Images of gay men in the media and the development of self esteem
McKee, Alan (2000) Images of gay men in the media and the development of self esteem. Australian Journal of Communication, 27(2), pp. 81-98.
This paper addresses the role played by the media in the formation of social identity and self-esteem in young gay men. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews were conducted with a small number of gay men in Perth, Western Australia, in order to investigate their memories of television images of gay men, and the impact these images had on them. The men were interviewed either individually or in couples. These interviews were used for qualitative analysis. The research discovered that the media were by far the most important source of information about gay identity for these men in their youth. Most could recall very few images of homosexual men. However, those few images – mostly from fictional programs – were remembered as having a very strong impact, particularly in making the men feel happier with themselves and their feelings, providing information, and offering identities to which they could aspire.The paper concludes that the media – including fictional television programs - should acknowledge the vital role they play in creating a sense of what is normal and accepted in the Australian community, and thus in forming the self-esteem and social identities of Australian citizens. As such, they also need to recognise their potential role in overcoming the low self-esteem and suicidal tendencies of young gay men in Australia. It seems that in attempts to lower the rates of suicide attempts in young gay men, fictional entertainment media may have an important role to play.
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