Smith and Kun win 2007 USC research grants

Posted October 26, 2007

Communication professors Stacy Smith and Josh Kun both earned a 2007 Advancing Scholarship Research Grant, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs C.L. Max Nikias announced.

Smith will explore "The Impact of Hypersexualized Media Characters on Young Girls' Body Dissatisfaction and Weight Concerns." Kun's research topic is "The World Begins Here: American Myths, Mexican Dreams and the Making of Tijuana."

"Their work is inspiring and imaginative, creative and cutting-edge," Nikias said.

Said executive vice provost Barry Glassner, who had oversight responsibility for the research grants: “When we began the program, we knew there were many outstanding faculty in the humanities, arts and social sciences at USC engaged in research that could be advanced through this program. Still, we were astounded by the quantity and extraordinary quality of the applications."

About Smith's research grant:

Heroines depicted in animated features often share similar attributes: lustrous locks, small waists and curvy shapes. The same can be said for dolls, from classic favorites to more contemporary best sellers. These characters are alternately innocent and sexy. They are wide-eyed yet provocative. The preoccupation and idolization that young girls have with these hypersexualized animated heroines are growing concerns for child advocates who question the impact they are having on girls of today.

Evidence suggests that the pressure to be thin and to have a media-endorsed body type leads preadolescent, adolescent and college-aged females to diet or exercise for weight loss that may lead to poor body image and eating disorders. Among younger children, who are less likely to discern fantasy from reality, these provocative animated images may be substantial more detrimental, negatively affecting their perceptions of themselves. In "The Impact of Hypersexualized Media Characters on Young Girls' Body Dissatisfaction and Weight Concerns," professor Stacy Smith aims to understand the influence these popular animated characters have on girls' body esteem and body dissatisfaction.

About Kun's research grant:

Tijuana, Mexico. In the early 20th century, it was a city of dreams — lending refuge to African American musicians and entrepreneurs, inspiring Zionists to consider it a possible Jewish homeland and prompting Mexican revolutionaries to occupy it as a utopia of social possibility, all while serving as a popular getaway for American tourists. Today, Tijuana is a city fueled by tourism, transnational manufacturing, artistic change and political struggle. It is a city of multiple identities, shaped both by the literal borders of the north and the figurative borders of neighbors, cultures, languages and nations.

"The World Begins Here: American Myths, Mexican Dreams and the Making of Tijuana" will be the first extensive English-language study of the bi-national cultural history of Tijuana, Mexico, from the age of tourism (1889-1965) to the age of globalization (1965-present). Josh Kun's historical portrait describes a city, once living under the shadow and influence of the U.S., that has emerged to become a globalized metropolis where some of the most vital questions facing the contemporary world — national security, immigration, free trade, labor outsourcing, drug trafficking — are being addressed every day." 

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