I've seen this article about "The Buffy Effect" tweeted about several times. I have some thoughts.
1: the article (and possibly the study, though it's hard to tell) presumes a pretty narrow definition of strength. So Buffy and Olivia, who hurt people with weapons, are strong women, wheras Lorelai Gilmore, who left home at 16 to raise a daughter by herself, is not. (Gilmore Girls is in the "control" group.) (Also I was a big fan of that show.) (And not just because I had a crush on Lauren Graham.) (No really--I hate Parenthood.)
2: the article says Masters of Horror is "slasher-esque". That is certainly true of some episodes, but Masters of Horror is an anthology show with different writers and directors and storylines on each episode. I'd be interested to know which episode or episodes the study used. I've certainly seen ones with strong female characters.
3: The article suggests that men view women more positively when they see violent women on screen. I do not question this conclusion and hope it leads to a lot more shows where women kick a lot of ass. But it also states that women test subjects had more negative attitudes toward women after watching 7th Heaven and The Gilmore Girls. The author of the article breezes right past this piece of info, which is incredibly weird and probably deserves more investigation.
Am I reading this wrong? Here's the admittedly badly-worded paragraph in question: Males who watched sexually violent shows with submissive female characters reported more negative attitudes about women than the control group. This effect did not occur for men who watched shows with powerful women. Women actually reported more negative attitudes after watching the G-rated shows, but how female characters were portrayed did not affect their beliefs.
This really kind of flabbergasts me, and I'd love to hear more about what the authors of the study make of this.
What are my conclusions?
1.)Like most articles reporting the results of some study, this is poorly written and raises more questions than it answers while purporting to trumpet some bold conclusion. (Also, who's the "we" the headline refers to? The data suggests that men benefit from seeing strong women on TV, but that women maybe benefit from not watching shows about domestic life. Or something. Really, that's a very perplexing piece of data.)
2.)Though my only info comes from the poorly-written article, this seems like an odd and badly-designed study.
3.)We love us some violence here in the USA.
4.)Our responses to art are complicated.