Television. I love television. So much so that I will passionately rant about it to anyone who will listen (or even pretend to listen). The main topic of many of these rants has been that of representation. Accurate representation on television is something I feel very strongly about, so it seemed an obvious choice that this should be the topic of my research project. Immediately after making this decision I was almost overwhelmed with just how broad this topic could potentially be. To narrow down my topic I decide to focus on something we can all relate to – representation of age – and in particular representation of young people on popular dramas.
In beginning research for my project I thought there would be a lot of pre-existing data available regarding the portrayal of youth on television. I was wrong. It would appear from my research that the most common studies regarding representation of age on television are about misrepresentation of the elderly (Pywell 2011), particularly poor representation of elderly women (Jermyn 2013). There also appeared to be a large amount of data relating to age differences between male actors and their female love interests (Vulture 2013). Overall it would seem that there is a significant gap in research regarding representation of youth on television, because of this, I think my research project will be a worthwhile undertaking as it will reveal new information.
An area that I think would be particularly interested to find out more about is the effect of using older actors to play adolescent characters. The only data I could find on age differences between actors and their adolescent characters was a few brief lists on entertainment websites such as news.com.au (2014) and ninemsn’s ‘The Fix’ (2015).
This led me to settle on my research question being; “Does finding out a television actor’s age (and subsequent age difference compared to the character they play) change the viewer’s opinion of their character?”
In order to answer this question, I plan to use two methods; data analysis and structured interviews.
The analysis will allow me to gather the necessary quantitative data, about the ages of actors and the characters they play, that will be necessary for the interviews. I will carry out this data analysis by selecting 10 popular network dramas whos’ main cast is made up of more than 50% of characters aging between 15-25, then I will find out the ages of the actors and the characters that they play. This information will better help me understand just how prevalent it is for actors to be significantly older than their character.
The structured interviews will allow me to gather both quantitative and qualitative information by asking both open and closed questions (Grix 2004). By following a specific structure and asking all interviewees the same question I will easily be able to compare their answers. A part of the interview will potentially involve showing participants pictures of popular television characters aged between 15-25 and asking how old the participant thinks both the actor and the character are respectively. I will then tell them the real answer and ask if this information changes their opinion of the character.
I am excited to begin this research project as I am interested in this topic. Hopefully, if all goes to plan, you’ll be able to check back in in a few months’ time and read the results.
- 2015, TV’s craziest character-to-actor age differences, The Fix, viewed 27th of march 2016, < http://thefix.ninemsn.com.au/2015/01/15/05/09/tvs-craziest-charactertoactor-age-differences>
- Buchanan, K 2013, Leading Men Age, But Their Love Interests Don’t, Vulture, viewed 27th of March 2016, < http://www.vulture.com/2013/04/leading-men-age-but-their-love-interests-dont.html#>
- Bucklow, A 2014, The big age difference between actors and the characters they played, com.au, viewed 27th of march 2016, < http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/the-big-age-difference-between-actors-and-the-characters-they-played/story-e6frfmyi-1226849605401>
- Grix, J 2004, The foundations of research, Palgrave Macmillan, New York
- Jermyn, D 2013, ‘Past Their Prime Time?: Women, Ageing and Absence on British Factual Television’, Critical Studies in Television, 8, 1, pp. 73-90.
- Pywell, A 2011, ‘The ways in which dramas affect public perceptions of ageing’, Nursing Older People, 23, 3, pp. 26-28 3p.