A New Rating for TV and Movies Tries to Combat Gender Stereotypes

“Everyone I encountered in the industry tried to tell me it wasn’t a problem any more, that it had been fixed,” she said. “Even people making these products are sure they’re gender-balanced when they’re profoundly not.”


Emily Deschanel in the Fox series “Bones,” which was judged by Common Sense Media to have “positive gender representations.”

Jordin Althaus/FOX

Deciding how to assess television and movies for children poses complex challenges: How to strike the balance between overall quality and specific gender roles? What if a strong female character opts for a traditional role as wife and mother? And will recommendations that feature girls and boys reaching beyond traditional gender roles alienate some parents?

Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media’s executive editor for ratings and reviews, explained the reasoning behind some of the more complex choices.

“Moonlight,” for example, will be given the new stamp of approval for 17-year-olds and up, despite depictions of violence, drugs and sex. “I can’t think of any title that has prompted more talk about what it means to be an African-American young man, about opening up more possibilities, than that movie,” she said.

Of the parents surveyed, African-Americans were the most worried about what their children watched. More than white or Latino parents, they expressed concern about boys shown as violent or aggressive, girls’ obsessing about their appearance, and the way African-American girls and boys are portrayed, according to the survey, of 933 parents of children ages 2 to 17.

The reality show “MasterChef Junior” qualified for the seal because it counters the stereotype that cooking is for girls, said Michael Robb, Common Sense’s director of research. So do such shows as “Annedroids” and “Bones,” which feature girls…

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