The Depressing Depiction of Men in the Media

 Nicole Johnson believes movies and television shows can be funny and still portray men in a positive light. Why it’s not being done in this day and age baffles her.

Growing up, my brother, Matt, and I were unapologetic television and movie buffs. We loved any box with rabbit ears, and the silver screen was a magical place where Extra Terrestrials, Ewoks, and Super Heroes lived. In fact, I could call up Matt right now and say, “Jack Abramoff is as corrupt as Boss Hogg”, and we would nostalgically burst out loud laughing over the comparison.

A portion of our childhood was shaped by Happy DaysBensonBattlestar GalacticaDifferent StrokesGood TimesThe Cosby Show, Little House on the Prairie, and of course, reruns of The Brady BunchLeave It to Beaver, and Lassie, (just to name a few). Moreover, our minds were influenced by the educational cartoons of the time.  Don’t scoff; we learned a lot from The Smurfs and Fat Albert. As for the movies, Star WarsSupermanIndiana JonesBack to the Future, and E.T. will always be some of our favorites.

The aforementioned movies and televisions shows not only entertained us, but they taught us right from wrong and proved goodness undeniably conquers evil. My brother and I were fortunate; we grew up during the decades where men were celebrated in film and television. I’m grateful we were raised at a time where industry giants were at the apex of their careers. Thank you, George Lucas and Norman Lear.


It didn’t matter if we were watching Tom Bosley’s Mr. Cunningham, John Amos’s Mr. Evans, or Christopher Reeve’s Superman (Clark Kent), my brother and I knew these characters were strong and honorable. There was no ambiguity; we knew they were good men. In our generation, media outlets consistently showcased two types of dignified gentlemen: the type of men Matt would want to emulate and the type of men I would want to marry. Despite our affinity for Hollywood, we didn’t learn everything from fiction. My father provided us with a real-life, everyday example of what it meant to be an extraordinary man. His tutelage continues to this day. Thank you, Dad.


The media I was exposed to in my youth and adolescence is the antithesis of American media today. In 2011, there is a dearth of movies and television shows portraying men in a manner worthy of emulation. Currently, programs in the medical, legal, and criminal justice genre feature certain men as honorable and capable, however there are few television dads who could rival the television dads of generations past. Ergo, the dads incarnated on ABC’s Modern Family    are vaudevillian compared to the standards of the 1960’s and 70’s.

Here’s what I find tremendously disconcerting: Hollywood has started writing and producing content which depicts men as ridiculous and as people who should not be taken seriously. The characterizations of men in the media over the past two decades portray men as weak and incompetent. Interestingly enough, it’s men who are behind the scenes doing this, not women. Hollywood is a notorious “boys club.”


Why do male movie executives (yes, Jud Apatow, I’m referring to you) consistently disseminate this type of content? Clearly the men creating movies such as Knocked UpOld SchoolThe 40 Year Old VirginPineapple ExpressSuper BadThe HangoverForgetting Sarah Marshall, and I Love You, Man are simply seeing dollar signs. (For further proof, watch the trailer for the upcoming movie The Sitter.) What man would walk away from these movies saying, “I want to be like him?” Conversely, what woman would walk away saying, “I want to marry him?” I understand it’s designed to be entertaining, but if I were a man, I’d be horrified.

Television executives are equally as culpable in contributing to the debasement of men. The most glaring example is ABC’s newest show, Man Up.  I’ve seen two full-episodes and I am disgusted ABC actually put this show on the air. ABC’s Man Up portrays men as infantile, incapable, uncultured, weak, pathetic, and flat out moronic (I could go on, but I’ll stop here). Don’t the executives at ABC realize this show is damaging to men? Do the writers not care they are depicting men as buffoons? Why not just put the male actors in clown suits and call it a day?

I’m tired of Hollywood trying to sell me on the concept of “loveable idiots”, and I am disheartened by the ubiquitous content that tears men down. I love filling my life with laughter, however why are my current content choices trying to get me to laugh at a reduced version of men? Why is Hollywood trying to get me to focus on the broken-down, allegorical version of who they think my husband is? Obviously they don’t know my husband.


Millions of men are driven, capable, intelligent, honorable, responsible, etc. At present time, why is this not regularly celebrated on film and television? I wonder if the media is deliberately trying to degrade men, because I know there are ways of infusing positive aspects of manhood and masculinity into content while maintaining the comedy and excitement. Case in point: FrasierScrubs, and Jim Carrey’s, Liar Liar.

I hope media outlets will revamp their destructive strategies. The current template has the potential to be catastrophic to men (and women). There’s a reason why Kay Hymowitz wrote Manning Up, and it’s not solely because of the economy and Feminist movement. The media has contributed to a portion of this plight. Perpetuating images of the “man-child” has established the need for academic and sociological involvement. Thank you, Kay Hymowitz.

To the executives at ABC and beyond, men deserve better. Every protagonist should not be painted as a pinhead, and all antagonists shouldn’t be written as angry Neanderthals. The superfluous use of these stereotypes is depressing.  It’s time to redesign the formula.  Good men are everywhere; let your content reflect this fact.


About Nicole Johnson

Marketing Maven » Sales Consultant » Brand Builder » Energetic Entrepreneur » Networking Enthusiast » Writer » Wife » Good Men Advocate


  1. As a man I find it difficult to find movies I want to watch not only because they are demeaning , but they hold no suspense. Any male character who insults a woman or child will be severely punished later in the film, and the same old “single mother makes good” plot will be repeated.
    In a quest for dollars, media has catered to women at the expense of men. In addition, so called news shows always in search of ratings, way over cover stranger abductions and child molestation because they are sensational. The chances of a child being severely harmed by an accident are about a thousand times more likely than being abducted or molested by a stranger, yet in America today we see every man as a potential pervert. The effects of negative portrayal of men is far reaching, mainly because it causes them to drop out of everything. Why work hard to gain a skill and a high income? If you do your wife and kids will relegate you to the basement or your “man cave” , so you won’t get to even enjoy the ;fruits of your labor.
    Well, women now hold the majority of seats in colleges , yet gravitate toward the liberal arts. Our positions for engineers and hard core scientists go unfilled, as do the resumes of people with art history degrees. Our society has already suffered. men living with their parents and not working has reached epidemic levels, and contractors are desperate for skilled people in plumbing, plastering, carpentry and all the skilled blue collar fields. It’s no wonder people pay a high premium for a house built by our grandfathers if they have been maintained , they are so far superior to a new one built today.
    We are now sailing off old accumulated wealth, with much of our work being outsouced or done by immigrants. Like a wealthy family with lazy grandkids, the money will cycle out of our hands and into those in cultures where men are still respected and trained to work. and our great grandchildren will struggle with a lack of housing and low standard of living. Adult men were a bad group to disenfranchise , we already see the effects now and its going to get allot worse. Men don’t say much because we are taught to not complain, but we hate it

  2. Hi,

    Yes, they’re and unfair easy target a little, because women in the western world are granted social rights to be primary caregivers, bread-winners, emotional and serious and they may express themselves in lots of ways. Unlike men who are stereotyped and expected to conform to inflexible gender roles and also to be scared of their femininity( men and women have both masculinity and femininity and in varying degrees.). Women who act follow manly pursuits don’t have their women-hood questioned, while men following womanly pursuits could be socially ostracized, or be physically attacked.

    Men have great qualities in different areas and should be celebrated equally with women, and gender roles should not be strict, but allow individuals to nurture and express themselves. Hollywood should create films that show men and women in varied and mixed roles.

  3. Jason, it wiped out my comment too! It used to refill this box with what I wrote when it refreshed, but not this time, how frustrating!

    I will try to make a briefer point. I think this reflects a more general trend of creating characters who are flawed so they are more believable as real people. Because the assumption is that no man can be as perfect as Mr. Cleaver all the time. Those men of yesteryear’s television might have been good role models, but they wouldn’t pass the buck nowadays. Viewers are proving with their box office money that they want characters with everyday flaws, because in real life, no one is an Angel.

    Just look at the men who try to present themselves as Good Men. The moment a man tries to paint a picture of himself as Good, he has an army of opponents looking to dig up dirt. Politics would be one example of this (timely case in point: Herman Cain), but it happens even in less competitive arenas. When Steve, the host of children’s show Blues Clues, left the show, rumors ran rampant that he died of a coke overdose (or similar drug habit). Truth was, he was never really interested in the children’s show market and wanted to move on to other things. But people wanted to speculate that he left the show for some dark, secret reason. We LOVE other people’s dark secrets because it makes us feel better about our own flaws. That’s why sites like TMZ exist. That’s why, when I worked at a newspaper in the online department, the highest-grossing element on our website in terms of pageviews were always the galleries of local jail mugshots.

    And it’s even better if the skeletons in the closet are not actually skeletons, but everyday things like drinking too much, philandering, failing at relationships, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time (a la Phil from Modern Family). Because then the characters become avatars for the viewers, something to relate to.

    All that said, I would love to see more admirable depictions of men AND women in TV and movies, but unfortunately that’s not what sells the ads or movie tickets. Joss Whedon’s Firefly was chock-full of Good men and women – all of whom had believable flaws…CANCELED. (Yet it remains one of my favorite TV series of all time and has a permanent spot in my Netflix Instant Queue.) There’s just not enough of an audience for Good Men, sadly.

    • HidingFromtheDinosaurs says:

      I believe your last paragraph is missing the words “Except for Inara, who was basically perfect at everything, which wouldn’t have been so bad if the actress could pull it off”. It was still a great show, but it wasn’t perfect.

      Honestly, the thing that’s bugged me the most recently was an episode of Castle (normally a show I enjoy) where the running joke was “who roofies a guy, all you have to do is ask”. It took me half an hour afterwards to explain to my assembled female relatives (my dad doesn’t watch the show), who were all laughing uproariously, how horrible that was and they still never really took it seriously.

      Honestly, as a kid growing up in the 90s and 00s, I got most, if not all, of my role models from novels significantly older than I was because the only compelling character on TV was the animated Batman.

  4. Jason Fritz says:

    One more comment: I was interrupted while typing this and forgot one thing I wanted to say.

    For an excellent portrayal of a non-idiot man in a sitcom (at least I think so, anyway) check out Whitney on NBC. The Alex character is essentially the straight man to Whitney’s neuroses, but he’s not depicted as anything like a buffoon or a caveman. It can be done. You’ve just got to know where to look.

  5. Jason Fritz says:

    Earlier this afternoon, I typed up a response to another post (the one about Two and a Half Men, but the website reset itself and ate everything I’d written) talking about how I think this type of characterization of men can largely be laid at the feet of the half-hour sitcom format and largely lazy writers.

    When producing half-hour sitcoms, you really only have about 22 minutes of screen time once you factor in the commercials, meaning that any story you tell has to be very abbreviated. It therefore becomes easier to use shorthand characterization–archetypes. Once you know that Charlie (on Two and a Half Men) is the drunk womanizer and Alan is the beat-down ex husband, there’s really nothing else you need to know about those characters.

    Now, I know it’s possible to get more nuanced characterization even in a half-hour sitcom, but it doesn’t really surprise me that overworked writing staffers are tending to utilize more simplistic characterization as a way to make their jobs easier. I don’t see anywhere near such a depressing depiction of men (on TV, anyway) when you look at 1-hour dramas. Shows like Terra Nova, Law & Order: SVU (when it comes to the main characters, anyway), N.C.I.S., Burn Notice, on and on all portray pretty positive depictions of men. But then, they have more time to fit their material in and can get into more subtlety.

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents.

  6. Lennie Ross says:

    Great article, Nicole.

    Yes it seems the scatalogical humor and portrayal of men as goofy pigs is what Hollywood makes money off of more that the nice guy… But here are my two thoughts. As a writer, I have leaned that real life is boring. Yes everyone has a story, but few are best sellers and Hollyood is only interested in box office gross. When a formula works, they repeat it until it doesn’t work anymore.

    Second thought is, perhaps there are just not enough good men out there, so it’s easier for them to portray what is common. God knows I’ve been looking for a decent guy who can dress himself and doesn’t sit around and drink beer all day.

    You have to look at how women are portrayed as well… In comedy… It isn’t any better. You think the characters in bridesmaids were an accurate portrayal of women? I sure hope not or we are all doomed.

    • Venom Froggy says:

      “Hollywood is a notorious “boys club.”

      Yes, as always, it’s fault of men, isn’t it. The ladies haven’t done anything in the past 40 years to land us here, oh no. As always, the fairer sex is absolved of all guilt while men (surprise, surprise) are bearing the responsibility to fix everything.

      And THIS, my dear Nicole, is why you will never see your wish come true. Have a nice day.

  7. Thank you for this great article. I couldn’t agree more with what you are saying.

    It is true. If I think back to when I was a teenager I remember watching movies with actors like Cary Grant, John Wayne or Kirk Douglas. There was one characteristic that always distinguished the characters they played: strength. They stood for something. They had values and they were uncompromising about them.

    For me that was truly inspiring and I think that is the essence of being a man.

    Somehow that has gotten lost.

    Today when we see male characters in movies they rarely have strength (James Bond being one exception). Instead of being sexual, they are ruled by horniness. Instead of being strong they surrender. Then somehow when they have lost the last bit of their dignity, they discover they love the female character and go through ridiculous debasement declaring their ‘love’. They reek of desperation and when the male and female characters finally unite it seems more an act of sympathy on the side of the woman.

    And as you point out so well, women aren’t attracted to actions like these in reality.

    A few months ago I tortured myself through an example in the movie ‘The Ugly Truth’. In the story a sexist asshole turns into a submissive whimp when he discovers ‘true love’. Horrifying indeed.

    Unfortunately, I think this message is taking its toll on men in the real world as well. I see so many men apologizing for their masculinity in behavior or words. It’s a sad thing to see.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Joss. No, Hollywood doesn’t represent many kinds of people. It tries to give various kinds of people what they want. It appears that Hollywood thinks, probably correctly, that an economically sufficient number of women like seeing men portrayed as doofuses, and there is no countervailing economic pressure. So it’s all good to them.
    You can call up and complain, but they wouldn’t pay you any attention because….they’re already not paying you any attention. You may as well not exist. It’s as if they’re daring you to boycott something you never dealt with in the first place. Go ahead. See what difference it makes.
    Now, if you could convince an economically significant number of women to complain and threaten a boycott, there’d be a change pfq.
    Luck with that.

  9. Despite male “titans” sitting on the top of the media empires, Hollywood isn’t quite the boy’s club we envision. The middle tiers of networks have a number of women in fairly powerful positions. Several network heads of comedy development are women. The issue, however, isn’t so mars-venus. 1) Middle-tier executives with TV networks are, by and large, risk averse and not creative. And 2) dumb guys test well. Sticking to the middle-of-the-fairway makes it a lot harder to be fired when something doesn’t work. At some point, the inept man (which can be an incredible character: see Homer Simpson) became a central character because he was likable in a forgettable and non-threatening way. This was probably around the time that getting hit in the balls became a LOL punchline. Focus groups have some blame in this. If you’re living in LA and have nothing to do to the point that you’ll go burn an hour of your time for a few slices of pizza, you get to help decide (to some degree) what goes on TV. In small doses, dumb, physically awkward and disconnected from reality are funny. As the premise for a central character, it’s a bridge too far. Maybe they have been trying to replicate the Home Improvement experience ever since it ended. Then again, maybe the sitcom medium hasn’t really changed much. Were Ralph Cramden or Archie Bunker men that we wanted to be/be with?
    The good news is that drama seems to do a better job. The male characters in the incredibly popular House, The Mentalist, the Law & Order, NCIS franchises, etc feature incredibly capable but also incredibly flawed men.
    It would be great if there more characters like Jack Donaghy or Jeff Winger in sit-coms… but I guess not enough people watch 30 Rock and Community, respectively, for that to be much of an option. Maybe we get the TV we deserve.

  10. Yes, Richard. That was my point. Hollywood/popular media does not represent me or good men. I think the whole “role models are for real life and media is for entertainment” is a cop out. I don’t find demeaning ads, sexist advertising or doofus male depictions/bitchy dominant female depictions entertaining – I find it as annoying there as it is in real life. And good luck getting the real world to stop trying to imitate what they see on TV, in the sports arena, in advertising, at McDonald’s and in music.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    Joss. The question isn’t about you and your television habits. It’s about why the general presentation of male characters is so doofus-like. It will continue to be, absent your viewership.
    That’s because the target market, for sitcoms and advertising, is women and the pros think women like this stuff. My opinion–for what it’s worth–is that the professionals have the target market pretty clearly figured out. Or they wouldn’t be doing it. If the target market changed what it liked, so would Hollywood.
    Hollywood hasn’t, so…their view of the target market is probably spot on.
    If it were a matter of talking to somebody about this, it would be to the target market, the women who think this crap is dan and finedy.
    Luck with that.

  12. Transhuman says:

    Modern media are playing to their market; they know that women consume more of this form of entertainment and thus they pitch their product to their consumers. Consider, why do sporting events have cheerleaders in skimpy outfits? It certainly doesn’t help get some pigskin over the line but it is entertaining for their primary audience, that would be men.

    Role models should be in life; characters in film and television are caricatures because that makes the story being depicted as more entertaining.

  13. “Millions of men are driven, capable, intelligent, honorable, responsible, etc. At present time, why is this not regularly celebrated on film and television?”

    “Good men are everywhere.”


  14. You miss something. Let’s just talk about Knocked Up for a second. The male lead is incompetent, unattractive, and boring. He fails to be anything worthy of admiration, and lacks any quality that would make a woman interested in him. Yet he still gets the (extremely attractive) girl, and the family man life that is still desirable, despite doing nothing but partying.

    This comes as a surprise to many women i know, but this is a male fantasy. It gives men an excuse to be lazy, to party, to do nothing, and to still expect to get the best from life. The buffoon thing is just a more general case: if men aren’t expected to know how to change diapers or shop for food, that frees up time to play video games and go drinking.

    The fantasy isn’t earning respect, it’s winning without working.

    • Jun Kafiotties says:

      Yet he changes his ways….
      How many YOUNG women are out getting drunk, partying like crazy and doing their hobbies? The beauty of knocked up was that he changed from slacker to a great catch. You call that the male fantasy? It’s full of earning respect, go watch the movie again but drop the omgwomengetitworse attitude. The fantasy would be having both the slacker lifestyle, and the hot gf if anything but the movie doesn’t support that…

  15. As an adult, I’m not going to the movies or watching TV to see positive role models or perfect members of society. I too grew up watching and loving strong, perfect male characters. Captain Picard on Star Trek TNG for his intelligence, success, and open-mindedness. Ruroni Kenshin in the series for his athleticism, loyalty, and enormous heart. Danny Tanner in Full House for his parenting skills and ability to adapt. Same thing goes for many of the women I saw (in Buffy, parts of Sailormoon, historical movies focusing on British queens). I still admire and have a HUGE soft spot for these characters.

    Yet, I found it refreshing to watch movies like ‘Superbad’ and ’40-Year Old’ and see goofy but endearing characters. Same goes for ‘Bridesmaids’ on the women’s side. Shows like ‘Weeds’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ draw me in because they portray relatively normal people going through a tough situation and handling it in fantastical but imperfect ways, but still being entertaining. I don’t want to go out of a theater wanting to be like or marry someone. I want to feel good, giggly, touched, or have witnessed a fascinating story. I don’t want to idealize a character or an actor—I don’t think it’s terribly healthy (I used to lament that no guy would ever be like Kenshin–an anime character).

    I don’t like the stereotypical buffoon thing just as much as I don’t like the depiction of women as being either know-it-all dry shrews, sexpots, or impossibly perfect soulmates (done in many commercials targeted towards men, as well). But I do prefer imperfections and quirks in the characters I see nowadays. There’s a HUGE difference between the ‘Man Up’ guys and the commercial idiots and any of Jason Segal’s or Seth Rogen’s characters.

  16. Michael Rowe says:

    Boys club in Hollywood indeed. But it isn’t Mr. Aptow’s work that is the biggest offender. Spend an afternoon looking at commercials targeted to women featuring men who can barely brush their own teeth without his wife (or daughter) handing them the toothpaste with a condescending “tsk, tsk” smile on her face. What this proposes to me is that there is something comfortable and reliably masculine to a certain female market demographic about the notion of men as gormless idiots who are best used for heavy lifting, but can’t manage to change a baby, wipe a counter, or manage an entry-level shopping list without help from some woman. It’s easy to mock “I Love You, Man.” It’s more tedious to enumerate the ways in which boys are taught by their parents, and by society, where they’re expected to fail, and why it’s OK.

  17. It is true that people drive the market and business creates only what people buy – I couldn’t agree more. But sometimes I feel like I’m constantly on the run with my principles tucked under my arm like a football. I don’t watch TV because it’s junk. I don’t mind sports so much but then I have to watch ridiculous commericals where everything is sold in a sex package (I try not to buy these products). I don’t read fashion magazines for the impossible depictions of beauty and materialism I could never measure up to. I avoid violent, disgusting video games, music and movies for my kids. I see my young teenager literally bombarded with messages that enourage sexism in him and objectification of women. I dodge fast food, junk food and fake food in the store. I And I don’t date because – wow that’s just a mine field of people brainwashed from all of the above. Where does that leave me? In a silo wondering why no one else sees this. When will we ache for something real? Or do we already and we can’t find it?

  18. Richard Aubrey says:

    We’re talking about a business. The professionals in entertainment or advertising think they know their target market.
    If they were wrong about knowing their target market, they’d lose money by the supertanker load and change their ways.
    They don’t change because they haven’t lost tons of money because they do know their target market.
    They’re professionals and they’re right. About the target market.

  19. Julie Gillis says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’d say there’s hardly any network TV that makes anyone look good. Ads exist to attract attention to product, not people. Reality TV makes all it’s participants look like fame whores and sitcoms play (usually) to the lowest common denominator. Shows like 30 Rock, Community and Parks and Rec are close to being canned, probably because the humor is too smart, too complicated. Good TV winds up in dramas, or on specialty cable channels. I loved the shows (and the men) of the 90’s. Bring me a Fox Mulder, a Giles, a Xander. All the men from Firefly, Mash had loads of great men, Barney Miller, Chicago Hope.
    I am found of House though. He’s a sociopath, but Hugh Laurie is one of my favorite actors.

    • I watch zero network t.v. It portrays both men and women in demeaning ways.

      • Exactly. Men are buffoons and women are gold diggers. This is what television nowadays is telling us. Anyone seen the new Dr. Pepper 10 commercial? Most commercials on television have some subtle form of sexism, but this one was so blatant that it was impossible for me to believe it was supposed to be a parody.

  20. John Sctoll says:

    I chalk it up to laziness, it is really easy (and safe) to target men for the butt of the jokes. In a comedy someone has to be the butt of the jokes that is the nature of the beast. Men are a safe target, the show won’t get protested, more than likely have have ad revenue pulled for making fun of them.

    In a weird way it reminds me of the show “The TALK”, a few months ago a woman allegedly cut of her soon be ex husbands penis and put in the trash compactor, “The Talk” had a segment about it and of course everyone was laughing about it, making jokes about it and generally making an ass of themselves.

    To my knowledge, no one got fired, no protests of gender discrimination were forthcoming and no ad revenue was pull. Now contrast that if you were to reverse the genders if a man had cut off a womans breast , and an all male talk show made the exact same jokes. IMHO, the should would have been cancelled, NOW would have been up in arms, ad revenue would have been on existant. This is the nature of our current society men (and especially white men) are fair game for any and all jokes.

    • Exactly right. Most lazy comedy requires someone to be the target–the idiot, the incompetent, the bumbler. And you can’t make that target a woman (it’s sexist) or a child (that’s abusive) or a minority (that’s racist), etc. etc.

      So what’s left? What’s the only safe target for comedic abuse? White men, of course. They’re the only ones who don’t get to write angry letters when they’re portrayed as buffoons.

      • I agree and have coined the term “target starved”.
        In an era where we have protected groups, groups that have been successful in extorting money via lawyers, the only acceptable target left is adult men.
        Americans are rather self conscious , insecure people. We are brought up to be ashamed and insecure about sex and our bodies, especially the males .
        Just as insecure people used humor as a release, Americans produce, and need, humor. However, with targets mostly off limits, the target that is left is adult men. So that target get saturated with abuse.
        The new hollywood manta is “women and children deserve respect, men don’t matter”.

  21. Of course once we find adequate role models on the tube we no longer require real ones in our homes

  22. Its to do with this gender war zeitgeist putting men down to put women up.

  23. While this is an issue I’ve had with the media for a while now (it seems like sitcoms and tv commercials are the worst culprit), I do think, while not a big fan, that the Apatow style of comedy speaks to a different point. Speaking for guys who watch them, I’m sure many find something relatable, amusing, or comforting in watching guys who seem even more lost and clueless in life than they feel. I’m sure this speaks to something about gender roles in this day and age–but I can’t really speak more on that (though as a gay man I know most of my gay friends seem to enjoy these movies as much as the straight ones). But I really think even a Bill Cosby kind of dad (and, as much as I loved The Cosby Show as a kid, and feel Billand Claire had a great for TV marriage, it should be pointed out that Bill was quite constantly being sneakily taught lessons by his wife and not vice versa), simply would have more problems relating to modern pop culture as anything other than nostalgia.

  24. I’ve been saying this for years now. TV shows/commercials and film are b.s. when it comes to relationships for one simple reason. In these media outlets, the woman is always smart and beautiful, and the man is always some fat/ugly dumb fuck lucky enough to have married her. However, while it’s true a smart man will marry a dumb woman, a smart woman would NEVER marry a dumb man.

  25. Thank you for writing this. Most of us men are decent guys. We do what we have to. Providing for and caring for our families. Loving our kids and doing our best to raise them. Television and movies portray men as morons and dogs. We’re not that. Television and movies don’t do any better in their portrayal of women.

  26. It’s another reason why I’m hesitant to see Pixar’s new animated movie Brave. In it is every joke of a male stereotype in the book, protrayed as so incompetant compared to the main female protagonist.

    But I should add that it may be men who are writing and producing, but who’s allowing these movies and shows to make money? The public. Men and women, both genders, contributing to the degredation of men on screen.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Its proof of the fact that the majority of group x occupying a position in power doesn’t mean the primacy of group x. That is mostly determined by the voters and consumers who make their position possible. Women represent the majority of both the electorate (just about) and decisions in consumer spending.

      The markets still adapting to this, men are still overrepresented on the screen, but its not wasting any tears over the gender that earns most of the money, but doesn’t decide how its spent.

    • “Brave” is one of a very few childrens movies in which a young woman is clearly the hero *and* the active party in making the story move forward. This is, in my view, a good thing. It gives young views different gender images than they get with most movies.

      In making that reversal of gender roles, the movie employs a range of gendered stereotypes – of men and women. This is problematic. You can argue that it’s part of the point the story-teller is trying to make, in that it makes the reversal of traditional fairy-tale gender roles explicit. However, it proves impossibly for the animators to not fall into trap of playing on those gender images for some cheap jokes, and thereby ending up reinforcing much of what they set out to counter.

      Note, btw, that this is not cleanly a man-vs-woman thing; the gender stereotypes employed in the movie are across-the-board. In fact, every single character but the main character is a stereotype. It’s a story-telling trick, but not one I’m very happy about.

      However, it’s still quite a fun movie, and the main character is compelling, in particular for the intended audience.


  1. […] “Real men” don’t need work-life balance, or so they say. Men fear huge career consequences for even broaching the subject of flexible work or work-family balance, so they need to be strategic about negotiating for it (see here), and will often only avail themselves of informal or hidden ways to address family concerns (see here). To put one’s family on par with one’s career is somehow still too progressive for many organizations and for society as a whole. Often, media portrayal of men could not be more patronizing or relentless in showing men as crude, thoughtless and tough (see here). […]

  2. […] “Real men” don’t need work-life balance, or so they say. Men fear huge career consequences for even broaching the subject of flexible work or work-family balance, so they need to be strategic about negotiating for it (see here), and will often only avail themselves of informal or hidden ways to address family concerns (see here). To put one’s family on par with one’s career is somehow still too progressive for many organizations and for society as a whole. Often, media portrayal of men could not be more patronizing or relentless in showing men as crude, thoughtless and tough (see here). […]

  3. […] These are comments by Eagle33, gk, Steve, and John Schtoll on the post “The Depressing Depiction of Men in the Media“. […]

  4. […] on the television or go to the movies and you’ll see “marriageable men” portrayed as either bumbling idiots or deplorable villains. Read columnists like Maureen Dowd rail against […]

  5. […] tired of advertising agencies and Hollywood executives making the conscious decision to consistently portray men as irresponsible, idiotic, […]

  6. […] tired of advertising agencies and Hollywood executives making the conscious decision to consistently portray men as irresponsible, idiotic, […]

  7. […] is a comment by Tom Miller in response to the post “The Depressing Depiction of Men in the Media” by Nicole […]

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