Despite being hard-working (68.6 per cent are in the workforce), charitable (32 per cent do volunteer work and 73 per cent donated money in 2006) and spending nearly three hours a day on average doing unpaid work at home, men are often represented as one-dimensional stereotypes.
If you believe some commercials, guys have never even learned how to go to the bathroom. It’s a little insulting, right?
News.com.au has looked at just how much the trusty television has to answer for. We’ve packaged six of the most obvious stereotypes floating around Australian television today – the dopey dad, the alpha male, the bad boy, the larrakin, the thinking man, and the average bloke.
These commonly seen characters are often clichéd and one-dimensional, and provide little in the way of role models.
Dopey dads can be found in any ad for cleaning or cooking products that aim to make it easy for clueless men, and alpha males are often objectified in much the same way women have rightly complained about being victims of for decades.
Foxtel’s Xbox commercial which depicted four women ogling a new male flatmate who walked in wearing only boardshorts attracted an official complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau.
And the clichés are just as heavy for the larrakin who is never taken seriously, the thinking man who is always shy and awkward and the bad boy who just needs the love of a good woman to turn him around.
Dr Karen Pearlman, head of Screen Studies at the Australian Film, Television and Radio school told news.com.au no screenwriter ever sets out to create a conventional character but audiences like to see something familiar and recognisable, albeit with something “fresh” thrown in.
“If you see a character that is completely familiar with no nuance, nothing to add, nothing to help explain us to ourselves a bit better – that’s not really great writing,” said Dr Pearlman.
“There are other shows where people hope characters will behave exactly as expected and then a writer might be writing that show to a brief.”
“Less of a real person than it is desirable marketing”
Film and media critic Marc Fennell echoed the desire for familiarity on screen but also told news.com.au the truly one-dimensional characters are driven by marketing and advertising.
“It’s kind of a demographically derived character,” Mr Fennell said, “and not just a demographically derived character but a character that – in my view – is less of a real person than it is a desirable marketing quadrant.”
Top-rating drama Packed to the Rafters is well, packed to the rafters with these male stereotypes.
Mr Fennell said the Channel 7 program has applied all the lessons from advertising, with “100 per cent stock characters,” but it fills its brief of being broadly appealing and agreeable.
“They’ve somehow managed to create the most successful Australian drama with characters that look like they’ve been lifted straight out of a Sanitarium ad.”
These characters are just as easily found in almost any other Australian TV show or commercial.
In real life, most men are a combination of these characters, or perhaps they aren’t like any of them, but Australian television would have us think all men are one type, and only one type.
In fact, reality television fills this void, said Mr Fennell. Shows like Masterchef and The Block have also offered new on-screen representations of men.
“I don’t reckon 20 years ago you would have seen straight, blokey men cooking on TV but Masterchef has completely changed that,” said Mr Fennell.
“Craftsmanship has become a new male attribute in popular culture.”
So if you are a man who doesn’t fit inside the focus-tested, marketing-friendly stereotypes and are looking for representation on screen it appears you have to turn to reality TV. Or find another way to spend those two and a half hours a day.