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Gender/Sexuality in Popular Culture


The values and views of society are reflected in popular culture, which often provides a forum for social commentary and criticism. The history of gender stereotypes in popular culture is examined in this article, focusing on advertisements, motion pictures, and music. It also discusses the significance of advancing gender equality and inclusion. The Nike “Play New” ad campaign, which stars Serena Williams and Mara Gomez, will be the main subject of the essay since it is a well-known cultural artefact that encourages diversity and inclusion in sports while challenging societal conventions (Bottomley, 2020). This article will also look at the history of restrictions on access and distribution for each popular culture object and expression, as well as whether access and distribution factors influenced content. Finally, the essay will examine whether or not the famous cultural examples’ objects and expressions align with the values that the reader holds dear.

History of Gender Stereotypes in Popular Culture

Gender stereotypes have long persisted in popular culture, supporting patriarchal standards and conventional gender roles. Advertising is crucial in maintaining gender stereotypes by showing men as powerful and women as docile objects of desire. In the 1950s, ads and product marketing emphasized women’s domestic duties as mothers and homemakers (Champlin et al., 2019). Ads targeted towards males, on the other hand, stressed their roles as breadwinners and providers. Gender stereotypes have also been significantly reinforced through music and film. In the early days of film, males were often presented as heroic heroes who rescued women while portraying women as helpless damsels in distress (Eisend et al., 2019). Similar to how lyrics in music often objectified and sexualized women, reinforcing patriarchal standards. However, in recent years, popular culture has begun to encourage inclusion and diversity while questioning established gender norms. An illustration of this transformation is the Nike “Play New” commercial with Serena Williams and Mara Gomez.

The Nike Ad Campaign “Play New”

Serena Williams and Mara Gomez are two athletes that question conventional gender norms and advocate for diversity and inclusiveness in sports in the Nike ad campaign “Play New.” The slogan “Play New” highlights the uniqueness and gender inclusiveness in the advertisement. Williams and Gomez are dressed differently in the advertisement, highlighting their individualism and distinctive fashion senses. The advertisement supports the concept that sports should be accessible to people of all genders and questions the assumption that there is a “normal” way to play sports. One of the greatest tennis players of all time, Serena Williams, has fought for gender equality and defied patriarchal expectations. Williams has experienced gender-based discrimination, including remarks about how she looks and the consequences of her conduct on the court (Li et al., 2022). In spite of these obstacles, Williams has advocated for gender equality and encouraged several young girls and women to seek careers in sports.

Mara Gomez, an Argentine trans woman footballer, made headlines when she competed in the country’s professional women’s league. Gomez’s participation in the commercial campaign underscores the value of diversity and inclusion in athletics while also questioning the binary nature of gender. Nike’s “Play New” ad campaign challenges the idea of what is “normal” by including people of all genders in their advertisements. The commercial communicates acceptance and inclusiveness by rejecting stereotypical gender stereotypes and championing differences in the sporting world.

Social Issue Messaging and Audience

The demographics of those who consume popular culture objects and manifestations have expanded in terms of race, gender, age, and socioeconomic status. The music and cinema industries have been profoundly influenced by the African American population and the LGBTQ+ community, which has changed genres and how gender and sexuality are depicted (Andrews, 2021). The manner that popular culture has embraced diversity and inclusion is a clear indication of these groups’ influence. For instance, LGBTQ+ characters and plotlines have appeared in films and TV episodes like “Pose” and “The L Word,” portraying the LGBTQ+ population in popular culture. Similar to this, African Americans have had representation in popular media thanks to “Black Panther” and “Hamilton,” two films that honour black history and culture.

Artists are increasingly using music as a platform to remark on social and political concerns such as racism, sexism, and the country’s current situation (Andrews, 2021). Beyoncé’s “Formation” is an excellent representation of black pride and strength since it challenges stereotypes and calls for racial equality. Like the film “Black Panther,” Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” addresses the systemic challenges black Americans face.

In recent years, the proliferation of online streaming services and social media platforms has resulted in a wider international audience for popular culture. Because of this, people from different backgrounds can interact and share their thoughts and customs. Film and music content is still controlled by distribution channels, which decide what is shown and played (Kalyani et al., 2022). Content rules on streaming services and other platforms may restrict the presentation of controversial subjects or censor explicit material, reducing the range of viewpoints available to the audience. Channels and companies with distribution clout may restrict audiences’ exposure to specific topics, ideas, and material types and limit the range of voices heard (Sergi et al., 2019). For instance, the film “Cuties” was heavily criticized for showing sexualized dance sequences with young girls. The film’s availability on Netflix ignited a discussion over free speech and the sexualization of youngsters. The debate sheds insight into how media outlets contribute to forming norms and perspectives in society.

Access and distribution constraints sometimes drastically limit the extent and influence of the messages given by popular culture items and manifestations. Regarding “The Handmaid’s Tale,” only Hulu subscribers may see the show. Hulu may be widely used, but not everyone can afford the service’s monthly fee and cannot see the show. Hulu may also be limited in its global availability due to a lack of relationships with streaming providers in certain countries.

Access and Distribution Limitations

Restrictions on access and dissemination may drastically alter the content and the audience’s shared experiences of popular culture artefacts. Topics explored and communal experiences shared in cultural objects like music and movies are profoundly influenced by their mode of delivery. Content rules on streaming services and other platforms may restrict the presentation of controversial subjects or censor explicit material, so reducing the range of viewpoints available to the audience. In addition, many organizations and channels exert control over distribution, which may restrict audiences’ exposure to various topics, ideas, and material types and the range of perspectives presented in any one work.

Control of Content

The substance of works of popular culture may be profoundly affected by their availability and dissemination. For instance, movie theatres and record labels influence what audiences see and hear because of the choices made by distribution networks. The question of whether or not access and distribution forces govern content must also be asked and answered. Although they may affect how widely information is seen, they may not be able to influence what it says or does. The artists who make works of popular culture significantly impact the messages they convey.

Social Values and Provoking Change

Artefacts of popular culture may convey messages that establish societal ideals or inspire change. For instance, artists express their political, racial, and gender views via their music. The LGBTQ+ community and the African American population have greatly affected the music and entertainment industries, affecting genres and how gender and sexuality are depicted. A vital channel for expressing social and political opinions is now popular culture. Although it has promoted diversity and inclusiveness, it has also come under fire for allegedly encouraging racism, sexism, and violent crimes.

Personal Values and Connections

Analyzing how popular culture objects relate to or do not relate to individual values is crucial. A popular cultural artefact that encourages diversity and inclusion in sports and defies conventional standards is the Nike commercial campaign “Play New,” which stars Serena Williams and Mara Gomez (Li et al., 2022). It conveys a message of inclusivity and respect. I support spreading diversity and equality. Thus, this statement speaks to my ideals. However, other pieces of popular culture may not reflect a person’s values and ideas, so it’s important to be mindful of the messages they spread and how they affect society.


To a large extent, popular culture has helped shape social concerns and spread messages of acceptance and tolerance. Opportunities for cultural interaction and the dissemination of differing points of view have arisen as the audience for popular entertainment has grown more varied, global, and politically active. However, popular culture artefacts’ distribution mechanisms continue to have an influence on the range of ideas available to the public. Understanding these processes is critical for fostering a culture that is representative of society as a whole, rich in diversity and inclusiveness. The substance of popular culture artefacts and the shared experiences they foster may be profoundly impacted by how easily such objects are accessed and distributed. However, it is equally vital to consider the influence of content producers and their aesthetic vision in moulding the messages conveyed by these artefacts. Examining the effects of popular culture is crucial because it may deliver signals that establish societal ideals or promote change. It is important to reflect on how you identify with the themes conveyed by objects from today’s popular culture. In general, the dissemination and production of popular culture should prioritize the promotion of inclusion, diversity, and equality.


Champlin, S., Sterbenk, Y., Windels, K., & Poteet, M. (2019). How brand-cause fit shapes real world advertising messages: a qualitative exploration of ‘femvertising’. International journal of advertising, 38(8), 1240-1263.

Eisend, M. (2019). Gender roles. Journal of Advertising, 48(1), 72-80.

Li, J. Y., Kim, J. K., & Alharbi, K. (2022). Exploring the role of issue involvement and brand attachment in shaping consumer response toward corporate social advocacy (CSA) initiatives: The case of Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign. International Journal of Advertising, 41(2), 233-257.

Kalyani, V., Arumugam, T., & Surya Kumar, M. (2022). Women in Oppressive Societies as Portrayed in Kollywood Movies. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 81(1), 173-185.

Sergi, B. S., Owers, J., & Alexander, A. (2019). Valuation changes associated with the FOX/Disney divestiture transaction. Economics & Sociology, 12(2), 36-47.

Andrews, R. (2021). Polyrhythmicity in Language, Music and Society. Springer Singapore

Bottomley, A. J. (2020). Sound streams: A cultural history of radio-internet convergence. University of Michigan Press.


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