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Are TV game shows sexist?

By September 7, 2010 7 Comments

The female models fade into the background on "Deal or No Deal."

I’m a game show junkie.

I’ve devoured television game shows from the time I was little, home sick from school, until now, after dinner with my roommates.

They’re quick, fun, usually educational, and appeal to my really competitive side. So it all works out nicely when I can claim victory over a Final Jeopardy answer.

But the other day I noticed something. Something I’ve never really heard anyone talk about. And I asked myself, are game shows sexist?

Why did this pop into my mind? Because I could not think of one single female game show host. Ever.

Think about it: “Family Feud,” “Hollywood Squares,” “Jeopardy!,” “Cash Cab,” “Pyramid,” “Password,” “Press Your Luck,” “The Newlywed Game,” “Love Connection,” “Minute to Win it,” “Name That Tune,” “Win Lose Or Draw,” “Concentration,” “The Singing Bee,” “The World Series of Pop Culture,” “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?,” “Trivial Pursuit,” “Supermarket Sweep,” etc, etc.

The hosts of these popular game shows that span the decades are all men (and in almost every single case except one, white).

When we think of women on game shows (contestants aside), our minds immediately go to the models. Think of “The Price is Right” models who show off cars in bikinis, the matching “Deal or No Deal” models who open briefcases, or “Wheel of Fortune”‘s Vanna White who just turns letters while her male colleague speaks.

These women aren’t part of the intellectual pieces of the show like the men are; they’re there to look pretty, show off a new blender, and not speak.

A rough Wikipedia count of United States game show hosts indicates that there have been around 230 male American game show hosts since the dawn of television, and only 23 females hosts.

The only female American host I could think of is Meredith Viera, “Today Show” co-anchor and daytime host of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” (originally hosted by Regis Philbin).

Anne Robinson played it cold and cruel on "The Weakest Link."

You might be saying, “Hold up! You’ve forgotten Anne Robinson, the woman who hosted the early 2000’s hit, ‘The Weakest Link!'” But wait a second. Remember this lady’s shtick? She was mean, cruel, and constantly criticizing contestants. So basically, the show’s message was if a woman is smart enough to host a trivia show, she has to be a mean bitch.

But who cares? What does this all mean? What I think is going on here is part of a bigger issue; the issue of a greater representation of men in the media. Not only do men control more of the media, but they are overwhelmingly the voice of authority and intellect.

There are several studies about news media’s lack of female voices. Most pundits and anchors are male, and most quoted sources are male.

It seems silly to pose game shows up against war reporting and political commentary, but game shows are in our living rooms every night (or in my case, afternoons too). It would be nice to hear a woman directing the shots for once, and not parading around in her bikini silently opening up briefcases.

Does this lack of female game show hosts bother you? Should it? Let me know whether you’re constantly trying to answer that Final Jeopardy question, and what you think about game show sexism.

Kate