Gender doesn’t determine a good TV show

Emily Flamme, News Editor

Something I’ve noticed nearly my whole life is how people dismiss movies and TV shows with the word “girl” in the title.

This doesn’t apply to just men either — many of my female friends have said they avoided certain shows because they thought they would be too emotional since it has the word “girl” in it or if it starred a female actress.

For example, my roommate and I love “New Girl” and “Gilmore Girls.” We both talk about how funny and well-written they are, but when we have recommended them to our other friends, they admitted they thought the shows would be “cheesy” or “dramatic.”

One of my male friends wanted a show recommendation over the winter break, and I suggested “New Girl.” I’m pretty sure he rolled his eyes at me, but I told him the show was more than the assumptions he was making. We agreed he could only make judgements after watching a couple episodes.

I knew exactly how this was going to play out. It’s an incredible show, and I knew that once he actually watched it, he would enjoy it. He loved it so much, he sped through all seven seasons faster than I did.

‘Gilmore Girls’ is an example of a show that is too easily dismissed by viewers for having the word ‘girl’ in the title. (Photo from Getty Images)

I was right, proving my theory that people inaccurately judge female-led shows. I have tried to figure out why because it seems to be a decision many people make regardless of their gender.

Broadcasting Cable performed a study in 2013 that revealed that female viewers dominate the primetime show market. Shows such as “New Girl,” “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” only lasted as long as they did because of their female viewers. Something to note is that they all have a woman as the main character.

Broadcasting Cable found that in its last couple of seasons, “The Office” was struggling, likely due to a decrease in female viewership.

“The Office,” while it is an ensemble show, has two men as the lead characters and was one of the only shows in which male viewership was higher than female viewership.

It is no coincidence that one of the only shows with higher male viewership was struggling. Women are so used to things being directly marketed to them as “feminine” and “girly” that when something isn’t, it can feel like an unwelcome place.

As a woman myself, I know that shows marketed more toward men such as “Family Guy” or “Breaking Bad,” feel like places I don’t belong. I’m sure that’s not true, but it shows how influential gender bias is.

Another interesting point that explains the reason behind the bias in marketing TV shows is that men rate female-led shows very poorly.

“But the data doesn’t support the contention that female-skewed programming is inherently worse: Women gave their top 100 shows, on average, a 7.8 rating, about the same score they gave the top 100 male-dominated programs, 8.0,” according to the FiveThirtyEight study.

Along those lines, men gave the top 100 male-led shows an average rating of 8.2 and a 6.9 rating for the top 100 female-led shows.

This is evidence that men have bias against female-centered programming, which stems from the internalized bias men usually have regarding female-related things.

It has gotten better though — a study by Samba from 2020 found that women comprised 45% of all characters in TV programs. Compared to the demographics in 2013, this study found that TV shows were more evenly split in terms of male and female viewership.

However, the study said that this was because female-led shows’ viewership was up in minority households, acknowledging that there was still a lot of bias in the white male demographic.

I was still pleasantly surprised by this fact. I didn’t expect it to be nearly an even split of male and female viewers for primetime TV. While marketing is still heavily gendered, it is important to recognize when things improve.