SAMPLE RESPONSE PAPERS
Below is a collection of strong (and exceptionally strong) response papers from students.All received high grades.They are good examples of insightful thinking and strong writing.I would especially encourage you to notice that most of them don’t have obvious organization; most of them let their ideas develop and wander.Many of the best responses are later in the list.I continue to add to this collection as I find new examples of strong writing.As always, I will look at drafts when I can.[Please Note: Responses here are single-spaced to be read quicker.]
The first example, however, is one I wrote as a sample for the first reading response.
Of all of the common assumptions that we discussed in class, I think one of the most common is the idea that a children’s text should in some way teach the reader something.We of course talked about the term didactic, and how a didactic book strongly pushes a lesson onto the reader, telling them that they should believe this or that.Many times a reason for that lesson isn’t even given, as though the young person reading the book should just accept that lesson because they are told to, because the other knows better.As I was reading Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, the book I selected for the assignment, I was hoping that it wouldn’t be as didactic as most other children’s books, and that it would be as playful and exciting as I remember as a child.On the last two pages of the book, however, the absent mother returns home, the cat has disappeared, the children are behaving nicely, sitting in chairs, and it is pretty obvious that even though they got into mischief they are still good children after all.Nothing really has changed at the end of the book.Although all sorts of things got played with, and the children broke the rules I am sure they know about (like, “Don’t fly kites in the house”), major boundaries were never crossed.
We talked about how the opposite of a didactic book might be an ambiguous book, or a book that encourages the reader to think about issues, to make decisions for themselves.In that kind of book, the author usually wants to the reader to think for her or himself, to understand that some things are difficult, even for adults.The author may present a problem and ask you what you think, or might just never come around to saying exactly what you are supposed to believe.The last page of Cat in the Hat ends with the narrator saying, referring to the mother, “Should we tell her about it? / Now what SHOULD we do? / Well . . . / What would YOU do / If your mother asked you?” (61).In some ways, this is probably a pretty ambiguous ending.The author asks the reader that if your mother left, if someone wanted you to do what you weren’t supposed to, if you did it anyway, and if you didn’t get caught, then would you tell your mother or father what happened?Most adults wouldn’t tell what happened themselves, but the question is there anyway, and it seems to be really asking children what they believe.
But it doesn’t seem really that ambiguous.If the book were really ambiguous it would be breaking the Typical Case Prototype of children’s books, and in almost every other way the book keeps to those prototypes.As Nodelman describes it, children’s books are typically bright, colorful, funny, entertaining, and maybe sometimes rhyming.Children’s books portray children as the way adults typically think of them, as crazy kids who aren’t serious like adults, or innocent angels who would never really do any harm when they play.Dr. Suess portrays typical kids, bored by the rain, wanting to do something wild.Although Seuss’s style is strange, the children even look like the sort of standard white children that appear in most books, the girl in a dress and ribbon in her hair.We saw in class how these children are a lot like the standard one’s in Cassie’s history textbookAnd although strange things happen in the book – a talking cat, a couple of strange Things, a lot of things getting thrown around – it is the kind of play we come to expect in children’s lives, especially in the sorts of standard things shown on television and in movies.
In fact, the children never quite seem to trust the Cat, and they always just sort of watch him play.The children never really do anything that crazy themselves.The Fish, who sounds a lot like an adult, is always there to warn them, and in the end everything gets cleaned up.Of course the book is fun and playful, and is obviously one of the most famous and liked picture books ever made, but it is still pretty straightforward.Cat in the Hat reinforces and demonstrates almost all of the typical assumptions about childhood, and it fulfills all of the typical case prototypes of children’s books.Examining it made me think about how the book might have changed in recent years, especially since children are rarely bored when they are at home any more (with all of the stuff they own to play with).But more than that, it made me think about why we expect all children’s books to be like this, why it is always considered one of the best books for children.Although I like typical children’s books, it makes me also interested in books that don’t do what we expect.The book was written 1957, and in so many ways children’s books have become so incredibly different since then.But in a lot of other ways, some good, some bad, they haven’t changed at all.
STRONG EXAMPLES FROM STUDENTS
The book George and Martha (as well as all of the other books in the series), by James , is in most ways a typical case prototype.The reading level that is assigned to the book is for ages four through eight.Each book is divided into five stories, and the stories are about two hippopotamuses that are best friends and act like humans.Each of the stories starts with a title page that has bold yellow bubble letters.As the pages are turned the left hand page has the print for the story and the right hand page has the illustration for that portion of the story.This is very much typical case prototype—very consistent, very simple in both a visual and a reading sense.And each story is short in length endorsing the idea that children get bored easily.
All of the illustrations are simple—basically white backgrounds with bold black outlines and three or four colors used to emphasize certain parts of the images (namely grey, green, yellow, and red).The pictures tell the story of everything that is going on, which makes it more or less unnecessary for a child to be able to read in order to understand what is going on in the story.In fact, the pictures include almost no object in that is not directly involved in the story, meaning there is nothing used in the background of the pictures to fill the space.
The story is as simple as the illustrations using little or no complex language or difficult vocabulary.The story, however, is not told using rhyming endings or any kind of rhythm in the sentence structure, which is less typical case prototype, even though plenty of children’s literature does not utilize rhythm or rhyme.The story also includes only two characters (save the image of the dentist in the last story).There are no other characters introduced which also keeps the story simplified.
George and Martha supports many of the assumptions posed with typical case prototypes; in some cases the story even supports two opposing assumptions about children.The assumption that children like books about fantasy is supported in that the main characters are animals that have the characteristics of humans—they are hippopotamuses walking around on two feet, wearing clothes, and talking to each other.At the same time, the assumption is made that kids are so egocentric they only like literature to which they can personally relate.While the main characters are animals, everything else about the book is based very much in a reality they can understand.George and Martha live in a world like ours, where everyone lives in houses, cooks meals, takes baths and goes to the dentist.The issues brought up in the book are even those to which children could relate, such as: not liking split pea soup but having to eat it, losing something that is dear to you, irritating habits that friends have, or invasion of privacy.These are all concepts that a child can understand, and therefore it fits this typical case prototype as well.
The book is extremely didactic.Each story ends with the moral that is presented in it, and the morals are very plainly stated in no uncertain terms.There is no real room for coming up with one’s own ideas or opinions on how the presented situation should be dealt with, because the answer is given—the writer’s view of the issue at hand is almost shoved in the face of the reader.In some ways, a child who thinks beyond simply what the book is telling him/her, might look at what takes place and determine how he/she might have dealt with that situation, but so many people treat reading as such a passive activity that they simply would not occur to them to look any farther than what is directly presented.
Though the book seems so simple at first glance, it might also be argued that the book brings up more adult issues in the sense of right and wrong, such as in the story in which George is peeking through Martha’s window when she is in the bathtub.Now, on the surface this is an issue presented and treated in that it is wrong to invade one’s privacy, but looking at it more deeply might be suggesting peeping-toms and a much more sexual elements of invading privacy than is obvious at first, and that is certainly not a typical case prototype.Nor is the response that Martha has when she realizes that George is peeking in her window, which is to dump the bathtub on his head and yell at him; that could be construed as a violent reaction.The story of the mirror brings up the issue of vanity or even pride.George deals with Martha’s pride in her own appearance by pasting a funny picture on her mirror to trick her into not looking at it anymore.That is a scenario that may be funny to children, but it may also be looking at the more “adult world” of the seven deadly sins for instance—pointing out the negative tendencies of the human being.
Despite these deeper rooted possibilities of what the book may be trying to convey, in most cases it would be considered a typical case prototype.It is built around most of the assumptions made about kids and their views of literature and of the world.Only when looked at closely does this book show any evidence of underlying meaning or issues being presented, and those clues may be simply a complete coincidence.
Nodelman discusses the Typical Case Prototype portrayed in adult-written children’s books.Nodelman’s stereotypes include bright colors, fantasy, common childhood experiences, and simple linguistics.Richard Scarry’s picture book, THINGS TO KNOW demonstrates all of these qualities producing a didactic anecdote.
Color radiates from the pages of this short story.From the pink background on the front cover to the bright blue costume worn by an elephant on the title page, the book is filled with bright shades.The use of color culminates to the very last page, which exemplifies and identifies the colors used in the book (23).The book ambiguously teaches correct color schemes by ensuring each object is the color found in nature.For example, in the “Seasons” grass is green, the sky is blue, sand is brown, apples are red, pumpkins are orange, and snow is white; the author easily could have painted these objects in hues of imagination, however the writer chose to demonstrate these objects in their naturally expected forms, encouraging standard ideals of the world (14,16,18, 19).
While the color usage discourages imagination, Scarry’s use of fantasy promotes creative ideology.A personified animal or insect represents every character in the book.Animals play instruments, eat with spoons, count to ten, have hands, arms, and noses, rake leaves, watch TV, write, and eat cookies (5,6,8,12,11,17, 22,9).Scarry limits the readers’ imagination, allowing only classic fantasy.Richard Scarry personifies the characters to be similar to his readers.
Nodelman’s research suggests the ideal that children enjoy characters they can relate to.Scarry creates childlike characters based on their actions.Illustrating childlike behavior, a pig spills a glass of juice, a cat wears an inner tube to swim in ankle deep water, and a worm jumps in a pile of autumn leaves (8,16,17).The children are distinguished from the adults by size, position, and in some cases clothing.On page one, a giraffe sits on a stool wearing a suit and tie reading a book to a tiny, casually dressed mouse.Of course the mouse is the childlike character and the giraffe is the adult; the giraffe know how to read, is formally dressed, and is much taller than his counterpart. This example signifies the view of adults being superior to children and being responsible for the knowledge children gain.In the manners section a tall pig wearing a dress helps a short pig in red overalls put on a rain jacket, obviously this is the mother aiding her child (10).This suggests that children require parents to guide them even in simple tasks.
Finally, the language of the book signifies children’s short attention span and the idea of reading levels.The syntax is limited to include no more than eleven words, the longest sentence being, “We rake the falling leaves and pick apples in the autumn.” (17).The vocabulary of this book is simplistic, using predominately one or two syllable words to identify objects, directions, or sizes.The book contains only two four-syllable words; accordion and interrupting (5, 8).The language is simple for young readers and the identifying nature of the book is most likely targeted toward a preschool audience.
The book overtly teaches the things adults believe small children should learn; like distinguishing the four seasons and naming body parts (13-20, 11).The most obvious example of a moralistic or instructive agenda is the section titled “Manners”.Scarry devotes four pages to “Manners”, while most other topics have two pages.Scarry clearly encourages his ideas of etiquette when he writes, “Everyone should have good manners. Do you? I hope so.” (9).Other examples of the educational goals appear in sections labeled “Count to Ten”, “Opposites”, “Shapes and Sizes”, “Things We Can Do”, and “Colors” (12, 3, 1, 21, 23).The book didactically impresses children with adult view of essential knowledge and encourages the stereotypical natures Nodelman mentioned.
In the 2003 Universal Pictures version of “Peter Pan,” the children are depicted as strong, independent individuals with their own agency throughout a great portion of the film.However, there are numerous examples of interpellation, during which the children fight against and conform to the interpellation of family and society.In the following paragraphs, I will explain how “Peter Pan” is a movie with both interpellation and agency.Also, I will explain how the film is adult-centered in spite of the agency the child characters possess.
The movie “Peter Pan” begins with three children living in a nursery all together.One day, the children overhear the adults talking about Wendy, the oldest child in the nursery.They are saying that it is time for her to grow up and spend more time with adults.Wendy does not like the idea of growing up, and the children go on a magical adventure where children never grow up, where there are pirates, fairies, and countless adventures.However, soon Wendy realizes that she truly does wish to grow up and decides to return to her home with her parents.In the end, Wendy, her brothers, and the lost boys all end up home with parents.However, Peter Pan still refuses to give up his childhood fantasies and flies away forever.
The adult characters in “Peter Pan” are highly interpellated into their roles in society.For example, the mother and father are wealthy socialites who attend grand parties, wear grand clothing, and (attempt to) conduct themselves in a dignified, proper manner.At one point, the father is seen practicing his small talk because Aunt Millicent has told him that “wit is very fashionable at the moment.”They are very much concerned with what the neighbors will think of them and their proper place in society.Wendy’s adult family has been interpellated into their roles in society.However, the children are still concerned with fun, games, and adventures.The thought of growing up is not an appealing one for them at this point.It simply does not look like it is any fun.
In one scene, the entire family is gathered together in a family room.The children are telling stories and being generally silly.When Wendy begins to talk of her dreams of adventure, her Aunt Millicent puts a stop to it.After all, a young lady should not think of adventure, but marriage according to the interpellation in this film.During this scene, Wendy talks with her Aunt Millicent about her future plans.“My unfulfilled ambition is to write a great novel, in three parts, about my adventures,” Wendy says.Aunt Millicent replies, “What adventures?”“I’m going to have them,” Wendy says, “they’ll be perfectly thrilling.”Aunt Millicent clearly indicates what role she believes Wendy should possess in society with her reply, “But child, novelists are not highly thought of in good society, and there is nothing so difficult to marry as a novelist.”In this same scene, Aunt Millicent asks Wendy to walk toward her and turn around so that she might appraise her.Afterward, she declares Wendy as having possession of a “woman’s chin” and a “hidden kiss” on the corner of her mouth.She declares the kiss as the “greatest adventure of all” and states that it “belongs to” someone else.Aunt Millicent clearly thinks that Wendy will believe that possessing woman-like qualities will make her want to act more grown up and that possessing a hidden kiss that belongs to someone else will begin Wendy’s search for a respectable husband.Aunt Millicent is attempting to convince Wendy that her proper place in society will be an adventure if only she lives up to the expectations of her family.Aunt Millicent is attempting to interpellate Wendy into a certain role.She addresses the “problems” of Wendy’s need for adventure and desire to become a novelist, neither of which will do for a young lady in high society.
By watching the whole first half of the film, one might believe that Wendy has not been interpellated into the role her Aunt Millicent wishes for her.She is clearly against the idea of giving up her adventures to become a wife.Soon after, she meets a magical boy and runs away with him, along with her brothers to a world where children have their own agency.In Neverland, children live with no parents, do as they please, and fight their own battles.There are Indians, mermaids, and pirates.It is a great adventurous place for children to live when they do not wish to be interpellated into a role in society by their parents.
During one Neverland scene, Hook has captured Wendy’s brothers and taken them to the .There, the adult pirates treat the children as worthy adversaries.This indicates that the adult pirates believe that the children do, indeed, have their own agency.The pirates do not indicate for a moment that these are only children and easily defeated.Rather, they wait in ambush for Peter Pan and Wendy to attempt to rescue the boys.Wendy shows Peter that she is entirely capable of brandishing a sword against the pirates.Here, Wendy is displaying her own agency and letting him know that she will not need protection any more than the boys.Then, Peter tricks the pirates into releasing the other children.This shows that the children in the scene are much more cleaver than the adults.Afterward, a great fight scene ensues between the children and the pirates.The pirates sword fight with them as if they were adults.In fact, the children manage to defeat the pirates and escape unharmed, once again indicating that they have their own agency in that they are clever and able to take care of themselves.When there is a problem, they figure out a way to get out of it on their own.They do not rely on adults to solve their problems.
In spite of all of the agency the children display during the Neverland scenes, I would argue that this film is adult centered.After being in the Neverland for a while, Wendy realizes that she does not belong there and chooses to return to the safety of her family.Even the Lost Boys desperately want a parental figure in their lives, and they end up returning home with Wendy and her brothers to live with their parents.Wendy has been interpellated by her parents after all.She realizes that she wants her life that she left behind.The power that Wendy felt at the beginning of the film seemed repressive to her; however, it has become ideological.In other words, the ideological power that Wendy’s family has over her has worked.She now sees that her happiness lies in the role that her family has been trying to establish for her.Furthermore, Wendy’s brothers and the Lost Boys all realize that they want to have parents who will care for them and that growing up is not all that bad.In the end, all of the children have parents except one.And, all of the children seem happy except one – Peter Pan.
While it is odd to think of a film having both interpellation and agency, I am suggesting just that.However, I am also suggesting that there are two separate worlds in this film in which the two issues occur.Interpellation clearly occurs in the beginning of the film while the children are with their parents and Aunt Millicent.They are taught how life should be and who they should be when they grow up.The Neverland world is a place where children have agency.It is clear to the adults and children in Neverland that children are to be taken seriously and treated as equals.However, in the end, the children choose interpellation over agency and return to the nursery and their home with their parents.In this film, the children have been interpellated to believe that their role at home will be much more fulfilling and rewarding than the agency available to them by remaining children forever in Neverland.
In closing, Peter Pan is a complicated film that displays agency and interpellation.While it displays both, the film is adult centered, as the children end up interpellated into the roles their families wished for them.
Resisting Interpellation: Beauty and the Beast
As a little girl, I pretended I was Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I wanted desperately to find my prince charming. I danced around to the songs, and I would have loved a castle filled with enchanted creatures, or a library filled with books up to the ceiling. Years later, after watching the same story unfold, I can honestly say that Belle could be a role model for me in the way she lived her life. Her personality is one of strength, open-mindedness, and abundant love. Throughout her story, Belle is faced with opposition and obstacles that push her to define and think about who she is. Gaston and the rest of the townspeople try to push and mold Belle into the type of person that they feel is “normal.” The story of Beauty and the Beast is one of Belle defying the idea of what is normal, what is right, and what is supposed to be.
A major way of society interpellating a person is by shunning the marriage or union between people with huge differences. Society applauds when the normal path is taken, whether it is a marriage between a man and woman, or the relationship between two people of the same race. The main motif or theme of Beauty and the Beast, which occurs in many children’s stories, is that of two people of different species falling in love and overcoming their obstacles. Belle, a human, and the Beast, a human enslaved in a beast-like body, are blinded to reality by their love. They do not look at each other with eyes focused on appearances, but look through the skin into each other’s souls. In the garden playing with birds, the Beast and Belle come to realize that they care for each other, despite the hesitations that first accompanied their situation. The beast is surprised that “when we touched she didn't shudder at my paw,” and Belle is taken aback “ that he's no Prince Charming but there's something in him that I simply didn't see.” Though surprised, Belle resisted the temptation to fall in love and marry a human, thus not giving in to interpellation. This movie also expresses distaste for interpellation in the sense that it expresses the acceptance of things not of the norm. It basically says that you do not have to settle for the town football hero, just because you are the cheerleader. Instead, you can hold out, find a person with whom your souls connect, and live happily ever after. There is also a trace of the “if you truly love them, let them go, and if they love you too, they will come back” theme present in this movie. For example, when the Beast releases Belle as his prisoner, he gives her the freedom to truly love him. It is only through this relinquishing, that Belle can understand her true feelings.
A different way society tries to interpellate a person or a person’s life is by giving them a name. By naming a person, the parent is predetermining their child to answer and identify with that name. The name Belle translates to beautiful or beauty from the French language. Yet while Belle is beautiful, she does not let her name, or it’s meaning, get in the way of her personality. Traditionally, an interpellated “Belle” would be flirtatious, using her good looks to gain social standing. This type of behavior would be accepted in Belle’s community, as other seemingly beautiful women gush and moon over Gaston, throwing themselves at him in the hopes he will throw them a bone. though, almost seems unaware of her good looks. For example, while Belle walks through town, her head buried in a story, she is oblivious to all the commotion she is bringing about. One man even goes as far as to say, “Now it's no wonder that her name means 'beauty' Her looks have got no parallel!” As the story unfolds, she does not dress to impress anyone, and never gives the impression of caring what others think of her appearance. I believe the rose in Beauty and the Beast is a reminder of Belle’s inconsistence with the typical towns lady. The rose, while beautiful and seemingly fragile, has managed to live for ten years. While it is enchanted, the rose must still be protected, and is held in high regard. Belle, similarly, is beautiful and dainty, but strong. She earns respect through her decisions, and does not need to be taken care of. She is strong enough to find her father, strong enough to give her life for his, and strong enough to stand up to the Beast.
Belle also questions the interpellated messages she receives from the general public. The people of Belle’s town believe that, as a young lady, you should live up to specific social standards. Belle breaks these traditions in numerous ways. To begin, even as Belle walks through the “quiet village,” the townspeople talk about how she is so strange and unusual; how she does not quite fit the mold. They shake their heads and cannot understand why she is “Never part of any crowd.” She “doesn't quite fit in” with the ladies trying to find a husband, or with the ladies who sit around doing what it is the conventional ladies do. Instead, she is described as “Dazed and distracted” because she always has “her nose stuck in a book!” It is evident that Belle is resisting interpellation by continuing to read, and to read often. Instead of succumbing to the ideals and values of the townspeople who feel “It's not right for a woman to read--soon she starts getting ideas...and thinking,” she relishes her stories, and continues to be excited about new possibilities. She also does not try to hide the fact that she loves to read. She sat on a fountain, in the middle of the town, and sang about her love of books. People like Gaston, who try to force their ideas on society, feel that all a woman should be is a “little wife, massaging [her husband’s] feet, while the little ones play with the dogs.” When Belle flat out refuses Gaston’s attempts at wooing her, the other ladies of the town, who have fallen into the common way of thinking, say, “What's wrong with her?” Yet Belle knows that “There must be more than this provincial life!”
Indeed, there is a different way to live life, at least for Belle. Unlike many women, Belle is not one to be influenced by appearances, good or bad. She is not impressed with Gaston’s impressive looks or rippled muscles (because he is, after all, “Perfect, a pure paragon”). Instead of dreaming about being Gaston’s wife, Belle is more interested in enjoying life, taking care of her father, and being true to herself. She does not fall into the trap of liking the cool guy, just because everyone else does. She knows that Gaston is “handsome all right, and rude and conceited and” not for her. Another example of Belle’s passiveness towards appearance occurs with the Beast. While her first reaction to the Beast is terror, she does not actually fear him. If she feared him, she would not have spoken out to the Beast like she did. Not intimidated by his looks, she talks to him like the mean-spirited person he is. This showcases the amount of agency Belle has determined is rightfully hers. In many instances, she does not give in to the Beast’s demands, even though, technically, she is his prisoner. For instance, she does not give in to the Beast’s demand that she come to dinner, instead, she tells him, “I'm not hungry” and refuses to eat with him.
Some may feel that Belle is the typical young lady, looking to find her prince. After all, her favorite part of the book she reads by the fountain is when the girl meets her prince, but does not know it yet. I would argue that the books she finds so intriguing are an escape. While the particular storyline read by the fountain does predict the outcome of the movie, it also illustrates and shows how Belle is feeling. She feels trapped, like the only way she can escape her suffocating world is to read about others where there is adventure and romance. She may want the romance and the white knight on the horse, but she is not willing to compromise who she is inherently, for the gain of something she does not deem true and worthy. Belle turns to her books because, as she puts it, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere/ I want it more than I can tell/ And for once it might be grand/ To have someone understand/ I want so much more than they've got planned.” So she is not dreaming of her prince, or a life as a princess. She wants to be a person, first and foremost, and have someone understand what she feels. Before meeting and falling in love with the beast, the only “people” who understand her, are the people in the books she reads, because they have the same desires as she.
Belle avoids the interpellation of her peers and society through staying true to herself, and, in the end, she gets her prince. She does not succumb to the prodding of Gaston, and even her father in the beginning, to marry and become a mainstream household wife. Instead, she uses her ability to love truly to find the man, or beast, with which she is meant to be. It is through this rebellion of society’s norm that Belle uses her agency in life to stand firm against interpellation.
“: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” is a true depiction of carnivalesqueimagery. The entire film is centered on a movie the children go see, called “Asses of Fire.”This movie causes great controversy between the children and parents, because its only purpose is to, make fun of bodily functions, and curse as much as possible.The children in “” love this movie, and even claim that it will make their lives “complete.” The idea of carnivalesque is that is mocks and humiliates what is supposed to be official, and customary by focusing on humorous and grotesque bodily functions.These children who praise a movie that is clearly derogatory, and gross degrades the ethical teachings they should be learning.The stereotype for children is that they should learn valuable, and critical lessons that will help them in life.“” greatly destroys these lessons, as the children perpetually get more offensive and silly as the mimic the actors in “Asses of Fire.”
The movie also demeans authority figures such as, the government, the president, teachers, principles, parents etc.One of the best examples of this idea of carnivalesque is when Cartman defies his authority figures.While sitting in class Mr. Garrison (the boy’s teacher) demands Cartman to answer a question.Unwilling to cooperate, Cartman instead curses at the teacher and is sent to the office.In the office, he again curses at the principle. Both authority figures are surprised by these acts of defiance; they do not know how to punish this behavior.Instead, Cartman is free to say and do what he pleases, to whomever. This scene depicts the role reversal of authority.It is Cartman who holds the power, and not the typical adult authority figure.Throughout the movie the adults struggle to gain power over their children’s tainted behavior.They are repeatedly unsuccessful.This is the essence of carnivalesque, as it uses absurdity and humor to undermine what is normally revered.
proves to be a progressive movie for a number of reasons.Although, it is seemingly playful, silly and gross, it explores new grounds by mocking norms for children’s movies.Much like a traditional Disney musical, “: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut” begins with the character Stan singing a song.In this scene, Stan is walking down a snow-covered street as he sings about his “quiet mountain town.”Deer cross his path, and beautiful Pine trees line the road.As Stan approaches his town he is singing about how wonderful it is, and how people treat each other well.However, it is obvious, that the people are actually pushy, rude and hateful towards one another.By no means is this place the “quiet mountain town” Stan describes.In fact, by the end of the song the entire town joins in on the chorus and adds that they live in a “quiet little white trash redneck mountain town.”This is an ironic twist to how the film first began.In the beginning “” seems to be a normal children’s movie.It depicts the innocence of nature, and a song about love, happiness, and people getting along. As the song continues, it drastically changes from pleasant, to disturbing and silly. People are cursing one another, babies are being thrown through windows, and homeless men are drinking on the side of the road.These images mock and criticize the normal innocence in children’s film.Therefore, with its mocking nature “” challenges what we deem as a stereotypical normal children’s film and proves to be progressive.In addition, “” is progressive as it gives power to those that would not normally have it.Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny all have a great amount of power within this movie, as they defy their parents and curse at authority figures.
However, this movie also gives a great amount of power to a woman.Kyle’s mother consistently gains command as she speaks out against the two Canadian actors in “Asses of Fire” that have contaminated the children’s minds.In one seen Kyle’s mom pushes President Clinton out of the way of a camera interview and provides a speech on ending the actor’s lives to save the children. Her forceful behavior of pushing the President out of the way shows how “” truly defies the norm.In a normal situation the President would be seen as the highest authority, but here a mother from a “redneck town” is depicted as stronger. By giving power to both the children and the mother, “” is extremely progressive by challenging and defying the ideas of a stereotypical normal children’s movie.
Much like the “” movie, the TV series “Family Guy” also portrays carnivalesque imagery.One of the main characters in “Family Guy” is Stewie, a baby who has an adult British male’s accent.His hilarious, uncommon voice greatly shows carnivalesque.Unlike a normal baby, Stewie not only can speak his mind, but he also can do it articulately, like an adult.In fact, he is smarter, more talkative and wiser than the stupid immature dad, Peter, in the show.Specifically, the episode “Emission Impossible” shows how Stewie is more competent than his parents.Repeatedly, he disrupts his parents from making love in order to stop them from creating another baby. In one scene Stewie walks into his room, hits a button on the wall, which collapses and shows a hidden spaceship behind it.He uses the spaceship (which shrinks to a microscopic level) to go in Peter’s body and terminate all his sperm.Stewie succeeds and the parents never end up having a baby. Symbolically, the spaceship represents all the power Stewie has in his life. Such a complicated, high-tech machine for a baby to control signifies how he has the command to manipulate what he pleases. By inhibiting their chances of creating a baby, Stewie clearly portrays the carnivalesque idea of role reversal.It is not coincidental that Stewie’s strong character is that of a baby.“Family Guy” is using this role reversal of giving a baby power over it’s parents to, like “South Park”, mock what is supposed to be authoritative.Parents are normally the ones that direct the life of their baby.However, Stewie diminishes this norm, which is an apparent depiction of carnivalesque ideas.
“The Simpsons” is another great example of carnivalesque.In the episode “Tis the Fifteenth Season,” Homer realizes he is a selfish person and thereby declares he will become “the nicest guy in town.”However, already holds that title. In result, a battle breaks out between them, as they struggle to gain the title of the “nicest guy in town”.In one scene Homer becomes jealous when he hears has given everyone a Christmas gift.He therefore begins to plan on how he will buy everyone a car to exceed act of generosity.However, Lisa stops her dad and explains, “Dad you don’t have to out-do .Just remember the spirit of the season.”She then declares that Christmas is not about presents or competitions, but about family and love.Once again, the roles are being reversed.Lisa, a little girl, has to explain an extremely important concept to her father.Parents are usually the ones to teach these lessons to children; however, Lisa is the true “parent” in this scene.In addition, this episode depicts Homer to be as dumb as a cat or dog.All three (Homer, the cat and the dog) are wearing Christmas sweaters. As the dog and cat roll on the ground biting at theirs, so does Homer.Carnivalesque often portrays these types of role reversals, and undermining of authority.Stereotypically, the male adult figure is one that carries the most knowledge, power and authority.However, Homer truly acts like a child.He is selfish, silly and immature.Instead this intelligent and powerful status is given to a seven or either year old girl.Carnivalesque is depicted, as a complete opposite role reversal is apparent.Without Lisa’s insight and awareness, Homer would have succeeded in ruining the concepts of Christmas.
Both “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” are progressive as well.The strong characters in these two shows are the children, Stewie and Lisa.These shows dramatically change what is normally viewed as traditional.Parents no longer teach their kids, rather the children teach them.In addition, the parents do not have the ability to direct their children’s lives; instead their children are directing their lives. Much like “,” “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” depict families as if they are on the other side of the mirror.They are merely reversed.These thoughts encourage us, as the audience, to rethink what we consider as normal.In addition, like the “” movie, both of these shows counter and mock stereotypical children’s shows.Conservatively children’s shows are supposed to protect innocence, show adults as authority figures and teach what is typically right. “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” obviously bend these rules and are therefore extremely progressive.
“,” “Family Guy,” and “The Simpsons,” are only a few of the shows that possess these ideas of carnivalesque and progressiveness.However, all three portray these concepts beautifully.From role reversal, to degrading authority, and to using humorous situations, voices, and bodily functions to mock the revered, these shows are carnivalesque.In addition, they break the stereotype that creates a conservative work.Instead they are progressive as they challenge us to rethink what should be, and uniquely see the ideas that contradict our norms.
The fairy tale Snow-white and Rose-red, by the Grimm brothers, is an excellent example of a conservative, adult-centered text.In this text, the agency is with the adults and the children are seen as nostalgic images of childhood.Snow-white and Rose-red prove that children are good and follow the direction of adult figures even when the adult may not be present.
The conservative nature of this text is overwhelming.The author is not challenging children to do anything; but rather teaching them that if they are obedient then they will be happy.For example, Snow-white and Rose-red are described in various ways throughout the story: “ . . . the sweetest and best children in the world, always diligent and always cheerful . . . they always walked about hand in hand whenever they went out together . . . they drew round the fire, while the mother put on her spectacles and read aloud from a big book and the two girls listened and sat and span . . . the tender-hearted children . . .”The children are described as wonderful and obedient children who help anyone in need.They are seen as a quaint family that never argues, listens to their mother read stories around a fire, and did traditional “girl” things like spinning.The ending shows that because of their good hearts they were rewarded: “Snow-white married him, and Rose-red his brother, and they divided the great treasure the dwarf had collected in his cave between them.The old mother lived for many years peacefully with her children . . .”This “fairy tale” ending shows that if you are a good child then good things will happen to you.The text does not wish for children to challenge the things that their mother tells them to do.The text reinforces a sense of good behavior and family closeness.
In this family, the mother is the one with the authority and all of the agency.The girls are attentive to the instructions of their mother and follow them with haste.There are several things that the girls did to help their mother around the house and around the woods: “Show-white sat at home with her mother and helped her in the household…[they] kept their mother’s cottage so beautifully clean and neat that it was a pleasure to go into it…the mother sent the children into the wood to collect fagots…the mother sent the two girls to the town to buy needles, thread, laces, and ribbons.”This shows their obedience because the children did what their mother told them without hesitation or argument.In an adult-centered text, children understand that adults know better than children so they must follow what adults say.Another example when the children listen to the knowledge from their mother is when the mother tells them, “‘Rose-red, open the door quickly; it must be some traveler seeking shelter.’ Rose-red hastened to unbar the door… ‘Snow-white and Rose-red, come out; the bear will do you no harm; he is a good, honest creature.’”The text ends with the mother being correct when the bear’s “skin suddenly fell off, and a beautiful man stood beside them, all dressed in gold.”By listening to the mother and her knowledge, the story had a happy ending.This shows the readers that children should listen to their mothers or other adult figures because, of course, they know more than a child.This adult-centered trait is highly visible throughout the text.
Yet another image of the children, in this adult-centered text, is when they follow the directions of their mother even when she is not there.The mother has engrained the children with the importance of being kind to everyone.They show kindness to the dwarf throughout the story even though he was not nice to them.Some of the rude comments that the dwarf makes about the girls are: “‘You stupid, inquisitive goose!’… ‘Crazy blockheads!’… ‘Curse these rude wretches, cutting off a piece of my splendid beard!’… ‘you toadstools’… ‘Couldn’t you have treated me more carefully?You have torn my thin little coat all to shreds, useless, awkward hussies that you are!’” The girls have saved his life three times and yet the dwarf can only be ungrateful and mean to them.This does not deter the girls from their kind-heartedness and helping anyone in need.“The girls were accustomed to his ingratitude, and went on their way and did their business in town.”This shows that, without their mother’s advice, the girls continued to rescue the dwarf and treat him with kindness.This is an excellent example of an adult-centered trait.
Snow-white and Rose-red are perfect symbols of the nostalgic childhood images who end up being rewarded for their good nature and kind hearts.The authors are showing that if a child is obedient and good then they will surely receive a reward in the end.There are many attributes of an adult-centered text that this story has which contributes to the conservative nature of the text. This text is extremely conservative and adult-centered in various ways.
“Hard by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife and his two children,” begins Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s famous fairy tale, “Hansel and Grethel.”“Hansel and Grethel” is a magical tail about two children who cleverly outsmart their evil stepmother, and a wicked witch to stay alive.This fairytale encompasses some of the topics we have discussed in class.It not only is incredibly child centered, but it also is progressive.
“Hansel and Grethel” is extremely child centered. The Grimm brothers depicted both Hansel and Grethel as smart, capable people.After she told her plan of leaving the children off in the woods alone to the father, the wife maliciously stated, “They will not find their way home again, and we shall be rid of them.”Fortunately, Hansel and Grethel both heard this speech, and decided something must be done to outsmart her evil plot. As Hansel dropped pebble after pebble on the road to help them find their way home, the wife noticed that he consistently looked back at the house.“Hansel what art thou looking at there and staying behind for,” the wife demanded.He replied, “I am looking at my little white cat, which is sitting up on the roof and wants to say goodbye to me.”“Fool, that is not thy little cat, that is the morning sun which is shining on the chimney,” explained the wife.Although Hansel’s answer is silly, the wife and father did not suspect his pebble trail.Therefore, his plan worked and he and his sister are able to find their way home after being left in the woods.By, having the ability to outsmart the adults, Hansel proved to have a great amount of agency.He not only had the courage to secretly plot against them, but also managed to trick them into believing he was just a childish boy fantasizing about his cat.His lie about the cat is significant because it shows that he understands adults have these assumptions that children are childlike in their thinking.He is able to use this stereotype about children against his parents, ultimately tricking them into thinking he is incapable of “adult like” complex thinking and planning.
Grethel also had her moment of greatness when she tricked the witch.Smartly, Grethel told the old witch she did not understand how to get in the oven.The witched replied haughtily, “Silly goose, the door is big enough; just look, I can get in myself!”As the evil hag climbed into the oven, Grethel courageously shoved her inside and locked the door.Ultimately, the witch was engulfed in flames resulting in her ruin. Like Hansel, Grethel is depicted as a stronger, smarter character than the adults, especially the witch, within this fairytale.Since, child-centered texts always portray the children as the most powerful, capable, independent characters, it is fitting that “Hansel and Grethel” would fall under this category.Both children easily trick the adults.In addition, they have the power to find their way through the woods at the end of the story with no pebbles or bread to guide them.The two children truly have an enormous amount of agency as they not only can outsmart the adults, but also can manipulate nature to help them.As they came to a “great piece of water” on their journey home from the gingerbread house, they realized they had no means to cross it.However, Grethel noted, “a white duck is swimming there; if I ask her, she will help us over.”Indeed, the duck does help them, and they return home safely.It is as if Hansel and Grethel gain more confidence, and agency as they manipulate and conquer every obstacle crossing their path.
Another example of why this text is child-centered is how the adults are depicted.First, it is important to note that it is only the children who have names.All of the adults in this text are referred to as, the “father,” the “wife” and the “old witch.”This is a very child-centered quality, as it gives no individuality to the adults, thus exemplifying their lack of importance.In addition, the adults are all portrayed as selfish, weak, and evil.The wife was clearly selfish and evil, as she wanted to “be rid” of her children so she could have more food to eat.In complaint to his wife’s wishes the father replied, “How can I bear to leave my children alone in the forest? The wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces!”Selfishly and uncaringly the wife cried, “O, thou fool! Then we must all four die of hunger, thou mayest as well plane the planks for our coffins.”She would rather her children be torn to pieces by “wild animals” than have to share her food, and sacrifice her own hunger.
Also, although, the father was undoubtedly seen as the “good” parent of the two, he was plainly a weak character.The father barely stood up for his children, and let his wife send them to their deaths. After agreeing to go along with her plan he sadly said, “But I feel very sorry for the poor children, all the same.”Not once, was the father threatened by his wife. He merely gave into her, even though it was clear that he loved his children dearly.This lack of confidence completely undermines the father’s authority as an adult.Although he is a good character, he has no power to stand up for what he believed and felt strongly for. In addition, describing the old woman with the candy covered house, the Grimm’s wrote, “she only pretended to be so kind; she was in reality a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the house of bread in order to entice them there.” She, like the stepmother is evil. Therefore, it is apparent, that all three adults in this story are perceived as evil or weak, making this a truly child-centered text.
In addition to child-centered, “Hansel and Grethel” also is significantly progressive.In the beginning of the story, when the stepmother described her plan to leave the children, she stated, “They will not find their way home again.”The stepmother assumed that the children were naïve and incapable of taking care of themselves.She believed that they could never locate their way out of the woods because they were mere children, and would have no adult to guide them.However, they break these assumptions by finding their way through the forest not once, but twice. This is extremely progressive, because it challenges some of the stereotypical assumptions about childhood.Children are often thought of as very dependent on their parents and innocent; however, Hansel and Grethel clearly do not need their parents to find their way.They are also far from naïve.They are well aware of the stepmother’s wicked intentions.
In fact, the children not only found their way through the confusing woods and saved themselves from the horrid witch, but they also saved their father. The Grimm brothers wrote, “Grethel emptied her pinafore until pearls and precious stones ran about the room, and Hansel threw one handful after another out of his pocket to add to them.”This shows how much agency the children had, as they saved themselves and then came home with enough diamonds and jewels to support their father as well. The story ends, “Then all the anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in perfect happiness.”This fairytale is truly progressive as gives the power over to the children. In a more conservative text the father would have been the savior; however, it is Hansel and Grethel who hold all the power and save the day.
“Hansel and Grethel” is an excellent example of a progressive, child-centered text. It challenges assumptions about children, and gives children a great amount of agency.Hansel and Grethel are depicted as capable strong characters, whereas the adults are seen as evil and weak.The children also reject the norms of childhood that suggest life for a child is simple and fun, as they understand their lives are complex, and they work hard to control the situations around them. In total, “Hansel and Grethel” challenges us as readers to truly see how powerful children can be.
8.(from Final Exam)
~Interpellation is the idea that we are “bred” to think, act and react in certain ways.
~We are interpellated from the day that we are born into specific roles that society has created for us
~Girls being portrayed in magazines playing with dolls and loving the color pink is an example of gender role interpellation
~Interpellation is subtle—the point of interpellation is for a person to feed into something without even realizing that they are doing so.
~ Interpellation is used in almost every aspect of our society, especially in the marketing of merchandise
~Interpellation can be found in many situations, but the most prominent example of interpellation that I always think of is the typical male and female roles that we are “assigned” from a very early age. There are certain things that are “normal”, if not expected of a boy, simply because he is a boy. By there same token, there are certain things that are expected of a girl to maintain her societal femininity. From a young age, we are lead to believe that boys are the dominant, more powerful sex. Females are portrayed as care takers and are often seen as being more compassionate and caring then males are. Men are expected to rougher and less sensitive. The men are expected to work hard to bring home money to support their families. Females are often portrayed as being more in touch with their emotions. None of these ideas applies to any one person any more so then do personality traits, but our society interpellates these ideas into our minds every minute of every day. The following passage is from my paper on the Goonies, in which I highlight some examples of the interpellation typical female and male roles in this movie.
“The interpellation of society’s view of typical female and male roles is very obvious in this movie. The boys seem to be portrayed in the usual ways, as being mischievous and thrill seeking, while the girls are shown as weak and scared. The oldest girl, Andy, seems more concerned with her crush throughout the movie then she does with finding the gold and taking an active role in the adventure. There is a point in the movie where Mikey tells Andy that she may want to hold his hand because it was dark up ahead and it may be dangerous. This is another example of the girls and the guys being put into common roles that society has created for them. As we have been told since we were young children through fairy tales and everyday life, men are supposed to take care of females and be there to protect them. Another example of interpellation is when Brent, Mikey’s older brother, makes a comment in the movie asking why he couldn’t have had a little sister instead of a little brother, as if to say that only a boy is daring enough to start the trouble that they are in.This statement reaffirms the idea of interpellation of typical male and female roles in this film.”
~ The following excerpts looks at an example of interpellation from the 1980’s classic, The Goonies:
“Something that is interesting in this movie is that the Goonies all seem to be misfits. There is a scene where the developer’s son drives past Mikey’s older brother, Brent. The developers son is driving a convertible and wearing his letter jacket and has two girls in his car, while Brent is wearing ratty old sweats and is riding his little brothers bike. Interpellation is shown in the idea that the rich kids are cool and popular, while the poor kids are unpopular and outcasts.”
“Mikey’s family seems to be having some emotional problems. Mikey’s older brother, Brent, always makes fun of their father and doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for him. This shows the idea that families who don’t have a lot of money are less stable and ultimately less happy.At the end of the movie, when the family realizes they have enough money to save their home, they come together and hug each other and really show affection towards each other for the first time in the movie. Again, interpellation is shown in that money and material things bring happiness. “
~We seem to idealize wealthy families in our society because we are under the warped impression that they are happier then ourselves because they have everything that they want. Children who are born into wealth and privilege are showcased in reality television and documentaries, further rubbing our noses in the fact that there are parents who can provide for their children in ways that you or I could never imagine (from a material standpoint). Our culture seems to go out of its way to display this quality, to make those who have more feel better about themselves and those who have less feel worse. We are interpellated be jealous of other peoples luck and fortune, when we should be thankful for the opportunities that we have instead of being angry about the opportunities that we don’t. I think this reoccurring theme is strong in the Goonies. As described in the excerpt Mikeys family is portrayed as poor and unhappy. Nothing seems to go right for them, mainly because of the fact that they don’t have any material wealth. The rich family holds the happiness of the poor family in its hands. The rich family has all of the agency while the poor family has none. Like in our society, the poor are at the mercy of the rich.
~We are interpellated to believe that the main centers of power and authority in our society, i.e. the government, our parents, the president, are inherently good and always right—they(the powers that be) do this to try and keep us in our place. They want to keep power in the hands of those who have always had it, and usually on of the only ways to do that is to interpellate society to believe that that is where the power and authority belong in the first place.
~Like the magazine add that you showed us that said “All girls love princesses, pink and parties” (or something to that effect), we are spoon feeding interpellated gender roles to our children. Certainly, all girls DON’T love princesses and all girls don’t love pink. In fact, I always hated princesses and pink for that matter. By saying “All girls”, marketing agencies are really embracing interpellated gender roles and using them to try and sell their product, which often works (unfortunately).
~I wrote about the role of interpellation in Jack and the Bean Stalk. Below are some detailed examples of interpellation that I found in this particular version of the story:
“Jack goes into town to sell Milky-White to try and get money for he and his mom. He is stopped along the way by a strange old man. The picture of the old man in this story is interesting because the old man is dressed rather uniquely. I think that this shows interpellation because it shows that strange people dress differently from normal people. The illustration provides the reader with a distinction between “strange” and “normal” based solely on appearance. It reaffirms the idea that one can determine who is normal and who isn’t, simply by looking at them.”
~I think that this is a common idea in our society. In the , we assert ourselves and are identity at first impression, based solely on our clothing. We have been interpellated to look critically on those who dress strange or different then ourselves and are often interpellated from a young age to be weary of those who “look” different from us. Like I said in the paper, distinctions between strange and normal are made all of the time based on clothing. If I were to dread lock my hair, someone might look at me and think I was perhaps dirty or unprofessional, when my goal is doing so was only to embrace a low maintenance lifestyle. We make assumptions like the previous constantly, based on appearance alone. First impressions, based almost entirely on looks, determine who we do and don’t interact with. We are interpellated to believe that we must dress certain ways for certain occasions. Different outfits are appropriate for different events and not knowing what is appropriate when can prove to be a very big problem in some people’s eyes.
~Below is another part of my Jack and the Bean Stalk paper which highlights an example of interpellation through male and female roles within the text:
“The depiction of typical male and female roles in this story are almost overwhelming. After Jack climbs the beanstalk, he finds the giants wife, who just returned from picking flowers. He asks her for something to eat and she says that she will make him something to eat, but that they must be fast because her husband gets home soon. The female giant is portrayed as the common “homemaker” type. She is patiently waiting for her husband to get home and is picking flowers to pass the time and she is the one who does all of the cooking for her husband. The wife also seems to be at the mercy of her husband. In the story she invites Jack inside but warns him that her husband likes to eat little boys. Interpellation is shown in the idea that the giant has the control over his wife and her opinion on the welfare of Jack is irrelevant to him. As soon as the giant gets home, he demands dinner and his wife, who has already had it prepared, brings it to him right away. Again, this is reaffirming typical male and female gender roles in that it is the female’s responsibility to wait on her husband. Another good example of interpellation is when the male giant says “wife, bring me my bags of gold, and I will count my money before I take a nap” (11). The female giant seems to act like a servant to her husband; throughout the story he demands things and she brings them for him right away. It is also interesting that the husband is only concerned with eating, sleeping and money, which is a very typical depiction of males.
~ We are interpellated through religion, politics and the school systems.
Kingdom Hearts as a Child-Centered Text
In the Playstation 2 game Kingdom Hearts, players are introduced to a young boy named Sora who is thrown into a struggle to save not one, but multiple worlds from a mysterious force known as the Heartless. Sora finds himself suddenly wielding a magical weapon called the Keyblade, which just happens to be the only thing that can fight the Heartless, and an artifact that Donald Duck and Goofy have been ordered by Mickey Mouse to find. Sora has a different mission- he is looking for his two best friends, Riku and Kairi, who disappeared when his world was destroyed by the Heartless. Together, Sora, Donald and Goofy venture to different worlds, meet many other Disney characters, and battle the Heartless in hopes of restoring balance to the worlds. However, their quest is much more complicated than saving the world from evil- the line between good and bad becomes blurred as the corrupting power of the Heartless affects Sora’s friends, and Sora himself must learn where his strength lies and decide whether or not to use it. At first, Kingdom Hearts appears to be a light fairy-tale about good fighting evil, but it soon becomes apparent that Sora and childlike characters like Donald and Goofy are dealing with issues not typically found in adult-centered texts, and more importantly, they are doing it without the aid of just, authoritative adults.
The adults in Kingdom Hearts are a far cry from the knowledgeable, caring, strong individuals typically found in adult-centered texts. The first major group of adults consists of the villains from various Disney movies who are working together with the Heartless to take over their worlds. This group includes such characters as Jafar, Captain Hook and Maleficent, all of which are most likely already infamous to the player for their deeds in their respective films. The game presents them as completely irredeemable- they are evil, corrupt, and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even if it means dealing with the mysterious Heartless. Of course, one by one their plans backfire and they are either defeated by Sora or betrayed by the Heartless, which is a rather adult-centered way of dealing with bad adults. However, the second major group of adults makes up for this. These characters are the heroes that the villains originally battled- Aladdin, Tarzan and Jack Skellington, for example. While they are on Sora’s side, these characters are still far from all knowing and perfect, and can even act more like children than Sora does. Upon arriving in , for example, Sora, Donald and Goofy are shocked to see that Jack has recruited the Heartless in the annual Halloween festival. Fortunately, they soon learn that Jack doesn’t actually realize how dangerous they are- he just thinks they’re really scary-looking and would be a great addition to the celebration. In addition to these two groups of adults, Kingdom Hearts features adults that appear to be in positions of authority, but in reality have little or no power over children. In the world of The Little Mermaid, King Triton has lost much of his control over Ariel- the scene where he originally destroys all of her treasures becomes much less devastating in the game, where he only destroys an item that is later revealed to be useless anyway. In fact, Triton’s power as an authoritative figure is decreased so much that Ariel and Sora have to save him from Ursula. The game makes brief mention of Sora’s own family, but it is clear that like King Triton, they have very little control over Sora. His mother is heard once at the beginning of the game, where she calls him for dinner, but the same exact scene shows Sora sneaking out of the house through his bedroom window. After that, there is no mention at all of his parents- Sora doesn’t even appear to miss them. Mickey Mouse is the closest thing to a central authority figure the game has because he is the main reason why Donald and Goofy are exploring the worlds, and thus, the reason why Sora is brought along. He also knows much more about the invading Heartless and the Keyblade’s powers than anyone else. However, it is interesting to note that Mickey is more of a childlike character than an adult, due to his being an animal.
In addition to Mickey Mouse, Donald and Goofy are also very childlike. Donald still has a short temper and is very annoyed at the idea of the legendary Keyblade Master being a kid. He and Sora do not get along very well, but their arguments are small and childish, and they usually make amends shortly after. Goofy tries hard to be the mediator between the two, but he usually ends up doing what Donald tells him to avoid causing more trouble. Both characters display a large amount of agency late in the game when they are forced to make a difficult decision regarding being with Sora or following Mickey’s orders- Sora loses the Keyblade for a short time, during which Donald and Goofy leave him because they can’t let it out of their sight. However, Goofy soon realizes that Sora is too good a friend to just abandon and has a change of heart. Donald is a bit more stubborn, but sees Goofy’s point and rejoins them. Sora himself also has a huge amount of agency, possibly more than anyone else in the game. His agency is represented by the Keyblade, which is regarded as a symbol of great power in every world he visits. When he loses it, he can only get it back by realizing that its strength comes from his heart. Sora receives the Keyblade by resisting the Heartless when his world is destroyed- it recognizes that he is strong and good-hearted. When he learns of his destiny as the Keyblade Master, he embraces it rather than running from such a huge responsibility, if only because he hopes that it will lead him to his missing friends. One of Sora’s friends, Riku, also displays agency, but it comes at a price- instead of resisting the darkness that destroyed his and Sora’s world, Riku joins it and ends up being possessed by the leader of the Heartless. However, he realizes that he is being used to hurt his friends and fights back. In an attempt to atone for the things he did while working for the villains, Riku offers to help Sora seal off the Heartless, but this act will leave him trapped with the Heartless as a result. Sora is distressed at the thought of being separated again, but Riku insists, and his confidence in Sora allows them to seal away the Heartless.
Kingdom Hearts still has some elements common to adult-centered texts, one of which is the mostly conservative plot. Sora is trying to restore the norm instead of change it, and the forces trying to cause change and disrupt the balance are the Heartless and the Disney villains. Even so, bringing order back to the worlds is not Sora’s main concern- to him it is just a means of finding his friends and repairing his own world. Sora also learns lessons throughout the game by interacting with the various characters within the Disney worlds. These morals typically connect back to Sora’s search for his friends- for example, Hercules and other competitors in the Olympus Coliseum teach him that true strength comes from friendship, and Tarzan teaches Sora that his friends are always with him if he keeps their thoughts in his heart. The lessons are highly didactic and Sora ultimately accepts them, but at the end of the game, it is clear to the player that he is still given the choice of acknowledging them or not. Finally, there is the question of what the Heartless truly represent. There is no doubt that the Heartless are pure evil- they corrupt everything they touch and bring out the very worst in anyone who deals with them. By looking at the Heartless as an adult-centeric
This study investigated the accuracy of gender-specific stereotypes about movie-genre preferences for 17 genres. In Study 1, female and male participants rated the extent to which 17 movie genres are preferred by women or men. In Study 2, another sample of female and male participants rated their own preference for each genre. There were three notable results. First, Study 1 revealed the existence of gender stereotypes for the majority of genres (i.e., for 15 of 17 genres). Second, Study 2 revealed the existence of actual gender differences in preferences for the majority of genres (i.e., for 11 of 17 genres). Third, in order to assess the accuracy of gender stereotypes on movie preferences, we compared the results of both studies and found that the majority of gender stereotypes were accurate in direction, but inaccurate in size. In particular, the stereotypes overestimated actual gender differences for the majority of movie genres (i.e., 10 of 17). Practical and theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.
Keywords: media psychology, gender, movie genre, stereotype, stereotype accuracy
Many people have gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are beliefs concerning the abilities, attitudes, preferences and behaviors of a ‘typical’ man or a ‘typical’ woman (Mealey, 2000). For example, many people believe that women have better verbal abilities than men, whereas men are assumed to have better mathematical skills than women. Whereas research has partly confirmed the former assumption (e.g., for verbal fluency, see Hyde and Linn, 1988), it has disconfirmed the latter (cf. Hyde, 2016, for a review). Because stereotypes may, at least partly, reflect real differences between groups, stereotypes are not necessarily inaccurate (see Hilton and von Hippel, 1996; Brown, 2010, for reviews on stereotypes in general). Hence, “the accuracy of stereotypes is an empirical question, not an ideological one” (Jussim et al., 2009, p. 199). Previous research has already addressed the accuracy of gender stereotypes concerning attitudes (e.g., Diekman et al., 2002) or cognitive abilities (e.g., Halpern et al., 2011; Hyde, 2016), but there is almost no research about the accuracy of gender stereotypes concerning media preferences. The present study thus compared presumed and actual differences in film preferences of men and women.
Gender and Movie Preferences
Everyday observations suggest the existence of strong and well-known stereotypes about gender differences in movie preferences, which can be summarized as follows. Women are supposed to like romantic and melodramatic movies, which are snidely called “chick flicks” or “tearjerkers”, as well as comedy, but to dislike action and horror movies. In contrast, men are supposed to like action and horror movies, but to dislike romantic and melodramatic movies. Empirical research on gender differences in actual movie preferences has confirmed, at least to some degree, these popular stereotypes (see Oliver, 2000; Greenwood and Lippmann, 2010, for reviews). The assumption that women prefer romantic and melodramatic movies as well as comedy, for instance, has received some empirical support (e.g., Oliver et al., 1998; Harris et al., 2000). The same is evident for the larger male than female preference for action and horror movies (e.g., Sparks, 1991; Krcmar and Kean, 2005).
Greenwood (2010), for example, investigated the impact of gender and mood state (happy vs. sad) on choosing between films from different genres. First, participants had to write about a happy or sad life event in order to induce the corresponding mood in these participants. Then, participants were asked to indicate which type of film they wished to see right now by using closed and open questions. The questionnaire required a choice between some happy film genres (e.g., romantic comedy, dark comedy), some sad film genres (e.g., social drama, romantic drama), action-adventure movies, and suspenseful movies (i.e., thriller). Results showed that, independent from induced mood, female participants preferred romantic genres (i.e., romantic comedy, romantic drama), whereas male participants preferred action-adventure movies and suspenseful films.
Further results showed that men, in stark contrast to women, have a preference for programs with violent or sexual content. For example, Blanchard et al. (1986) presented their participants violent material from different sources or genres (i.e., from a spy movie, a war movie, a western movie, and a cartoon). When interviewed afterwards, male participants reported more pleasure from viewing the violent films than the female participants (see also Koukounas and McCabe, 2001). A stronger male than female preference was also found for horror movies that typically contain frightening and violent scenes (e.g., Cantor and Reilly, 1982; Zillmann et al., 1986; Oliver, 1993).
Finally, strong gender differences have also been observed in the use and reception of pornographic material. A couple of studies revealed that men consume pornographic films and materials more frequently than women (e.g., Bryant and Brown, 1989; Hald, 2006; see Peter and Valkenburg, 2016, for reviews). Moreover, men repeatedly reported stronger affective and physiological responses to pornographic films than did women (e.g., Janssen et al., 2003). However, the size of the difference between male and female responses to pornographic material has been found to vary with some characteristics of the films (e.g., Murnen and Stockton, 1997; Janssen et al., 2003; Hald and Štulhofer, 2015).
To summarize, previous studies on film and movie genre preferences have already discovered some reliable gender differences, as described above. However, most of these studies involved relatively small numbers of movie genres (i.e., 2–4; e.g., Sparks, 1991; Oliver et al., 1998), and have focused on a relatively small subset of genres, including action, drama, horror, sports, and pornography. Moreover, in most studies, participants judged parts of individual films or verbal descriptions of fictive films, and the representativeness of these materials constrains any attempts to generalize the results to the genre in question. For these reasons, we do not yet know much about some movie genres (e.g., fantasy films, history films, mystery films, science-fiction films, crime movies, western films and, as a typical German genre, ‘heimat’ films).1 And we do not yet know much about the relative popularity of movie genres within and across both sexes, either. Finally, studies typically addressed the actual preferences of men and women for movie genres, whereas gender stereotypes in movie preferences have neither been studied nor have stereotypes been compared to the actual movie preferences of men and women.
Possible Sources of Gender Stereotypes
Although the data presented here are not suitable for answering the question of where gender stereotypes and gender differences with respect to media preferences come from, it might be worthwhile to summarize the most prominent accounts of gender differences in movie preferences. These accounts can be classified in four groups: theories referring to media content, biological accounts, evolutionary accounts, and accounts in terms of gender socialization (e.g., Oliver, 2000; Hust and Brown, 2008).
A first group of accounts refers to differences in the content of films from different genres, such as the main topic of the film or the protagonists’ gender. Regarding film topics, it was suggested that women prefer movies or genres centering on social relationships, whereas men prefer movies or genres centering on aggressive conflicts (e.g., Oliver et al., 2000). Regarding the gender of film protagonists, it was suggested that observers especially enjoy films if they can identify with a major protagonist, and observers prefer to identify with same-sex protagonists (e.g., Hoffner and Cantor, 1991; Hoffner, 1996). In fact, content analyses showed that male protagonists dominate in film genres that are preferred by men (e.g., action films, ‘male’ sports), whereas female protagonists are more likely to be found in film genres that are preferred by women (e.g., daily soaps, melodramatic movies).
Biological accounts refer to biological differences between men and women (e.g., Malamuth, 1996; Goldstein, 1998). For example, the male hormone testosterone is related to sex drive and dominant behavior in men (e.g., Mazur and Booth, 1998). This relationship could provide an account for the stronger interest of men, compared to women, in movies featuring competition and sex. The female hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, however, are supposed to be related to pair bonding and feelings of love in humans (e.g., Fisher, 1998; Carter, 2007). From a neurobiological perspective this difference could be responsible for women’s greater interest in romantic movies. It should be noted though that biological accounts are controversially discussed. For example, researchers from the field of “gendered neurocultures” argue that biological accounts should critically be reflected in terms of gendered ascriptions that are linked to biological processes (e.g., Fillod, 2014; Matusall, 2014).
Evolutionary accounts describe how human evolution may have shaped gender differences in media preferences. For example, from parental investment theory (Trivers, 1972), it can be predicted that “women prefer media contents dealing with issues of mate choice, partner loyalty, and the loss of a partner … [and] men are more likely to select media contents dealing with kin protection, rivalry, status, power, and the acquisition and maintenance of resources” (Hennighausen and Schwab, 2015, p. 144). In a sample of movie visitors, Schwab (2010) replicated the finding that women prefer melodramatic and romantic movies, whereas men prefer action movies. Interestingly, and in some contrast to previous findings, Schwab observed no significant gender differences for other genres (i.e., comedy, horror, and thriller).
A fourth group of accounts refers to differences in the socialization of men and women and, as a result, to differences in learned gender roles. Two important theories of gender socialization are social-learning theory and gender-schema theory. According to social learning theory, children learn the gender role matching their biological sex by operant conditioning and/or by latent learning (e.g., Mischel, 1966). Hence, the agents of socialization (e.g., parents, peers, and teachers) are assumed to reward children for consuming gender-role congruent media content, and to punish (or, at least, refrain from rewarding) children for consuming gender-role incongruent media content. In addition, children may also learn gendered media preferences by observing and imitating same-sex role models. Whereas social-learning theory focuses on the acquisition of gendered behavior, gender-schema theory focuses on the cognitive representation of the gender role. A gender schema is a cognitive structure representing knowledge about the (typical) features of a gender (e.g., Bem, 1981). During socialization, children acquire gender schemas and form associations between the contents of their self-concept and the contents of the gender schema matching their biological sex. Importantly, the gender schema not only represents knowledge about gender, but it also biases the processing of information towards the own gender. Hence, on this account, boys and girls develop different media preferences because (different) gender schemas direct their attention towards gender-congruent media contents.
Presumably, not a single account is able to explain gender differences in media preferences in their entirety. More likely, a combination of different accounts provides the most valid explanation. For example, it might be that men and women are born with some innate biological cognitive mechanisms that are the result of human evolution. Those mechanisms might then be further shaped by environmental factors and thus, finally, cause the observed preferences, for instance for a specific movie content.
Accuracy of Gender Stereotypes
Only recently, researchers have begun to empirically assess the accuracy of social stereotypes, and to compare stereotypes about groups and group differences to measurements of group attributes and group differences (see Ryan, 2002; Jussim et al., 2009, for reviews). The majority of these studies revealed that people are able to provide accurate judgments for many attributes of men and women (Hall and Carter, 1999; Jussim et al., 2009). For example, Swim (1994) compared stereotypes about gender differences for 17 characteristics (e.g., aggression, cognitive abilities, non-verbal behaviors) to measures of actual gender differences as derived from meta-analytic studies. She observed accurate judgments of gender differences for the majority of characteristics under investigation. The only overestimations of gender differences occurred for aggression and verbal abilities. Similarly, Diekman et al. (2002) reported that, on average, male and female participants quite accurately predicted the political and social attitudes of men and women.
The evidence on the accuracy of people’s beliefs about gender differences in cognitive abilities appears somewhat mixed, however. Beyer (1999), for example, found that university students misperceived the direction of the gender difference in performance (i.e., the grade point average, GPA) for a set of ‘masculine’ majors2: Participants believed that male students perform better in these majors, although female students actually achieved higher grades. As already stated, Swim (1994) reported that participants quite accurately judged (existing) gender differences in math performance, but overestimated gender differences in tests on verbal abilities. Finally, Halpern et al. (2011) found that participants were generally accurate about the direction of gender differences in the cognitive domain, but underestimated the actual size of the differences. In their recent review on the accuracy of gender stereotypes, Jussim et al. (2009, p. 211) conclude that, “at least a plurality of judgments was accurate” and that “there was no support for the hypothesis that stereotypes generally lead people to exaggerate real differences.”
Determining the accuracy of stereotypes in general and of gender stereotypes in particular is important for at least three reasons. First, assessing and analyzing the accuracy of stereotypes may provide important clues on the origins and development of stereotypes. For example, Hall and Carter (1999) identified several abilities and traits (e.g., interpersonal sensitivity) that were correlated with the accuracy of gender stereotypes. Second, the evidence demonstrating that a stereotype is wrong could (and should) be used to correct this stereotype and to improve the relationship between social groups (e.g., Beyer, 1999). Third, comparing presumed preferences (i.e., stereotypes) to the actual preferences of social groups may provide helpful information for some industries, including the movie industry in case movie preferences are concerned. In particular, knowledge about discrepancies between presumed and actual gender differences in movie preferences may be helpful for addressing a broader audience. If, for example, the actual gender gap in preference for a particular movie genre is larger than presumed, one might reduce this difference by producing more gender-neutral movies of this genre. Also, movie producers might benefit from knowing the actual size of the gender gap by focusing more on producing gender-typical movies.
The Present Study
The present investigation had four aims. The first aim was to investigate—for the first time (at least to our knowledge)—the stereotypes of men and women about the movie preferences of men and women (Study 1). The second aim was to investigate gender differences in stereotypes about the movie preferences of men and women (Study 1). In other words, we wanted to investigate whether men and women have similar or different stereotypes about gender-specific movie preferences. The third aim of our study was to investigate the actual preferences of young adults for our set of movie genres (Study 2). Hence, we addressed more genres than most of the previous studies, and included genres that have not been investigated (often) before (e.g., ‘heimat’, history, mystery, crime, thriller, and western). Finally, the fourth aim of our study was assessing the accuracy of gender stereotypes concerning movie preferences by comparing the results of Study 1 to those of Study 2.
We assessed and compared presumed gender differences in movie preferences to actual gender differences in movie preferences for 17 movie genres. The term “genre” refers to a category of motion pictures that are similar with regard to particular features, including topic (e.g., adventure, war), geographical or historical background (e.g., Western, science fiction), stylistic issues (e.g., animation) and the targeted audience (e.g., children vs. adults; cf. Grant, 2003). For our investigation, we chose 17 well-known movie genres3: (1) action movie, (2) adventure movie, (3) animation movie, (4) comedy movie, (5) crime movie, (6) drama, (7) erotic movie, (8) fantasy movie, (9) ‘heimat’ film, (10) historic movie, (11) horror movie, (12) mystery movie, (13) romance, (14) science fiction movie, (15) thriller movie, (16) war movie, (17) Western movie. Only the genre names were used in both studies. We did not present particular examples for each genre because we wanted to investigate how participants think about movie genres, and not how they think about particular movies, and we had several additional reasons for doing that. First, we were sure that our participants would recognize each of the 17 movie genres used in our study without providing examples. Second, the representativeness of a particular movie for a genre is always debatable. Third, example movies might be familiar to some participants, but not to all. Hence, providing no examples created equal conditions for all participants. Finally, we deliberately chose genres of movies that are typically presented in the cinema (and on TV). Hence, we excluded common TV formats like daily soaps, documentaries, sports, talk shows, sitcoms and so on.
Study 1: Stereotypes About Movie Preferences Of Men And Women
In Study 1, we investigated the stereotypes of young adults about movie genre preferences of men and women in order to address two research questions. First, we asked which genres are generally associated with men and which genres are generally associated with women. For some genres, we expected to observe the popular gender stereotype. In particular, we expected that a majority of participants would ascribe romantic movies and drama to women. Similarly, we expected that a majority of participants would ascribe more action-packed and violent genres (i.e., action, adventure, horror, thriller, and war movies) to men. We had no predictions regarding the remaining genres. Our second research question asked whether male and female participants would express similar or different views (i.e., stereotypes) about the movie preferences of men and women.
Materials and Methods
Ethics, Consent, and Permissions
The research reported in our manuscript meets the ethical guidelines of the German Society of Psychology (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie, DGPs) and is consistent with the principles of research ethics as published by the American Psychological Association (APA). Data collection was completely anonymous. That is, except for age and gender, we did not record personal information from the participants. All participants in the two studies reported here gave informed consent before filling out the questionnaires on movie preferences. The research reported here had not been approved by a local ethics committee because the ethical guidelines of the German Society of Psychology do not require ethical approval of basic psychological studies involving simple behavioral data.
Participants and Interviewer
One hundred and fifty volunteers participated in Study 1. The sample consisted of 75 women (mean age = 23.1 years; SD = 4.0) and 75 men (mean age = 24.1 years, SD = 3.8). The large majority of participants were students (undergraduates) at a public university in Germany. The interviewers were 15 students (12 female, 3 male), and each interviewed 5 men and 5 women.
We developed a questionnaire with 24 items4. Items 1–4 asked for some demographic characteristics of our participants (gender, age, main profession or major study course, minor study course). Then, items 5–21 asked the participant to indicate for each of 17 movie genres the degree to which the respective genre is, in her or his opinion, preferred by men or women. In particular, each item asked: “What do you think: Are (adventure) films preferred by men or by women?” Participants had to indicate their answer on an 11-point rating scale. The ticks were numbered from 5 to 0 and to 5 again. The central tick (0) was always marked as “equally preferred by men and women”. For half of the questionnaires (i.e., participants) the leftmost tick was marked as “exclusively preferred by women”, whereas the rightmost tick was marked as “exclusively preferred by men”. For the other half of questionnaires (i.e., participants) the leftmost tick was marked as “exclusively preferred by men”, whereas the rightmost tick was marked as “exclusively preferred by women”. The items 5–21 probed for the following movie genres (the German terms are given in brackets): adventure [Abenteuerfilm], action [Action-Film], animation [Animationsfilm], comedy [Filmkomödie], crime [Kriminalfilm], drama [Filmdrama], erotic [Erotikfilm], fantasy [Fantasy-Film], ‘heimat’ [Heimatfilm], history [Historienfilm], horror [Horrorfilm], romance [Liebesfilm], mystery [Mystery-Film], science fiction [Science-Fiction-Film], thriller [Thriller], war [Kriegsfilm], and Western [Westernfilm]. The items 22–24 asked our participants for some quantitative aspects of TV and film consumption. Item 22 asked how many hours per day, on average, the participant watched TV. Item 23 asked how many films, on average, the participant consumed per week. Finally, item 24 asked how often, on average, the participant went to the cinema per month.
We constructed four versions of our questionnaire in order to minimize (a) the effects of marker positions and (b) the effects of item order. As already said above, in half of the questionnaires the left pole of the rating scales referred to women, whereas the right pole referred to men, and the reverse was true for the other half of questionnaires. This manipulation was crossed with two different orders of movie genres. For one half of the questionnaires, items 5–21 were jumbled to produce a random order of genres. This (random) order was reversed for the other half of the questionnaires. We made sure that similar numbers of men and women filled out each version of the questionnaire.
People were asked to participate in a study on the film preferences of men and women. Participants filled out the questionnaire on themselves, in order to minimize interviewer effects. If necessary, the interviewer provided a pen and a writing pad. Data were always collected in dyads of one interviewer and one participant. Participants took either part for free or received course credits.
Stereotypes about Film Preferences of Men and Women
We first transformed the ratings into numbers ranging from 0 (exclusively preferred by women) to 10 (exclusively preferred by men). The arithmetic means of the ratings are depicted in Figure 1. In the next step, we submitted the means to a four-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) with the within-subjects factor Genre, and the between-subject factors Gender of Participant, Gender of Interviewer, and Item Order5. In this analysis, Gender of Interviewer and Item Order had no significant effects (all Fs < 1.70, all ps > 0.05) and, therefore, we dropped these variables from further analyses. A two-factorial ANOVA revealed significant main effects for Gender of Participant, F(1,148) = 16.13, MSE = 3.55, p < 0.001, = 0.10, and for Genre, F(12,1756) = 216.14, MSE = 3.19, p < 0.001, = 0.59. The two-way interaction was not significant, F(12,1756) = 1.33, MSE = 3.19, p = 0.19, = 0.05.
Results of Study 1: Average ratings from 75 male and 75 female participants, who indicated the degree to which 17 movie genres are preferred by woman or men on a rating scale with 11 ticks ranging from 0 (exclusively preferred by women) to 10 (exclusively...
The main effect of Gender of Participant resulted from the fact that judgments were biased toward the own gender. That is, the women’s judgments for most genres were biased towards the “female” pole, whereas the men’s judgments for most genres were biased towards the “male” pole. In order to clarify the main effect of Genre, we compared the mean judgment for each genre to the neutral value of 5 (i.e., the 0 in the questionnaire). Because multiple tests increase the risk of making a type-1 error, we used Bonferroni’s method to reduce the significance criterion α from 0.05 to 0.003. A significant positive deviation from the neutral value of 5 indicates a ‘male’ genre. Ten genres were viewed as male genres (the results of the individual tests are presented in Table 1): action, adventure, erotic, fantasy, history, horror, science fiction, thriller, war, and Western. A significant negative deviation from the neutral value of 5 indicates a ‘female’ genre. Five genres were viewed as female genres: animation, comedy, drama, ‘heimat’ films, and romantic movies. The remaining two genres (i.e., crime and mystery) were perceived as gender neutral.
Results of t-tests involving the mean preference ratings for 17 movie genres.
TV and Film Consumption
On average, the women in our sample watch TV for 1.9 h per day (SD = 1.0), view 2.0 films per week (SD = 1.7), and go to the cinema once in a month (SD = 0.8). On average, the men in our sample watch TV for 2.0 h per day (SD = 1.2), view about 3.0 films per week (SD = 3.5), and also go to the cinema once in a month (SD = 1.1). The results for men and women were not significantly different, all ts(149) < 1.10, all ps > 0.25, all gs < 0.40.
In Study 1, we investigated the stereotypes of young adults about the preferences of men and women with regard to 17 film genres. For each genre, our participants indicated the extent to which this genre is preferred by women or men. The results showed that five of the 17 genres were stereotyped as ‘female’ genres (animation, comedy, drama, ‘heimat’, romance), whereas ten genres were stereotyped as ‘male’ genres (action, adventure, erotic, fantasy, history, horror, science fiction, thriller, war, and Western). Two genres were considered as equally popular among men and women (crime, mystery).
Participants considered dramatic and romantic movies as ‘female’ genres, and they considered action-packed and violent movies (e.g., action, adventure, horror, thriller, war, and Western) as ‘male’ genres. Thus, our data reflect the most popular stereotypes about movie preferences of men and women and are, furthermore, in line with the results of previous research on gender differences in movie preferences (Sparks, 1991; Oliver et al., 1998; Harris et al., 2000; Krcmar and Kean, 2005).
In addition, we observed some less obvious or less familiar stereotypes. Animation and ‘heimat’ movies were stereotyped as female genres, whereas erotic, fantasy, history, and science fiction movies were stereotyped as male genres. The latter findings are possibly not so surprising because many fantasy, history, and science fiction movies contain action, competition, and violence—the features that are seen as more attractive to male viewers than to female viewers (e.g., Oliver, 2000). Interestingly, only two genres (crime, mystery) were viewed as equally liked by men and women. Finally, the empirical distinction between crime film (neutral) and thriller (male) is notable because these genres are sometimes collapsed into a single category (e.g., Fischoff et al., 1998).
When comparing the stereotypes of men and women about the movie preferences of men and women, we observed a striking degree of agreement. This agreement is reflected in the lack of a significant two-way interaction in the ANOVA. Moreover, across the 17 genres addressed in our study, the average judgments of men and women were correlated by r = 0.99.
Study 2: Actual Movie-Genre Preferences of Men and Women
In Study 2, we investigated the actual preferences of young adults with regard to the 17 movie genres, which had already been addressed in Study 1. Our interest was threefold. We were, firstly, interested in the relative popularity of different film genres. Secondly, we wanted to further explore gender differences in the popularity of movie genres. And, thirdly, we were interested in comparing gender differences in actual film preferences to the stereotypes about gender differences in film preferences as observed in Study 1.
To our knowledge, Fischoff et al. (1998)6 reported the only study that explored a relatively large set (i.e., 14) of movie genres. They asked 560 participants for their favorite movie titles and then sorted the responses into genres. Results showed that film drama (31% of the titles), action movies (17%), romantic movies (13%), and comedy movies (11%) were the most popular genres across gender and age. In contrast, biblical films (0.5%) and documentaries (0.1%) turned out as the two least popular genres. Unfortunately, the procedure used by Fischoff et al. (1998) does not allow for comparisons between genres because it ignores differences in base rates (i.e., different number of films per genre). To illustrate that point, imagine that the film industry releases 100 dramatic movies, 50 romantic movies, and only 1 documentary each year. As a result, even a person who likes documentaries much more than dramas will probably include more dramas than documentaries in his/her list of favorite films simply because more dramas are available (for recall) than documentaries (e.g., Tversky and Kahneman, 1974). Thus, comparing the frequencies of titles from different genres leads to wrong conclusions about relative genre preferences. If we want to compare the popularity of different movie genres in a more valid way, we must ask participants to directly indicate their sympathy for each genre, and this is exactly what we did in our Study 2.
Participants and Interviewer
One hundred and sixty volunteers participated in Study 2. The sample consisted of 80 women (mean age = 23.6 years; SD = 3.7) and 80 men (mean age = 23.5 years, SD = 3.2). The large majority of participants were again students (undergraduates) at a public university in Germany. The interviewers were six female students.
We developed a new questionnaire with 24 items7. Items 1–4 asked for demographic characteristics of our participants (gender, age, major study course, minor study course). Items 5–21 asked the participant, for each of 17 movie genres, to indicate on an 11-point rating scale how much they liked a particular genre. In particular, each item asked “How much do you like (horror) movies on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 10 (extremely)? Please tick.” The items 5–21 probed for the same genres as in Study 1. The items 22–24 asked our participants for some quantitative aspects of TV and film consumption as in Study 1.
We constructed two version of our questionnaire in order to minimize the effects of item order. For version A, items 5–21 were jumbled to produce a random order of genres. For version B, the random order from version A was reversed. Then we made sure that equal numbers of men and women filled out each version of the questionnaire.
The procedure for Study 2 was the same as for Study 1.
Film-Genre Preferences of Men and Women
A preliminary analysis revealed that item order (i.e., the two variants of the questionnaire) had no effects on the results (all Fs < 1, all ps > 0.25). Hence, we excluded this variable from further analyses, and conducted a two-factorial ANOVA on the mean preference ratings, which involved the between-subject factor Gender of Participant and the within-subject factor Genre. There were significant main effects for Gender of Participant, F(1,158) = 45.04, MSE = 12.45, p < 0.001, = 0.22, and Genre, F(12,1878) = 46.03, MSE = 7.96, p < 0.001, = 0.23. Moreover, there was also a significant two-way interaction, F(12,1878) = 16.36, MSE = 7.96, p < 0.001, = 0.09. Figure 2 shows the corresponding means.
Results of Study 2: Average ratings from 80 males and 80 females participants who indicated their preference for 17 movie genres on a rating scale with 11 ticks ranging from 0 (not at all) to 10 (extremely). Short-hands on the x-axis are the same as in...
The main effect for Gender of Participant resulted from the fact that male participants (M = 5.67, SD = 2.42) liked most of the 17 genres more than the female participants (M = 4.77, SD = 2.59). In order to understand the main effect of Genre, we compared the mean rating for each genre to the neutral value of 5. Because multiple tests increase the risk of making a type-1 error, we again used Bonferroni’s method to reduce the significance criterion α from 0.05 to 0.003. A significant positive deviation from the neutral value of 5 reflects a popular genre (cf. Figure 2). Five genres were popular: action, adventure, comedy, crime, and thriller. For nine genres, popularity did not differ from 5, and therefore these genres had average popularity: animation, fantasy, drama, history, horror, romance, mystery, science fiction, and war. A significant negative deviation from the neutral value of 5 signifies an unpopular genre (cf. Figure 2). Three genres were unpopular: erotic, ‘heimat’ movies, and Western. The results of the corresponding t-tests are presented in Table 1 (column b).
To uncover the source of the significant two-way interaction of Gender of Participant and Genre, we compared the average male rating to the average female rating for each genre. For these comparisons, we again reduced the significance level to 0.003 by applying Bonferroni’s method. Drama and romance were more strongly preferred by women than by men. Nine genres were more strongly preferred by men than by women: action, adventure, erotic, fantasy, horror, mystery, science fiction, war, and Western. Finally, six genres were equally popular among men and women: animation, comedy, crime, ‘heimat’, history, and thriller. The results of the corresponding t-tests are presented in Table 1 (column c).
TV and Film Consumption
On average, the women in our sample watch TV for 2.0 h per day (SD = 1.2), view 2.2 films per week (SD = 1.9), and visit the cinema 1.3 times in a month (SD = 1.2). On average, the men in our sample watch TV for 1.9 hours per day (SD = 1.4), view about 2.5 films per week (SD = 2.0), and visit the cinema once in a month (SD = 0.9). The results for men and women were not significantly different, all ts(158) < 1.55, all ps > 0.10, all gs < 0.25.
Comparison between Studies 1 and 2
We compared presumed and actual movie preferences of men and women in qualitative and in quantitative terms. Table 2 (fourth column) gives the concordance between stereotypical and actual gender differences in movie preferences for each genre in qualitative terms (“+” = match, “–“ = mismatch). The classification of genres as male, female or neutral from Study 1 agreed with the classification of genres from Study 2 for 11 of 17 genres (i.e., for 65% of genres). This agreement was larger for ‘male’ genres (8 from 10 genres) than for ‘female’ genres (2 out of 5 genres). The majority (i.e., 5 out of 6 genres) of mismatches were overestimations, that is, participants presumed a gender gap in movie preferences that was actually not present.
A comparison of gender stereotypes about the popularity of 17 movie genres and actual film preferences of men and women.
Figure 3 presents a quantitative picture of the concordance between stereotypical and actual gender differences in movie preferences. We compared the effect sizes (i.e., Hedges’s g; cf. Ferguson, 2009; Fritz et al., 2012) of presumed gender differences in movie preferences to the effect sizes of actual gender differences in movie preferences. The black points in Figure 3 show the effect sizes of the presumed gender gap in movie preferences as observed in Study 1 (the actual numbers are given in column a of Table 1). Each point represents the difference between the preference rating for a genre and the neutral value of 5. Hence, negative values indicate a presumed female preference for a genre, whereas positive values indicate a presumed male preference. The white points in Figure 3 show the effect sizes of the actual gender gap in movie preferences as observed in Study 2 (the actual numbers are given in column c of Table 1). Each point represents the difference between the preference ratings of men and women for a genre. Hence, negative values indicate an actual female preference for a genre, whereas positive values indicate an actual male preference. The patterns appear quite consistent: In fact, the correlation between the presumed gender differences and actual gender differences (across genres) is very high: r = 0.92 (for effect sizes). However, there were numerical differences between the (effect size of) presumed gender differences and the (effect size of) actual gender differences in movie preferences.
Black points show the effect sizes (Hedges’s g) of the presumed gender gap in movie preferences as observed in Study 1. Negative values indicate a stronger presumed female preference for a genre, whereas positive values indicate a stronger presumed...
We classified a difference as an overestimation when the presumed gender gap exceeded the actual gap by more than 0.4 in effect size, and we classified a difference as an underestimation when the actual gender gap exceeded the presumed gap by more than 0.4 in effect size8. If the difference between presumed and actual gender difference was smaller than 0.4 in effect size, we counted the case as a match. According to this scheme, there were ten overestimations (sorted alphabetically: action, animation, comedy, drama, ‘heimat’, history, romances, science fiction, war, Western), one underestimation (mystery), and six matches (adventure, crime, erotic, fantasy, horror, thriller; cf. Figure 3).
Study 2 investigated the popularity of 17 movie genres among young adults. There were three general findings. Across both genders, we observed marked differences in the relative popularity of the 17 genres. The popularity of five genres was significantly above the intermediate value of 5: comedy, thriller, crime, adventure, and action (sorted by rank order; cf. Table 2, rightmost column). When compared to the results of Fischoff et al. (1998), we notice that crime and thriller were among the less popular genres in their study. The difference between the results of their and our study may reflect cultural differences between Germany and the U.S., or may reflect a methodological problem in their study, namely, the possible impact of different base rates (i.e., different number of films per genre; see above) on the frequency of naming movie titles from different genres (Fischoff et al., 1998). Also, as the study by Fischoff et al. (1998) was conducted almost 20 years ago, it might be that preferences for movie genres have changed over time. In our study, nine genres were of intermediate popularity: animation, romance, drama, fantasy, science fiction, horror, history, mystery, and war (sorted by rank order). And there were three unpopular genres (i.e., their average popularity was significantly below the intermediate value of 5): erotic, Western, and ‘heimat’ films (also sorted by rank order).
Study 2 also revealed gender differences in the popularity of most movie genres. Half of the genres (i.e., 9 from 17) were preferred by men. The following list is ordered by the effect size of the gender gap from large to small (the effect sizes are given in Table 1 and depicted in Figure 3): science fiction, war, action, erotic, adventure, Western, horror, fantasy, and mystery. Six genres were equally popular among men and women (sorted by absolute popularity from high to low): thriller, animation, comedy, history, ‘heimat’ films, and crime. Only two movie genres were preferred by women: romance and drama.
Another goal of our study was to compare stereotypes about film preferences of men and women, as observed in Study 1, to actual film preferences of men and women, as observed in Study 2. Our results revealed that for the majority of movie genres under investigation the participants (in Study 1) correctly predicted the existence or direction of a gender gap in movie preferences (as observed in Study 2), but overestimated the size of the gender gap. We discuss this finding in some more detail in the Section “General Discussion”.
In two independent studies, we investigated gender stereotypes about film preferences of men and women (Study 1) and actual film preferences of men and women (Study 2) with regard to 17 movie genres. Study 1 revealed gender stereotypes for the large majority (i.e., 15 out of 17) of genres under investigation (cf. Table 2, second column). The findings reflect the most popular clichés about gender differences in movie preferences. Interestingly, male and female participants reported very similar gender stereotypes on film preferences. In fact, across the 17 genres, the average ratings from men and women correlated with r = 0.99, an outstanding correlation. Study 2 assessed the actual movie preferences in a new sample of men and women. As a first result, the study revealed gender-independent differences in the popularity of 17 movie genres (cf. Table 2, rightmost column). In addition, we observed strong gender differences in the popularity of many genres. In fact, a gender effect was found for 11 out of 17 genres (cf. Table 2, central column). Only two genres were more strongly preferred by women, whereas nine genres were more strongly preferred by men. These findings replicate and extend previous findings on gender differences in movie preferences (e.g., Sparks, 1991; Oliver et al., 1998; Harris et al., 2000; Oliver, 2000; Krcmar and Kean, 2005; Greenwood and Lippmann, 2010). The fact that men and women reported similar quantitative patterns of media consumption (e.g., numbers of movies watched per week) rules out this variable as an explanation for differences in movie preferences.
The finding that a majority of genres is preferred by men may reflect a male dominance in the movie business. For example, Smith et al. (2013) analyzed gender inequality in 500 films released between 2007 and 2012 and found that, on average, 70% of the speaking characters on screen were male. Thus, assuming that observers enjoy films that allow them to identify with the major protagonist and that observers prefer to identify with same-sex protagonists (e.g., Hoffner and Cantor, 1991; Hoffner, 1996), the preponderance of male protagonists in films may explain why men prefer more genres than women in our study.
The Accuracy of Gender Stereotypes in Movie Preferences
This is the first empirical study that investigated the accuracy of gender stereotypes about movie preferences. Therefore, we assessed stereotypes about movie preferences of men and women in Study 1 and compared them to the actual movie preferences of men and women as observed in Study 2. This comparison revealed three main findings. First, the participants correctly predicted the direction of gender differences in movie preferences for the majority of genres (i.e., for 65% of the genres). Second, the participants overestimated the size of gender differences in movie preferences for the majority of genres: The predicted gender gap exceeded the actual gap by more than 0.4 effect sizes for 10 out of 17 (59%) movie genres. Third, male and female participants made very similar predictions about the movie preferences of men and women (cf. Figure 1) and, hence, the stereotypes of men and women were similarly accurate. We may conclude then that gender stereotypes regarding movie preferences were accurate in direction, but inaccurate in size.
Indeed, the finding that our participants correctly predicted the direction of gender differences in preferences for most movie genres under investigation also fits the majority of findings from previous studies on the accuracy of gender stereotypes. In fact, from their literature review, Jussim et al. (2009) conclude that the majority of judgments on attitudes and abilities of men and women can be considered as accurate. However, our finding that our participants overestimated the size of gender differences in movie preferences for the majority of genres seems less consistent with the literature. In fact, if studies observed overestimations of gender differences at all, then they occurred for a minority of attributes, and were often counterbalanced by underestimations (e.g., Swim, 1994; Beyer, 1999; Halpern et al., 2011). So, the question arises: Why did participants generally overestimate gender differences in movie preferences in our study? A possible reason may be that movie advertisements (and movies) often target a particular gender, and therefore suggest stronger differences in movie preferences than actually exist. Another possible reason for the discrepancy between the underestimation of actual gender differences in (cognitive) abilities (e.g., Halpern et al., 2011) and the overestimation of gender differences in movie preferences in our study may be that social desirability (or political correctness) has a larger impact on how people think or talk about gender differences in abilities than on how people think or talk about gender differences in (movie) preferences.
Our empirical results showed that several beliefs about gender differences in movie preferences are inaccurate in that they overestimate actual gender differences. These results could be used for reducing (or eliminating) gender stereotypes and, hence, for improving the relationship between groups (e.g., Beyer, 1999). For example, both men and women erroneously believed that women have a stronger preference for ‘heimat’ movies than men, although both groups actually disliked this genre to a similar degree. If confronted with this stereotype, women may respond negatively because the assumed preference for ‘heimat’ movies may be associated with a traditional gender role or rather old-fashioned attitude. To give another example, the participants strongly overestimated existing gender gaps in preferences for the most stereotypical genres (i.e., action, science fiction, and war movies as ‘male’ genres vs. drama and romance as ‘female’ genres). In other words, women like typical ‘female’ genres to a lesser degree than presumed and men like typical ‘male’ genres to a lesser degree than presumed. As a result, people may often overestimate the preference of a particular individual for a gender-congruent genre, which may produce some discomfort in that individual. That discomfort could be avoided if people were aware that gender differences in movie preferences, if present at all, are smaller than presumed.
Our results could also be informative for the movie industry. Modern movies and the advertisement for these movies are often conveying gender stereotypes, and depicting traditional gender roles (e.g., Greenwood and Lippmann, 2010). First, our data are informative with regard to the popularity of movie genres across viewer gender. In particular, we found that, at least for our German student population, comedy, thriller, and crime movies are the most popular genres, whereas erotic, Western, and ‘heimat’ movies are the least popular genres. Second, our data are informative with regard to gender differences in movie preferences. In particular, the largest gender gaps (with effect sizes >1) occurred for science fiction and war movies, which were strongly preferred by men, and romantic movies, which were strongly preferred by women. Here the question arises whether gender differences in actual preferences are so large because the contents of genre-typical movies are the most stereotypical, or because these genres most strongly address the particular interests of each gender. Empirical results on actual gender differences in interests provide some support for the latter hypothesis (e.g., Lippa, 2010). In particular, research shows that women are, on average, more strongly interested in people (and relationships) than men (see Su et al., 2009), matching their preference for romantic movies. In contrast, men are, on average, more strongly interested in things (i.e., technical equipment) than women (see Su et al., 2009), probably matching their preference for science fiction movies. The implication might be that it could be very difficult to attract (more) women to science fiction and war movies, or to attract (more) men to love and romantic films. Third, if the industry would like to produce movies that similarly appeal to both genders, they should produce comedy, crime, or even thriller movies. These were not only the most popular genres, but they were equally preferred by men and women—in contrast to the stereotype of ‘female’ comedy and ‘male’ thriller.
Limitations of the Study and Directions for Further Research
Our study is limited with regard to (a) the set of movie genres included in our study and (b) the population under investigation. Although we investigated a larger set of movie genres than previous studies, we still excluded some interesting movie genres, such as documentaries, sports movies or musicals. Moreover, we also excluded hybrid genres (e.g., romantic comedy) and sub-genres (e.g., dark comedy) from our investigation. Thus, it is possible that our participants in fact thought of different sub-genres when faced with a particular genre name, and averaging across such heterogeneous categories should have increased the between-subjects variance in our data. It might be interesting to do follow-up investigations on the accuracy of gender stereotypes about preferences for different sub-types of a movie genre.
Also, future research could use different questionnaire items. In our first study, for instance, participants where asked how much they thought a film of a certain genre was preferred by men or by women. Instead, one could ask participants for assumed gender-specific preference for certain film features (e.g., whether the film ends on a happy end). Thus, one could avoid the use of genre, because this term might serve as a strong label and thus a category that evokes gender stereotypes.
Our two studies assessed movie preferences in two samples of young students, aged between 18 and 35 years, enrolled in different majors at a German University. There is evidence that movie preferences differ between age groups (e.g., Fischoff et al., 1998), and between societies or cultures (e.g., Germany vs. India; e.g., Khanna, 2003). In addition, the concept of a movie genre cannot be easily transferred across cultures. For example, whereas a single genre typically dominates American and European movie productions, typical movies from India combine elements from different genres such as action, comedy, dance, music, and romance (Uhl and Kumar, 2004). A main reason for this difference is that Indian movies are intended to entertain the whole family, whereas this is not the case for most American and European movies. Hence, there is reason to believe that, similar to many other findings of psychological research, our findings are restricted to western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) societies (Henrich et al., 2010). Finally, because the majority of University students in Germany belong to the middle and upper class of the Germany society, our results are restricted to these groups as well.
Finally, future studies might investigate how participant’s gender role identity (as measured, for example, with the sex-role inventory; Bem, 1974) might influence movie preferences. One might expect a positive correlation between masculinity and the preferences for male movie genres, and also between femininity and the preferences for female movie genres. Further, one might expect that androgynous persons exhibit relatively weak gender-related preferences for movie genres.
With regard to stereotypes of gender difference in movie preferences we would expect interesting insights from considering attitudes towards men and women too (as measured, for example, with the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory; Glick and Fiske, 1996). One might expect that negative attitudes toward women (as reflected by high scores in hostile sexism) could lead to a devaluation of female genres, and thus increasing the gender gap for the female genres. Further studies are needed to investigate these predictions directly.
This is the first empirical investigation of gender stereotypes about movie preferences, and a first empirical test of the accuracy of gender stereotypes of movie preferences. We observed that people hold gender stereotypes about the movie preferences of men and women for a wide range of movie genres. Interestingly, men and women hold very similar gender stereotypes about the movie preferences of men and women. When compared to actual movie preferences of man and women, gender stereotypes about movie preferences were accurate in direction, but inaccurate in size. In particular, gender stereotypes about movie preferences overestimated actual gender differences in movie preferences for the majority of genres that we investigated. The latter finding is particularly interesting because previous research on the accuracy of gender stereotypes found that people generally underestimate actual gender differences in (cognitive) abilities (e.g., Halpern et al., 2011). Finally, the results of our study have some practical implications. For example, the fact that stereotypes overestimated actual gender differences in movie preferences could be used for reducing the stereotypes. In addition, the results of our study may be useful for the movie industry in identifying movie genres that are equally attractive to men and women.
SS and PW planned the study, prepared the materials, and supervised data collection. PW analyzed the data. BL, SS, and PW wrote the manuscript.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
1The German term ‘heimat’ can be translated into ‘home’ or ‘home country’. It refers to the area or country where you are born, live or feel “at home”. There are two different variants of the German ‘heimat’ film. The classic type (~1950–1970) typically described rural life in an idealized or romanticized way. In contrast, the modern type of ‘heimat’ film (after 1970) typically described rural life in a realistic manner.
2Beyer (1999) defined a major as ‘masculine’ when participants believed that the majority of students in that major were male (i.e., computer science, chemistry, business, history, mathematics, political science, and biology).
3A list of typical movie genres can be found in the Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com/genre).
4The original questionnaires are available from the authors upon request.
5For both studies reported here, the results of all F tests were corrected according to Greenhouse and Geisser (1959), if Mauchly’s test of sphericity was significant. The Greenhouse–Geisser correction reduces the degrees of freedom, making the F test more conservative. In addition, we report as a measure of effect size in F tests, and Hedges’s g as a measure of effect size in t-tests (cf. Fritz et al., 2012).
6Please note that this study was published in the internet, and not in a peer-reviewed journal.
7The original questionnaires are available from the authors upon request.
8In choosing .40 as a cut-off value, we follow Ferguson (2009, p. 533) who recommended that g = 0.41 is the minimum effect size with a “practical” significance for social science research.
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