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Common Sense Media announces addition of new rating for TV and movies
Common Sense Media announced plans to identify television and movies that counter gender stereotypes. MasterChef Jr. will receive the designation once it is introduced. - photo by Hannah McDonald
Common Sense Media, a San Francisco nonprofit that advocates for family-friendly media, announced yesterday their plans to introduce a new metric to evaluate gender-positive movies and television.

The current scale ranks movies and TV shows in seven different categories: positive messages; positive role models; violence; sex; language; consumerism and drinking; drugs and smoking. A new marker, which has yet to be added, will identify media that counter traditional gender stereotypes.

"This matters because these rigid stereotypes are holding us back politically, economically and socially," wrote Common Sense Media executives James P. Steyer and Amy Guggenheim Shenkan in a report released yesterday. "Gender stereotypes riddle our movies, TV shows, online videos, games, and more, telling our boys that it's OK to use aggression to solve problems and our girls that their self-worth is tied to their appearance."

These stereotypes are especially problematic, they said, because often they're so ubiquitous that parents rarely notice them. Children may be exposed to gender stereotypes before they can process what those messages mean.

The new scale has already posed some challenges for evaluators, according to New York Times writer Susan Chira. Not all female-driven films are necessarily gender-positive, and some strong female characters may elect to take up a traditional role as a wife or mother.

"Bridesmaids," for instance, will not receive the new designation, despite its mostly female cast. Shows like "MasterChef Junior" will, as the show demonstrates that cooking isn't just for girls.

Steyer and Guggenheim Shenkan wrote that they view this as a time to "break the cycle" constraining how both boys and girls view gender.

"Stories play a powerful role in shaping how kids understand the world and their roles in it," they said. "For our children to achieve their full potential, free of stereotypes that hold them back, each of us needs to consciously weed out gender bias."
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