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August 30 2012

'The Buffy Effect' - how the portrayal of female TV characters influences attitudes about women. A new study that has found "that the context of portrayals of women [on TV] is of greater value than the presence or absence of sexualized violence in regards to attitudes toward women". Buffy was used as one of the shows for the study and the study itself can be read in full here.

Finally, a sensible study.
I was raised by my three older sisters. The fact that I survived beyond the age of six should say something.
I'm studying popular culture in graduate school right now. When I tell people that, I often get looks of puzzlement or even disgust. Even after all the critical attention that works like Buffy receive, there's still so many people that don't even try to look at things differently. Studies like this are wonderful to see, because it helps validate the idea that popular culture is not useless drivel, but a reflection of the values found in societies around the world.
deepgirl187, that's a strange reaction. Most people I know would love to study popular culture in school. It's a study of people, after all. I bet if you called it "media-based anthropology" people would think it was smart-sounding.

I grew up with strong, female role models who were flawed, but very tough people, much like the characters I saw on TV. When I got to see characters like Buffy, Dana Scully, and Xena, it really solidified that this was a good thing, and the women in my real life were Buffys, Scullys, and Xenas in their own way and if I wanted to be like Buffy, I could because I had examples to follow in life and fiction.

[ edited by the ninja report on 2012-08-30 16:58 ]
For those who can't access the study, here's a section about The Wish.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is less often known for sexual content than the other shows, but an episode was used in which a main female character (Willow) is transformed into a passive and sexualized servant of a vampire and, in turn, tortures a helpless male character while dressed in fetish attire, straddling him and licking him. However, the episode also features strong female characters who are able to fight back effectively against violence directed at them.

Some of the most important works of art in the las 500 years were considered drivel for the masses in their time; so, you know, walk tall.
Some points. First, one limitation is that they chose only a limited number of programs as exemplars of all programs, and that is very problematic. I do not think one can generalize beyond the shows chosen.

Second, they said this: "It may be that negative depictions of women reawaken negative stereotypes that some men hold about women, whereas positive depictions challenge these stereotypes." Well, this is pure speculation. There was nothing in their study to address this, nor was it part of their question. This is their bias (even if I might share it) creeping into their analysis. They need to be more cautious in such contentions since this is beyond the parameters of their study.
Today's pop culture is tomorrow's classic literature.
Well, Dana, it worked for me...
META: I was not saying it did not work. I was just noting some limitations to the work, which any good researcher will add and discuss- as they did here. I am just not willing to generalize from their results to a larger population based on the methods they used, is all.

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