1st Edition

Girls, Moral Panic and News Media Troublesome Bodies

By Sharon Mazzarella Copyright 2020
    140 Pages
    by Routledge

    140 Pages
    by Routledge

    Mazzarella examines the representational politics behind journalistic constructions of US girls and girlhood through a series of contemporary in-depth case studies which work to document a wider cultural moral panic about the troublesome nature of girls’ bodies.

    The public concern and media fascination with youth so evident in the United States today is a century-old phenomenon. From the flappers of the 1920s to the bobbysoxers of the 1950s, from the hippies of the 1960s and on to the ever-present pregnant teens, this fascination has played out in the media and has consistently focused on (primarily White, middle-class, heterosexual) girls. A growing body of research has revealed the manner in which journalistic practice constructs such girls as problems. Girls, Moral Panic, and News Media takes a broad look at U.S. news media constructions of girls, girlhoods, and girl’s bodies/sexualities through a series of contemporary in-depth case studies including news coverage of the 2008 Gloucester (MA) High School "pregnancy pact," teen gun control activist Emma González, and the sexualization of "early puberty." In general, the news media constructs girls’ bodies as troublesome and in need of adult surveillance and policing. These case studies document a cultural obsession with girls’ bodies—an obsession that often approaches moral panic.

    This book will be key reading for researchers and instructors in the rapidly growing international and interdisciplinary field of Girls’ Studies, and scholars of Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Communication and Journalism.


    Chapter One: Constructing "Ophelias": Time Magazine, Neoliberalism, and the Next Female Generation

    Chapter Two: "Precious Years . . . Lost": Early Puberty and the Discourse of Sexualization Chapter Three: "The Perfect Storm": Constructing the Gloucester High School Pregnancy Pact

    Chapter Four: American Girls & Sex: Manufacturing a Crisis around Girls and Social Media

    Chapter Five: "The Media Loves Emma González": Activism, Celebrification, and Intersecting Conclusion: Making Sense of "The Grand Narrative"


    Sharon R. Mazzarella (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is Professor of Communication Studies at James Madison University. Her research focuses on youth culture and mass media, specifically in the field of Girls’ Studies. She is editor or co-editor of seven academic collections, and her published articles have appeared in a range of communication, gender, and popular culture journals.

    Through a transnational, intersectional and transmedia tour de force, Sharon Mazzarella provides us with an accessible yet thoroughly sophisticated engagement with girls and the media. The prism of moral panics provides an ideal conceptual tool with which to explore issues of neoliberalism, social media, sexualization, teen pregnancy pacts, and the celebrification of Emma Gonzalez. I will assign this book as soon as it is in print and recommend that anyone teaching Media Studies, popular culture, gender and media, and/or girls studies do so as well.

    Angharad N. Valdivia, Research Professor, Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Editor, The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies


    Troublesome Bodies makes a significant and important contribution to the field of girls’ studies by contextualizing the journalistic practice of framing girls as troublesome within a broad array of scholarship on girls. She skillfully draws upon the scholarship in the history of girls in her analysis of a series of five contemporary case studies of media constructions of girls, and girls’ bodies as troublesome.

    Troublesome Bodies is lively, insightful, and full of rich details on the mainstream news’s fascination and obsession with girls; or as Mazzeralla rightly points out, with only some girls.  Mazzarella’s writing is engaging and a joy to read as she brilliantly dissects the implications of girls’ narrow representations in the mainstream press.  The book is an illuminating study of the expectations, implications and provocations of contemporary girlhood.


    Natalie Coulter, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, York University; author of Tweening the Girl: The Crystallization of the Tween Market