SUI GENERIS. GENDER PORTRAYALS IN ITALIAN TELEVISION ADVERTISING

Paola Panarese

Abstract

The article reports the results of a content analysis of 815 Italian commercials and a qualitative research on some case studies.

The study aims to determine the level of sex typing in the Italian advertising and try to find some changes in the gender representations.

If the content analysis confirms the perpetuation of old stereotypes in the Italian commercials, the qualitative research reveals a timid transgression of traditional gender roles. Sometimes, women are depicted as professionals and ambitious workers, inserted in different workplaces and not confined at home, and flanked to the men and not only accompanied by them. Occasionally, men are depicted at home, in the role of father or as a sexual object.

However, the “new” portrayals do not imply a reduction of the differences between men and women. Rather, they articulate the gender diversity in a more subtle form. On the one hand, the Italian commercials reassure traditional identities, pushing them towards consumptions that destabilize the gender order. On the other hand, they promote a new awareness and attention to the gender complexity, anchoring it to traditional consumptions.

Even if the new portrayals are few and do not constitute a trend, they prove that the topic is more complex than it seems, and the issues are much more nuanced than in the past.

Keywords

Gender, Advertising, Representation, Role portrayals, Italian Television

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