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How the Media Define Masculinity
Families, friends, teachers, and community leaders all play a role in helping boys define
what it means to be a man. Mainstream media representations also play a role in
reinforcing ideas about what it means to be a "real" man in our society. In most media
portrayals, male characters are rewarded for selfcontrol and the control of others,
aggression and violence, financial independence, and physical desirability.
In Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity , Jackson Katz and Jeremy
Earp argue that the media provide an important perspective on social attitudes and that
while the media are not the cause of violent behavior in men and boys, they do portray
male violence as a normal expression of masculinity.
In 1999, Children Now, a Californiabased organization that examines the impact of media
on children and youth, released a report entitled Boys to Men: Media Messages About
Masculinity . The report argues that the media's portrayal of men tends to reinforce men's
The report observes that:
the majority of male characters in media are heterosexual
male characters are more often associated with the public sphere of work, rather than
the private sphere of the home, and issues and problems related to work are more
significant than personal issues
nonwhite male characters are more likely to experience personal problems and are
more likely to use physical aggression or violence to solve those problems.
A more recent study found similar patterns in how male characters were portrayed in
children's television around the world: boys are portrayed as tough, powerful and either as
a loner or leader, while girls were most often shown as depending on boys to lead them
and being most interested in romance.
These portrayals are of particular concern when it comes to young boys, who may be
more influenced by media images than girls. In the 2008 article Media and the
MakeBelieve Worlds of Boys and Girls, Maya Götz and Dafna Lemish note that girls
generally pick and choose what media content to integrate into their imaginary worlds an
approach the authors summarize as "leave something out, take something in and
dissociate from it." Boys, on the other hand, tend to incorporate media content into their
own imaginations wholesale, "taking it in, assimilating it, and then taking the story further."
According to Götz and Lemish, "boys... dream themselves into the position of their heroes
and experience a story similar to the one in the original medium." 
The portrayal and acceptance of men by the media as socially powerful and physically
violent serve to reinforce assumptions about how men and boys should act in society, how
they should treat each other, as well as how they should treat women and children.
Various media analysts and researchers argue that media portrayals of male characters
fall within a range of stereotypes.
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The report Boys to Men: Media Messages About Masculinity , identifies the most popular
stereotypes of male characters as the Joker, the Jock, the Strong Silent Type, the Big Shot
and the Action Hero.
The Joker is a very popular character with boys, perhaps because laughter is part of their
own "mask of masculinity." A potential negative consequence of this stereotype is the
assumption that boys and men should not be serious or emotional.…read more
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Concerned about their appearance
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Crisis of masculinity
Since the 1980s there have been new stereotypes introduced following the rise of
feminism (e.g. traditional male roles were challenged when Thatcher came into power) and
equality etc. men are confused about what it means to be a man in today's society.
Metrosexual = a heterosexual man who enjoys things traditionally associated with women,
for example shopping. Objectified and sexualised, which challenges the male gaze theory.…read more