Fear and Loathing at the Cineplex

Gender Differences in Descriptions and Perceptions of Slasher Films

Published in: Sex Roles, v. 42, no. 1/2, 2000, p. 39-56

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1999

by Justin M. Nolan, Gery W. Ryan

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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.

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