Maternal Representation in Reality Television: Critiquing New Momism in TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Jon & Kate Plus 8
This thesis explores the ways that TLC's reality programs, specifically Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Jon and Kate Plus Eight, serve as hegemonic systems for the perpetuation of what Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels call "new momism." As these authors demonstrate in The Mommy Myth, the media have served as a powerful hegemonic force in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries for the construction of this dominating ideology of proper motherhood which undermines the social victories of feminism. Expanding upon Douglas' and Michaels' analysis of national constructions of motherhood, I explore the role of reality television, a relatively new cultural medium, within the historical tradition of hegemonic institutions. My research examines representations of motherhood specifically within reality programs which document a family's day-to-day life, differing from other types of reality shows because they take place within the private sphere of the home. These programs market performances of motherhood that invite viewers, specifically those who are mothers themselves, to construct their own identities in opposition to "transgressive" mothers and in awe of "ideal" mothers, thereby reaffirming the oppressive and unreasonable expectations of twenty-first century motherhood.
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