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As we turn the television on Saturday morning for our children to watch their favourite cartoons, are there truly just mindless, colourful and furry characters that fill the screen? Or do they develop other underlying messages behind the simple and explicit lessons intended for their audience?
As parents click the remote for some undisturbed time while their children are being entertained, maybe we should pay more attention to the influential and stereotypical characters with specific gendered roles that are pronounced throughout our society today.

arthur

To put Arthur in conversation with the concept of gender roles, we need a basic understanding of the show. “The 8-year-old title character of the animated series, Arthur, is a sweet, curious kid with more than his share of self-consciousness. He shares insecurities, adventures, and the spotlight with a varied cast of friends and family members. Although technically Arthur is an aardvark and his friends are other kinds of animals, they act just like real people. Based on the book series by Marc Brown, Arthur premiered in 1996” (Steyer, Spotlight on Learning: Special Needs Guide. Common Sense Media Inc. 2013). With use of furry animated animals and fun music, Arthur may seem nothing more than a child friendly cartoon. In contrary, the use of prominent roles for each character in Arthur’s family is what naive children will become desensitized to without awareness! Arthur has two parents, a mother and a father; this seems typical right? The mother, Jane, is a respectively dressed woman with feminine features and works from home as an accountant. She is seen doing household chores, dealing with Arthur and D.W.’s conflicts, as well as nurturing her baby, Kate. Arthur respects his mother and treats her as an authoritative figure. Arthur’s father, David, is also an appropriately dressed male with masculine characteristics and plays the head role in the house.

The slight twist and turnover that creates friction with our perceived social norms today is the father’s job. David works as a self-employed chef with his own cake, pastry and catering business. For most children, like myself, who were raised in the stereotypical dual-income family, this may come of surprise. In a heterosexual marriage with children, it is common that the mother is the nurturing guardian and the father is the breadwinner. Due to cost of living, which is consistently increasing, it becomes more common and accepted that both parents produce an income for the family. The jobs in our world have been gentrified as well, therefore, it creates bias in regards to the type of employments parents have, based on their sex. As I would eagerly sit down to watch Arthur, it took a slight adjustment and a conscious perspective to accept the father as a chef in the family, rather than a mother in the kitchen.

The innocence of children today is what allows them to absorb these fundamental aspects of television shows and translate their knowledge as they form expectations to the world around them. These simple yet influential aspects from Arthur can shift social norms and break stereotypical beliefs of gender roles in society.

JS

Work Cited:

Steyer, James. Spotlight on Learning: Special Needs Guide. Common Sense Media Inc. 2013. http://www.commonsensemedia.org. Web. 3 March 2013.

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4 thoughts on “Arthur: What Should and Should Not Concern Parents?

  1. While disrupting gender norms is very important in children’s programming, there are other aspects of socialization which children (and their parents) become accustomed to and do not question.

    Whiteness, and the lack of representation of people of colour in children’s programming on stations such as Disney’s The Family Channel, for example, is still a problem. Not only that, but I still hope to find a highly rated, popular, children’s television show which features openly LGBT characters.

    Choosing to study children’s televisions shows as a medium through which socialization occurs was clever, and highly relevant to our discussions about gender&race in popular culture.

    E.M.

  2. I agree with you completely. These gender sterotypical types of shows brainwash innocent children into thinking “what is seen on television is what is right.” Which is definitely not the case. Yes, children will eventually realize that what is seen on television is not reality. However, I do not think children should be exposed to such limited aspects since it may not be the most healthiest way for them to learn. Similarly to what E.M. said above, I also think a more variety of discourses/bodies/ideologies should be covered in media today; whether it be more LGBT characters or racialized characters.

    Overall, I enjoyed reading your blog! 🙂

    H.B.

  3. I agree with your points. I think that most children at such a young age will not pick up on many of the underlining messages in the television shows that they are watching. However as they get older they may start to realize the underlying messages in many of these shows. Also it would be great if children’s television shows had different types of characters with different sexualities, races, and cultures so the views would be more open to such ideas at a young age.
    K.S.

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