In this study I examine the portrayal of masculinity in a popular American sitcom, Seinfeld. The study encompasses three main areas of research: humor, masculinity, and the mass media. Past literature and various theories in each area generate a series of important axioms: humor often contains contradictory layers of meaning, so that it both criticizes and reaffirms cultural norms; masculinity is a social construct and is often portrayed in the media utilizing the technique of contrasting masculinities; messages in the mass media hold a great deal of sway over audiences, but one must acknowledge the powers of interpretation that all individuals also possess. My research design was twofold: first, I conducted a "deep" textual analysis of the content of Seinfeld; second, a group of individuals watched various clips of Seinfeld and responded to questions regarding the themes on the show. Between my own analysis and that ofthe respondents, a variety of interpretations were discovered. On the surface, Seinfeld seems to display a fairly traditional masculinity where men are obsessed with sex and averse to both commitment and any display of femininity. As more layers of meaning are uncovered, however, a different theme emerges: Seinfeld is in fact pointing out that masculinity in our society is an ideal state consisting of stringent norms that few, if any, men can actually fulfill.
Sociology and Anthropology
Mariola, Matt, ""The Two of Us, Working Together At Full Capacity, Could Do the Job of One Normal Man": The Construction of Masculinity on Seinfeld" (1998). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 6203.
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis
© Copyright 1998 Matt Mariola