Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Macho Media: Unapologetic Hypermasculinity in Vancouver's "Talk Radio for Guys"

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Macho Media: Unapologetic Hypermasculinity in Vancouver's "Talk Radio for Guys"

Article excerpt

On August 6, 2002, "MOJO Radio--Talk Radio for Guys" was launched in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The station's format was designed with the explicit aim of "delivering the male" audience to advertisers (Sparks, 1992), a strategy confirmed in a launch-day press release from Corus Entertainment (MOJO Radio's owners) that described how the new station "fills a void in the Vancouver market by providing a forum for men to discuss and debate issues that matter to them, from health and fitness to cars, careers, beers, business, women and sports" (Corus Entertainment, 2002). In this way, MOJO Radio was tactically positioned to reflect men's apparent interests and buying habits, and to disseminate messages linked to portrayals of a type of masculinity (believed to be) most appealing to their target audience.

The station, and its Toronto-based affiliate (also called MOJO Radio and launched in 2001), emerge at a time when numerous commentators are engaging questions about the state of masculinity in the 21st century (Beynon, 2002; Holt & Thompson, 2004). Underlying expositions on the topic is an assumption that many North American men are experiencing a "crisis of masculinity." This crisis, according to authors like White and Gillett (1994) and Dworkin and Wachs (2000), is based on the notion that men are confused about the roles and identities to which they should aspire at a time when social and cultural definitions of manhood are ambiguous and in transition. In contrast, the prototypical male of the 1950s, for example, was more clearly positioned to strive to be a breadwinner for a family, a role that impacted the goals and expectations of men in private and public spheres. With the subsequent movement toward gender equality both at work and at home, so this argument goes, men became perplexed about the constitutive aspects of their gendered social roles, concerned about their apparent loss of traditional forms of power, and thus reacted with fear to an increasingly "feminized" culture and society. (1) The apparent responses to this crisis have taken a number of forms, including an increased emphasis on hypermasculine pursuits (e.g., high-risk sport participation, bodybuilding) that are presumed to aid men in their attempts to recuperate a clearly defined sense of what it means to be a man (White & Gillett, 1994).

Corporate entities like Corus Entertainment would appear to be capitalizing on the apparent destabilization of contemporary masculinity by offering a radio-based escape to manhood. On a broader social level, however, the messages offered by MOJO would seem to contribute--intentionally or unintentionally--to a mass-mediated backlash against threats to the tradition-based social advantages experienced by some men (a suggestion investigated in depth as part of the study reported in this article). According to Brayton (2005), Savran (1998), and others, this backlash initially emerged as a reaction to the social- and policy-related changes that resulted from feminist and civil rights challenges to a status quo that favored wealthy, White men. (2) Although this backlash has taken various forms, including semiorganized men's rights movements, it is within popular culture that the most pronounced and visible versions of a "return to manhood" motif can be found. This observation is particularly compelling in relation to Whannel's (2002) argument that "forms of popular culture are revealing sites in which to examine unstable attempts to deal with crisis" (p. 8; cf. Brayton, 2005). Brayton pointed to the relatively recent launch of MTV's Spike Network--the self-proclaimed "first network for men," a channel that features hypermasculine, made-for-TV sports and entertainment programming like American Gladiators and Slamball--as a stark example of this kind of popular cultural backlash. Another illustration is the cover of a recent MacLean's Magazine (a publication recognized as "Canada's news magazine") titled "Age of the Wuss," which includes a story under the headline "He's Come Undone" lamenting the loss of the confident, assertive, powerful, hypermasculine man in contemporary North American society (Gillis, 2005, p. …

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