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 |19 pages


chapter 1|19 pages

Constructing “Ophelias”

Time Magazine, Neoliberalism, and the Next Female Generation

chapter 2|19 pages

“Precious Years … Lost”

Early Puberty and the Discourse of Sexualization

chapter 3|24 pages

“The Perfect Storm”

Constructing the Gloucester High School Pregnancy Pact

chapter 4|18 pages

American Girls & Sex

Manufacturing a Crisis around Girls and Social Media

chapter 5|21 pages

“The Media Loves Emma González”

Activism, Celebrification, and Intersecting Identities

chapter |6 pages


Making Sense of “The Grand Narrative”