Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Personal values of protagonists in best pictures and blockbusters 1996–2005
by Beckwith, Douglas Charles, Ph.D., Saybrook University, 2007, 237; 3418940
Abstract (Summary)

Protagonist values conveyed in motion pictures can provide the focal narrative text for purposes of human science research. However, very little empirical research has been conducted to determine the nature and priority of those values. This study addressed the lacuna through comparative examination of protagonist value hierarchies found at the beginning and end of films, the role played by existential humanistic values in the hierarchies, and the relationship between protagonist values and cinematic creativity. In addition to providing insight into the nature of the protagonists’ values, the study provided a lens through which to view the personal values of filmmakers, audience members, and cinematic gatekeepers who determine eminent creativity in film.

The method used was content analysis with coding based on adaptations of the Rokeach value descriptors and key existential humanistic values. Ninety three films released in the United States between 1996 and 2004 were chosen for analysis based on their eminent creativity or high profitability. The most important personal values related to goals were determined to be family security, a sense of accomplishment, true friendship, self-respect, mature love, wisdom, national security, and inner harmony.

The most important personal values related to desirable behaviors were being helpful, courageous, ambitious, loving, responsible, capable, and honest. Comparative examination of the ranking of end-of-film Rokeach values across all three film samples revealed very few differences among the value hierarchies, thereby suggesting that few relationships exist between protagonist value hierarchies and a film’s eminent creativity or high profitability. Analysis in the second part of the study revealed that many existential humanistic values, derived from Allport, Maslow, Rogers, May, Bugental, and Greening, were very important to the protagonists by the end of the films.

Comparative study of the protagonists’ personal values at the beginning and end of the films revealed an immutable core of personal values and some mutable peripheral values. The values that fell or rose to significance from beginning to end demonstrated a shift in the protagonists’ values from self-concern and materialism to societal concerns and altruism. The shift in values suggested parallels to movement up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Pritzker, Steven
Commitee: Cullen, Arne, Richards, Ruth
School: Saybrook University
Department: Consciousness and Spirituality
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Sociology, Mass communications, Film studies
Keywords: American values, Best pictures, Blockbusters, Content analysis, Cultural values, Existential humanism, Film studies, Protagonists, Rokeach values, Values
Publication Number: 3418940
ISBN: 9781124180687
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