Television Situation Comedies: Female Weight, Male Negative Comments, and Audience Reactions
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A content analysis of 18 prime-time television situation comedies (two episodes each) examined the body weights of 37 central female characters (92% White, 8% Black), the negative comments they received from male characters about their weight or bodies, and the audience reactions (e.g., laughter) following the negative comments. It was found that (a) below-average weight females were overrepresented in the programs, (b) the heavier the female character, the significantly more negative comments were made about or to her, and (c) negative comments were significantly associated with audience reactions. These results indicate that situation comedies present males making derogatory remarks about heavier women's weights and bodies, with this behavior being reinforced by audience laughter. This combination of thinness modeling and vicarious reinforcement likely contributes to the internalization of gender and weight stereotypes which deleteriously affect the health of female adolescents.
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