Television, streaming services, and movies all have something in common: the concept of hypermasculinity. Hypermasculinity can be defined as exaggerated masculine behavior or traits. These can be portrayed in several aspects, such as bulging muscles, extreme strength, V-shaped physique, emotional indifference, etc. This can be especially problematic when it comes to the hyper masculine portrayal of adolescents in various media outlets. Much of the media tends to oversexualize these “masculine” traits in young teenagers. Sadly, there are one too many television series that promote this oversexualized, hypermasculine image.
For example, Netflix is one of the biggest streaming services available today. A show called “All-American” is available on Netflix. It portrays the struggles of high school football players and the politics involved. The biggest problem with this series is the one that is unspoken; that is, the promotion and normalization of an unrealistic hypermasculine appearance ideal. These are supposed to be 17- and 18-year-old adolescents but are being portrayed by grown adults with “idealistic” appearances. They reflect the hyper masculine appearance ideal of a chiseled jawline, clear skin, overly muscular, broad shoulders, and tall. The average teenager’s body is not fully developed. This sets unrealistic standards and expectations that are just not possible.
Adolescents are easily susceptible to media influence. Adolescents exposed to “prime-time” television where adolescent characters are being sexualized based on their masculine appearance internalize these appearance ideals. This may cause young teenagers to be more self-conscious about their own bodies leading to disordered eating, body dissatisfaction, and consuming products that promise to increase their masculinity (Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2013).
College students are also at risk, which is why Student Counseling Services and Health Promotion & Wellness have teamed up to offer the Body Project: More Than Muscles. This engaging and insightful peer-led program helps participants learn to challenge the unrealistic hypermasculine ideal traditionally promoted to males and learn tools to respond in everyday life. The program also teaches activism and championing healthy bodies, which look different for everyone. To register or learn more, please visit our website.
Vandenbosch, L., & Eggermont, S. (2013). Sexualization of Adolescent Boys: Media Exposure and Boys’ Internalization of Appearance Ideals, Self-Objectification, and Body Surveillance. Men and Masculinities, 16(3), 283–306. https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X13477866