TV titles: the gender breakdown in 1982 vs. 2012

Proof that Women Have Taken Over TV

Proof that Women Have Taken Over TV

Brow Beat has moved! You can find new stories here.
Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 19 2012 11:22 AM

The End of Men, TV Titles Edition

Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele, from a bygone era when men dominated primetime

© 1984 Gene Trindl

Hanna Rosin’s new book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women catalogs female gains in education, work, and at home. But Rosin somehow overlooked another front in women’s march to gender dominance: TV show titles.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.

In the fall of 1982, the prime-time TV lineup featured 20 titles that referenced men or male characters. NBC’s Friday night lineup alone offered a three-fer: The Powers of Matthew Star, Knight Rider, and Remington Steele. Meanwhile, female characters were mentioned in just five titles, while six others name-checked both men and women. Three decades later, as we head into the 2012-13 TV season, the balance has changed completely: 14 titles reference women, eight men, and five both genders.*


Are TV programmers girlying up their show names to attract female viewers? If so, I doubt it will work. As Susan Burton noted when a movie based on her autobiographical story turned young Susan into a boy: “girls will go see movies about boys, but boys will not go see movies about girls.” I doubt that adult TV viewers are very different from young filmgoers.

No, it’s clearly another sign of the dude-ocalypse.


Note: Since Tucker’s Witch references both Rick Tucker and his wife, Amanda, it has been placed in the both-gender column. When it was later re-broadcast on USA, the show was renamed The Good Witch of Laurel Canyon, which would’ve put it in the women’s list. Your sexism came back to bite you, 1982!

Sources: For 1982, Wikipedia. For 2012, Page 42 of the Sept. 17-23 TV Guide.

Correction, Sept. 19, 2012: The chart and its accompanying text originally located How I Met Your Mother in the female column. Since the “I” of the title is a man, the show belongs in the mixed-gender list. The Simpsons was also originally missing from that column.