An Examination of the Use of Disparagement Humor in Online TV Comedy Clips and the Role of Audience Reaction in its Effects Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Parrott, Michael
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media
  • The dissertation includes two parts, a content analysis and an experiment. In Study 1, coders examined the prevalence and characteristics of disparagement humor in online television clips and its reception by audiences. Disparagement humor appeared in one in four video clips, often targeting physical appearance and weight. Furthermore, studio audiences, other television characters, and online commenters often validated the humorous disparagement of people who are overweight. Study 2, an experiment, examined the influence of disparaging humor and audience reaction on attitudes concerning weight, self-esteem, enjoyment of the humor, and willingness to share the video content with others. Participants viewed one of four video clips: a control clip, in which an overweight teen plummeted down a slip-and-slide; a clip containing disparagement with no online audience reaction, in which a popular comedian disparaged the overweight teen as the video played in the background; a clip in which the video of the teen and comedian's commentary was framed by socially validating audience reaction, or positive online viewer reactions posted beneath the video clip; and a clip in which the video of the teen and the comedian's commentary was framed by socially condemning audience reaction, or negative online viewer reaction posted beneath the video. Several variables significantly predicted enjoyment of the humor, including how the video was framed, the extent to which viewers identified with the disparager, and viewers' existing weight-based biases. Importantly, viewers who self-identified as overweight experienced a decrease in self-esteem following exposure to the content. Enjoyment of the video content significantly predicted behavioral intentions, or the self-reported likelihood that the viewer would share the content with acquaintances.
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  • Gibson, Rhonda
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

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