Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Communication

Date of Defense

4-20-2012

Graduate Advisor

Alice Hall, Ph.D.

Committee

Dr. Yan Tian

Dr. Lara Zwarun

Abstract

Media portrayals within the ABC television show Modern Family provide insight into how viewers perceive the monogamous gay relationship between the male characters Cameron and Mitchell, and how contact with these characters is related to attitudes and behaviors. A sample of 90 viewers and 157 non-viewers from the University of Missouri and social networks participated in an online survey. Exposure to the program predicted positive attitudes toward gay men and intentions to vote for same-sex marriage legislation. Perceptions of more heteronormative gender roles within the gay relationship did not predict positive attitudes or intentions to vote for same-sex marriage rights. A relationship between less heteronormative gender roles and intent to vote for same-sex marriage rights approached significance. These results indicate perceiving two males in a monogamous relationship as having similar gender attributes may predict intentions to vote for same-sex marriage legislation and needs further research. Viewer gender differences did not predict differences in perceptions of the characters’ gender attributes. Parasocial interaction was also not a proven moderating variable between exposure and attitudes toward gay men. Distinct differences emerged between viewers and non-viewers, including differences in the outcome variables. This study adds to prior gay male media stereotypes, social cognitive, parasocial interaction, and gender inversion theory research.

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