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Globalization and technology have enabled humans to do miracles; children's television is one of them. Before the coming of cartoon networks in 1996, children's television entertainment was limited to brief segments on general entertainment channels. The situation is changed now as multiple 24-hour channels televise shows for children worldwide. Cartoon watching now is accepted as indispensable for children; even toddlers are addicted to it. Data shown in a Nielsen study conducted in America (1998) confirmed that the average child and/or adolescent watched an average of nearly three hours of television per day. Today, according to a recent report, 'British pre-school children already watch more than two-and-a-half hours of programming a day, on average--on old-fashioned T. V. sets, laptops or tablets and mobile devices' (Rushton, 2017).

Among the most watched television shows, animated cartoons have remained a source of pleasure, enjoyment and fantasy among young children for decades. Television tells them stories, fantasizes and constructs images about the real world. Ahmad & Wahab (2014) say that animated movies and cartoons are valuable and a highly influencing source of socialization, as media and television are active agents in making and modifying the concept of gender roles among children's minds in any society. Television and internet, though, are playing a significant role in broadening their vision and giving exposure to things imagined or real. However, gender representation of male and female characters in TV animated cartoons functions in a "biased and stereotypical way, which to a certain extent play an important role in socialization process for shaping and constructing ideas about male and female's position and characteristics in society" (Ahmad & Wahab, 2014, 1).

As television becomes an integral part of children's lives at a very early age (Thompson & Zerbinos, 1995), they also become susceptible to the gendered content portrayed on television; that is because between the ages of 2 to 11, they cannot differentiate between reality and fantasy. Yet researchers such as Williams (1981), arguing that although television plays a vital role in the learning process of children, conclude that in view of the "current television content, the opposite has been true for most children" (ibid, p. 1). Inspired by an observation of Nicholas Johnson, former Federal Communications Commissioner, USA, that "all television is educational; the only question is: what is it teaching?" Thompson & Zerbinos (1995) conducted research on gender representation in children's cartoons and found consistent portrayal of gender role stereotypes. In this regard it is interesting to note that generally the parents are satisfied while the kids are watching TV and cartoon programmes. They are quite unaware of the far-reaching effects of these programmes on the innocent minds of their kids.

The Chhota Bheem series is presented on the Pogo channel (an Indian channel for young children) and is as much popular in Pakistan as in other countries of South Asia. It is an animated series based on the adventures of a little boy named Bheem. Since its first launch in 2008, this cartoon serial now has huge child viewership and its earnings continue to rise. The stories are situated in a fictional village of Dholakpur. Each and every story is based on how the nine-year old Bheem and his small friends resolve big problems, often caused by big people (adults or rich) of the society.

The creation of the main cartoon character of Bheem is inspired by the legendary heroic character of Bhima in the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, which consists of seventy-five thousand verses written in Sanskrit. Briefly, Bhima of the Mahabharata, one of the five Pandava brothers, possessed enormous strength and in the great battle of Kurukshetra defeated all his adversaries. Bhima is celebrated for might, truth, and knowledge. Bhagia (2015) states that the cartoon character Bheem was created by Rajiv Chilaks as he wanted to have a character of his own in the cartoon market "which would be ours exclusively." Actually, he wanted to introduce a character remarkably different from traditional international cartoon characters, e.g., Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Tom and Jerry. He consciously made changes in Bheem's age just to attract his specified audience.

Downs and Harrison (1985) are of the view that the regular viewing of television programmes may lead to shaping the ideologies of kids regarding sex, gender and gender roles at an early stage of their life. We are well aware that the term 'sex' has biological meaning, while the term 'gender' has social meaning. The genre of animated cartoons and movies has humans, both male and female, as characters. Jaggi (2015) identifies Chhota Bheem's story as a highly gendered text in stereotypical ways. A stereotypical representation of gender roles can never produce novelty among viewers or any positive change in stereotypic society. As these stereotypical roles of male and female characters are projected and disseminated, it is essential to investigate this issue in detail so as to bring awareness among parents.

Socialization among young children starts by watching television at a very early age (Ahmad & Wahab, 2014). The process of socialization for children involves building their notions of male and female and their values related to gender. All these characters and themes that are disseminated through media ultimately become a part of social practice in real life (Silverstein et. al 1986). Dines (1990) investigates the sociology of cartoons by referring to the sociology of media and sociology of art to extract theories and concepts which are relevant to the social study of cartoons. For more than two decades, women's portrayal on television has attracted the attention of the world. Thompson and Zerbinos (1995) point out that research focused on female representation picture women as under-represented in all domains of media - cartoons, commercials, and other programmes.

Innocent cartoons portray various negativities in a subtle way. One, among others, is how gender is represented through cartoons. England, Descartes & Collier-Meek (2001) found that gender representation these days in cartoons is just the same as it was many years ago. Male characters are always dominating and they also rescue the female characters, while female characters are always supportive and assisting. Barcus (1983), after investigating cartoons, concludes that boys learn aggressive and prosocial behaviour through spending considerable time with television. Male characters are aggressive and active while females are beautiful and smart, possessing ideal beauty. Likewise, Jeanne & Debre (1996) argued that in animated films the male characters are usually aggressive, full of action and violent, while female characters are useless or subordinate to male characters. Children imitate what they see; they imitate characters of the same gender rather than the opposite ones. Remafedi (1990) suggests that realistic and varied portrayals of sexes, in spite of "unrealistic stereotypes", promote negative traditional concepts among the younger generation. Freuh and McGhee (1975) explore how cartoons assist in developing gender stereotypes in young children.

Another important feature is that in these cartoons, male characters outnumber the female characters. Male characters usually have a good occupation (Levinson, 1975). On the other hand, females are represented in a few typical roles and characters as sex symbols or as assistants or housewives. Signorielli (1989) establishes that more exposure to stereotypic portrayal of the two sexes is directly proportional to more sexist views about women in society. Her analysis focuses on the social construction as well as the representation of woman as other and a marginalized being.

In such television programmes, patriarchal values and ideologies are being disseminated. Patriarchy and hegemony seem to be the sole reason for gender stereotyping. On Pogo, the representation of such characters has become part and parcel of children's activities. Therefore, gendered portrayal may communicate ideas and offer values as to how children should view and understand gendered behavior in society. Butler (1997) points out that gender as a social institution is a process of creating distinguishable statuses for the assignment of rights and duties. Wiserma (2001) believes that for a long time, the portrayal of gendered roles has not moved ahead according to the equality of males and females in social development; the media are not portraying real images or a balanced perspective of men and women. Dietz (1998) brings attention to the fact that females are shown just as sex objects as happens in video games that target playing with women. Bukhari and Ramzan (2013) maintain that gender inequality means disparity among human beings on the basis of gender. Gender is differentiated basically in two ways: first, social perception about status of gender; and second, on the basis of biological aspects through body differences such as human chromosomes, brain structure, and hormonal differences of human body.

Theoretical Framework

In the present study, a purposive sampling technique has been used and 12 episodes of Chota Bheem have been selected from the series that are helpful in the analysis of gendered roles, portrayed in the light of the model presented by Mills (1995) in her book Feminist Stylistics. She admires Foucault's notion of 'discursive frameworks' but is eager to add a gendered dimension to these structures. Mills' model of feminist stylistics works on three levels: lexical, sentential and discourse. Chhota Bheem is a popular form of discourse involving defined partners in a dialogue situation, having an impact on society. The approach which is adopted in the present research is qualitative, relying more on making judgments about the importance and use of various stylistic features in one cartoon series on the Pogo channel. The method of analysis is textual and structural. The textual method relies on investigating the content of the subject under study, while structural investigation is dependent upon investigating the organization of various elements in cartoons.

Textual analysis involves analysis of some sample dialogues from Chhota Bheem, highlighting the particular linguistic choices and effects of these choices in promoting stereotypic representation of females. In a structural approach, dominant, repetitive or various stylistic choices and elements are analyzed. The analytic study works on both micro and intermediate levels. Mills' (1995) framework of Feminist Stylistics explores every discourse on three levels. Analysis of Chhota Bheem for investigating stereotypic gender representation also involves these three levels. Certain questions to be explored under each level are selective in nature, partly in keeping with the theme of the study and partly in keeping with the highly selective nature of a stylistic analysis. Under the section of lexical analysis, the study is confined to investigating "naming or endearment terms" to illustrate how women are humiliated semantically in a particular language at the very basic level of human existence. On the sentential level, the present study focuses on jokes and humour purposefully pointed towards female characters as well as linguistic analysis of selected dialogues from some selected episodes. Lastly, on the discourse level, this study investigates these cartoon series' social impact on society and characters/roles assigned to women in Indian society. At this level, Beauvoir's (1997) notion of social construction of women as "other" is incorporated to recognize societal oppression and stereotypic treatment of women as inferior to males in society. Beauvoir explores how women are 'objectified' and men retain their dominant 'subjective' position. The present research, thus, would help to analyze the subtlety of power relations on the basis of gender, especially gender stereotypes, in a society. Moreover, this research will provide valuable insight into linguistic and stylistic choices of a discourse and its impact on individuals, especially children.

Data Analysis

As stated earlier, the purpose of this study is to analyze the gender portrayal of male and female characters in the Chhota Bheem series, a famous programme on Pogo, a channel that is playing a significant role in the socialization of young children who watch it regularly. In light of social learning theory, children start learning silently but significantly through these programmes on television. Observational learning plays a significant role in shaping and moulding children's ideologies and behaviours. Media propagates the domination of state and identifies the domination of male over female. The Chhota Bheem series is an animated series which has character-oriented themes and portrays one male character as the pivot of the story, Bheem. The theme revolves around the achievements and actions of Bheem. Another important point to be noted is the space given to male and female characters. Out of 9 major characters in Chhota Bheem, 6 are males and 3 are females.

Only one among those three, Chutki, finds a permanent place in the episodes, mainly because she is a member of Bheem's circle of friends. If we analyze her appearance on larger discourse levels, it might be to attract a female audience for the programme. A media analysis report from 24 countries (2008) reveals that only 32% of the 26,342 main characters in fiction programmes are female, while 68% are males. Males are dominant in most parts of the world in every sphere of life, even in cartoons. It is also interesting to note that the proportion of female appearance is low even in the representation of animals (25%/75%), monsters (21%/79%), robots (16%/84%), and other fictional beings (13%/87%) (Television, 2008). In the case of Chhota Bheem, it is amusingly bitter to note that in Bheem's circle, there appears one monkey and one girl, but males are four in number. This disparity demonstrates a clear gender imbalance in character portrayal, even in the fictional world of children.

When we come to the appearance of the main human characters' portrayal in this cartoon series, astonishing biases confront us. Bheem is depicted as a Caucasian male, Raju as fair-skinned, Kalia, Dholu, and Bholu with brown complexions. Bheem is the hero; he is depicted as brave white-skinned conqueror. White skin colour is a trait showing a prestigious position in a society where most are dark-skinned. To make Bheem distinctive, he had to be white, naturally. Raju is a true friend of Bheem so he comes next in awarding good skin colour. Kalia is mostly jealous of Bheem, and Dholu Bholu simply represent a race of humans who believe in blindly following their leaders, so the brown colour goes with this theme of colonized people.

Chutki is the only female in Bheem's group. She considers herself Bheem's girlfriend and his future wife. She is depicted as sexually attractive and beautiful as most heroines of the Indian cinema usually are. She has white skin colour, with cheeks powdered pink, which is also another symbol highlighting her character on sexual grounds. Her dressing is in conformity with typical Indian society. The hair colour of Bheem and Chutki is almost the same--reddish brown. Chutki has long hair, as compared to Rajkumari Indumati, another female character. Traditionally, long hair is considered a symbol of perfect beauty; girls with long flowing hair are considered to be sexually attractive to males. Raja has black hair, which is most common in Asia. Kalia has somewhat bleached brown hair which goes suitably well with his character of a fat, snobbish, quarrelsome fool.

Analysis at the Lexical Level


Naming has always been important in gender analysis. In fact, it is the starting point from which gender discrimination begins to build stereotypical attitudes towards gender differences. With this particular cartoon series, the present research limits itself to the analysis of only the main characters of the series. The main male characters' names are Bheem, Kalia, Raju, Dholu, Bholu, Raja Indravarma, Raju, and Jaggu Bandar. In Indian culture, Bheem generally means huge, mighty, gigantic or one of the Pandavas. But the point to be noted is that without a gender ending, the name is unisex in Indian culture. In these cartoons, the name Bheem is used for the boy Bheem but not for a girl, and there is a strong possibility now that if some parents would name their daughter Bheem, she will be humiliated among her age fellows as well as by society in general.

Lorber & Farrell (1990) assert that in our society gender is thought to be bred in our genes. It is hard to believe that it is created out of human interaction, social life, and is a structure of that society. Gender is a human production like culture and is dependent on everyone constantly "doing gender". The exploitation of women and social domination of men has social functions and a social history. It is not the result of sex, philosophy, structure or hormones. The cartoons have fixed this idea of Bheem as a boy in present day children's minds and for many generations to come. Stereotypic representation is visible here, as no girl can be represented as mighty, huge or gigantic, especially in the tradition saturated Indian culture where women are treated as 'second sex'. Another major character is Kalia, whose name in Indian mythology means a huge serpent. The name suits the character, as he is mostly jealous of Bheem. But it should be remembered that in India, serpents are often worshiped. Males are to be worshiped by females of India. A boy has the ability to be followed just as Kalia is accompanied by his silly followers, Dholu and Bholu. Raju is a pure masculine name often shared by Muslim society as well; it means prosperity. A girl has no right to be prosperous even when she comes to a naming situation.

Chutki is a major female character in this cartoon series. But her name seems more like an endearment term rather than a proper meaningful name. Even if we try to give it a meaning, it means no more than a little one. Hellinger & Bussmann (2001) argue that endearments and diminutives (e.g. my little song bird, actress, etc.) carry additional negative connotations. As Chota Bheem is a popular cartoon series among children, employing diminutive or endearment words as a proper name of a main female character becomes symbolic. Thus, a female is presented as a little one compared to the mighty and god-like males in the cartoons. The most unbelievable name is that of an elderly woman who is also the mother of Chutki--Tun Tun Mosi--Aunty Tun Tun. In English slang, Tun Tun means vagina. As this series is also translated into the English language, the name really becomes the sexist representation of a woman.

Sexism seems to be determined by patriarchy--a social system which privileges men at the expense of women (Mills, 2008). Schultz (1990) points out that there are three origins of pejoration: associations with a contaminating concept, euphemism and prejudice. But for him the first origin best exemplifies the concept because men always think about women sexually. Even if we consider the Asian context, the name Tun Tun can mean no more than the sound of a ringing bell. The treatment of women or female gender, in even the most basic situation of life, such as naming, contains stains of semantic derogation. Schulz (1990) referring to this, states that there is 'a semantic derogation of women'- a process whereby words and phrases associated with women become negatively influenced. It is not a personal domain where naming someone badly does not affect any one, but it is a public medium which affects hundreds and millions of viewers. Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (2003) suggest that people use language as a basic tool to construct themselves and others as 'kinds' of people, so that characteristics, attributes, duties and participation in social practice can be regularized.

Indumati is a princess of Dholakpur. The name is feminine and it means full moon; it signifies the beauty of any girl. Whenever she comes in any episode, she is addressed with her title mostly Rajkumari Indumati. In this contrast, her father's name is Indravarma which means a king by its origin. So, the point is that a woman should be a perfect beauty in order to be a princess, but a man needs just to be a man in order to enjoy any position of authority. It clearly depicts a gender bias, and it is unfair to expose children to stereotypic gender biases at such a tender age. As Talbot, Atkinson & Atkinson (2003) put it: "Classifying people is part of the naming and ordering of experience, it both reflects and sustains existing social relations and identities. The categorization of people is a powerful normative force."

It is revealed through the analysis of the attributes associated with male and female characters that the male characters are usually strong and brave, as with Bheem and Kalia. But the females are always in need of help from the male characters in the Chhota Bheem series. Chutki is always heard saying Shukria Bheem (thanks to Bheem). Even the Princess Indumati receives help from Bheem, not from the guards of the palace. It is always a male character that rescues females. Bheem is their superman. Bravery is always associated with male characters. Maharaj is brave and endowed with all the qualities that the king of a state requires. Ironically, there is no queen of the state. The absence of the queen itself is an indicator of the fact that there is no woman that is strong enough to being a good position. The state can run very well without a queen. Moreover, the one elderly woman, Tun Tun, Chutki's mother, is represented as a mere chef. Her profession is very stereotypical, further strengthening the role of women as cooks in society... a typical female profession. Findings also revealed that 90% of females are portrayed as sexually attractive. In the Chhota Bheem series, Tun Tun Mosi, Chutki, and Indumati are all represented as sexually trapped women. Their bodies, dresses and make-up show them as attractive to the boys. Chutki always has red cheeks, a token of her sexuality.

Analysis at Sentential Level

At the sentential level, the present study deals with how sentences are arranged in order to promote stereotypic gender representation in Chhota Bheem and how jokes are played intentionally on female characters as if women exist just to please and amuse men.

Dialogue 1: Chutki's Wish

Background sound with butterfly in view.

use mili hai ek jadoi titli jo kahe who degi wardan (He has a magic butterfly that can fulfill his wishes)

Kalia: chal ab mujhe jaldi se wardan de (Get up now and fulfill all my wishes)

Butterfly: Mujhe chor do main sirf apne bachane walon ko hi wardan deti hun (Let me go, please. I can fulfill the wishes of only those who save me).


The above dialogue is so ironical. The girl is represented as a magic butterfly bringing the things people want, but how strange it is that a boy in a very imperative tone is ordering (not making a request) her to fulfill his desires. The reply of the girl is also very symbolic; even though she has the power to meet the expectations of others, she is unable to save herself. Rather, she is permanently waiting for some dream boy who will come and save her from this perpetual state. Again, it is a stereotypical representation of girls as weak and humble, unable to save themselves. Thus the notion of power structure is apparent here and is used as a tool to exploit gender roles. Female characters are not presented as what they can do in the course of the play; rather they are defined in terms of their expected stereotypical roles.

Dialogue 2: Kidnapping of the Princess Episode

A Public announcement: suno... suno... suno! khtarnak dakoo Mangal Singh ne rajkumari ko aghwa karliya hai. Jo koi use wapa slayega munh manga inam pyega (A dangerous dacoit, Mangal Singh has kidnapped the Raj Kumari. Whoever frees her will be rewarded well).

Bheem: (ASIDE) mujhe kuchch karna parega (I will have to do something)


This episode shows that women are always in trouble. Even a princess who lives in a high-walled palace, guarded by her armed sentries, is kidnapped by a robber. Again, her father who is the king of the state does nothing; rather he adopts the humiliating way of publicly announcing his daughter's kidnapping. This very incident reveals that she is neither a human being nor a princess; she is a common entity that is lost and a public announcement is made to bring her back. Bheem's talking to himself is also significant. He is a little child, but he is the hero of the state, and he takes upon himself this duty to bring her back. The kids watching the episode are one hundred percent sure that Bheem can do this.

Dialogue 3: The Sea Prince Episode

The scene starts with Kalia dancing on the sea shore. He seems to be happy as if he has something precious. He is imagining himself as a king on a throne. When Dholo Bholo (his closest friends) arrive, he expresses his pleasure in a way that is greatly significant.

Kalia: Dekho... dekho... mujhe kiya mila hai (Look here. See what I have got!).

Dholo Bholo: Kiya? (What is it?)

Kalia: sachmuch ki jalpari--mai us pakroong aur bahut sare paise banaoonga (A real mermaid! I will catch her and make so much money).


The dialogue makes it clear that a female being from the sea can be such a source of pleasure for an earthly man. Kalia is happy, not just by seeing her, but he is also happy that he will make so much money by capturing her. Even a female being from the sea is taken as a business entity. This episode uncovers the hidden, but also extremely cruel, face of our society. The female is just a money-making device. Tun Tun Mosi, Chutki's mother, is a business woman, but she is always concerned about making money and taking care of her kids.

Dialogue 4: Ye Dosti Episode

Bheem and his friends are playing cricket. Suddenly someone, apparently from a distant country riding a horse, appears. He seems to be gloomy. Bheem asks him.

Bheem: Kiya hua? Tum itne udas kiyon lag rahe ho? (What has happened? Why do you look so sad?)

Friend: Han mere guru ko aghwa karliya gaya hai (Yup. My teacher and mentor has been kidnapped).

Bheem: lekin kiyon? Kisne aisa kiya? (But why? Who has done this?)

Friend: chor ne hamari Rajkumari ko aghwa kiya tha Rajkumari ko bachliya lekin woh abhi ghat lagaye bethe hain (The thief that had kidnapped our princess. Although we have saved our princess, he is again trying to cause trouble as he believes that our "guru" (mentor) is a hindrance, so he has done this dirty job).

Bheem: Main tumhari madad karoonga (I will come to help you).

(They all go to help him, with Chutki in their group as well).

Raju: Yeh rassi chutki ke bal jaisihai (This rope seems to be like Chutki's hair.

(All of them start laughing).


In this dialogue, again there is a reference to the incident of kidnapping of a princess. How strange it is that a princess is always kidnapped by some robber. There is not a single incident when a prince is kidnapped. The Prince is always there only to rescue. The kidnapping incident is a purposeful method that these robbers use to force the king to submit. A woman is seen as a weakness that brings disaster to the state, yet it is odd that a little boy is trying to help the king, not the king's men and horses. Raju's insulting remark on Chutki's hair is also an example of how a girl is always a token to please others. It did not matter how she was insulted and humiliated. A joke is a statement that provokes laughter and is usually devoid of any constructive aim. Jokes about females by male members of society are a type of covert sexism. Covert sexism manages to express sexism while at the same time denying responsibility for it (Mills, 2008). The female body, thus is presented as the object of humor and sexist jokes. Crawford (1995) reconfirms this point when she says that "... men control public spaces and that women's bodies are acceptable objects for public denigration". Although Chutki has beautiful and attractive hair, when it comes to compare ugly things, males always look for a female. The children's television shows in India are supporting this behaviour, particularly through these types of cartoons.

Dialogue 5: Khelenge Hum Holi (We will play Holi)

Jaggu: wahan per par bethna thik rahega. Jo bhi wahan ajaraha hoga mujhe dikhaidega. Magar main kisi ko dikhai nahin doonga. (Sitting there on that tree will be OK. I will be able to see all the passers-by from there, but I will not be visible to anyone).

(Chutki Dreams)

Chutki: kiya karoon, kahan chupoon?(What to do? Where to hide?).

Kalia, Dholu and Bholu appear on the scene with colour-filled balloons. They throw them on Chutki.

Chutki: Nahin mujhe nahin khelna. Mera munh kharab nakarna (No, I don't want to play.

Please, don't spoil my face by throwing colour on it).


Chutki is the only girl in the episodes who seems to be less confident. She cannot decide immediately. Even a monkey, like Jaggu, is presented as more bold and determined compared to this girl. Chutki dreams about Holi and she is terrified by the idea of having a coloured-smeared face. It is a typical attitude of girls in a patriarchal society that they are always concerned about their beauty, face and looks. Even in dreams, they are scared to have an ugly face. Males, on the other side, are never worried about their facial beauty, as depicted in this particular episode. This treatment of girls as "other" is in keeping with the idea of gender differences presented by Beauvoir (1997).

Dialogue 6: Navaratri Special/ Chhota Bheem Disco Dunyia

The king is watching women dance in the background when Raju and Bheem are searching for Chutki, as all of them have to take part in a dance competition. Raju to Bheem: Chutki kahan rah gaye? Agar chutki na aye tu hamari teem kamzor par jayegi. (If Chutki doesn't come, our team will be weak).

Suddenly Chutki appears in a beautiful new dress.

Raju: Wah! Chutki tum pe yeh ghagra bahut achcha lag raha hai. (Wow, Chutki! This dress suits you well).

Chutki: Shukriya Raju (Thank you, Raju).


Women and girls are shown as good at dance and music, especially in India. Girls are very conscious about their dress, as Chutki is depicted, but none of the male characters are shown in new clothes to be appreciated. So, again Beauvoir's (1997) concept of women as Other is apparent here. Males are subjects to which females appear as objects to be appreciated, to be noted, to be commented upon. No doubt, it is a very stereotypic representation of females that they dress nicely only to be appreciated by males. Or they are depicted as conscious about their appearance. Aristotle once said that appearances are always deceptive. So, this depiction of females as extremely conscious about their appearance, rather than having a beautiful inner self, shows sexist treatment of women in a male-dominated society.

Dialogue 7: Chhota Bheem and Ali Baba

Robbers approach Tun Tun Mosi (Chutki's mother) when she is selling laddoo (Indian sweet meat) at her shop.

Tun Tun: tum log kaun ho? (Who are you people?).

Robbers: Ali Baba ka nam suna hai? (Have you heard Ali Baba's name?).

Tun Tun: Achcha to tum Ali Baba ho? (OK. So, you are Ali Baba?).

Robbers: Nahin, hum Ali Baba ke chalees chor hain. Agar kal hamen chalees tokrey laddoo ke na diye to tum dekhna hum kiya karte hain. (No, we are the forty thieves of Ali Baba. If we don't get forty baskets of laddoo (sweets), you will see what we will do).

Chutki tells the whole story to her friends.

Chutki: Ma becahri ka kiya banega agar laddoo ke tokrey na pahunchey? (What will become of my poor mother if they don't get forty baskets of laddoo?)


Women are weak; they cannot protect themselves, cannot even complain against cruelties. When Tun Tun is threatened, she goes on making so many baskets of laddoo without asking for help or telling anyone that she has been threatened. It is her daughter Chutki who speaks out, but unfortunately she is also dependent on Bheem, the hero of every episode. The ironical thing is that women are exploited at every age. It does not matter whether they are mothers or daughters, young or old, professional or house wives. Furthermore, in this particular episode, an elderly female is depicted as devoid of intelligence. She cannot decide from their dress, or harsh treatment, not even a clue from the robbers, and is unable to reach an intelligent conclusion as to who they actually are. In typical Indian society, as it in most patriarchal societies, women are considered as devoid of intelligence. The head or intelligence is the symbol of males, whereas emotions and the heart are associated with females.

Another instance of female treatment on sexual grounds is the notion of 'Kalia' making money by capturing a jalpari. He considers, like most men do, a female as an object of the "male gaze", a concept first explained by Mulvey (1975). Men see and treat women as objects to have sexual pleasure. Although the jalpari is not human, she has semi-female traits, and it is wrong for a child to think of exhibiting a naked female. But television imparts a sense of justified presentation of a naked woman in public by male members of society.

Analysis at the Level of Discourse

This animated cartoon series is a popular form of discourse, not only among children but also among adults. While analyzing some discourse, it is important to understand the context of its occurrence. India is a country where a woman is treated as second or inferior to men. Traditional practices like sati burning of the widows at the funeral pure of their husbands), jauhar (killing of women for honour protection) and devadas is (girls dedicated to temples) have been banned in modern India, but in rural areas, these are still known to be practiced. Child marriage is still the usual practice in the Indian community. Even if we leave past history, modern secular India is an unsafe place for women: gang rapes and public assaults are increasing at an alarming rate. Pidd (2012) writes about the Guwahati incident in India:
Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so
degrading, so shocking and so much brutal as his abuse of the better
half of community; the female sex (not the weaker sex).

Mills' (1995) discussion of analysis of a work at the level of discourse involves four subheadings: characters/roles, fragmentation, focalization and schemata. These levels explain how writers and speakers construct structures of discourse at the level of narrative in association with ideologies of stereotypic gendered differences. Mills (1995) proposes that characters are made up of words and language as a sharp knife is used by men to cut women's share in social roles. Chhota Bheem's characters are informed by stereotypes of gender rules. Bheem's group of friends have four members; Bheem, Chutki, Raju and Jaggu Bandar. Chutki is his friend and serves as an unconditional support to him in every situation. Bheem is the one who controls all action in approximately all the episodes. He is brave, strong, powerful, courageous, intelligent, independent and adventurous. All attractive masculine traits are an inherent part of his personality. He is not categorized as a super-hero; still he reflects the qualities of a super-hero. He is the ultimate problem-solver in Dholakpur. He overshadows everyone else in these cartoons.

Chutki is the only female character who manages to have a permanent place in almost all episodes. She is Bheem's friend and brings laddoos for him by stealth. A typical stereotypical representation of a female who has a secret crush, she will do anything for her love or 'boy-friend'. After the 1980s, there is a certain change in female description throughout the media (Thompson & Zerbino 1995).This representation is also evident in Chutki's character as well. She goes to school, she is intelligent, and she is not portrayed as timid. In the episode "Chutki's wish", she herself fights physically with Kalia by refusing Bheem's help. But she cannot help herself on certain other occasions; she needs Bheem's help in her rescue. For example, in the episode, "Chhota Bheem and Ganesh", Chutki is kidnapped by a dragon and Bheem rescues her. In another episode, "Lost in the Wood", Chutki behaves as a hostess and reflects maternal traits by feeding male members of the group.

As women are forced to be limited to the household, to serve family and prepare food, Chutki's character keeps conformity with this social role, supposed to be the only perfect role for girls. Beauvoir's concept of motherhood as slavery is evident here. Male members of the society want women to be confined to their universal roles of good mothers, wives or daughters in the four walls of a house. It is another way of men controlling women, by telling them that they look perfect in their feminine roles, away from any kind of work, care or power positions. Another trait is her caring nature; women are always worried about health, safety, provision of food and other services to family and relations attached to them. This is the role happily offered to females in a patriarchal society. Chutki is no great exception. Indumati, the princess, cannot protect herself and none of the guards can either. Bheem is her rescuer also. She has a soft romantic place for Bheem in her heart. Typical male-chauvinist thinking, that if a male is handsome enough or helps a girl, the girl should fall for him. Indumati is represented as a perfect beauty and a silent lover: an ideal role for the female in a patriarchal society.

Kalia, the group leader of Bheem's rival group, has the role of a villain. Kalia has a typically masculine muscular body and two cunning followers, Dholu and Bholu. In an episode, "Kalia's Master Plan", Kalia dares Bheem to wrestle with him. He is defeated and Chutki's fluttering eyes at Bheem's victory portray her as sexually attracted to Bheem. The setting of cartoons is also important in presenting gender stereotypes. While men are portrayed in affinity groups, women are usually depicted as busy with household chores. The main male characters are shown playing with footballs or bows and arrows, playing tennis or running and exercising, Chutki is always shown as an audience or busy with flowers and butterflies. The female as a mere viewer is again a stereotypic representation. In "Bheem and Santa Claus", she wants to have doll as a Christmas gift and Raju wishes for a bow and arrows. Although, girls in reality are fighter pilots, successful politicians, and soldiers, the typical ideology of the close and indispensable relation of doll and girl has not altered a bit in modern times. The weird older woman named Tun Tun Mosi is a cook who is always making laddoos, a stereotypic role allotted to females in a male-dominated society.

Role analysis of major characters of Chhota Bheem reveals that action is for males while females are passive audiences. The only roles for them in patriarchal society are to be a plaything for males, to be sexually attractive enough to please men, to support men, to care for men, to prepare food for men or to do domestic chores. Despite changes in world ideology towards females, due to recent feminist movements, the situation in India is not much better. The coming generation will treat females accordingly by assuming the roles of popular heroes of stories which are cunningly inscribed in their minds at the tender age of 2-11 years.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Following Mills' (1995) model and de Beauvoir's (1997) theory of women as the second sex, the content analysis of Chhota Bheem episodes demonstrates the fact that these programmes are male-oriented and play a significant role in the socializing processes of children. Patriarchy is an ideology that is strengthened and reinforced through such programmes. Male characters are usually more in number and female are fewer. These ladies or girls are just puppets in the hands of these male characters. Chutki's bag is always filled with laddoos that bring energy to Bheem. Tun Tun Mosi is a chef, again taken as a female department. She could have been a bank manager, a doctor, a teacher, but she is cooking, always preparing laddoos. The difference in look and attire is also very significant. Male characters are not concerned about their dress or appearance, while females are shown with red cheeks and high heels and well-styled hair. Chutki and Indumati both are sexually attractive girls who are always trying to catch Bheem's attention. In short, it is right to say that the representation of male and female characters is very stereotypical in these episodes: males always energetic, brave rescuers, while females are always at their mercy, always trying to please male characters.

This study makes it clear that such programmes are agents in shaping and molding the ideologies of children at such an early stage. It is, therefore, suggested that there should be a balanced representation of both male and female characters so that our little kids may think above these over-repeated themes and ideologies for the betterment of the society. Moreover, the benefits of watching cartoons can also be maximized by selecting age-appropriate cartoon programmes as well as by parents' co-viewing with their children and drawing attention to stereotypes. Further research should also be conducted to gauge the impact of gender-role reinforcement in other cartoon programmes on kids' life style, dress, behavior and language.


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Asmat A. Sheikh

Department of English, The Women University, Multan

Dr. Asmat A. Sheikh, is Associate Professor in the Department at The Women University, Multan and teaches English Literature. Her research interests include postmodern and postcolonial literature, and feminism and women's writings. She can be contacted at:
Table 1: The Ratio and Description of Major Male and Female Characters
in Chhota Bheem

Total Major Characters in       Male Characters     Female Characters
9                                    66.6%                33.3%

Raj Kumar, Indomati, Tun Tun   Raj Kumar, Bheem,    Indomati, Tun Tun
Mosi (Chutki's Mom), Chutki,  Kalia, Raju, Dholo,  Mosi (Chutki's Mom),
Bheem, Kalia, Raju, Dholo,           Bholo                Chutki
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Author:Sheikh, Asmat A.
Publication:Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies: Alam-e-Niswan
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Dec 1, 2017

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