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The Role of Gender and Social Class in Media Presentation: A Case Study of Roseanne and the Female Working Class Term Paper

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Updated: May 27th, 2019

Introduction

Over the years, the place of the woman in the society has remained in the home. In most cases, the society regards the woman as subordinate to man.

That is perhaps the reason why, for a very long time, women have remained in the background. However, the role of women, especially as members of the working class, has evolved in the recent past. In the American context, women have become an important part of the working class.

To this end, activities by such bodies as the civil rights movement groups and the agitation for fair treatment in the society have gone a long way in helping the women emerge as significant members of the society (“Working Class Perspectives: Stereotyping the Working Class” para. 3). In addition, the media has played a huge role in establishing a place for women among the working class.

The current paper is written against this background. To this end, the author of this paper examines how women are treated in the media, especially in prime time shows. The author of this paper holds the opinion that social class, together with gender, influences how media houses report their news.

On its part, media coverage influences the determination of gender roles and formation of social classes in the society. As such, the two phenomena (media and gender and social class) influence each other.

In this analysis, the author of this paper relies on the depictions of the main character in the popular American sitcom, Roseanne. The main focus will be on the sitcom’s season 5, episode 5. The main character in this case is Roseanne. In the current paper, the author relies on the elements of the working class to argue out the research statement.

“Roseanne” will also be used in discussing the importance of media when it comes to the depiction of social class and gender issues. The importance of media will be measured against the effects that such kinds of presentations have on the viewers. The analysis highlighted above will be carried out in the context of Kathleen Rowe’s article on gender and social roles.

The Role of Gender and Social Class in Media Presentation

A Critical Analysis of Roseanne’s Character

After watching “Roseanne”, one can describe the main character as a responsible and hardworking housewife. She is also a mother who is capable of handling all the affairs in her family. The same is especially evident in the fifth episode of season five.

Here, the scene opens with Roseanne’s sister seeking her help in a family business. In the same scene, her husband walks in and goes straight to the dining table and demands for food (“Roseanne Season 5 Episode 5”). Despite her sarcastic and vulgar language, Roseanne appears to be a resourceful person.

Based on the manner in which she engages others in conversation, one can argue that she is unruly. A case in point is when she is engaged in a conversation with her sister about her daughter. She says, “you mean the best thing was not carrying, pushing a giant head through my vagina after nine months?” (“Roseanne Season 5 Episode 5”).

Despite the fact that she means well for her daughter, such vulgar language is not necessary. The disgusting aspect of her language is made evident when her husband puts down the sandwich he was eating when he hears her speak.

Rowe (414) argues that Roseanne is a sloppy woman. The implication is that she has a carefree attitude towards most of the things she does. One such instance is seen when her neighbor’s son lends her a camera (“Roseanne Season 5 Episode 5”).

Roseanne is having problems uploading the film and goes ahead to smash the camera on the table. Her reaction comes in the wake of the neighbor’s son telling her that she ought to handle the machine with care.

In spite of her carefree behavior, Roseanne is a considerate woman. The same is portrayed in the manner she handles her daughter’s ‘sweet sixteen’ birthday party (“Roseanne Season 5 Episode 5”). Roseanne is aware of the fact that her daughter does not like attention.

However, that does not stop her from planning a party for her. Interestingly, the party is just a gimmick because she has other intentions. She asks her husband to repair the car in the garage as a gift for her daughter. In addition, Roseanne allows her daughter to go out and treat her friends.

Another character of Rosanne that is depicted in the television show is her courageousness. In a game of truth or dare, she agrees to a double dare where she is dared to strip off her blouse and bra and run outside while screaming (“Roseanne Season 5 Episode 5”).

Given that she is a mother and a wife, she should not even entertain such a dare. Surprisingly, she accepts the challenge, although she is eventually embarrassed when she runs into her husband and the new neighbor.

Roseanne’s character is very important in understanding the nature of people considered as working class in the society. The manner in which she is portrayed through media introduces the public to the various elements of the working class.

In this case, the depiction centers on the working class woman since she is considering setting up a business with her sister (“Roseanne Season 5 Episode 5”). The significance of such depictions is made apparent given that “Roseanne” is a prime time show.

Elements that Comprise the Working Class according to “Roseanne”

For a person to be eligible for employment, they must be hardworking (Zweig 34). Roseanne is an example of a hardworking individual. The element of hard work is depicted in the manner in which she is able to manage her household, especially given that theirs is not a wealthy family.

Portraying her as a hard worker is seen as a strategy to incite the women folk who labor in their households to venture out of their homes. Such women are shown that they can also do well as members of the workforce. The sentiments are seen in the last scene when Roseanne seeks her husband’s opinion on whether to use the money her mother left her for business or not.

Working class requires one to be a visionary (Zweig 37). An individual must have certain goals that they are expected to achieve in their daily undertakings. The show introduces this aspect of vision in the last scene when Roseanne is concerned with the future of her children’s education.

She is considering using the money left to her by her mother for her children’s education (“Roseanne Season 5 Episode 5”). After a discussion with her husband, she is convinced that it is better to use the money for investment. The education of her children will be guaranteed if she invests the money. To this end, Roseanne appears to have a vision for her family.

What if Roseanne is from a Different Race?

The show elicits debate on how the media depicts social class and gender (Rowe 412). However, one should consider how the public would view Roseanne if she is from a different race, such as African American. In this regard, Rowe (413) compares “Roseanne” with “Cosby Show”, where the family is African American.

Rowe (413) argues that the public acknowledges the fact that the role played by Roseanne is significant in encouraging the women folk to join the working class. The public does not look at her as a white person. Instead, she is regarded as more of a woman than a representative of the white race.

If her character was played by an African American, the public would form opinions about the show based on prevailing perceptions about the race.

Conclusion

In this paper, the author affirmed the fact that the media relies on social class and gender to communicate with the audience. Roseanne is a white female and her depiction in the media helps to encourage women to join the working class. In addition, she is depicted as a member of the lower middle class. Her determination to get out of this social class is vividly illustrated by the way she is determined to start a business.

Works Cited

“Roseanne Season 5 Episode 5.” Pretty in Black., ABC, Atlanta, 16 Dec. 1995. Television.

Rowe, Kathleen. “Roseanne: Unruly Woman as Domestic Goddess.” Screen 31(1990): 408-419.

Working Class Perspectives: Stereotyping the Working Class 2008. Web. <>.

Zweig, Michael. Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret, Cornell, Cornell University Press, 2001. Print.

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