When Sexism Trumps Fandom
Authors: Greenwood, D. – 1, Dill-Shackleford, K. – 2, Clifton, A. – 1, Vinney, C. – 2, Sadeghi-Azar, L. – 2, & Couvillion, M. – 2; 1 – Vassar College, 2 – Fielding Graduate University
Abstract:The British Sci-Fi television phenomenon Doctor Who recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The main character, known simply as “the Doctor,” is reborn into another body or “regenerates” periodically and, has historically only been played by (White) male actors. On July 16, 2017, the BBC announced that the Doctor would be portrayed by a woman for the first time (scheduled for late 2018), Although many fans expressed support and enthusiasm for this decision on social media, there was some backlash as well. The present study was undertaken to clarify fan responses to this anticipated shift, in step with their existing social attitudes about women and social hierarchy in general. We predicted that fans with higher levels of sexism or social dominance might feel less positively about a female lead. We also anticipated that female fans might feel more enthusiastic than male fans.
Media affinities do not operate in a social vacuum, but rather appear to reflect (at the least) the broader social attitudes of their viewers.
To determine whether ASI and SDO were inversely correlated with positive attitudes, and positively correlated with negative attitudes, we performed correlations among the attitude scores and the Dr Who specific factor scores. Indeed, HS, BS, and SDO were each positively and significantly correlated with Factor 2, and negatively and significantly correlated with Factors 1 and 3 (all ps < .01).
To determine the relative contribution of ASI and SDO scores, after accounting for gender and sample, we ran 3 hierarchical regressions with factor scores as the criterion variable. Step 1 included gender and sample, Step 2 included SDO, and Step 3 included HS and BS. Results for the final step for each are shown below. HS and SDO were inversely predictive of positive attitudes toward the new female Doctor; high HS was the most robust predictor of negative attitudes, and SDO showed most robust inverse relationship with anticipated enjoyment/viewing frequency (see Table 2).
Findings suggest that existing attitudes that favor social dominance or sexism are in fact relevant to how Doctor Who fans feel about the first female lead. Media affinities do not operate in a social vacuum, but rather appear to reflect (at the least) the broader social attitudes of their viewers. Fandom, in this case, did not trump sexism.
Karen E. Dill-Shackleford, PhD <email@example.com>
Media Psychology, School of Psychology
Fielding Graduate University
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