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The Representation of Gender in Contemporary Chinese Television Advertising: An Analysis of Content, Meaning, and Production

This thesis examines how gender is portrayed in Chinese television commercials and how these representations reflect the social and cultural contexts of their production and the institutional practices of advertising production personnel. To date, while there have been a plethora of studies on gender representation in advertising in western contexts only limited attention has been given to Chinese advertising portrayals of gender. This study, therefore, explores particular ways in which femininity and masculinity are discursively constructed, and how this process, in turn, contributes to reinforcing and/or challenging certain gender ideologies, in particular those found in Chinese Confucian culture. The study is unique in its approach to Chinese television advertising in that it combines methods from textual analysis (quantitative content analysis, semiotic analysis and critical discourse analysis) and empirical research (interview). A sample of 679 television commercials was collected and analysed in this investigation. Content analysis was initially applied to identify recurrent patterns and characteristics of gender representation which, in turn, formed the basis for in-depth semiotic and discourse analysis. Specific signs, images, codes, discourses and myths were subsequently discussed. The study also included semi-structured interviews with 26 Chinese advertising personnel in order to understand their multiple dispositions toward gender and their actual experiences of depicting female and male characters in the creative process. Several main findings emerged from this study. The portrayal of gender in Chinese television commercials is complex because it embodies a series of simultaneously conflicting and complementary discourses on what constitute femininity and masculinity. The results of the content analysis revealed that the representation of gender in this study’s sample still remains stereotypical in terms of the different distribution of the sexes across product category, role, dress, age, credibility and voice-over. By focusing on the constructs of gender in domestic, occupational and recreational contexts, the use of semiotic and discourse analysis revealed that Chinese television advertising not only portrays women and men in line with the significant aspects embedded in both Chinese and western patriarchal traditions, but is also constitutive of cultural shifts in gender ideologies through highlighting modern (western) values. In addition, the interview findings yielded support for the conclusions of textual analysis, demonstrating that the process of advertising production is significantly influenced by traditional and modern gender values, the restriction of advertising regulations, client expectations, and the professionals’ divergent perceptions of gender and their assumptions about the audience.
Type of thesis
Shao, Y. (2011). The Representation of Gender in Contemporary Chinese Television Advertising: An Analysis of Content, Meaning, and Production (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5402
University of Waikato
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