Guest Blogger: Katie Levenstein

And the grand prize is…

Game shows are popular forms of TV entertainment that reach out to various audiences. As TV has become increasingly popular over the years more and more stations are creating game shows. Despite the expansion and growth, the premise of the shows is still the same. Participants are giddy money chasers, the hosts are well-dressed men and the prize presenters are sexualized women. What does this structure say about gender roles in our society?

I will occasionally watch game shows while I am at the gym. I never find much interest in the game shows themselves because I am so fixated on what the women are wearing. The brand new car she is presenting becomes sexualized and feminized to me because of the way she fashions it. She strokes the sides, smiles, and flirts with the audience. Is she trying to encourage the participants to win? Or is she trying to flaunt herself?

(by the first 30 seconds a woman presents a car- it’s interesting because this is the first clip I watched on youtube and it was exactly what I was looking for).

I think we need to reassess the goal of these game shows because they embody and reinforce so many gender stereotypes. When women are displayed alongside the prizes they are essentially being compared to material goods. Men, as the announcers of the show possess the control and power. To me, this sounds a lot like a pimp daddy and his ladies.

Why is the focus of these shows so sexualized? Can’t we just watch a fun game show without being subjected to underlying issues about gender roles? Game shows may appear harmless, yet they are actually doing a disservice to our society.

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12 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Katie Levenstein

  1. Sylvie says:

    I agree with Katie in saying that everything have to be “sexualized” in order to sell a product. Well, sex sells! That’s obviously right, because, to be honest, not even half the people would watch those ridiculous game-shows if there weren’t any sexy woman within the show. In this case, entertainment is not based on games, it’s based on sex and its commercial effects. Everybody seems happy with that, because the producers of those shows earn a lot of money and the audience sees barely dressed beautiful women, they might not see in real life so frequently. That seems to be a great deal, doesn’t it? But considering the gender stereotypes, Katie mentions, women appear in a bad light. Female features are only related to their physical appearance. The girls don’t even say a word. So, intellect or personality of the woman are not of any interest at all. Looking pretty and shutting your mouth is all you have to do. Quite easy, right? But this includes the problem, that women are only reduced to their physical quality. That’s why all of them look similar to each other or fit into the same pattern of appearance. They stick to those typical aspects of femininity like long hair (very often blond and faked), slender waist and big breasts (also frequently faked). But exactly this precise image of how a typical woman has to look like creates wrong impressions in people’s minds. Women think, they have to follow that idealized picture and men expect them to look like that.

    In terms of the male representatives in this show, the moderator instead wears a suit, which presents decency and seriousness. He is the one who introduces “his” girls and who speaks all of the time, while the girls representing the price don’t even say a word. This shows the dominance of the man. Just imagine roles were changed, a woman was moderating the whole show and half-naked men are representing the price to win. Would that have the same results on viewer levels? Why are male stereotypes usually associated with decent and collectively stated correct behavior, while female stereotypes are often connected to negative and salacious behavioral features?

    In my opinion, these game shows and their inherent judgment of gender roles are exactly the reason, why a lot of women have to suffer, which could either be by anorexia, mobbing or even rape. Through the wrong representation of gender roles and their stereotypes, people are mislead to create the wrong virtues.

  2. Amaury Ramirez says:

    This is an interesting post; I’ve noticed this even before I took this class. All game shows have very attractive women in the show that walk around, usually, with short dresses and as little amounts of clothing as possible. I see the problems with this, but think about how less popular game shows have become. They have been taken over by reality shows. Think about the time “The price is right” is on T.V. The time is around noon, and we think about who are able to watch the show we know that it is either old retired people or unemployed people. The fact that the show gets airtime at the time it does, we know that there isn’t that many viewers interested in the show.

    Imagine if you take the very attractive women away from the show. An already low in number of viewers show would loose many more viewers. These women are not belittled but worshipped. Women who watch the show are looking at how the women look, how they are dressed. Although it is sad, it brings viewers. It also brings men to the T.V screen because they also want to see the women.

    The “pimp” comment is pretty interesting. I guess you can say it makes the announcer look like a pimp, but only because you are thinking about it that way. These announcers are ugly you need something attractive next to them.

    With all this said, I think that these women are worshipped and therefore it is a good thing. Notice how women in reality shows are always dressing very provocative. It’s all about ratings.

  3. Katie, you are right on the money with the post. (Pun intended) I’m trying to think of a game show that isn’t fashioned around sexualized female prize presenters, and I cannot think of a single example.

    I think you’ve hit all the important bases of the “game show institution”—male hosts (who are in many cases old and arguably sleazy), money-hungry players, and ultra sexualized, objectified female prize presenters.

    With these two points in mind, I wonder how the meaning of game shows would change if the roles were reversed—women host and men parade around in next to nothing. How would viewers react? Company execs?

    It’s also interesting to see the breakdown of the female prize presenters in the pictures: two blondes and one African American. What does this say about gender, ethnicity, and representation (or lack thereof) in the U.S.?

  4. Chris Bramwell says:

    I think your frustration is more with the fact that “sex sells” rather than the female role in game shows. Networks tend to market to target audiences, and statistically speaking, men tend to watch more game shows than women (nbc.com). Yet, dating back from the 1940s to now, there have been plenty very successful game shows where women are not the “traditional” sex symbols, but rather take the hostess position. To name a few: “Blind Date” in 1940s hosted by Arelene Francis, “Just Men” hosted by Betty White in 1983, “The Weakest Link” in 2000 hosted by Anne Robsinson
    /Users/christopherbramwell/Desktop/weakestlink.jpg

    and “Who wants to be a Millionaire” in 2002 hosted by Meredith Vieira etc.
    /Users/christopherbramwell/Desktop/main-meredith-viera.jpg

    Point is, these are just a few of many that exist. Additionally, there are also shows where men are asked to flaunt “masculinity/male sexuality” in an effort to sell the program, like American Gladiator, MTV’s Singled Out, and episodes of 1v100.

    Shows like the “Price is Right”, “Deal of No Deal” etc, do seem to rely on their female models to sell products; however, would they be just as effective if the network’s target audience were women, and mostly women contestants appeared on the show? I’d assume so. Sex sells regardless of gender, and that to me is the bottom line.

    Finally, don’t write off gameshows completely, because 23 of the top 25 gameshows do not rely on models, either male or female, to sell their show.

  5. Evan Gove says:

    What’s the number one thing to remember when dealing with entertainment?

    Sex sells.

    The issue at hand is not something that is exclusive to game shows. Placing well-dressed, attractive men and women in front of T.V. cameras is a technique utilized by every broadcasting company (well maybe not the religious channel, but you get my point). Our society has constructed certain guidlines that determine what is attractive and what is not. Television is jam packed with hot, half naked people because thats what the audience wants to see. Television shows care about one thing…ratings. The hotter the show is, the higher the ratings will be. Why do you think ABC cancelled “Ugly Betty” in favor of a show called “Cougar Town”?
    So then is it T.V. that perpetuates gender roles and stereotypes? Or is society itself the culprit? T.V. ratings are determined by the number of viewers, so in order to get better ratings, a broadcasting company has to give its viewers what they want to see. And in our society, we want to see sex. We can’t blame game shows for perpetuating stereotypes when we are the ones empowering the shows by watching them. It’s nearly impossible to escape underlying issues about gender roles because everything we do perpetuates them. Everthing we say, do, and even think is due to the social construction of gender that we’ve been immersed in since our birth. We can’t watch a game show and be innocently entertained because everything that is entertaining about the show in some way perpetuates a gender stereotype.
    Instead of reassesing the goals of the game shows, it would be far more beneficial to reasses the way our society is entertained. Until sex stops selling, gender roles will remain a large part of who we are as a society.

  6. Sarah Canavan says:

    This is a really intersting post, Katie! Somehow wordpress rejected my comment, so I’m going to try to remember what I wrote.

    All the old-time game shows are really interesting in terms of gender stereotyping, like you said. But look at the new ones. Deal or No Deal, for instance. Howie is a well-dressed, “cool,” authoritative man and the contestant chooses from some number of cases. But the cases are all identical (which is the point). The only distinguishing factor between the cases is the hot woman holding each one. And, because the cases have no indication of what prize is inside (big bucks or little bucks), it’s probably pretty likely that the contestants are choosing the cases based on the women. I have only seen a few episodes but I’m interested to watch one now because I want to see which women/cases the contestants choose, and in what order.

    Other game shows have some of these stereotypes too. Talent contest shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent seem to create their panels of judges based on a model. Simon Cowell is known for being mean but people listen to his advice because he has “credibility” in the music industry and because he creates drama on the show. And, he’s a man. Paula Abdul is usually nice to the contestants, always finding some way to compliment them if possible, but people often disregard her advice despite her longevity in the music industry because she’s a lush. And, she’s a women. It’s almost the exact same thing on America’s Got Talent with what’s-his-name and Sharon Osborne.

  7. Isaias says:

    Its sad that our society has come to this point. But the truth is that sex sells. By putting women that look “sexy” it will put numbers up. People should be watching the television show because its fun but the truth of the matter is they don’t watch it just for the fun. I remember when I was younger I used to watch wheel of fortune (cuz it helped me with my spelling ;)) and I remember telling my mom “DAMN I want my wife to look like her. I wanna be on TV like him with all the girls around me.” This is when I was first or second grade and we already have it drilled in our minds that beauty is on TV. its unfortunate but its the truth. Now my question to you guys is: in a situation like that what is a parent supposed to tell the child? From my perspective a parent can only do but so much except laugh. A parent wouldn’t want to discourage their child and tell him or her ohh no thats not what beauty is or you dont want to marry a girl or boy like that… Everyone has their own preferences…. So what does a parent do?

  8. When I think of a woman that embodies the game-show realm, Vanna White instantly pops into my head. She really epitomizes the idea of a beautiful game show woman whose curves were always were displayed, in an almost elegant but sexy way. White actually also made a stake in Playboy magazine in a black see-through swimsuit. The jump from family game show to sexy centerfold actually does not startle me as much, especially in seeing the pictures of what the women wear today on the game shows.
    But I totally agree with Katie in the connection of putting women on display to show the merchandise- they have no speaking roles, no hosting position, their job is to look beautiful and to make the objects that they are promoting look even more appealing. What is strange is the fact that the audience does not seem to be dominantly male, is it just the tradition of a woman being the presenter or do the roots run deeper and a male ideal would make the objects look less appealing in people eyes?

  9. Kathryn Bowering says:

    This is a good point–The Price is Right is downright creepy. Bob Barker (how is he still alive, by the way?) is essentially the Hugh Hefner of game shows. These women are literally a quarter of his age, and they parade around scantily clad displaying all the prizes Barker has to offer contestants. Considering their age and their outfits, it’s a miracle Barker hasn’t had a heart attack by now. But I digress. This show is definitely making a statement about our society. Sex sells, and a shiny new car isn’t enticing enough on its own–it needs a sexy woman caressing it. The objectification of women here is overwhelming. Bob’s ladies do not really speak, they simply have a huge, white smile plastered on their face at all times and do what they are told. Looking at the clip Katie posted, the female runs her hand over the car, and when the camera zooms in through the window, she purses her lips and drums her fingers playfully on the window. Is this necessary? No. There are never sexy male models displaying products, so this show caters to a hetereosexual male viewer (probably not its majority viewership anyway), and the idea of the “male gaze” is at work. And even though the show has become “more modern” with a new host and younger female models, the message sent to the public is still the same. Women, just like the objects they are selling, are things to be looked at and nothing more.

  10. Allison May says:

    Nice post, Katie. I completely agree with you. But in my opinion, the main issue with gender stereotyping and shows like The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune is that since they’ve been around forever, people are used to the way they are run. I think that the people who have watched these shows forever feel nostalgic and comfortable watching a show that is, in a way, “stuck in the past”. I am not saying that I think the gender/sexual stereotyping is okay in these cases, but I think that if the stations that broadcast them were to change things up, there might be a huge rebuttal. Or, maybe people wouldn’t care at all? After all, isn’t the point of a game show to just simply play the game? So, yes, I agree that we should remove the sexy women and the fancy hosts and replace them with robots. That would solve everything. But, seriously, I think that these shows just need a huge makeover. Women shouldn’t be treated as objects and men shouldn’t be the center of attention and power when it comes to a silly little game show! Except for those who watch these shows to remind them of the good ole’ days, I don’t think I know one person who watches these shows religiously anymore. CHANGE ‘EM UP! I believe that stations like NBC and Fox are taking baby steps by introducing shows like “Minute to Win It” which features the outrageously All-American former Food Network star Guy Fieri as the host. Yeah, he is big, badass and macho, and he’s a white male, but he’s also loveable and in my opinion, relatable to modern American culture. Plus, he’s not wearing a suit! Like I said, baby steps.

  11. Nick says:

    I liked this post because it is not something that I had ever really thought about. These are family game shows that display men as the controlling hosts and women as something to look at and that could definitely be a problem. Because like everything else in our society, it depicts what a woman is “supposed to look like.” Showcasing these women like this on a show that young people watch only enforces being a “beautiful” and sexy woman. When children see this kind of stuff they will want to become what they see. I think that Isaias asked a question in considering the parents obligation. It is very difficult in our society to shield kids from every gender issue, but I think that trying to stress the realities and issues about gender to your kids is important. It is strange that there is no real famous female game show host, but I guess as other things change and become less gender based, so will this. It is one of those areas that people probably do not really consider but small things like this only help to enforce problems. And there is another interesting issue because there must be a part of these women that enjoy the attention. What if every woman just refused to prance around on stage, showcasing items? Maybe looking at attractive women is just a part of our culture, I don’t know. But even if that is true I am not sure there is a place for it on family game shows.

  12. Chryssy AbdoOl says:

    One of my favorite post! I love the fact that I have watched game shows all my life and have never even noticed this. Wow! I definitly agree that sex sells, and people could careless about gender roles. As long as we in this western society is being entertained with what we like then who cares. I always did wonder why they always had a old man hosting these shows. Why didn’t they have young handsome attractive men? I mean the men in the audience get sexy attractive show girls to look at, why can’t women have something young and handsome to look at as well? I guess because women are the best and easier consumers to pursade? The only way you can get a man’s attention is sex. Gesh smh, I still can’t believe I have never noticed the gender roles on gameshow. Well what can we sAy that’s society
    for ya and we have no one to blame but our own selves!

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