“Hot” Girls and “Cool Dudes”: Examining the Prevalence of the Heterosexual Script in American Children’s Television Media

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Abstract

As children’s consumption of media increases, examining the messages prevalent in popular TV programs is central to understanding how children learn to view and understand gender. A coding scheme of themes of the “heterosexual script” related to gender, sexuality, and relationships developed by Kim et al. (2007) was applied to 7 popular American children’s TV programs. The prevalence of the script varied across program, with certain programs depicting gender stereotypes as frequently as adult prime-time TV programs. Across programs, the most common theme was boys objectifying and valuing girls solely for their appearance and girls engaging in self-objectification and ego-stroking of boys. Programs with leads who are boys were more likely to enact these stereotypes, especially in the presence of other-gender peers, indicating that this script is linked to expectations within heterosexual relationships.

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