domingo, junio 14, 2009

Representations of Professionalism in the Media

For this post, I am going to be talking about a type of portrayal in the media - professionalism. I chose this topic because I am often frustrated by supposed professionals (particularily female professionals) who look like they should be in Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" music video.

In this post, I am going to look at a few different representations of professionalism on TV, discuss how professionalism is portrayed, and look at the value assumptions underlying these portrayals.

It seems that professionalism is rarely represented as, well, professionalism. Many TV shows that are set in or feature professional settings lack the qualities of the professionalism that is expected of one in the
real work place. For starters, lets look at professional attire. In a show that completely revolved around the events of a professional workplace, "Ally McBeal", little actual professionalism can be seen, particularly in the clothing. In the show, Ms. McBeal's office clothing staples were mini-skirts and décolletage bearing tops. In the real workplace, such attire is inappropriate as the professional workplace is not where one should be concerned with being "sexy" but where one is focused on work. This portrays the professional working world as a place where looking "sexy" is appropriate and important. This trend of "sexy" work-ware is something I have noticed in clothing stores. I have noticed mini-skirts being sold in the "career" sections of many stores geared towards young women. This demonstrates how big an impact TV can have on culture.

Another aspect of professionalism portrayed in TV shows are relationships within the professional setting. Many relationships in the professional real that appear in TV shows are portrayed as ones based on sexual attraction/desire. In a real workplace, relationships like this can be considered inappropriate. Take for instance the TV show "Friends". In season 6 one of the characters, Ross, is a professor at a local university. In episode 18, Ross brings in one of his teacher evaluations filled out by one of his students. The evaluation has numerous praises of his teaching and a mentioning of him as a "hot professor". As he discovers who this student is, he decides to go on a date with her when he realizes she will technically not be his student at the semester's end. Even though it seems okay, there is still a need for them to hide their relationship as they date. In the end, they get "caught," but never get in trouble. This shows that having unprofessional tendencies may not have consequences.

Lastly, I'd like to talk about representations of professional behavior on television. To do so, I will look at the prime time drama "House, MD". Any avid watcher of this shows knows of Hugh Lorie's character, House, and his drug use. Throughout the show he has continual need to take drugs. His boss and employees are well aware of his problem and do things to try to help him, but he never has "real" consequences such as loosing his job. He is threatened many times, but on he goes, treating patients while on drugs. Below you will see a montage of clips of House and his drug use:

Even though he has prescriptions for
some of the drugs he takes, he is often confronted by coworkers on his drug dependence, but rarely shown real consequence. This again, like "Friends", and "Ally McBeal" gives a portrayal of there being no consequences to acting unprofessionally, ultimately skewing the idea of professionalism.

With these portrayals, it seems television often portrays professionalism in a way that is not actually professional. This gives a limited view of the professional world as there is little behavior or emphasis on appropriate professional dress, relationships, and behavior. A lot of professional representations on TV show mostly inappropriate professional behavior. These representations make it seem as if there is little value in being professional anymore. Things are becoming more and more casual in our culture, but professionalism is something that is imporant to keeping the workplace productive and focused.

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