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Sex Roles (2015) 72:173-182 DOI 10.1007/s11199-015-0464-2 ORIGINAL ARTICLE Anything but Real: Body Idealization and Objectification of MTV Docusoap...


1. coding decisions can be used to describe the frequency of the occurrence of a particular type of content. Provide one example from the results of this study that represent associative frequency reporting.

2. Coding decisions can be used to examine associations between two categories. Provide one example from the results of this study that represent use of coding to uncover the association between two variables.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE Anything but Real: Body Idealization and Objectification of MTV Docusoap Characters Mark A. Flynn & Sung-Yeon Park & David T. Morin & Alexandru Stana Published online: 6 March 2015 # Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015 Abstract Womenandmenfea tu redinU .S .ba sedMTV docusoaps were analyzed to explore body ideal and body ex- posure norms in a television genre highly popular among young people. Results from a quantitative content analysis of five popular docusoaps from 2004 to 2011 demonstrated that, although these shows were labeled as reality-based ,the bodies displayed in them were highly idealized. Close to half of women s bodies were coded as curvaceously thin and more than half of men s bodies were coded as muscularly lean. Over two-thirds of women s bodies and close to three-quarters of men s bodies were coded as low fat, demonstrating that thin- ness was the most common body characteristic. In addition, cast members on the programs commonly exposed their bod- ies, including widespread partial nudity and some full nudity. Women, compared to men, exhibited a higher level of body exposure. However, men tended to expose their bodies to a higher degree than women. Close to half of all men were shown partially nude, compared to one-quarter of women. Characters with the idealized body types also exhibited a higher level of body exposure than others. These findings support previous research that investigated cultural expecta- tions and media representations of women and men sappear- ance in the U.S. The findings also demonstrate a growing focus on male body image and objectification. The potential psychological implications of self-objectification and model- ing among adolescent audiences are discussed. Keywords Reality TV . MTV . Docusoap . Body image . Body exposure . Objectification . Content analysis Introduction Before the prominence of print and electronic media in Western cultures, beauty ideals promoted though art, music, and literature were B romanticized and perceived as unattainable ^ (Freedman 1986 ;Labre 2005 , p. 2). In today s U.S. media environment, however, the borders between the fantasy and reality of body ideals are blurred, with media not only depicting idealized bodies but also promoting ways for audiences to attain the ideals (Labre 2005 ). The nuances of reality television programing continue to accelerate this trend. According to Nabi et al. ( 2003 ), reality-based television pro- grams are those B that film real people as they live out events (contrived or otherwise) in their lives, as these events occur ^ (p. 304). The authors further characterized reality TV by sug- gesting five important elements: 1) Characters must portray themselves; 2) Filming does not occur on a set, rather in char- acters living/working environments; 3) There is no definitive script; 4) The events/situations must be within a narrative M. A. Flynn Department of Communication, Languages, & Cultures, Coastal Carolina University, 311 Brittain Hall, Myrtle Beach, SC, USA e-mail: [email protected] S. < Y. Park ( * ) Department of Telecommunications, School of Media & Communication, Bowling Green State University, 302 West Hall, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA e-mail: [email protected] D. T. Morin Department of Communication, Utah Valley University, Orem, UT 84058, USA e-mail: [email protected] A. Stana Department of Communication, Fayetteville State University, 1200 Murchison Road, Fayetteville, NC 28301, USA e-mail: [email protected] Sex Roles (2015) 72:173 182 DOI 10.1007/s11199-015-0464-2
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context; and 5) The purpose is entertainment (Nabi et al. 2003 ). Media messages promoting the ideals of thinness in women and lean muscularity in men, whether verbally or visually, have been observed frequently in Western societies, certainly including but not limited to the U.S. (Michaels et al. 2013 ; Olivardia 2001 ). While not discounting the po- tential influence across cultures (Fallon 1990 ), this analysis will focus on U.S. culture due to the large body of research from this perspective as well as the origin of the content analyzed. Of particular interest and popularity has been MTV and its docusoap sub-genre. Within the television land- scape, MTV stands out as the most watched cable network in the U.S. among 12 to 24 year-old viewers (Chozick 2013 ). Further, the docusoap sub-genre commonly featured on MTV is unique in that it blurs the line between the traditional documentary and soap opera formats. For exam- ple, unlike reality television programming that focuses on competition between individuals and groups, such as Survivor (Parsons et al. 2000 ; survivor/ ), or those focused on specific topics, such as Cops (Langley and Langley 2007 ; tag/cops-tv-show/ )o r Teen Mom (Freeman et al. 2009 ; ), the docusoap records the lives of a cast of individuals from a B fly on the wall ^ perspective for dramatic purposes (Baruh 2009 ,p . 194 ;B e cke ta l . 2012 ). On initial glance, the typical docusoap seems unscripted. However, researchers have suggested that what is portrayed is more of a constructed reality rather than true reality, lending itself to comparisons to traditional soap operas (Beck et al. 2012 ;K i lbo rn 1994 ). Docusoaps are also distinctively popular among young adults than other sub-genres of reality television, except for some competition shows on national networks (Egbert and Belcher 2012 ). Research has shown that regular viewers of reality televi- sion perceive the heavily edited programming to be highly realistic (Papacharissi and Mendelson 2007 ). The docusoap format, in particular, has also led to the speculation that the unique features of this sub-genre may render adolescent viewers more susceptible to the negative effects of modeling cast members problematic behaviors (Baruh 2009 ;Stefanone et al. 2010 ). This may be especially problematic given that the adolescent population also comprises the most susceptible group to develop body image disturbances and eating disor- ders in the U.S. (American Psychiatric Association 1994 ; Harrison 2001 ). U.S. reality television has not yet been closely scrutinized for its depiction of body ideals and MTV docusoaps constitute a subgenre deemed particularly worthy of systematic analysis due to its wide appeal among young people. Hence, three goals were set for this study. First, the body types of women and men in MTV docusoap reality programs were examined. Second, the extent to which their bodies were exposed for the viewers gaze was evaluated. Third, the relationship between body type and body exposure, and related gender differences were also assessed. Curvaceously Thin Women and V-Shaped Men in the Media Since the 1960s, media portrayals of women have increasing- ly become thinner and taller (e.g., Calogero and Thompson 2010 ;Garnere ta l . 1980 ; Grabe et al. 2008 ; Silverstein et al. 1986 ). Indeed, thinness has been the most clearly identified attribute of modern Western beauty ideals for women (Calogero and Thompson 2010 ), leading many women to adopt the cultural standard of thinness and engage in behavior to meet that standard (Thompson et al. 1999 ). In addition to thinness, the beauty ideal for women in the 21st century often includes large breasts (Calogero and Thompson 2010 ). The combination of thinness and bustiness, labeled B curvaceously thin, ^ is highly unnatural in its manifestation, raising concerns about desires for surgical modification to achieve it (Harrison 2003 ,p .256) . Portrayals of the male body ideal have also been fairly consistent over the past several decades. Since the 1970s, male bodies in the media have become increasingly muscular (Blond 2008 ;Le i te ta l . 2001 ; Law and Labre 2002 ; Labre 2005 ; Frederick et al. 2005 ;Popeetal . 1999 ;Thompsonand Cafri 2007 ). In fact, whereas thinness has defined women s body ideal, muscularity has defined the body ideal for men (Luciano 2007 ). Also, while women may internalize the thin ideal, men may develop a muscular-ideal internalization, de- scribed as the process of adopting cultural standards of mus- cularity and engaging in behaviors triggered by a B drive for muscularity ^ (McCreary et al. 2005 ,p .85) . However, men s bodies in recent years have been expected to be increasingly lean as well (Pope et al. 1999 ). The combi- nation of muscularity and leanness has been labeled the V- shape body due to the representation of large muscular arms, chest and shoulders, and narrow hips and waist (Labre 2005 ). The male V-shape ideal is speculated to be highly unnatural, and research has demonstrated that those who strive to attain it may be susceptible to body dissatisfaction (Cafri et al. 2006 ), over-exercise, steroid/supplement use (Pope et al. 1999 ), and muscle dysmorphia (Pope et al. 2005 ). Because MTV docusoaps are targeting the youth popula- tion that is highly tuned to the changes in fashion, including body types, the following hypotheses have been developed based on the current cultural conceptions of body ideals for men and women: H1-1 Over 50 % of women sbod ie sfea tu redinMTV docusoaps are curvaceously thin. H1-2 Over 50 % of men sbod ie sfea tu redinMTV docusoaps are muscularly lean. 174 Sex Roles (2015) 72:173 182
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