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Student Research Guide WQ23/ The Teaching Power of Fictional Television


Major Findings From This Research


  • You can't get rid of negative stereotypes entirely, and because of this, it makes it so important to especially focus on including the positive ones too.
  • People learn by seeing examples and how those around them act, so fictional television acts as an educational medium because it teaches through showing, not telling. 
  • The connection people feel to characters on screen helps them to feel empowered and seen, and the inclusivity of a wide range of different people continues to improve.
  • When characters are presented as friendlier and with more positive stereotypes, people who held them in a more negative light, and those who were neutral, are likely to change how they feel towards those groups to be more positive. This is how television creates an inclusive environment.
  • The vast amount of people and communities that fictional television reaches across the world means it is important to be considering all cultures and representations. 

Research Advice and Reflection

Advice for future researchers:

In my research, it was important to be careful to find credible authors. I used scholarly search engines in order to find the best results that prevented encountering heavy bias or opinion. Using a non-scholarly engine like Google, for example, did lead to some good results, but it required a lot more sifting and careful review. When using the scholarly search engines, the keywords were somewhat difficult to use, and I had to be flexible and think of new ways to use them in order to get different or new results. That is why I occasionally used general google searches at times in order to discover broader topics. From there I could adapt what I found to help when using scholarly search engines.

Reflection on research experience:

The work flow:

The research experience was constantly morphing. Each journal and article focused on specific sides of different, but related topics. When the right thread of sources came up, the process of filtering through them was much easier.

Where did the research process get sticky?:

It was difficult to not get trapped in one side of the effects of fictional television. There is a large number of sources focusing on the amount of time people spend online and watching television, and how that alone shifts the value television has previously had on the world. There are also many accounts on representation, and it's important not to get swept up into sources that may be very biased. There are many other examples of rabbit holes to fall down, and my suggestion is to have a clear idea of the parts you want to focus on or else as you learn more it can be confusing to remember what your point of origin was.

How was my interest in the topic changed after a closer look?

When I started researching, I intended to focus on the way younger age groups were affected by stereotypes in fictional television. The more I learned about how fictional television changed throughout history it became more prevalent and meaningful to broaden my view to all people in general. No matter the age group, representation and stereotypes shown through tv play a huge role and it was important to acknowledge that for more than just younger generations.

What was interesting?:

The more I looked into this topic, I became interested in looking at less scholarly articles and more personal ones. I spent the majority of my efforts finding educational sources and found they often reflected less on the personal experiences people have had with representation, stereotypes, and inclusivity on television. I believe that had I looked further into the stories of regular civilians I could have a stronger understanding of the emotional and societal impacts fictional television has on the personal lives and relationships of people.

Additional Television Tools: Reflection and Diversion


The ability of television to speak on controversial topics or viewpoints was sometimes purposefully set aside. Looking back to the 1960s a lot was happening, like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, or the Cuban Missile Crisis. During these dark events, people turned to television as a temporary relief of stress. Television programs focused on comedies and sitcoms for enjoyment, steering clear of political unease (The relationship between television and culture, 2016). Fictional television was important for the public on a psychological level.

When television was used as a way to speak up about controversies, it had very direct effects. Straight from the screen to the real world, "During the 1970s, broadcasters began to diversify families on their shows to reflect changing social attitudes toward formerly controversial issues such as single parenthood and divorce. Feminist groups including the National Organization for Women (NOW), the National Women’s Political Caucus, and the Coalition of Labor Union Women pushed for equality on issues such as pay and encouraged women to enter the workforce. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned women’s right to abortion, giving them control over their reproductive rights. Divorce rates skyrocketed during the 1970s, as states adopted no-fault divorce laws, and the change in family dynamics was reflected on television" (The relationship between television and culture, 2016). Through the shows that represented current attitudes and viewpoints, the people who felt empowered by them were able to make changes in their own lives.

Works Cited:

“The Relationship between Television and Culture.” Understanding Media and Culture, University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing, 22 Mar. 2016, Accessed 20 Feb. 2023.

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