American Psychological Association

108th Convention
Washington DC, August 4-8, 2000

[Fischoff and Students]
4153 Paper Session: Contemporary Issues in Media Psychology
Cal State students presenting "Popular Movie Quotes: Reflections of A People and A Culture"
(Left to Right: Jarod Young, Ana Franco, Stuart Fischoff, Esmi Cardenas, Korey Wyatt, and Angela Hernandez)
The photo above is from a Division 46 paper presentation on August 5, 2000. Below is the report which was filed "asycnchronously live" from the APA's Convenion 2000, to the Current Topics list-serv.



Analyze This!

This morning APA's Division 46 (Media) hosted a symposium on how Hollywood portrays psychiatrists, psychologists, and other therapists in the movies. Mark Komrad, MD (Psychiatrist and Hollywood consultant) presented some snippets of popular Hollywood movies and described how from ancient Greek society onward, psychodrama has been "prescribed" for catharsis, and more recently for box office success. He described the most commonly depicted types of therapists as portrayed by Hollywood as being "Dr. Decent", the great healer, "Dr. Dippy", the bungling character of High Anxiety, and "Dr. Dangerous", who seems ready to be the cause of death at any moment. There seems also to be two common stereotypes of psychiatrists, those who talk and those who are all "needles and pills".

An analysis of 99 movies about therapy (Fischoff & Reiter) found that 30% of therapists are presented as psychiatrists, 6% as psychologists, and 64% non-identified. 60% are male, 40% female. Mostly the males are ineffective and mostly the females become sexually involved. Psychiatrists tend to be arrogant, often playing God (a la Frankenstein), and when things get out out of control, often they become insane themselves. Dr. Komrad offered a humorous view of how Martians might construe therapists if their knowledge came exclusively from movies: they're mostly ineffective except when they fall in love with their patients, are mostly Freudians with couches, are poor parents, infantalize their patients, and "patientify" their own children. They interpret "truths" (like being pursued by a Terminator) as paranoia, and they always find childhood trauma as the cause for every problem.

Dr. Harriet Schultz further looked at demographics and male-female differences. Female therapists (in movies) generally start out as "cold and professional" but are eventually "cured" by their patients who turn them into "real" women thorugh passion and romance. The male therapists are all incompetent or flawed. In her own study of movies, she distilled the major typecasts as being the Wounded Healer (e.g., Sixth Sense, Good Will Hunting), the Fake (e.g., Mumford), or the Hero. There is also the Evil Scientist, as in Raising Cain. Female therapists are almost always sexualized, and usually end up agressively sexual. They specialize in things like serial murder. Some researchers look at the "incongruence" of gender as either a means of "defanging women" (women cannot have it all without succombing to romance) or painting men as warm and caring (but only if they are wounded).

Finally, Dr. Shirley Glass spoke about the MediaWatch organization which rates how tv & movies portray mental health services, and award positive efforts with a "Golden Psi" for productions exemplifying positive portrayal of psychotherapy. Recent awards went to Chicago Hope and the Sopranos, which discussed "duty to warn" and other ethical issues.

Contemporary Issues in Media

An afternoon paper presentation by Drs. Roger Klein and Stuart Fischoff, along with several graduate students (see photo above) focused on research about how the public perceives the role of television media, and how we as a culture absorb the language of movie quotes.

Dr. Klein began by presenting a recent study which explored attitudes among University of Pittsburgh students about the media's depiction of violence. As a context, it was noted that a recent CNN poll found 63% agreement with the statement that "media is a cause of violence", and a widely held opinion that the media was a contributing factor in the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy. Among the students in this study, there was a significant sentiment that television news should somehow be censored, with almost 1/3 indicating that they felt the government should censor all media. Opinion differed according to gender and marital status, with female and married respondents more likely to favor censorship. Almost 20% believed that violent shows should be banned.

The study found, additionally, that 40% of the Sample believed that parents were to blame for the tragedy at Columbine, this belief again breaking down along the lines of gender and marital status. Sixty percent felt that the parents were at the least, "negligent". Interestingly, those coming from private schools were particularly prone to point the blame at parents, while 80% who had attended public schools identified peer pressure as the major cause of adolescent violence.

Next, Hollywood Media Psychologist Dr.Stuart Fischoff, and his student researchers, presented a study outlining how movie quotes have become part of our popular culture's lexicon, across ages, gender, and ethnic groups. This was a study with a diverse Sample of 1083 respondents, aged 10-90, and in soliciting favorite quotes the research team wound up with an amazing 5652 quotes. As Jarod Young noted, the volume of data was just overwhelming and could not possibly be fully analyzed for every possible interaction. Still, they were able to develop several working hypotheses, such as how there is a tendency for movie-goers to recall mostly negative quotes (particularly males) while females tend to recall more romantic quotes, and also how both males and females are more likely to recall (and repeat) quotes from same-gender characters in the movies. (This of course makes sense, as since the earliest days of the movies viewers have looked to the screen for role models, often sparking national crazes in fashion, hairstyles, and of course the one-liner.)

Many memorable lines, of course, stick in our cultural memory and find their way often into daily conversation, with some lines so apparently universal that they transcend age and other demographics (e.g., "There's no place like home!" and "Here's looking at you, kid!"). At the same time, clearly there were some age and gender differences which were readily apparent. As an example, one of the most frequently cited quotes by females was "You complete me", while males were more prone towards "Hasta la vista, baby" and "Are you talking to me?".

The most frequently-named "Top 20 Quotes" were analyzed in terms of the frequency of specific lines named as favorites, as well as which movies produced the most memorable quotes. The #1 Quote, according to this study, is "I'll be back...", from 1984's Terminator, which was also the number one film source for favorite quotes. Number two was the classic Gone With the Wind's line, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" (1939). Other often cited quotes were "Go ahead, make my day!" (Sudden Impact, 1983), "May the force be with you" (Star Wars, 1977), "Yeah, baby"(Austin Powers Films, 1998), and finally, one of my own favorites: "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."

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