Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A recent survey of boys' role models found that most boys look to their dad as their principal role model. David Beckham was in first place after fathers, and second-placed was politically incorrect Jeremy Clarkson. Newsround did its own straw poll last week, asking both boys and girls who they would choose as role models.

One of Newsround's stories yesterday was about 13-year-old Sarah who was has been shortlisted in the Miss Teen Great Britain competition, which according to its director is aiming to find a realistic role model for all teenagers.

Since she was about 9 years old Sarah was bullied by kids at school. They called her 'big' 'fat' and 'ugly' which made her lose heart. Sarah feels that personality is more important than outward appearance, and hopes that taking part in the competition will help her regain her confidence.

Challenging gender stereotypes was, no doubt, one of the aims of Sadie J - the subject of my previous blog. Sadie presumably picked up a lot of her car maintenance knowledge from her garage mechanic dad, Steve. She wanted to be perceived as a bit more 'girly' partly in an attempt to appeal to boys. Her friend Kit, on the other hand, has typically 'girlish' interests such as manicuring his nails and sewing sequins on his jeggings. In fact the actor playing Kit is so convincing in the role that the subtitlers thought Kit was actually a girl (see screenshot below)

Kit snorts, as subtitled
So far, so good. Sadie J shows us that not all girls are 'girly' and not all boys are going to be the next Jeremy Clarkson. But what does it say about the less thorny topic of sexual orientation, which was portrayed years ago on BBC children's TV?

All the romance we saw in the first episode of Sadie J was boy-girl stuff. And when the perfect opportunity came to make the story LGB inclusive this is what happened -

Joe: I don't care what you look like Sass. Or you Chloe. I'm sorry but none of you are really my type.

Chloe: Fine. Your loss. FYI you may be hot, but you're still a nerdy-birdy!

Sadie: But, but what is your type?

Well obviously at this point we could have discovered that Joe had a crush on another boy - perhaps Keith the apprentice mechanic - who'd just crashed the party on Joe's motorbike. But the writers wimped out with -

Joe: Call me a geek, but I prefer somebody who likes what I like: the Sci-Fi Channel, quantum cosmology, inter-stellar combustion fusion ...

Dede: ... though technically they cover the same ground.

Joe turns to admire Dede, and we hear the romantic strains of #Flying Without Wings# as Joe imagines Dede slowly walking towards him.

Of course, that was just the first programme of a new series, but the question remains: Will CBBC ever be prepared to combat all prejudice by fully embracing diversity?

Challenging stereotypes alone is simply not enough.

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