Title

Television's Portrayal of Bald Men In Prime Time

Date of Award

2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Mazharul Haque

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

Estimates reveal that nearly half of men in the United States have some degree of visible hair loss. The preponderance of these cases are due to Alopecia androgenetica or Male Pattern Baldness. Scientific and psychological studies show that the overall attitude toward bald men is negative. They are found to be less attractive, less vital, less friendly, less powerful and less able to form a good impression in the minds of others. Television is a primary conveyer of messages in today's culture. Little evidence of research exists that explores how television portrays the man with visible signs of baldness. The roles that do exist for bald men have been limited and portrayal has served to reinforce these perceptions. The purpose of this study was to explore the ways in which bald men are portrayed in prime time television. To better understand television's portrayal of bald men and what roles they are seen in, this research utilized a content analysis of an entire season of a group of prime time television programs. A total of 151.5 hours of programming (200 separate episodes) was coded. From a total of 1,101 characters, only 114 bald or balding characters emerged. Of this amount, 20 were major characters in television programs, while 94 were depicted as minor characters. Results of the study revealed that of these 94 characters, the majority were depicted on camera as foolish, humorous, criminal and angry. Most of the characters were found to be workers or employees, working for others within the context of the programs. These men were not portrayed as loving, caring fathers or grandfathers. Nor were they portrayed as committed partners to others. These characters served to be the brunt of humor. They received little positive depiction. Bald men were portrayed older than those characters with hair. Moreover, these characters often lacked gainful employment and long-term, ongoing romantic relationships. Changes in the representation of bald men are needed to portray this type of character as one who is positive. The current portrayal on television is negative as is the perception among most people in society. Only when a change in the portrayal is effected, can a more positive outlook toward bald men be undertaken in the real world.