SITUATION COMEDY: CHARACTERS, STEREOTYPING and IDEOLOGIES - a 400-word hand-out for Popular Television module seminar.

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Characters, Stereotyping, Fictions and Ideologies

Sitcoms have more a general grip on their audiences than other popular genres which have obvious connections with more general ideological formations, like the spy thrillers in the 1960s or the crime series in the 1970s.

Ryall suggests that genres can be defined as patterns, forms, styles and structures, which mean that the viewer knows everything will be alright in the end. The 'inside/outside' dichotomy can be seen in sitcoms, e.g., when an 'outside' character enters the situation, disrupting the norm. That is resolved by leaving it all as it was before in the end.

Comedy programmes routinely draw on 'social types' in order to proceed with sufficient colour of character and pace of narrative. Its nature is based in social relations, sense of continuity and depiction of sexuality. Sitcoms have limited number of characters and are filmed in cheap sets. Normally 30 minutes long, therefore immediacy becomes imperative.

However, sitcoms cannot function without stereotypes , though they are said to be based on real people. The images of men and women present the viewers with characters they can easily relate to.

For a character to be immediately funny, they must be a recognisable type, a representative embodiment of a set of ideas or a manifestation of a cliché. The 'well rounded individual' would not work in sitcom. There are immediately recognisable types: nagging, sexual demanding wife with delusions of bourgeois grandeur, and a threatened, likeably devious husband.

Sitcoms rarely challenge traditional role models. You're not likely to have a character with a feminist viewpoint without being seen as a 'loony' and not being taken seriously. That's because most sitcom writers are men and they find it easier to write humour for male characters. Humour is therefore an 'excuse' for perpetuating myths...