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Characters Actions in Movie Scripts Reflect Gender Stereotypes

Author: PLOS
Author Contact: plos.org
Published: 22nd Dec 2022 - Updated: 5th Jan 2023
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes
DOI: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0278604
Additional References: Entertainment Publications

Summary: Movies, tv shows, and other media consistently portray traditional gender stereotypes, some of which may be harmful.

Definition

Gender Stereotyping

A gender stereotype is a generalized view or preconception about attributes or characteristics or the roles that are or ought to be possessed by, or performed by, women and men. Females are often portrayed as emotional, caring, and needing protection. Males are often characterized as being rational, career driven, and strong. These assumptions can be negative (e.g., women are irrational, men are insensitive) or seemingly benign (e.g., women are nurturing, men are leaders). However, all stereotyping can be limiting.

Main Document

Boys don’t cry (or kiss or dance): A computational linguistic lens into gendered actions in film

Researchers have developed a novel machine-learning framework that automatically uses scene descriptions in movie scripts to recognize different characters' actions. Applying the framework to hundreds of movie scripts showed that these actions tend to reflect widespread gender stereotypes, some consistent across time. Victor Martinez and colleagues at the University of Southern California, U.S., presented these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on December 21.

Movies, tv shows, and other media consistently portray traditional gender stereotypes, some of which may be harmful. To deepen understanding of this issue, some researchers have explored using computational frameworks as an efficient and accurate way to analyze large amounts of character dialogue in scripts. However, some harmful stereotypes might be communicated not through what characters say but through their actions.

To explore how characters' actions might reflect stereotypes, Martinez and colleagues used a machine-learning approach to create a computational model that can automatically analyze scene descriptions in movie scripts and identify different characters' actions. Using this model, the researchers analyzed over 1.2 million scene descriptions from 912 movie scripts produced from 1909 to 2013, identifying fifty thousand actions performed by twenty thousand characters.

A computational linguistic lens into gendered actions in film. The researchers started with the annotation process, where they collected manual annotations for 9,613 descriptions and over 1.5 million gender expression labels for characters. Then they developed a machine-learning model to identify actions, agents, and patients from the natural language found in the movie scripts. In the final step, they undertook statistical analysis to uncover portrayal differences along characters’ portrayed attributes Image Credit: Martinez et al., 2022, PLOS ONE.A computational linguistic lens into gendered actions in film. The researchers started with the annotation process, where they collected manual annotations for 9,613 descriptions and over 1.5 million gender expression labels for characters. Then they developed a machine-learning model to identify actions, agents, and patients from the natural language found in the movie scripts. In the final step, they undertook statistical analysis to uncover portrayal differences along characters’ portrayed attributes Image Credit: Martinez et al., 2022, PLOS ONE.

Next, the researchers conducted statistical analyses to examine whether there were differences between the actions performed by characters of different genders. These analyses identified several differences that reflect known gender stereotypes.

For instance, they found that female characters tend to display less agency than male characters and that female characters are more likely to show affection. Male characters are less likely to "sob" or "cry," and female characters are more likely to be subjected to "gawking" or "watching" by other characters, highlighting an emphasis on female appearance.

While the researchers' model is limited by the extent of its ability to fully capture nuanced societal context relating the script to each scene and the overall narrative, these findings align with prior research on gender stereotypes in popular media and could help raise awareness of how media might perpetuate harmful stereotypes and thereby influence people's real-life beliefs and actions. In the future, the new machine-learning framework could be refined and applied to incorporate notions of intersectionality, such as between gender, age, and race, to deepen understanding of this issue

The authors add:

"Researchers have proposed using machine-learning methods to identify stereotypes in character dialogues in media, but these methods do not account for harmful stereotypes communicated through character actions. We developed a large-scale machine-learning framework to identify character actions from movie script descriptions to address this issue. By collecting 1.2 million scene descriptions from 912 movie scripts, we could study systematic gender differences in movie portrayals at a large scale."

References and Source(s):

Characters Actions in Movie Scripts Reflect Gender Stereotypes | PLOS (plos.org). SexualDiversity.org makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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Thumbnail image: A computational linguistic lens into gendered actions in film. The researchers started with the annotation process, where they collected manual annotations for 9,613 descriptions and over 1.5 million gender expression labels for characters. Then they developed a machine-learning model to identify actions, agents, and patients from the natural language found in the movie scripts. In the final step, they undertook statistical analysis to uncover portrayal differences along characters’ portrayed attributes Image Credit: Martinez et al., 2022, PLOS ONE.
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• (APA): PLOS. (2022, December 22). Characters Actions in Movie Scripts Reflect Gender Stereotypes. SexualDiversity.org. Retrieved January 30, 2023 from www.sexualdiversity.org/life/1116.php


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