Magazine article Media Report to Women

Domestic Violence as Entertainment: Gender, Role Congruity and Reality Television

Magazine article Media Report to Women

Domestic Violence as Entertainment: Gender, Role Congruity and Reality Television

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine how young adults react to televised domestic violence in reality TV, with particular attention to how gender factors into perceptions of acceptability. Domestic violence is defined here as behavior used to control another person that may be physical or emotional, and includes physical harm or name calling. It may occur regardless of class, race, marital status, sexual orientation or living arrangements, and in both public and private spaces

Domestic violence in the United States is a significant public health concern, with 54 million Americans reporting they have been a victim of domestic violence (No More, 2013) and nearly 25% of women and 14% of men experiencing severe physical violence by an intimate partner (NISVS, 2010). Perpetrators of domestic violence are most likely to be male and 18-35 years old, and victims are most likely female, with increased risk to young women (Klein, 2009). In June of 2013 the World Health Organization released a report highlighting violence against women "as a global health problem of epidemic proportions" (www.who.int, 2013).

Popular culture's daily diet of aggression, including domestic violence, may contribute to this epidemic. If such aggression goes unchallenged in music or television content, it becomes more acceptable, even normalized. In fact, mediated narratives of domestic violence hold messages of tolerance for men and of blame for women (Nettleton, 2011), and such content is disseminated into a cultural space in which domestic violence is rarely discussed interpersonally (No More, 2013).

There is little question that the television landscape is filled with aggression of all types, a phenomenon that has been documented for many years. This study focuses on reality television, a genre that has increased in popularity over the past decade (Nielsen, 2011), and one that has particular potential to resonate with viewers. Reality TV captures "real" people engaging in "real" activities, and viewers are therefore more likely to relate to characters and to imitate behavior (Coyne, Robinson & Nelson, 2010). Indeed, one gratification obtained from reality TV viewing is personal utility (Barton, 2009). And although there is evidence that there is less physical aggression in reality TV than in television dramas, there is more relational aggression than in other program genres, that is, behavior harming a relationship or social environment (Coyne, Robinson & Nelson, 2010). Such aggression is likely to be portrayed as justified and lacking consequences (Smith, Nathanson & Wilson, 2002) , which makes it more likely to stimulate aggressive acts (Anderson, Berkowtiz, Donnerstein, Huesmann, Johnson, Linz, Malmuth & Wartella, 2003) . Other research indicates that affinity for the programming increases with perceived realism (Papacharissi & Mendelson, 2007).

The programs applied in this study, Jersey Shore, Real World, and Teen Mom, all center on relationships and often on romance. Viewing romantically oriented programs is related to idealized perceptions of relationships (Eggermont, 2004) and is a predictor of sexually-oriented conversations among girls and of boys' perceptions of peers' sexual experience (Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2011). In fact, viewers consider romance to be a salient characteristic of reality television (Nabi, 2007). Such findings make the incidence of domestic violence in such programming all the more worthy of attention since viewers may be tuning in specifically to watch relationships, Furthermore, reality television is filled with stereotypical gender roles (e.g. Edwards, 2004), with past studies indi- eating that its gendered content leads to cultivation among young viewers (e.g. Signorelli & Kahlenberg, 2001; Signorelli, 1989). Indeed, many young women believe regular viewing of reality television normalizes fighting in a romantic relationship (www.girlscouts.org), and college women who are heavy television viewers are more likely to accept rape myths (Kahlor and Morrison, 2007). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.