Pop Culture Association 2021 Presentation: Romance Reader Stereotypes: Will Bridgerton Change Popular Perceptions About Romance Novels?

Jun 27, 2021

When Bridgerton, a romance novel adaptation, was released as a bingeable Shondaland Netflix spectacular, I observed that the massive success also led some to believe that newfound respect for the romance genre would follow alongside an influx of new readers.

But...will it? To answer that question, first I needed to understand the nature of the romance novel stereotype (using Stereotype Content Model - Fiske, et al) and gather a bunch of data!

This presentation was originally presented at the Popular Culture Association 2021 Conference, in the romance section.

Watch on YouTube!

Citations for information within my presentation

Looking for my citations, you romance nerd? I love it and you know I can hook you up!

Bridgerton factoids:

Previous Social Science romance scholarship:

  • Joanna Gregson and Jennifer Lois. Ch 15,  Social Science Reads Romance,  Murphy Selinger, E., Kamblé, J., & Teo, H.-M. (Eds.). (2020). The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315613468

The “Media Romance”:

  • Kamblé, Jayashree. Ch 12 Romance in the Media.Murphy Selinger, E., Kamblé, J., & Teo, H.-M. (Eds.). (2020). The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315613468
  • See also: Kamblé, Jayashree. “Making Meaning in Popular Romance Fiction : An Epistemology.” (2016).

Stereotypes embody a societal consensus, a collective belief system (Stangor & Shaller, 1996).

“I believe in the context of leisure activities like reading, perceived cultural class becomes most salient, with class markers correlating to status.”

  • Drawing on Bourdieu's ideas here, from Distinction.

“Vassiliki Veros recently wrote about how dismissive librarian attitudes of romance leads to its marginalization in libraries as well.”

  • Veros, Vassiliki Helen. What the librarians did: the marginalisation of romance fiction through the practices of public librarianship. University of Technology Sydney. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Thesis. 2020. http://hdl.handle.net/10453/149024

“Dan Ariely explains how behavior change requires addressing motivation and friction.”

“Leon Festinger developed a theory of cognitive dissonance to explain how attitudes interact with behavior.”

  • Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford University Press.

“Kim Pettigrew Brackett covers two stigma coping mechanisms employed by romance readers...”

“…based on Erving Goffman’s Stigma framework…”

  • Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

“…and these correlate to the 2 coping mechanisms Festinger identified in his work on Cognitive Dissonance.”

  • Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Evanston, Ill: Row, Peterson.

SCM Studies:

“Diverging from previous social psychology research on stereotypes, which believed they were a binary, SCM identified that most stereotypes are complex and ambivalent, with a smaller percentage of groups categorized as pure antipathy.”

  • Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J. C., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2002). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 878–902. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.82.6.878

“Previous SCM research found that stereotypes about women tend to bifurcate into ambivalent stereotypes based on perceived competition with men for resources, and level of cooperation within the socially-dominant heterosexual family unit. I would characterize this split as having cultural class implications, not just gender.”

  • Eckes, T. Paternalistic and Envious Gender Stereotypes: Testing Predictions from the Stereotype Content Model. Sex Roles 47, 99–114 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021020920715
  • This study suggests that gender and age are shared stereotypes across genders. Not fully relevant as I'm primarily studying "American society," but useful for those who are curious how the original set of stereotypes vary based on culture: Fiske, Susan T. “Prejudices in Cultural Contexts: Shared Stereotypes (Gender, Age) Versus Variable Stereotypes (Race, Ethnicity, Religion).” Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 12, no. 5, Sept. 2017, pp. 791–799, doi:10.1177/1745691617708204. Full text available here: https://oar.princeton.edu/jspui/bitstream/88435/pr1dt88/1/nihms868339.pdf

The predicted behavior towards this group is active facilitation/passive harm.

  • Cuddy, Amy J C et al. “The BIAS map: behaviors from intergroup affect and stereotypes.” Journal of personality and social psychology vol. 92,4 (2007): 631-48. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.92.4.631

SCM Reference points on the XY axis alongside my data:

  • Data used from Study 3, Table 12.
  • Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J. C., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2002). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 878–902. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.82.6.878