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Working title of PhD: The Presence of Emotional Abuse in Romance Films

Pronouns: she/her

Year commenced PhD study: 2023

Institution: University of Glasgow

Funding Source: Self-funded

PhD Supervisors: Michele Burman and Oona Brooks-Hay


Despite romance films being focused on the development and sustainment of relationships, there has been little research looking at the implications on what are healthy behaviours in relationships. While the genre often eroticizes sex and violence like other types of films, such as thrillers, romance holds a unique position as the media produced is targeted largely toward women. These films often hold problematic ideals regarding gender and relationships. Relationships are often portrayed within the strict confines of traditional gender roles where the man holds a dominant position over the woman. Women are usually shown as needing to change themselves and their actions to suit the interests of their male counterparts.

The idea that love can overlook any action or behaviour committed by a romantic partner, even those that are harmful, is a major theme in the romance genre. While intimate partner violence is usually labelled as such when there has been severe physical injury, the media completely ignores the complexities and variation within other types of intimate partner violence, such as psychological and economic abuse.

This study aims to answer the following questions through a directed content and visual analysis:

  • How often, and how are emotionally abusive behaviours, such as coercive control and gaslighting, depicted within popular romance films?
  • What messages do films marketed as romance films send to their viewers about gender roles within relationships?
  • How have the depictions of relationships in romance films evolved?
  • How do romance films depict the victim impacts and consequences of intimate partner violence?



University of Glasgow

Research Themes

Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice

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