Gender Representation In Media And Modern Society

Our society is gender-sensitive with gender sparking many debates spanning a wide variety of issues. With the current climate surrounding these debates, it has never been as vital as it is today to create a place within a wide variety of film genres, from romantic comedies to action to horror and it is essential to challenge the traditional roles that women hold within these. It is the time in which traditional ideas of gender within the film can be modernised and still appeal to a contemporary audience.

Media has an unprecedented influence over global societies in its various forms; we are unable to escape this due to the way that media is ingrained into our psyche and routine. In gender representation in media, with female stereotypes constantly bombarding youth and being broadcast on such a large scale, it is no surprise that toxic masculinity and misogyny still reign supreme in Hollywood and Bollywood.

The Chalet Girl crosses pre-defined lines when applying representation theory to the artefact and defies normal guidelines of female representation within the film industry.

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Whilst respecting the more conventional roles of women as desirable in the form of chalet girl, Georgie, the leading actress, Kim, is a former skateboarding champion who bears the responsibility of a traditionally much older male, thus creating an independent female character who overcomes adversity to win. This is a stark comparison to the predominant female image in media. Spielberg touched on the vast audience that films and media have; “Once upon a time it was a small gathering around a fire listening to the storyteller with his tales of magic and fantasy.

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And now it’s the whole world… It’s just the magic of storytelling, and it unites the whole world.” Whilst Spielberg is correct, it is key to note how profound the effect of gender stereotyping becomes when the audience is perpetually enchanted by the storyline with no regard for the position of women within the narrative. With representation in the media leading the viewer to believe a version of an event or a person, the power that it holds is immeasurable but immense due to the knock-on effect that it has. Kim is left as the provider for her and her hapless father after the death of her mother in a car crash. With her responsible for the financial situation of the family, she is left with little choice but to leave her job at the local fast-food chain and apply for a more prestigious role at a hospitality agency. Whilst she does. not fit the role and is starkly contrasted with the ‘-bellas’ with their upper-class upbringing, she is chosen as the only option for a chalet girl position. In this role, she has no alternative but to adhere to the stereotypes imposed upon her by the sexually perverted upper-class guests, or the traditionally feminine roles within a household. Despite these restrictions, she breaks free of societal restraints and is paired in friendship with a male character who she outgrows in the talent stakes and eventually beats in the ultimate competition.

Whilst films are a vehicle for representation, the representations that they give are partial and do not mirror the real world that they are set in. In more generic terms, media can re-present scenarios uncountable times which familiarise the status quo that seems threatened if disrupted. Part of this deceptive representation is the inclusion of stereotypes that show how representation works. Kim represents the stereotype of a teenage girl but simultaneously fails to adhere to the restraints of such a restrictive stereotype. When applying representation theory to the artefact, The Chalet Girl, it is clear that the film set out to combine the traditional stereotype with modern equal representation. With the evolution of female representation in film, media becomes more realistic. Branston and Stafford’s (2010) academic works explain the concept that media representation has 5 threads; construction, re-presentation, routine representation, ‘self-representation’ and representation of ‘us’ in ‘official’ political representations. All 5 of these aspects highlight how media is capable of manipulating the consumer due to the difficulty in distinguishing the difference between the real and the media representation.

The release of The Chalet Girl challenged normal representation and has been instrumental in the movement of young females being exposed to typically male sports without their participation being sexualized. It aids the creation of a platform that normalises female inclusion and holds a megaphone in front of female success despite it being fictional. British female sports films mediate post-feminist values through the representation of ambitious and talented female characters and, amongst other things, label the actresses as ‘can-do’ girls whose hard work ethic has placed them in their position of success. Similarly, Chalet Girl marks Kim out to be a ‘can-do’ girl with her successful career in skateboarding through her determination and hard work. This is a lifestyle cut short by her mother's death and the film shows her detachment of Kim to her former self and her non-traditional route to retaining her ‘top girl’ status. With the excessive amount of exposure to media that the youth of today have access to, it would be hard to believe that such characters do not leave an impact on the impressionable minds of young girls; Branston and Stafford explore this concept, stating that representation influences and alters societal behaviours. They wrote that “Users’ degree of familiarity with a form's conventions will influence its ‘reality effect’ for them, and what they take for granted…” The media has obligations to represent the majority and thus is susceptible to accusations of portraying stereotypes, “A preconceived and oversimplified idea of the characteristics which typify a person, situation, etc”. Perkins’ theory can be directly applied to the artefact in that she theorized that representations of stereotypes complicate relationships with reality. There must be an element of truth behind each stereotype as they simplify an idea that has to pre-exist; media cannot create a stereotype that holds no element of truth. Perkins’ statement that “Stereotypes … are a concept which is a part of everyday life” holds merit as it acknowledges the existence of the stereotype before media warping it. Representation does create a thriving culture for preconceptions instead of encouraging individuality. Kim represents a traditional stereotype of women's roles but also encourages individuality and feminine power portraying positive stereotypes for young women. Kim proves her abilities as an athlete competing in a mixed-gender competition; she breaks restrictive boundaries that have been placed on young women in sport and succeeds. Whilst there is a value in stereotypes for generalizing and giving overviews, The Chalet Girl shows that they are meant to be used as a tool and not as a restriction and breaks down the barriers of stereotype culture in film. William James concluded that generalisations are needed with prejudice being inevitable, but danger arises when stereotypes are uncritically adopted.

The Male Gaze theory was formulated by Mulvey (Smith 2016), a representation theorist focusing on a feminist approach to interpretation. It explores media representations of stereotypical females. Whilst the Male Gaze theory focuses on films of the 1950s and ‘60 it is still relevant today. “Women are … for the male spectator’s pleasure,” (Dutt, 2013) reinforces that the presence of women is to create an appeal to a male audience as opposed to influencing females. Female characters play the lesser roles to appear attractive to male characters and viewers; this disproportionate power reinforces negative gender stereotypes. The Chalet Girl rebukes such stereotypes in the way that Kim behaves, talks, and dresses. Kim does not conform to conventional standards and prioritises success over appearance. Her stark comparison to the other chalet girls shows that her fashion choices are made for her benefit rather than for the male gaze. There is a contrast between her domesticated scenes and action scenes with the difference in her emotions undeniable; she is not represented solely as a traditional female stereotype in the film. The audience benefits from the different representations of a female and it sends a global message that empowered women are as important as the overly sexualised women so prevalent in the media.

It becomes clear that representing reality should be the focus of media. When this proves impossible then audiences should be made aware that the media is portraying a warped reality which is not attainable for the everyday consumer. With this awareness comes the knowledge that the typically seductive women on screen are not feasible for everyone and that women do not have to settle for lesser roles. It is about the industry becoming more accommodating and transparent. Typical media representation has reinforced negative female stereotypes, something that Chalet Girl does not adhere to. And in conclusion: media needs to acknowledge their influence on consumers and be transparent about reality and gender

Updated: Feb 20, 2024
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Gender Representation In Media And Modern Society. (2024, Feb 20). Retrieved from

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