This new study from USC Annenberg PhD Candidate Traci Gillig, Hollywood, Health & Society‘s senior researcher Erica Rosenthal, USC Annenberg professor Sheila Murphy and HH&S director Kate Folb, is among the first to explore how entertainment narratives depicting transgender individuals influence viewers’ attitudes toward transgender people and related policies. Numerous studies have demonstrated the power of entertainment narratives to influence attitudes and behaviors; fewer have examined the effects of TV portrayals on attitudes toward marginalized groups. The present study examines the impact of exposure to a TV storyline on Royal Pains (USA Network) and cumulative effects of viewing other TV series featuring transgender individuals.
In this trenchant dialogue with Lear Center Director Marty Kaplan, MIT’s professor Sherry Turkle – scholar and critic of technology’s impact, public intellectual and recipient of the 2017 Everett M. Rogers Award — discusses her current research about the effects on human relationships of digital technology, including the personal computer, social networks, mobile connectivity and artificial intelligence. Turkle has described technology as the “architect of our intimacies,” and her work has explored how digital communication devices affect the ways we understand ourselves, relate to others and experience our humanity.
The Spring 2017 Real to Reel spotlights stories about depression and pregnancy, a genetic link that might hold the key to ending the opioid epidemic, the U.S. nuclear command-and-control center at Cheyenne Mountain, and a Southern Christian doctor who believes the abortions he provides are rooted in justice.
READ: The latest Real to Reel newsletter from Hollywood, Health & Society includes articles on the horrific Tuskegee Study; five plausible scenarios set in the year 2045 for reaching the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons (from a joint effort by N Square, an initiative to stimulate nuclear disarmament); and the moving story of Olympian Diana Nyad’s attempt to swim 100 miiles from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64.
Key Findings from Research in Nigeria:
A Report to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
An effort by Hollywood, Health & Society, Nollywood Workshops, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation led to the development of Code of Silence (CoS), a mainstream Nollywood film tackling issues of rape and gender equality, which premiered in Nigeria in August 2015. This report outlines preliminary evaluation findings from research investigating the impact of the film on attitudes toward rape and gender equality.
Contagion is a feature film directed by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh and released in 2011. The film follows the rapid progression of a highly contagious virus that kills within days. As the epidemic grows, medical researchers and public health officials work to contain the disease, introduce a vaccine to halt its spread and calm the panic that spreads as fast as the virus itself. The film highlights the factors that shape the occurrence of a pandemic, the limits and consequences of public health responses and how interpersonal connections can play a role in the spread of disease.
It was especially exciting to measure the social impact of Contagion because it is a fictional film. While most audience members recognize that documentary films are often carefully engineered to deliver actionable data to viewers, moviegoers do not immediately assume that a fictional film might teach them something or encourage them to change their attitudes about a particular issue, or take action after the film is over. Whether the topic is history or science, experts are often wary about fictional films that try to grapple with real-life issues and events. Contagion, which provides a gripping illustration of what could happen if a global pandemic occurred, caused a flurry of news coverage about its accuracy. Director Steven Soderbergh attracted a bevy of A-list talent — Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne — which increased the odds that this film would be seen by a very broad range of moviegoers, most of whom know very little about global pandemics.
Waiting for “Superman” is a 2010 documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed An Inconvenient Truth. The film looks at the failures of the American public education system through the stories of students and their families who strive for better educational opportunities. The film received the Audience Award for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and, since its release, has directed donations to over 2.8 million children. The film’s release ignited a heated debate about the challenges facing public education to provide adequate education and opportunities for students, parents and teachers.
Two questions guided our study of this film:
● Which variables influenced someone’s likelihood of watching Waiting for “Superman?”
● What was the impact of Waiting for “Superman” on knowledge, attitudes and behavior?
Funding for this study, which was independently designed, conducted and released by the Norman Lear Center, was provided by Participant Media, who also co-financed the making of Waiting for “Superman.”
READ: The latest Real to Reel newsletter from Hollywood, Health & Society includes articles on why so many abortion clinics have closed their doors, how prisons contribute to HIV and other epidemics, and how chronic stress is related to high blood pressure in African American communities.
For media researchers, there is a general feeling that movies and tv shows have an impact on all our lives, but it seems like an impossible thing to measure. In this research study the Lear Center sought to understand which variables influence someone’s likelihood of watching a particular film or television show and whether there was any impact on viewers’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior that could be attributed to that media exposure.
Lear Center researchers developed an online survey methodology that could evaluate the impact of films and their social action campaigns on the general public. The Center looked at three Participant Media films: Food, Inc., Waiting for ‘Superman’ and Contagion. This report is part of a series of impact evaluations of those films.
Our research questions included:
● What do people learn about issues depicted in a film?
● Did a film encourage someone to take action?
● Is there a relationship between emotional engagement with a film and taking action?
● Can we associate enjoyment or appreciation of a film with taking action?
● Is there a relationship between people’s inclination to take action and their beliefs about the potential impact that a film can have on individuals, the media, public opinion and public policy?