From Wonder Woman to Rachel Green to Villanelle, the presentation of gender on television has progressed since the 1970s. There has been an increase in inclusivity and a reduction in gendered stereotypes of women on television.
Wonder Woman is a figure of empowerment yet is sexualised and subjected to the male gaze. ‘Friends’ introduces Rachel to our screens as the epitome of spoiled, yet throughout the series, she moves away from this and towards an empowered woman advocating female independence. ‘Killing Eve’s infamous Villanelle is ruthless yet charismatic, having depth to her character. Two female protagonists engaged in a twisted game of cat and mouse are no longer just objects for sexual gratification. These programmes, whilst all possessing strong female characters, emphasise the lack of equal presentation in comparison to men.
Organisations such as the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media advocate for this equality. The non-profit organisation was set up after Davis noticed the lack of female representation in film and television. Davis spoke regarding the influence the media plays in reinforcing the unconscious societal bias toward gender and women being ‘seriously underrepresented’ on screen.
Despite organisations fighting inequality and promoting for more inclusivity within the media, there is still a long way to go. Women are still depicted as peripheral characters written into the show, often as romantic or sexual objects. The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity found that out of the 414 films and television series studied and 11,300 speaking characters, 33% were female, and 74% were males over forty. Among this, only seven were transgender, and four were from the same television series.
This highlights the inclusion crisis at hand. Women, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community are cloaked in an ‘epidemic of invisibility’, and until representation on television can live without cultural stereotypes, there will always be inequality.