Advertisement

Sex Roles

, Volume 42, Issue 1–2, pp 39–56 | Cite as

Fear and Loathing at the Cineplex: Gender Differences in Descriptions and Perceptions of Slasher Films

  • Justin M. Nolan
  • Gery W. Ryan
Article

Abstract

This study investigates gender-specific descriptions and perceptions of slasher films. Sixty Euro-American university students (30 males and 30 females) were asked to recount in a written survey the details of the most memorable slasher film they remember watching and describe the emotional reactions evoked by that film. A text analysis approach was used to examine and interpret informant responses. Males recall a high percentage of descriptive images associated with what is called rural terror, a concept tied to fear of strangers and rural landscapes, whereas females display a greater fear of family terror, which includes themes of betrayed intimacy, stalkings, and spiritual possession. It is found that females report a higher level and a greater number of fear reactions than males, who report more anger and frustration responses. Gender-specific fears as personalized through slasher film recall are discussed with relation to socialization practices and power-control theory.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre scared me to death. It was intensely unpleasant, even though it's a cheap splatter flick about some teenagers who get slaughtered by some deranged lunatics in rural Texas somewhere. I guess the most freaky thing about the movie is all the screaming. The one girl who barely escapes the chainsaw guy screams all throughout the movie. She is terrorized unrelentlessly, and after a series of close calls with the chainsaw she is finally rescued by a trucker. I was drained after seeing that film. The gore and graphic violence made me feel awful—almost guilty—for watching it.

—Participant No. 102, male undergraduate

Keywords

Gender Difference Social Psychology Analysis Approach Text Analysis Emotional Reaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Barnett, G., & Danowski, J. (1992). The structure of communication: A network analysis of the International Communication Association. Human Communication Resources, 19, 164–285.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, D. (1997). Anti-idyll: Rural horror. In P. Cloke and J. Little (Eds.), Contested Countryside Cultures: Otherness, Marginalisation, and Rurality. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bernard, H. R., & Ryan, G. W. (1998). Text Analysis: Qualitative and Quantitative Measures. In H. R. Bernard (Ed.), Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.Google Scholar
  4. Clover, C. J. (1992). Men, women, and chainsaws: Gender in the modern horror film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Clover, C. J. (1996). Her body, himself: Gender in the slasher film. In Grant, B. K. (Ed.), The dread of difference: Gender in the horror film. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cowan, G., & O'Brien, M. (1990). Gender and survival vs. death in slasher films: A content analysis. Sex Roles, 23, 187–196.Google Scholar
  7. Crane, J. L. (1994). Terror and everyday life: Singular moments in the history of the horror film. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Danielson, W. A., & Lasorsa, D. L. (1997). Perceptions of social change: 100 years of frontpage content in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. In Roberts, C. W. (Ed.), Text analysis for the social sciences: Methods for drawing statistical inferences from texts and transcripts. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  9. Danowski, J. (1993). Network analysis of message content. In Richards, W. D., & Barnett, G. A. (Eds.), Progress in communication science,XII. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  10. Danowski, J. (1982). A network-based content analysis methodology for computer-mediated communication: An illustration with a computer bulletin board. In Bostrom, R. (Ed.), Communication yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.Google Scholar
  11. de Sola Pool, I. (1952). Symbols of democracy. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Grant, B. K. (Ed.). (1996). The dread of difference: Gender and the horror film. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hagan, J. (1987). Class in the household: A power-control theory of gender and delinquency. American Journal of Sociology, 92, 788–816.Google Scholar
  14. Hagan, J., Gillis, A. R., & Simpson, J. (1985). The class structure of gender and delinquency: Toward a power-control theory of common delinquent behavior. American Journal of Sociology 90, 1151–1178.Google Scholar
  15. Ingebretsen, E. J. (1998). The monster in the home: True crime and the traffic in body parts. Journal of American Culture 21, 27–34.Google Scholar
  16. Jang, H. Y., & Barnett, G. (1994). Cultural differences in organizational communication: A semantic network analysis. Bulletin de Methodologie Sociologique 44, 31–59.Google Scholar
  17. Johnson, J. C., & Griffith, D. C. (1998). Visual data: Collection, analysis, and representation. In de Munck, V. C., & Sobo, E. J. (Eds.), Using methods in the field. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kruskal, J. B., & Wish, M. (1978). Multidimensional scaling. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  19. Lorber, J., & Farrell, S. A. (Eds.). (1990). The social construction of gender. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Mundorf, N., Weaver, J., & Zillmann, D. (1989). Effects of gender roles and self perceptions on affective reactions to horror films. Sex Roles, 20, 655–673.Google Scholar
  21. Osgood, C. (1959). The representational model and relevant research methods. In I. D. Pool (Ed.), Trends in content analysis. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  22. Perloff, L. S. (1983). Perceptions of vulnerability to victimization. Journal of Social Issues, 39, 41–61.Google Scholar
  23. Pinedo, I. C. (1997). Recreational terror: Women and the pleasures of horror film viewing. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  24. Poggie, J., & Pelto, P. (1969). Matrilateral asymmetry in the American kinship system. Anthropological Quarterly, 42, 1–15.Google Scholar
  25. Ryan, G., & Weisner, T. (1998). Content analysis of words in brief descriptions: How fathers and mothers describe their children. In de Munck, V. C., & Sobo, E. J. (Eds.), Using methods in the field. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  26. Sacco, V. F. (1990). Gender, fear, and victimization: A preliminary application of power–control theory. Sociological Spectrum 10, 485–506.Google Scholar
  27. Sharrett, C. (1984). The idea of Apocalypse in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In Grant, B. K. (Ed.), Planks of reason: Essays on the horror film. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  28. Sobchack, V. (1996). Bringing it all back home: Family economy and generic exchange. In Grant, B. K. (Ed.), The dread of difference: Gender in the horror film. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  29. Tamborini, R., Stiff, J., & Zillmann, D. (1987). Preference for graphic horror featuring male versus female victimization: Personality and past film viewing experiences. Human Communication Research 13, 529–552.Google Scholar
  30. U. S. Department of Justice. (1996). Criminal victimization in the United States, 1993. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.Google Scholar
  31. Weller, S., & Romney, A. (1988). Systematic data collection. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. Williams, T. (1996). Trying to survive on the darker side: 1980's family horror. In Grant, B. K. (Ed.), The dread of difference: Gender in the horror film. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  33. Wood, R. (1984). An introduction to the American horror film. In Grant, B. K. (Ed.), Planks of reason: Essays on the horror film. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  34. Zillmann, D., Weaver, J. B., Mundorf, N., & Aust, C. F. (1986). Effects of an opposite-gender companion's affect to horror on distress, delight, and attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51, 586–594.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin M. Nolan
    • 1
  • Gery W. Ryan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Missouri–Columbia

Personalised recommendations