Gender Stereotypes in Prime Time

tv shows

You may not see it, but Gender Stereotypes on popular TV shows are everywhere. This page will point out sexism on shows you may watch every week. This generation has become blind to how often gender stereotypes happen. Most of the time you may second guess what is happening when you see something that is stereotypical, but never truly will point out sexism. We have become immune to seeing such things on our TVs that we often don’t recognize it. Here you will find clips from popular shows such as Reign, Once Upon a Time, Modern Family, and Grey’s Anatomy as well as a TED TALK focusing on Gender Stereotypes in the media. Gender Stereotypes will be pointed out as well as characters that break those stereotypes. Our goal is to help make it easier to see these stereotypes and start to question them. It’s time to start realizing how abundant gender stereotypes are and start to demand the breaking of those stereotypes to help create an accurate representation of society.

The CW’s Reign

In the video above, from The CW’s hit TV show, Reign, you see Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane), dealing with the fact that she got raped. You see that after the rape occurred, she had to decide whether or not to go public with the situation. She chooses not to go public because if her country found out that she got raped, her country would look at her as a weak vulnerable Queen. So instead, the men that raped her get away with this crime while leaving a young woman broken in the inside. This type of rape is obviously intentional rape, and although we don’t see it every day, we hear about it every day.

The portrayal of this powerful, strong Queen being raped and broken is no different then what happens to young girls and women in modern society. When girls get raped, most won’t say anything because they want to overpower all that pain and embarrassment and the fear of what society will think. The TV show did a good job presenting what happens to a young girl or women in the aftermath of being raped.

ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy 

In this clip from Grey’s Anatomy, Izzie Stevens posed as a model named Bethany Whisper to pay for her Med School. Her fellow interns found out about the way she had to pay for school, and made fun of her. You see her getting really upset and causing a scene to prove that a woman posing for the camera with just her under garments, isn’t a big deal. One of the things I noticed is how many of the male interns wouldn’t take her seriously as a surgeon when they found out she was “Bethany Whisper”.

This clip relates to society now, by demonstrating how judgmental women and men can be towards each other and how your past can contribute to the way your co-workers or friends see you. It also shows how many men don’t think a woman is capable of succeeding in a job that is highly looked at for being a male dominant surgeon. Men always seem to be the first to judge women without knowing the reasons why they do it. Women have the right to succeed and choose any paths to reach their goals without being judged because if it was a male, it wouldn’t be that common for them to be judged for what they do to provide them the money for a well-educated job.

ABC’s Modern Family

In this clip it shows each character and their personalities that have been clearly displayed through their stereotypes. To the watcher, this show appears to be normal, funny, and diverse in the portrayal of its characters, but what message is really being shown? Is society actually what is being portrayed in these characters? No; there are people who are different all around us. It doesn’t matter what they like, it’s who they are.

A good example of a role and gender stereotype is the dad or grandfather, who is portrayed by being the bread maker and the macho tough guy that doesn’t cry. There are men out there that don’t even know how to use a drill or prefer to relate to their emotions rather than their muscles, in which most male figures are placed to in prime-time roles. Then there is the mother, the provider of care and organization, and even though the characters show another side to them, they still outline the basic societal roles that have been placed upon them. Now that this information has been pointed out to you, I suggest you go back through this clip and watch it again. How does this change your view on the show?

ABC’s Once Upon a Time

In in this clip you will see three main characters. You will see the man: Prince Charming, a blonde woman: Princess Abigail, and the thief: Snow White. Watch this episode and see if you can spot the gender stereotypes.

Now, which do you think was the stereotype? Was it:

A) When Prince Charming pretended to be listening to Princess Abigail,

B) When Charming Tells Abigail not to worry

C) When Abigail screams for the guards

D) When Charming saves the day

E) When Charming sees the thief is a woman?

If you answered C and E, you are correct. Let’s see why…

The first representation of Sexism is Abigail, when the “damsel in distress” screams for the guards. Instead of trying to stop the thief, she plays the stereotypical gender role of a woman and seeks the help from a man. Of course, all the guards and Charming go running towards the Damsel. The second gender stereotype is when Charming is racing towards the thief and tackles “him”. He immediately demands to see the attackers face while holding a first up fully intending to throw a punch. However, the instant he notices the thief is a woman, his first is released and he becomes puzzled because in his mind, how could a thief be a woman? This gender stereotype is broken when the thief, Snow white is clearly not afraid to hit Charming in order to get away. See the stereotype now?

 ABC’s Once Upon a Time

This clip is where Prince Charming captures his thief, Snow White. There is a clearer representation of Gender Stereotyping so let’s see if you can find it in the first minute of this clip.

Now let’s test your knowledge. Was it:

A) When Charming captures Snow

B) When Snow makes a mockery of Charming capturing her

C) When Charming says he figured Snow “isn’t the jewelry type?

If you answered C, you are correct. Let’s take a further look.

When Charming states he figured Snow wasn’t the “jewelry type” he is inferring that she isn’t a woman even though she isn’t a “typical” woman. Snow doesn’t take this lightly considering she is a former princess. However, this is an example of characters breaking Gender Stereotypes by not being the “average” woman.

NBC’s Night Shift

In the episode, “Need to Know”, we see that Ragosa, the man of the house, has a confrontation with his wife Lydia about money. Lydia is frustrated that her husband has taken a job that pays significantly less. She is frustrated because she believes that he’s the one that needs to provide for his family. Even though she knew her husband was miserable with his former position, Lydia seems to not care whether or not her husband is happy. The only thing she is seeking is a provider for the family. She does not want to have to “pick up the slack” for him. This displays the gender stereotype of the man being the provider without the assistance of their significant other. This means that a man must have a job that pays well and work as much as he can in order to make sure that his family is well taken care of. Happiness or enjoyment is not a factor. However, Ragosa breaks this stereotype by choosing his happiness over how much is put in his bank account even if that means his family has to make some sacrifices.


In this TED TALK, Sam Killermann talks about gender stereotypes not only in media but how people identify gender between man or woman. Society has planned out how our lives will go from birth. Based on those qualifiers we absorb them and pass them down to our children placing the roles on the next generation even though they may not apply to them and how they feel about themselves.

Sam explains that we need to be more open to these thoughts and embrace it; he goes into detail that because those who don’t fit under these gender scripts and how life is “supposed” to go. Gender is more complex than most people think; the way you dress, act, and speak can affect how people see you and your gender. He hopes that reaching out and doing these talks will help those listening and watching open their minds, and even though the 15 minutes won’t be enough to make a world wide impact and explain it all, it is a step forward towards gender neutrality and equality.


Obviously there are too many Gender Stereotypes on TV for us to name them all. Now that you have seen a few examples, look for them in shows that you watch everyday. If you find one and care to share with us, feel free to comment down below and help us create an even bigger list of the abundant Gender Stereotypes in Prime Time.


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