Chapter

Introduction: theorising masculinities on the small screen

Rebecca Feasey

in Masculinity and Popular Television

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780748627974
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651184 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748627974.003.0001
Introduction: theorising masculinities on the small screen

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Television studies is the new and growing academic discipline that emerged out of a diverse range of sociology, politics, film, media and cultural theory departments during the late 1970s and the early 1980s. However, even though television studies was originally understood as the populist subfield of existing disciplines, it has more recently gained critical renown and respectability in its own right. This discipline appeals to a broad cross-section of the academic community and, as such, extant literature spans such distinct and disparate areas. Yet, irrespective of the broad scope of such research, the topic which has dominated and continues to dominate the burgeoning field is that of gender roles and sex-role stereotyping. However, gender studies has until recently been largely synonymous with women's studies. And while there exists a broad range of work on the representation of masculinities, the portrayal of hegemonic order, the relationship between masculinity and domesticity, sexuality, male power and the male role in popular media, there is little to account for the array of masculinities seen on the small screen, and there is no single defining text that is dedicated to the way in which the presentation of masculinities on contemporary television programming can be seen to adhere to or challenge the hegemonic hierarchy. This book hence presents a detailed textual reading of a variety of masculinities from contemporary British and American programming, including the representation of men as friends, fathers, heroes and martyrs. It considers the ways in which such figures can be understood in relation to wider social and sexual debates of the period. This examination of masculinities is important, not because such representations are an accurate reflection of reality, but rather because they have the power and scope to foreground culturally accepted social relations, define sexual norms and provide understandings about male identity. Each of the chapters in this book introduces the history of a particular genre, outlines the representations of gender that have been seen in television programming and examines the ways in which masculinities are being constructed, circulated and interrogated in televisual case studies. Chapters 2 to 8 examine the representation of masculinities in a diverse range of popular fictional genres, while Chapters 9 to 12 unmask the male roles and responsibilities in infotainment texts.

Keywords: television studies; gender roles; sex-role stereotyping; masculinity; hegemonic order; male power; male role; popular media

Chapter.  2994 words. 

Subjects: Television

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