Date Thesis Awarded

5-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Sociology

Advisor

Thomas Linneman

Committee Members

Elyas Bakhtiari

Carrie Dolan

Abstract

This study explores the gendering of depictions of mental illness in television shows and how their viewers discuss these depictions. I paid special attention to elements of stigma in the television shows, and analyzed how stigma differed based on gender. I qualitatively analyzed three episodes from ten different shows each, with an even split in the genders of the characters with mental illness on which the analysis centered. In addition, I also qualitatively analyzed ten Reddit conversations, one about each show, to explore what the viewers took away from these depictions of mental illness and how they discussed them with others. The results revealed that depictions of mental illness are indeed gendered, as depictions of men with mental illness reinforced the dangerousness of masculinity, and depictions of women with mental illness reinforced the passivity of femininity. I also found that there were some elements that contradicted these traditional gender roles, depicting men as submissive and emotional and women as active. The Reddit threads showed that viewers of these shows were noticing similar aspects of these depictions, though these results emphasized the female characters’ reckless behavior to a greater extent than was shown in the actual television shows. In exploring how mental illness and gender are socially constructed both independently and in relation to each other, this study reveals a complicated navigation of different sets of social expectations and potentials for stigmatization that accompany mental illness and the successful performance of gender.

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