Men’s Soaps
Automotive Television Programming
and Contemporary Working-Class

by Hamilton Carroll  (University of Leeds, United Kingdom)

In this paper I argue that the Discovery Channel’s reality-based automotive show
American Chopper produces a recuperative blue-collar masculinity that attenuates the
putative losses suffered by working-class men under the postindustrial service economy
of the contemporary United States. In its on-screen presentation of blue-collar work,
American Chopper valorizes a form of working-class manual labor at precisely the
moment when such labor has all but disappeared in the United States. In its presenta-
tion of a world of masculine labor and fraternal affect, American Chopper constructs a
nostalgic world of blue-collar work in which the skilled manual laborer—always
understood to be male—still reigns supreme, untroubled by the supposed defeats suf-
fered by hegemonic masculinity in the post-civil rights era. By celebrating neoliberal
consumer capital and the traditional consumption of the American dream as cotermi-
nous discourses of celebrity identity, the show elides the still vast gaps in opportunity
and remuneration in the contemporary United States. (download)