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Higher further faster: Social media discourses of feminism, misogyny, and Captain Marvel

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
On International Women's Day in March 2019, Marvel Studios released Captain Marvel, the first film in the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe to have a female superhero in the solo lead role. Captain Marvel (2019) joined other recent women-led franchise films in serving as catalysts for controversy on social media. Films such as the all-female Ghostbusters (2016), the Force Awakens (2015), the Last Jedi (2017), and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) were all accompanied, following their releases, by vitriolic sexism and criticism by so-called "fans." This dissertation explores questions of social media's function as a technology of gender, as well as articulation of discourses of gender through social media posts. Twitter, as a social media platform, is a space where users use discourse to socially shape culture and technology. Conversations about gender on social media are necessarily intertwined with how we socially shape technology, how technology is us, how struggles with technology are struggles with ourselves in our society. Twitter users influence sentiment about women-led media texts on social media. In this dissertation, I conduct an expansive discourse analysis on a dataset of tweets during March 6–7, 2019, when Captain Marvel was released. I also conduct a quantitative, computer-assisted sentiment analysis measuring the amount of discourse that was positive, negative, or neutral, as well as a qualitative framing analysis that further explored the ways through which the positive and negative sentiments about the film's release were articulated. Through this work, I argue social media platforms are spaces where user discourse socially shapes culture, and that the technology itself contributes to the social shaping of culture and discourse. In this dissertation, I bring together analyses of gender, discourse analysis, critical data studies, and a communication-focused analysis of technology. In this way, "media discourse" encompasses not only the discourse within a media text but also the wider discourse outside a media text, in different venues and platforms, not just a cinema, television screen, or laptop window.
190 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Chow-White, Peter
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