Mountain Men: An Analysis of the Modern Day Mountain Man and Tough Guy TV

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Dr. Teresa Housel, Hope College

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One popular program genre on educational-entertainment cable channels such as the Discovery Channel is a type of show that this paper calls “Tough Guy TV.” This paper examines how “Tough Guy TV” is a new way for today’s men to reconnect with their masculinity through television. “Tough Guy TV” focuses on one notorious masculine image: the Mountain Man, which appeals to both genders. Men want to be them and women find themselves attracted to them. Mountain Men represent adventure, courage, and pure masculinity. Through a combined historical and textual analysis of television programs (Discovery Channel’s “Survivorman” and “Man vs. Wild), this paper examines the historical origins of the Mountain Man and why this figure continues to be popular on television and among audiences. The research found that the Mountain Man image that emerged in the nineteenth century has been manipulated to fit current television portrayals. Both programs’ hosts also share similar racial, personality, and socio-economic characteristics. Finally, both “Survivorman” and “Man vs. Wild” reflect traditional images of “Tough Guy” masculinity that men are socially expected to fit.

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