Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

David R. Dickens

Number of Pages



Gender Construction in Prime-Time Sitcoms: Roseanne and Murphy Brown analyzes gender portrayal in the highest rated situation comedies on network television in the United States in 1992. The research is constructed to examine whether gender, as presented in Roseanne and Murphy Brown, continues to be based on confining stereotypes or if female characters are being portrayed in an increasingly egalitarian manner. Findings from previous decades of media research on gender portrayal in network television are used as a standard for compariSon Variations in gender portrayal because of social class differences are also examined; The main research methodology employed is content analysis. The sample consists of five programs from each series selected from the February and November ratings periods, reflecting twenty percent of each series' annual production. Other episodes of the programs are also consulted to examine overall character development and behavior of the characters within the context of the shows' five year histories; Analysis revealed that, first, at the manifest level, Murphy Brown and Roseanne appear to defy prior gender stereotypes and present an image of female empowerment, in contrast to the previous depiction of female characters on television. Second, female gender-role construction varied by social class in two ways, in the suggestion that single life is more acceptable for a woman who enjoys economic stability, and in the suggestion that single motherhood is acceptable only if the mother is financially stable. Third, a discursive reading of the programs placed them within their socio-historical context, focusing on the growth of women as consumers and as the largest segment of prime-time network television viewers. The programs were found to offer strong examples of feminine discourse, presenting serious social issues such as the changing face of the "typical" American family, the changing economic landscape, and problems of age and gender discrimination. The manifest message of gender equality thus was reinforced at the latent level.


Brown; Class; Construction; Gender; Murphy; Prime; Roseanne; Sitcoms; Social; Social Class; Time; Social Class

Controlled Subject

Sociology; Mass media; Women's studies

File Format


File Size

13434.88 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit