Critical Thinking about Sex, Love and Romance in the Mass Media: Media Literacy Applications

Article excerpt

Critical Thinking About Sex, Love and Romance in the Mass Media: Media Literacy Applications. MaryLou Galician and Debra L. Merskin, eds. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Eribaum Associates, 2007. 408 pp. $34.95 pbk.

Hollywood loves a happy ending. But what happens when Prince Charming rides off into the sunset with an ex-convict he met on the Internet? That's not part of the cultural script audiences have grown to accept and expect from Hollywood and in their own lives. In Critical Thinking About Sex, Love and Romance in the Mass Media, Mary-Lou Galician and Debra L. Merskin challenge the stories that media have advanced about love, lovers, and loving. The editors have chosen pieces that blend traditional mass communication research methods with media literacy principles and pedagogy. The result is a distinctive and valuable collection of scholarly articles examining sex, love, and romance stereotypes and narrative patterns in mass media.

In previous research, Galician studied these patterns and identified twelve sex, love, and romance "myths" often depicted in films, television programs, books, music, magazines, advertising campaigns, and Internet messages. These myths, including myth number one, "your partner is cosmically predestined, so nothing/nobody can ultimately separate you," and myth number three, "your true soul mate should know what you're thinking or feeling without your having to tell," as well as myth-busting media literacy "prescriptions" such as "consider countless candidates" and "communicate courageously," are described in chapter 1. The myths and their "dis-illusioning" prescriptions serve as the theoretical framework for the twenty-four studies examining depictions of sex, love, and romance in mass media included in the book.

The book's main strength is its diversity in terms of contributing scholars, the qualitative and quantitative methods used, and the media sources analyzed. Sammye Johnson of Trinity University, for example, examined cover lines and cover images of Cosmopolitan and Maxim magazines. She suggested that "when a Cosmopolitan woman meets a Maxim man" they would likely expect myth number four, that sex would be "easy and wonderful."

In an analysis of the relationship between two main characters in the popular cable program Queer as Folk, R. Anthony Slagle of the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras and Gust A. Yep of San Francisco State University combine queer theory and Galician's myth number seven, "the love of a good and faithful true woman can change a man from a beast into a prince." They find that Justin, the more idealistic and romantic character in the relationship, consistently experienced "pain, disappointment and frustration" in his ongoing attempts to "tame" his unfaithful partner Brian. …