Content analysis in the media may not be the perfect method for evaluating media based on feminist standards; however, dissecting each medium and quantifying its representation can still send flares up for an anti-feminist/anti-woman situation, even if the methodology does not involve the qualification of such media. The example that is always debated is “Mad Men;” is this show inherently anti-feminist because it portrays the very honest reality of women in the 60s? Or is it a form of feminist critique, because we can watch the show now and start a dialogue on how unfair the system was and remember why we reformed in the first place? This is where numbers (aka content analysis) leave us desiring more. Gill brings up this satisfaction amongst critics that are looking for a more context-sensitive approach where the meanings of representations of women can be questioned instead of only analyzing the manifestation of these representations.
Van Zoonen reminds us that this method is really the only viable way of producing concrete, reproducible, and uniform data for research. This type of study can also create a timeline of sorts to frame the transformations of female representations in the media. For instance, if we time travel to “I Love Lucy,” Lucy is a heroine for many, but represents an overtly feminine, ideal housewife who always ends up getting herself into trouble (maybe not the best role model, but who is to say). This female protagonist was essential for the time, but now our image of women is either like the powerful (yet still phallocentric) ladies of “Sex and the City” or the ditzy, laughable divas of “The Real Housewives” (again, maybe not the best role models). Content analysis would certainly show this shift, but what does the shift say about our state of society? If a person from the future read a content analysis report of our generation, there may be more women represented and even more types of women; but without context and subjectivity, what would they think about all of our make-up ads, skeletore models and promiscuous leading ladies?
My aunt does not allow her 4-year-old son to watch live television, but only rented DVDS (like Curious George), because she is so tormented by the ads that run on television, even during children’s programs! Van Zoonen says “a culture communicates with itself by a means of its total mass media output with television being the prime mass medium,” but what are we really communicating: vanity and destructive sexuality or progressiveness (73)?