The Rugged Action Hero And His Sexy Love Interest: Gender In Popular Movie Posters

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Gabriel, Brandyn Paige
book chapter description
As a social institution, the media exert a profound influence on people's lives and shape the way people conceive gender. Although a great deal of research exists analyzing gender in the media, the area of gendered portrayals of characters in movie posters remains largely unexplored. This study uses systematic and illustrative analysis of movie posters to examine this previously ignored topic. Furthermore, it seeks to situate these portrayals within larger societal trends by making connections between the themes that emerge from this sample and the media's status as a social institution, mainstream gender roles, conservative definitions of masculinity and femininity, and the role of media in everyday life. The posters present a traditional interpretation of masculinity and femininity. Male characters appear as a rugged hero or an emasculated buffoon while female characters adopt a wider range of roles. The characters were sexualized at approximately equal rates, but the meaning and impact of the sexualization differs between genders. When applied to the film industry, hegemonic gender theory argues that male and female characters are depicted according to normative societal standards. This theory helps explain the dichotomy of the male action hero and his still-powerful-but-slightly-weaker love interest as well as the dichotomy between the action hero and the nonconformist.