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Negotiations of masculinity in American ghost-hunting reality television

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This article examines a new type of text that has arisen due to the twenty-first-century obsession with the paranormal: the ghost-hunting reality show. Even though spiritualism originated amidst strong female leadership and mediumship has long been associated with women, the most popular ghost-hunting shows portray the activity as a hypermasculine affair. This article seeks to understand why reality television has attracted men to the traditionally feminine work of talking to the dead and how these men have converted this work into a masculine endeavour. I argue that the hypermasculine nature of the ghost-hunting reality show is due to the potentially emasculating circumstances in which the male participants find themselves. In addition to declaring their belief in the paranormal – an act that goes against the traditionally masculine principle of rationality – these men participate in a genre that demands ostentatious displays of emotion. Referring mainly to Ghost Adventures, this article demonstrates that to combat these supposedly feminizing conditions, as well as their likeness to other typically female roles, such as medium and Gothic heroine, the male ghost hunter calls upon conventions from more ‘manly’ genres, such as the western, action-adventure, science fiction and the detective story.
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Keywords: United States; gender; ghosts; gothic; media studies; popular culture; reality television

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Northern Arizona University

Publication date: October 1, 2013

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  • Horror Studies intends to serve the international academic community in the humanities and specifically those scholars interested in horror. Exclusively examining horror, this journal will provide interested professionals with an opportunity to read outstanding scholarship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including work conceived as interdisciplinary. By expanding the conversation to include specialists concerned with diverse historical periods, varied geography, and a wide variety of expressive media, this journal will inform and stimulate anyone interested in a wider and deeper understanding of horror
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