researcher s contend that depictions of unknown social relationships among African-Ameri cans are dramatically disparate from reality and, often times, leave viewers to fill in the blanks or define char acters more by materialistic consumption levels that presume, but do not ad equately reflect, social class (Matabane & Merritt, 1996, p. 334). Although there were far more African-Americans on television than in the 1960s, the authors assert there were dist urbingly too many unknowns and


28 fewer cues for understanding those characte rs and how audiences might view AfricanAmerican images on television (p. 336). Sarah Eschholz, Jana Bufkin, and Jenny Long (2002) profess that it is rather typical for the media to either utilize st ereotypes disparaging females and minorities, perpetuate myths concerning their existence, or to completely exclude them, implying that members of these groups occupy no significant social space (p. 300). They posit that most films are produced with a capitalist system that operates under the principle of competition; therefore, producers are motivat ed to make movies that sell (p. 301). As media ownership becomes increasingly monopolized, open competition becomes threatened, providing consumers with poor c hoices of media content (Eschholz et al., 2002). Hence, these images inundate audience s with unrealistic portrayals of females and minorities, thereby persuading audiences to adopt cultural doub le standards based on race and sex (pp. 300-301). In order to determine the strength of fe male and minority portrayals, the authors analyzed the demographic composition of lead ing actors/actresses in the top 50 grossing films in 1996 in order to provide an assessm ent of character repres entations through an analysis of labor force part icipation, sex-role occupation, and gender (Eschholz et al., 2002). During the late 1990s, women and minorities were disproportionately excluded from starring roles in films and prime-time television, but were shown most frequently in comedies (Eschholz et al., 2002, pp. 304-305). Character age has long been tied to physical appearance and the underlying myth of youthful beauty has been seen as the basis of valuation of females in this soci ety. On the other hand, youth displayed by a minority character often times meant carefree comic or criminal (p. 306). Also, while


29 female and minority characters were show n as younger and less mature, male IndoEuropean characters tended to be older a nd depicted as more mature, (Eschholz et al., 2002). In 1996, female characters, in terms of de pictions of marital and parental status in film, were most frequently shown as devoted wives and mothers, while males were shown having the freedom to pursue challe nges and attain goals separate from the family (p. 306). Eschholz et al.s (2002) re sults indicated that in 1996 the number of AfricanAmerican actors and actresses in major film s increased from the early 1990s; women and men were shown in equal numbers as both spouses and parents; and women and men were shown having equal occupational status (Eschholz et al., 2002, p. 322). However, despite obvious improvements, the authors posit, Hollywood is a white mans world (p. 322). For example, women were found to be significantly underrepresented in leading roles, and along with minorities were show n younger than white males. Overall, the occupational prestige of African-Americans wa s still less "than their white counterparts (Eschholz et al., 2002). While comparing result s to previous resear ch, the authors also found that films were even more likely than television to sex-role stereotype both male and female characters (p. 318-319). Research Questions In light of the research cite d above, it can be argued that it is important to analyze portrayals of women and minorities in the workplace. Essentially, the patterns or messages displayed on television can provide the environment in which people define themselves, others, and their social realit y (Signorielli & Morgan, 1990). In order to


30 analyze character portrayals of African-American women in employment settings, one must identify the recurring images that can be constructed into a perceived reality among members of an audience. An important aspe ct of the cultivation theory begins with identifying and assessing the most recurrent and stable patterns in television content, and emphasizing the consistent images, portrayals, and values that cu t across most program genres (Signorielli & Morgan, 1990, p. 16). John Seggar and Penny Wheelers (1973) st udy, World of Work on TV: Ethnic and Sex Representation in TV Drama, analyz ed portrayals of women and minorities on prime-time television. The study analyzed the extent to which major minorities were represented and compared their portrayals wi th white American por trayals (p. 202). Some objectives of the study were to identify (1) the overand under-representation on TV relative to each groups proportionate re presentation in the national population; (2) sex distribution in allocation of roles; (3) overrepresenta tion and under-representation on TV of occupational roles in comparison to nation al labor market statistics; (4) analysis of the representation of selected groups relative to some sel ected specific occupations; and (5) the amount of exposure given to various minorities (p. 202). Findings revealed that women from all minority groups were under-r epresented on TV, and all groups were over-represented in professional and manage rial fields (Seggar and Wheeler, 1973, p. 213). There was an under-representation in occupations with little prestige among all minority groups, except in the service area (p. 213). The present study will also attempt to determine if the number of occupati onal portrayals of African-American women accurately reflect their presence in the U.S. workforce. Therefore, the first research question:


31 RQ1: Are portrayals of African-American fe male characters in professional careers on prime-time television less t han proportionate to their presence in U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics? According to Eschholz, et al., (2002), in the workplace, female depictions evolved but still lacked the quantity and prestige aw arded to male characters (Eschholz et al., 2002). Lead female characters were likely to be employed alongside a male most commonly involving some form of romantic tension between the characters within the storyline (p. 307). Likewise, minorities were portrayed in various occupational roles, but less frequently with inclusion into the upper class. African-American women were shown making a transition from unemp loyment, having few decision-making opportunities when employed, or having little organizational power (Eschholz et al., 2002; Matabane and Merritt, 1996). Marital status was a major factor in de termining occupational roles of female characters. For example, Elasmar et al. ( 1999) found that over twice as many unmarried females as married females were found in prof essional white collar positions (p. 29). Although the authors found no si gnificant relationship between marital status and success, more women who were not married we re clearly successful in comparison to those who were married (Elasmar et al., 1999). This also had an influence on the occupations of females in major roles. The authors found that 32.7 percent of female characters with major roles were unmarried or were formally married; only 12.6 percent of characters were married (Elasmar et al., 1999 ). The authors conte nd that the decrease in portrayals of married women on television could be the result of a shift in the societal value of marriage as defining a womans identity (p. 32).


32 In 1971, female characters comprised 18.3 pe rcent of characters on television but were over-represented in professional roles by 19.4 percent compared to statistics of the general population. During the same year researchers found more portrayals of unemployed women than men, when in fact, acc ording to research statistics, men had a higher rate of non-achievement than women (19 percent vs. 13 percent) did (Elasmar et al., 1999, p. 21). Males in professional ro les were extremely over-represented (58 percent) compared to their ac tual presence in the population ( 15 percent) (Elasmar et al., 1999). Herewith, the second research question: RQ2: Are the percentage of African-Amer ican male characters in professional careers higher than the percentage of African-American female characters in professional careers on prime-time tele vision, but less in U.S. Dept of Labor statistics? Elasmar et al. (1999) identified a possible association between the increase of the female presence on prime-time television and ch anges in American values (p. 21). In the 1980s, portrayals of career women on TV s hows changed dramatically from the 1960s and 1970s (p. 23). This was probably due to the acceptance of women as valuable individuals outside the home and trends in female contributions to the workforce (Elasmar et al., 1999, p. 24). Their content analysis found that 9.9 percent of female characters held professional, white-collar pos itions, while 19.1 percent were employed in blue-collar professions (p. 28). In recent prime-time television programming, most professi onal women have been depicted as single and strugglin g to find meaningful love lives. Ally McBeal, a show produced by FOX network, featured act ress Calista Flockhart playing a young,


33 single, white, educated lawyer who was in s earch of the ideal fant asy: love, couplehood, partnership, career, and children (Patton, 2001, p. 237). FOX had branded her character as the single career woman who was always swooning over potential mates. According to Tracey Patton (2001), McBeal was often soci ally constructed as innocent, vulnerable, angelic, delicate, and pure (p. 237). For ex ample, episodes often depicted McBeal with soft lighting, beautiful music, halos over her head, a nd walking on air (Patton, 2001, p. 237). This was quite the cont rast from her ethnic counterpart s, Renee Radick (AfricanAmerican) and Ling Woo (Asian-American), who were seen as evil, erotic, and hypersexualized vixens (p. 240). Ling Woo, played by Lucy Liu, is an accomplished entrepreneur and lawyer, but serves as the shows anti-McBeal (p. 250). According to Patton (2001), Woo is blunt, rude, crude, and secure; otherwise, socially constructed as the Asian fantasy woman (p. 250). The skill and intelligence of District A ttorney Renee Radicks character, played by Lisa Nicole Carson, was overshadowed by her overt sexual prowess and the cameras constant fixation on Ms. Carsons ch est area (Patton, 2001, p. 244-245). This showcase showdown depiction of professional women reif ies stereotypes of African-American women shown in professional careers as aggre ssive, over-sexed, and in constant search of companionship, especially when shown in the workplace. Eschholz, Bufkin, and Long (2002) analyzed female and minority presence in film. They found that minority and female characters had the following behavioral characteristics: improper dialect, esp ecially among all-minority casts; seeking inadvertent attention while acting in comedic roles or as ruthless criminals; behaving as passive, sometimes emotional, rule-followers who are preo ccupied with pleasing men;


34 and serving a more ornamental than functi onal role (Eschholz et al., 2002). Some additional behavioral stereotype s noted in African-American female characters were that they were portrayed in highly sexualized and masculine roles rather than occupying the space of traditional femininity (Eschholz et al., 2002, p. 322). Furthermore, Mastro, Greenberg, and Brand (2002) also found prim e-time television portr ayals of minority women to be more provocatively dresse d and unprofessional than their White counterparts (p. 336). Therefore, the final two research questions: RQ3: Are behavioral characteristics of Af rican-American female characters on prime-time television more negative compared to female characters of other racial/ethnic groups (Indo-European, Latin, Asian, and Native American)? RQ4: Do African-American female charac ters have more tense conversation characteristics on prime-time television com pared to female characters of other racial/ethnic groups (Indo-European, Latin, Asian, and Native American)?


35 CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY The purpose of this study is to examine occupational role por trayals of AfricanAmerican women on prime-time television. Spec ifically, the data analysis has two major focuses: (1) to compare the presence of Af rican-American female and male characters on television to workforce stat istics, (2) to compare beha vioral and conversational characteristics of African-American female characters in occupational roles with portrayals of females of other ethnic groups. To accomplish these objectives a content analysis of prime-time television shows on four television networks was conducted. This study presents the resu lts of a content analysis co nducted from the 2005 May sweeps, prime-time (8-11 p.m.) television schedule. A representative sample was collected from all fictional entertainment programming on UPN, FOX, WB, and ABC networks, excluding all sports, news, reality, and public affairs programs (Mastro & Greenberg, 2000, p. 693). Shows were randomly selected from each networks prime time schedule in order to create one composite prime-time week for each of the four networks. The programming which qualified revealed 37 s hows totaling 28 hours. A digital video recording (DVR) device or DVD recorder was used to record each program. In their study of racial minorities, Mastro and Greenberg (2000) selected a composite one-week sample from each of th e four major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) over a period of four weeks, fr om each networks prime-time (8-11:00 p.m. EST) television schedule (p. 693). Over a six-week period, Mastro and Greenberg (2000)


36 collected a one-week representative sample from the prime-time programming lineup of ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. Specific days of the week to be analyzed were selected at random from each networks prime-time schedul e so there remained a complete primetime week (seven different nights) for each of the four networks (Mastro & Greenberg, 2000, p. 693). After assessing the qualified programming, Mastro and Greenberg (2000) had 64 shows totaling 44.5 hours (p. 693). The present study is more modest in scale. The present study analyzed programs duri ng May sweeps, a time when networks enhance their television lineup in order to push advertisi ng rates up and gain the most audience viewership (Wikipedia, 2005). Base d on Nielsen ratings, sweeps periods are used for measuring television audiences and de termining advertising rates. In the U.S. sweeps months are February, May, July, and N ovember (Wikipedia, 2005). According to Sean Rocha (2004), because networks tend to show programs with shocking plot elements, it is almost perfectly unrepresentati ve of the year as a whole. Outside of these peak period; however, reruns of popul ar programs are more common (Wikipedia, 2005). Therefore, it is important to conten t analyze shows during this month because networks tend to over-dramatize character attributes to obtain a substantial audience viewership. Table 1 reveals dist ribution of shows in the sample. Table 1: Distribution of Television Shows in the Sample (May 2005) Network No. of hours No. of shows FOX 3.5 4 UPN 8.5 13 WB 9 11 ABC 7 9 Total 28 37


37 Mastro and Greenberg (2000) analyzed te levision content from ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. The present study will analyze pr ime-time television shows from UPN, WB, FOX, and ABC, because all four networks had the highest-rated prime-time television programs among U.S. households from 2003-2004 according to Nielsen Media ratings, with UPN, WB, and FOX having the highe st-rated programs among African-American audiences (2003-2004) (Nielsen Media, 2003-20 04). UPN and WB initially featured programming from shows in syndication take n from other networks (Wikipedia, 2005). The two networks had been created in 1995 w ith the premise that they would replicate and/or exceed the success of the relative ly new FOX network. Today, both networks, UPN particularly, produce shows that have been ranked among the top ten highest-rated prime-time television programs in African -American households by Nielsen ratings (Nielsen Media, 2003-2004). In addition, UPN and WB pride themselves on creating shows that target young adults and racial /ethnic minorities (, 2000). UPN was established in January of 1995 as part of a joint-venture between Paramount Studios (Viacom) and Chris-Craf t Industries United Television group (now owned by News Corp) (Wikipedia, 2005). From UPN, formally the United Paramount Network, the first telecast was a two-hour pilot of Star Trek: Voyager (Wikipedia, 2005). Later on that year, Viacom changed its name, opti ng for the use of the three-letter initials, UPN (Wikipedia, 2005). Accord ing to a report by, Fall Colors: How Diverse is the Prime-time Lineup ?, UPN has the highest propor tion of shows with diverse casts (80 percent). Furthermore, more th an half of the programs on both UPN and WB networks, and about 43 percent of those on FOX, feature a mix of race and ethnicity in their recurring casts (, 2000). In 2003, it was estimated that UPN was


38 viewed by 85.98 percent of all households, reaching 91, 689, 90 houses in the United States (Wikipedia, 2005). During that same year, The WB was create d as a joint venture through Time Warner and the Tribune Comp any. The network was established as a direct result of changes in the television re gulatory environment th at allowed television networks to produce and syndicate more of their own programming (Clark, 2004). The WB is widely recognized as the first to take advantage of fragmenting television audiences (Clark, 2004). According to Lynn Schofield Clark (2004), by tailoring programming to teens and young adults, the WB has become a successful broadcast network, reaching 88% of the U.S. audience through broadcast and cable channels. According to Elasmar, Hasegawa, and Brain (1999), prio r research on the portrayals of women in prime-time television suggest that there be strict identification of reliable trends and development of standard ized definitions and coding schemes (p.33). Like that of Mastro and Gr eenbergs (2000) study of racial minorities on television, the present study coded characters for the follo wing variables: (1) program levels, (2) occupational category levels, (3) individual ch aracter levels. Program level variables were coded for network, length, progra m setting (family/home, work/occupation, entertainment [club, concert, lecture], leis ure [park, recreation, outdoors]), and genre (action/adventure, comedy, crime, family, dram a, and fantasy/science fiction). Program setting variables were used to evaluate where the essence of the conflict and resolution occurred and where major and minor character s were more frequently observed in each episode. Occupational category level va riables were coded for professional, management/business, service, sales, office/ administrative, farming, construction/trades, installation/maintenance, production, and transp ortation career categories. Income levels


39 were not included as a variable in this study because such values rely heavily upon speculation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, professionals or professional occupations, are those with the theoretical or practical aspects of such fields of human endeavor as art, science, engineering, education, medici ne, law, business relations, administrative, managerial, and technical workmost of these o ccupations require a substantial educational preparation--usually at the university, junior college, or technical institute level (U.S. Department of Labor 1991). These characteristics, along with the appropriate industry codes for specific occupations, are based upon the 1987 Standard Industrial Classificati on (SIC) System and the newly im plemented Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System. Under the SI C system, each industry group is categorized by a two-to-four-digit SIC code. The codes are structured to allow historical comparisons to employment classifications from early year s (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). For example, todays SIC code for the radi o and television broad casting industry is 4830. The Standard Occupational Classificati on (SOC) System is used by Federal statistical agencies to classi fy workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). For example, all workers will be classified into one of more than 820 occupations reflective of their occupationa l definition (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). Each occupational category variable was referenced using the U.S. Department of Labors 2004-2005 Occupational Outlook Handbook which is also used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate labor statistics nationwide. Sinc e the aim of this study is to analyze occupational role por trayals of African-American female characters on prime-


40 time television, each occupational role portrayal served as the unit of analysis for each program. For variables within the individual ch aracter level, each was coded for role prominence, age, sex, ethnicity, marita l status, behavioral and conversation characteristics. The role prominence vari able evaluated actors/actresses whose name appeared in the opening program credits. For example, major roles are those female and male characters integral to the story line, and minor characters are supporting roles involved in but not integral to the plot. Background charac ters (i.e., people passing on the street, groups on the dance floor, a waiter as king for orders, etc.) were not included in the analysis. Marital status was coded as single, married, divorced/widowed, homosexual partner, and unable to determine. For the race/ethnicity variable there were five identifiers: African-America n, Asian, Latin, Native American, Indo-European (white), and Ambiguous (Mastro & Gr eenberg, 2000, p.693-694). The ambiguous race was used to code for characters who show evidence of being from mixed racial/ethnic backgrounds or is shown in a plot where race/ethnicity is indistinct. To evaluate behavioral, appearance, and conversational attrib utes of minority characters, Mastro and Greenberg (2000) c oded variables based upon five-point, bipolar adjective scales (p. 694). The present study eliminated th e appearance characteristics, because they were unrelated to the research questions and instead used a two-point scale (1 or 2) to create a more simplified coding sheet and to allow better interpretation of coder results. For the behavioral characteris tics, characters were coded for their accent, attitude, articulation, aggre ssion, decision making, friendliness, intelligence, language, respect, and work ethic. As described in Mastro and Greenbergs 2000 study, most of


41 these variables reflect an attribute or stigma which has been associated with an ethnic stereotype. Lastly, for conversational characteristics, charac ters were coded for tension, premeditation, and tone. Findings from the two se ts of variables desc ribe attributes of characters when they interact with other characters in a program (Mastro & Greenberg, 2000). In order to make empirical observations of character attributes, the following operational definitions were identified: portrayal-- the appearance of a person on the screen performing some kind of recognizable duty; occupational role --a social position in which a television performer was seen in an occupation as classified by the U.S. Department of Labor 2004-2005 Occupational Outlook Handbook as follows: professional, management/business, servic e, sales, office/administrative, farming, construction/trades, in stallation/maintenance, production, and transportation (Seggar and Wheeler, 1973, p. 203). Instead of operationali zing race/ethnicity and marital status, the researcher let the coder set her own criterion used to make both evaluations. While this may be equally vicarious as creating operati onal definitions for race and marriage by way of appearance or moral traits, it is necessary to assess perceptions of the coder, in this case the audience, as they are ultimately the ones who will be influenced by any possible distorted images. Additional operational definitions, as de fined by Merriam-Webster, Inc. (2005), include: Accent -intensity of utterance given to a speech sound, syllable, or word producing relative loudness; attitude -(a) a mental position with re gard to a fact or state, (b) a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state; articulation -(a) the act of giving utterance or expression, (b) the ac t or manner of articulating sounds; aggression-a


42 forceful action or procedur e (as an unprovoked attack) es pecially when intended to dominate or master; decision (making)-(a) the act or process of deciding, (b) a determination arrived at after consideration; friendliness -of, relating to, or befitting a friend: (a) showing kindly interest and goodwill, (b) not hostile; Inte lligence-the ability to learn, understand or to deal with new or trying situations; language -the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community; respect -the quality or state of being esteemed, expressions of respect or reverence; work ethic -a belief in work as a moral good; tension (a) inner striving, unrest, or imbalance often with physiological indi cation of emotion, (b) a state of latent hosti lity or opposition between individuals or groups; premeditation -consideration or planning of an act beforehand that shows intent to commit that act; tone -accent or inflection expressive of a mood or emotion, style or manner of expre ssion in speaking or writing (MerriamWebster Online Dictionary, 2005). In order to establish reliability of c oding decisions, a 10% random sample of shows was chosen and coded by the researcher and one other coder who was a University of South Florida alumna with a B.A. in Psychology. For the purpose of establishing reliability, the researcher and coder analy zed 10 percent of epis odes in the 37 randomly selected programs. The total number of shows coded was four-one from ABC, two from UPN, and one from FOX network. There were no shows chosen from WB network within the four randomly selected episodes. The author conducted a brief training session with the coder to explain the conceptual and operational definitions of each of the variables mentioned earlier. The interc oder reliability betwee n the coder and the researcher was computed with the help of Holstis (1969) formula:


43 C.R. = 2 M N 1 + N 2 where M is the number of coding decisions on which the coders agreed, and N 1 + N 2 refer to the number of coding decisions made by each coder (Matabane & Merritt, 1996, p. 331; Wimmer & Dominick, 2003; Hosti, 1969). The results generated from the calculation with the help of Holstis formul a, was .83. The researcher borrowed from Matabane and Merritts 1996 study of African-Americans on television to obtain a reliability score on an accep table level of at least 0.80. A single coding sheet was used to code a ll observed major or minor characters in each episode, categorizing them by their sex, profession, race/ethnicity, marital status, and behavior and conversational characteris tics (see Appendix A). The researcher and coder also observed characters in the program setting, or the area were they were more frequently shown-family/home, work/o ccupation, leisure, and entertainment.


44 CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS This study analyzed occupational role portrayals of African-American women during prime time television programming on A BC, FOX, UPN, and WB networks. Two of these networks were found to have at leas t one or more occupational role portrayals of African-American women in their televisi on programming; while the other two had absolutely none. UPN (N=15) and ABC (N=1), respectively, had the most coded occupational role portrayals of African-American female ch aracters in the sample primetime programming. In order to determine that a character role was an occupational role, coders observed the program setting which the ch aracter was most often featured. A total of 92 female characters were observed, w ith two having unidentifiable or ambiguous race/ethnicity. Native-American characters were nil. Out of those 92 female characters 48.9 percent of them were shown in the work/occupation program setting, while 41 percent were shown primarily in the family/home setting. Appendix B (p. 62) reveals attributes of the 37 television programs with racial/ethnic mi nority female characters for all four networks. A total of 30 female professionals were identified with 39 having no identifiable occupation. To determine a characters professional category, the coders observed the actions, dialogue, and overall plot of th e story. Once a professional category was perceived, then coders referred to the 2004-2005 U.S. Dept. of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook in order to make a coding decision. Table 2 shows the percentages of


45 all televised occupations of female characte rs by race/ethnicity. UPN not only had the highest number (N=15) of African-American female character occupational role portrayals, but their programming accounted for 90% of all African-American female characters coded within sample Albeit this figure may seem high, the majority of shows in the sample came from UPNs prime tim e programming line-up including those with the most diverse casts. WB and FOX networks had no African-American female characters from the episodes coded duri ng their May sweeps prime time programming line-up, with ABC having two coded characters. Table 2: All Televised Occupations of Female Characters by Race/Ethnicity African American Asian American Latin IndoEuropean Native American (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) Occupations N=20 N=2 N=5 N=63 N=0 Management/business ------11 --Professional and related 55 50 20 25 --Service 10 --20 11 --Sales 10 ----3 --Office/administrative 5 --------Farming ----------Construction/trades ------2 --Installation/maintenance ----------Production ----------Transportation ----------Unable to Determine 20 50 60 48 --Total 100 100 100 100 0 Note: The following percentages are based on a sample of 37 shows randomly selected from WB, FOX, UPN, and ABC networks 2005 May sweeps pr ime-time television schedule.


46 These data are important in order to de termine if the number of African-American females shown in professional careers coincide with U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics, and thus addressing the first research question: Are portrayal s of African-American female characters in professional career s less than proportionate to th eir presence in U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics? As indi cated in Table 2, the percentage of African-American female portrayals in professi onal careers on television was 55 perc ent versus 20.7 percent in the U.S. population as reported in the U.S. Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004 Household Data Averages. This may lead one to posit that Africa n-American females in professional careers are over-represented on televi sion compared to their actual presence in the U.S. However, the figure can be attributed to only one network. Ninety percent of all AfricanAmerican female characters for the entire se lected sample were shown on UPN network. Furthermore, in response to the percentage of other female racial/ethnic minorities in professional careers, Latin and Indo-European women were most frequently shown in the family/home program setting with an unidentif iable occupation. Ma tabane and Merritts study, African-Americans on Television: Twen ty-five Years After Kerner, conducted in the fall 1993 found that out of 142 charac ters analyzed over a four week period, 31.5 percent of the females were shown in prof essional/managerial occupations compared to 27.4 percent of the males (p. 333). In fact, fe males were far more likely to be shown as middle or upper-middle class (Matabane & Merr itt, 1996). However, in terms of the number of African-American characters pe r network in the Matabane/Merritt (1996) study, FOX far exceeded ABC, CBS, and NBC. Therefore, given the short duration of the previous study and the present study, one can not ultimately concl ude that all African-


47 American female characters in professional careers are over-represented on television, hence the second research question, Are th e percentage of Af rican-American male characters in professional careers higher than the percentage of African-American female characters in professional careers on television, but less in U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics? Table 3 reveals the distribu tion of African-American male and female characters in professional career s on television and in the U.S. Table 3: All African-Americans in Prof essional Careers on TV and in the U.S. Females Males (%) (%) N=20 N=27 Television 55 44.4 U.S. Dept of Labor 20.7 12.8 Note: Based on Bureau of Labor Statisti cs, 2004 Household data annual averages, Employed persons by occupation, race, Hispanic Latino ethnicity, and sex The percentages indicate that both African -American female and male characters in professional careers are over-represented on television in terms of their actual numbers in U.S. Dept of Labor statistics. However, in terms their distri bution (females being higher, males lower) on television and Bureau of Labor Statistics, the numbers somewhat mimic society. The findings indicate that te levision continues its attempt to reflect society in terms of socioeconomic status, also evident in Matabane and Merritts study in 1993. Nonetheless, these figures can be attributed to a shift in societal trends. According to Donald Davis (1990), studi es from the 1950s showed that men outnumbered women on television by two to one, even though women consisted of 51.2 percent of the population dur ing that time. Converse ly, in the 1970s television programming started featuring women in va ried situations outside of traditional


48 homemaker roles (p. 326). These portrayals co ntinued to evolve into what we see today, with the ABC drama, Commander In Chief which features actress Geena Davis starring as the first female President of the United States. While this is far removed from reality, it is not totally inconceivable since the appointment of Condoleezza Rice as the first African-American female Secretar y of State. In addition, in terms of higher education, African-American women are obtaining college degrees at a faster rate than AfricanAmerican males. In 1993, African-American women earned 45,000 B.A. degrees, compared to 23,505 degrees for African -American males (Malveaux, 1997). Remarkably, in 2000 an increase in the numbe r of masters degrees obtained by AfricanAmerican women exceeded that of African American (64%) men by 100 percent (Jet magazine, 2000). While these numbers are significant in explaining the presence of African-American female characters in professi onal careers, what is to be said about subliminal stereotypes in the portrayals of these women on prime-time television? According to findings from Eschholz, Bufkin, and Longs (2002) study of racial/ethnic minorities in modern film, Afri can-American female characters were found in highly sexualized, masculine roles rather than occupying a persona of traditional femininity (p. 322). Mastro and Greenberg ( 2000) also found African -Americans to have more portrayals as lazy and leas t respected thereby addressing the third research question: Are behavioral characteris tics of African-American female characters on prime-time television more negative than portrayals of fema le characters of othe r racial/ethnic groups (Indo-European, Latin, Asian, and Native Ameri can)? Table 4 reveals the distribution of stereotyped attributes among all fema le characters coded in the sample.


49 Table 4: All Female Behavioral Characteristics by Race/Ethnicity Variables African American Asian American Latin IndoEuropean Native American (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) N=20 N=2 N=5 N=63 N=0 Accent Heavy 5 --60 3.2 --None 95 100 40 96.8 --Attitude Apathetic 40 50 40 31.7 --Emotional 60 50 60 68.3 --Articulation Articulate 100 100 100 95.2 --Inarticulate ------4.8 --Aggression Aggressive 75 50 40 60.3 --Passive 25 50 60 39.7 --Decision Making Decisive 75 100 80 87.3 --Indecisive 25 --20 12.7 --Friendliness Polite 60 50 80 74.6 --Brash 40 50 20 25.4 --Intelligence Dumb 5 --20 4.8 --Smart 95 100 80 95.2 --Language Profane 5 ----3.2 --Reverent 95 100 100 96.8 --Respect Ridiculed 15 ----25.4 --Respected 85 100 100 74.6 --Work Ethic Lazy 15 --20 9.5 --Ambitious 85 100 80 90.5 --Note: The following percentages are based on a sample of 37 shows randomly selected from WB, FOX, UPN, and ABC networks 2005 May sweeps pr ime-time television schedule. In terms of character behaviors African-American women were not shown to have more negative attributes than other racia l/ethnic minorities. With regard to attitude, African-American women were perceived to ha ve similar emotional traits as all other


50 ethnicities; with Indo-European women having s lightly more portrayal s with an increased emotional state. Donald Daviss study tr acing the portrayals of women on television found that during the 1970s, when most wome n starring in television shows were IndoEuropean, women were depicted as overly em otional and dependent. In todays sitcoms and dramas, however, portrayals of women are extremely varied, but judging from the data in Table 4 it is apparent that coders the audience in this case, perceive IndoEuropean women to be more emotional th an all other racial /ethnic minorities. Subsequently, 75 percent of all African-Am erican female characters were noticeably more aggressive compared to that of all other minority women. Perceptions of AfricanAmerican women as aggressive can be attribut ed to racial stereotypes in early American films of the Black mammy servant who was de picted as loud and overtly aggressive. While these harsh stereotypes have dissipated, it is not uncommon to observe small reminders of them in some of todays fictional characters. Thus, the final research question asked Do African-American female characters have more tense conversation characteristics on prime-time television compared to female characters of other racial/ethnic groups (Indo-European, Latin, Asian, and Native American)? Table 5 reveals the distribution of conversati on characteristics by race/ethnicity.


51 Table 5: All Female Conversationa l Characteristics by Race/Ethnicit y Variables African American Asian American Latin IndoEuropean Native American (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) N=20 N=2 N=5 N=63 N=0 Tension Tense 30 50 20 55.6 --Relaxed 70 50 80 44.4 --Premeditated Premeditated 50 100 80 69.8 --Spontaneous 50 --20 30.2 --Tone Quiet 55 100 60 71.4 --Loud 45 --40 28.6 --Note: The following percentages are based on a sample of 37 shows randomly selected from WB, FOX, UPN, and ABC networks 2005 May sweeps pr ime-time television schedule. The data in Table 5 indicate that the per centages of conversati onal characteristics were relatively the same among all minority women. Because coders observed only two Asian-American female characters and at least five or more portrayals of other racial/ethnic groups, some percentages may s eem higher than others. African-American female characters had a half split fo r observed premeditated and spontaneous conversations. This was in contrast to re sults from Mastro and Greenbergs 2000 study that found African-Americans to have more perceived spontaneous conversations, yet they were also portrayed as being most re laxed (p. 700). In te rms of tone, AfricanAmerican female characters, alongside Latin females, were perceived as having louder speaking voices than all other female charac ters. According to Mastro and Greenberg (2000), Latino characters were also depicted as the least articulate, having the heaviest accent, and the least spontaneous conversati ons among their other ethnic counterparts (p. 700). Table 5 also revealed Indo-European fe male characters were seen as having more quiet tones when speaking, reifying stereot ypes mentioned earlier of white women as


52 having traditional feminine qualities. The data suggest that although the media have drastically improved depictions of African -American women on television in terms of occupational power and prestige, there remain s subliminal endorsement of stereotypes that continue to disparage racial/ethnic minorities.


53 CHAPTER FIVE DISCUSSION George Gerbner probably could not concei ve how much his cultivation theory would impact the field of ma ss communications nearly three decades later. Since 1976, researchers have been testing and re-testing the theory that relentlessly maintains the media have an influence on what we perceive about our social reality. The results remain consistent: televisions rep etitive and pervasive images can influence how we view members of society, including how we see ourselves. Several studies have been conducted on occupational role portrayals of minorities, especially, women. The present study is unique in that it focused specifica lly on occupational role portrayals of AfricanAmerican women and identified negative behavi or and conversational character traits. While African-Americans are largely over-repre sented on todays netw ork television in comparison to their presence in the U.S., th ere remains an ongoing need to analyze the evolution of their presence in the media, not only to dr aw conclusions about their depictions, but also to create a model that ca n be used to evaluate portrayals of other racial/ethnic minorities who will soon have a greater presence on network television. This study examined prime-time televisi on programming of four networks that were ranked by Nielsen Media as having the highest rated shows among minority households from 2003-2004. The results reve aled that UPN had significantly more portrayals of African-American women in pr ofessional careers, yet they had more African-American female characters with raci al/ethnic stereotyped attributes. Although the study findings provided just enough answers for the research questions posed, the


54 sample is not large enough to draw strong conclusions. One would need to perform a longitudinal study during each sweeps month (February, May, July, and November) for the calendar year to get signi ficant results. In addition, one would need to analyze repeated episodes of each selected show. Th e present study coded one episode from each of the sampled shows. Therefore, characters and scenarios may have been missed from a particular episode. Findings from this study would be of great er use if applied as a pre-test for a longitudinal study. For example, findings reve aled that 50 percent of all Asian-American female characters were seen as apathetic comp ared to all other female characters. This data would draw stronger conclusions had there been more than two Asian-American characters observed within the television sample. However, an item that deserves attention, in terms of the numb er of Asian-Americans observed, is that at least one of the two characters was seen as apathetic. It can be inferred that even the lack of television portrayal s can have a possible cultivation effect. In 2004, a study headed by the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium out of UCLA found that Asian-Amer ican actors were depi cted as asexual, isolated, and obsessed with professional st atus (NAPALC, 2005). The study, conducted from September through November 2004 on si x national broadcast networks, found that Asian-Americans were less likely to be show n in romantic or domestic relationships, which they posit, may contribute to an imag e that Asian-Americans do not represent the American Family (p. 4). In addition, As ian-Americans were also non-existent in network television shows set in highly Asian, Pacific, Islander Amer ican populated cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Ne w York City (NAPALC, 2005). According


55 to NAPALC president, Karen Narasaki, images li ke these, or the lack there of, imply that Asian-Americans are missing from the Amer ican social fabric, not even seen as neighbors or friends. It also contributes to the inability of other Americans to connect with them as people like themselv es (Agence France Presse (AFP), 2005). Another area that deserves attention is the low representation of Latin females on television and in professional occupations. Se veral of the Latin women featured in the sample prime-time programming were portr ayed in the home, having unidentifiable occupations. According to a research repor t by UCLAs Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies (2003), Latin Amer icans are the most underrepresented group in prime-time network television. Latin Am ericans account for 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet only accounted for about three percent of all charac ters in prime-time television in 2003 (Bunche, 2003). For the 1996-1997 television season, Mastro and Greenberg (2000) also found it difficult to observe Latin Americans on broadcast television because of their lack of repres entation. Given that this group is now the nations largest minority group, it is apparent that netw ork television is lacking significantly in represen ting all members of society. The same can also be said of Native Americans who continue to be non-existent in prime-time television. Finally, a less strong observat ion that should be addre ssed is that how we see ourselves may reinforce cultiv ation effects. While this study did not evaluate how television images can affect an audience, there are cultivation implications with regard to observations of the coders. Both coders for the present study were African-American women. This may have influenced coding decisions, specifically for behavioral and conversational characteristics of African-American female characters. It has been


56 implied that, disturbingly, African-Americans, at times, have ascribed to racial/ethnic stereotypes. Several of the programs observe d on UPN had minor refe rences to so-called racial norms. Not only does this detract attention from the talents of the AfricanAmerican actor/actress, it inadvertently endorses stereotypes about African-Americans and other racial/ethnic minorities. Since the cultivation theory states, that ul timately, how we see ourselves is linked to our exposure to the world of television, one can conclude that how we see ourselves is also how we view others in our community. Therefore, stereotypes are not solely reinforced through television, but also cultivated in us th rough our community, family, and friends. According to George Alexa nder (2003), the last decade has shown the greatest growth in the number of Black-cr eated or produced progr ams. Among popular shows on UPN and ABC, African-Americans ar e behind the camera--half of them being UPN shows (Alexander, 2003). Future research could expand upon this research study by first evaluating perceived views of raci al/ethnic minorities among other racial/ethnic minorities then have various racial/ethnic minorities code characters from prime-time television programming featuring diverse casts. With this method researchers will have assessed certain perceptions of the coders that could possi bly compromise study results prior to analyzing television c ontent. Future content analyses could also incorporate international coders, or those lacking dire ct contact with the racial/ethnic minorities observed in prime-time television programming. As mentioned in the revi ew of literature, Yuki Fujioka (1999) found that television can have a substantial influence on viewers who lack firsthand information. He tested his hypothesis that rather than th e number of television programs seen, viewer


57 evaluations of television portr ayals significantly affects the influence of stereotypes. Using results from a survey of 83 Japane se internationals and 166 Indo-European students, Fujioka (1999) found a correlation between the number of perceived positive television portrayals of African-Americans and positive views of African-Americans, and vice-versa, among Japanese intern ational students who lacked direct contact. Several of the stereotypes and negative traits observed by the white students were not observed by the Japanese internationals in Fujiokas study. In conclusion, the theory of cultivation requires regular evaluation of televised images that can influence audience perceptions of members in society. It is also important for researchers to identify the unseen images that can manifest perceptions of an invisible race. In addition, cultiva tion can extend well beyond television into our own communities; this should be accounted for when selecting coders for future content analyses.


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63 Appendix A: Coding Sheet Program Network : FOX ABC UPN WB Program name __________________________________________________ Program length 30:00 minutes 60:00 minutes Program genre crime comedy drama action/adventure fantasy/sci. fi family Program Setting 1-Family/home 2-Work/occupation 3-Ente rtainment (club/concert/lecture) 4-Leisure (park/recr eation/outdoors) 0-Unable to determine A. Character name or description _______________________________________ B. Character Role 1-Major 2-Minor (Disregard ALL background characters, passers-by, wa itresses, etc.; anyone insignificant to the storyline) C. Age 1-20-29 2-30-39 3-40-49 4-50 and above D. Sex 1-Male 2-Female E. Occupation ____________________________________________________ F. Category: 1-Management/business 2-Profe ssional 3-Service 4-Sales 5-Office/administrative 6-Farm ing 7-Construction/trades 8-Installation/maintenance 9-Production 10-Transportation 0-Unable to determine G. Ethnicity 1-Indo-European (white) 4-Asian 2-African-American 5-Native American


64 3-Latin 0-Ambiguous H. Marital Status 1-Single 2-Married 3Divorced/Widowed 4-Homosexual/Partner 0-Unable to determine Behavioral Characteristics I. Accent Heavy None 1 2 J. Attitude Apathetic Emotional 1 2 K. Articulation Articulate Inarticulate 1 2 L. Aggression Aggressive Passive 1 2 M. Decision Making Indecisive Decisive 1 2 N. Friendliness Polite Brash 1 2 O. Intelligence Dumb Smart 1 2


65 P. Language Profane Reverent 1 2 Q. Respect Ridiculed Respected 1 2 R. Work Ethic Lazy Ambitious 1 2 Conversational Characteristics S. Tension Tense Relaxed 1 2 T. Premeditation Premeditated Spontaneous 1 2 U. Tone Quiet Loud 1 2


66 Appendix B: Attributes of 37 TV Progr ams with Minority Female Characters n Attributes (N=92) (%) Program Genre Comedy 44 47.8 Crime 9 9.8 Drama 29 31.5 Family 2 2.2 Fantasy/Sci. Fi. 8 8.7 Program Setting Family/home 38 41.3 Work/occupation 45 48.9 Entertainment 1 1.1 Leisure 5 5.4 Unable to determine 3 3.3 Network ABC 23 25 FOX 8 8.7 UPN 37 40.2 WB 24 26.1 Role Major 71 77.2 Minor 21 22.8 Age 20-29 yrs 24 26.1 30-39 yrs 52 56.5 40-49 yrs 13 14.1 50+ yrs 3 3.3 Occupation Managemnt/bus. 7 7.6 Professional 30 32.6 Service 10 10.9 Sales 4 4.3 Office/admin. 1 1.1 Construction 1 1.1 Unable to determine 39 42.4 Race/Ethnicity Indo-European 63 68.5 AfricanAmerican 20 21.7 Latin 5 5.4


67 Appendix B (Continued) Asian 2 2.2 Ambiguous 2 2.2 Marital Status Single 47 51.1 Married 20 21.7 Divorced/ Widowed 8 8.7 Unable to determine 17 18.5 Note: The following percentages are based on a sample of 37 shows randomly selected from WB, FOX, UPN, and ABC networks 2005 May sweeps pr ime-time television schedule.


68 Appendix C: Sample of S hows Coded for All Networks FOX UPN WB ABC House Cuts Living with Fran Desperate Housewives The O.C. Veronica Mars Charmed Lost Stacked Kevin Hill Gilmore Girls George Lopez 24 Half in Half One Tree Hill Blind Justice Eve Reba Greys Anatomy King of Queens What I like About You Alias One on One Everwood My Wife in Kids All of Us 7 th Heaven Hope and Faith Bad Girls Guide Smallville According to Jim Girlfriends Jack & Bobby That 70s Show Blue Collar TV Star Trek Enterprise CSI


69 Appendix D: Prime-Time Progr amming Record Schedule, May 2005 Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Network May 1-7 May 8-14 May 15-21 May 22-28 May 29June 4 ABC Hope and Faith Greys Anatomy My Wife and Kids George Lopez Blind Justice Lost Alias According to Jim Desperate Housewives FOX House The O.C. Stacked 24 WB 7 th Heaven Blue Collar TV Charmed Gilmore Girls Smallville Reba Everwood Jack & Bobby Living with Fran One Tree Hill What I like About You UPN Eve Girlfriends Half & Half CSI Veronica Mars King of Queens All of Us Star Trek Enterprise Kevin Hill One on One Cuts That 70s Show The Bad Girls Guide