In the spotlight

Rachel Gilbride

If you enjoy watching television and movies, then you will notice obvious differences in how men and women are dressed and lit. In newer shows this difference isn’t all that noticeable, but in remakes such as the “Star Trek” movies, the costuming is obviously different.

Lieutenant Uhura is a perfect example of how men and women are dressed differently. In this version and the version it’s based on, the Star Fleet officers wear their rank on their arms. Uhura’s uniform is a sleeveless dress, so she can’t have a recognized rank. This is true for all of the women who are stationed on the Enterprise.

The is a blatant example of sexism in a modern show, which is especially frustrating from a show that made social progress almost 50 years earlier. The original “Star Trek” was the first to allow a woman to be a lead character. It also took pride in allowing nonwhites to be lead characters. Now it reverts to whitewashing it’s characters and placing women beneath the men.

“Bones” is another example of different lighting for the male and female characters. The TV series “Bones” features a female forensic anthropologist as the lead character. Although this show does empower women, it also contains some subtle lighting differences between the men and women. In various instances the women characters are lit with a soft light while the men are lit more harshly.

In almost every lighting setup, Dr. Temperance Brennan receives light that equally covers her face and has almost no shadows. While Special Agent Seely Booth has a harsh light that creates shadows on his face. These may not seem that significant, and in most cases represents natural lighting accurately, but it does show a bias to make the women look better.

These two types of discrimination techniques have been used since the start of the television era–starting with wardrobe differences. Men and women have different types of clothing, in some cases differences in costuming are needed but not when it is used to degrade women.

The lighting technique came into play with first television, which necessitated the actors to be flooded with light just for the audience to see them. As technology improved so did lighting techniques, such as using light to create beauty effects and shadow for depth. This is also when actors started making light requests to be lit more favorably. It is also when the lighting bias between men and women started.

Although these are just two examples of a media bias in fictional stories, they exist throughout our entertainment. In some cases, it is very subtle and in others it’s obvious. Even the subtle techniques to make women look better go against a society where women are equal to men. In other cases, it’s obvious there is a bias that it is offensive to women. This is a practice that won’t be changed easily but should be recognized by people who care about equality.

It’s possible that we can change how our entertainment society treats women, but these techniques will continue to be used mainly for its aesthetic value, or in relevant period pieces. However, if we start noticing these devices and get enough people requesting equal use, it is possible that women will no longer have these techniques used in a discriminatory manner.


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