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Abstract

In her paper "Race and Gender Representations in Advertising in Cable Cartoon Programming," Debra L. Merskin explores what children see and what they learn about racial, ethnic, and gender identity in television advertisements. Merskin examines race and ethnicity in commercials on cable television, specifically on the Turner Cartoon Network, an environment devoted entirely to cartoons and to children. Her content analysis of 381 advertisements reveals that while White and African American children are overrepresented in relationship to their percentage of the U.S. population, other minority group children are rarely portrayed. In only one instance were children of color shown alone, not accompanied by at least one White child. In addition, girls, particularly minority girls, were more often shown in the home, performing stereotypical domestic tasks while boys, particularly White boys, were found in the outside world doing active and exciting things. When minority children are shown, they are either accompanied by Whites (i.e., not left on their own) or marginalized with girls in ads that only girls are likely to pay attention to. Social learning theory predicts early learning about race contributes not only to children’s present conception of self and others, but also provides the foundation for the construction of stereotypes that persist throughout a lifetime.

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