Can Buffy make men less sexist? Honestly, I think shows like that can. The 1990s and early 2000s were full of young female characters – in books, on television, in movies – who were both feminine and strong. It was often the girl who saved the day.
Things have changed a lot recently, with more passive female characters taking pride of place on many a bookshelf. Personally, I like my female characters somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, though if I had to be Bella Swan or Buffy Summers, I’d pick Buffy every time!
According to a new study, depictions of strong women in media elicit positive emotions towards women in male viewers. This makes sense because Buffy is totally badass. Also watching women kick demon ass is pretty friggin hot (personal opinion).
Ferguson found that men who watched shows with sexual violence but no strong female characters felt more negative toward women afterwards than those who enjoyed a relaxing episode of Gilmore Girls. But that wasn’t true for men who watched shows with strong heroines — in his paper, Ferguson speculates, “it may be that negative depictions of women reawaken negative stereotypes that some men hold about women, whereas positive depictions challenge those stereotypes.” Elsewhere, he’s called this “the Buffy Effect.”
Women don’t show the same kind of reaction as men do but they do show less anxiety after watching a violent show with strong female characters.