Tough Guys and Trucks: Early Adolescents’ Critical Analysis of Masculinity in a TV Commercial

Erica Scharrer, Yena Kang, Yuxi Zhou, Alina Ali Durrani, Nora Suren, Emma Butterworth


Media literacy education (MLE) can advance the capacity to critique gender stereotypes in the media. Yet there is little, if any, existing MLE research pertaining to media and masculinities, in particular. In this study, 54 sixth-grade students (11- and 12-year-olds) participated in an in-school MLE program on gender and media and responded in writing twice to an open-ended prompt that invited their observations of and opinions about a truck commercial. Emerging themes illuminate students’ interpretations of depictions of masculinities, lack of women, and formal features used in the commercial. Comparisons suggest that students generally expressed a deeper analysis and stronger critique of the commercial after MLE participation compared with before. Given heightened attention to social cues about gender among adolescents as well as the presence of narrow representations of masculinity in some media texts, the ability of MLE to foster critical analysis on this topic is socially significant.


media literacy, media education, gender, masculinity, commercial content, advertising

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