Research Paper Critique, Janice Radway: Romance Readers vs Madonna: the Effect of Race, Gender, and Fandom on Audience Interpretations of Madonna’s Music Videos

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Research Paper Critique
By Julian Ritzema

During this process of an analytical review I shall draw upon evidence already existing in the field of audience research to complete a critique reflecting the accumulated data. The reflection will produce questions focusing on hypothesis and rational, regarding what questions where asked and why, leading to a more marginalised focused question (hypothesis). Operationalisation relating to the use of different media research methods, ultimately linked to results acquired through the use of the research method in question. Then the conclusion, representing the evidence drawn from the research undertaken, and what other research questions are raised.

In her analysis of romantic novels; Janice Radway used an ethnographic and regional approach (using a series of ethnographic questions) to researching a group of. ‘Compulsive romance readers in a predominantly urban, central midwestern state among the nation’s top twenty in total population’ as she states in :Radway.J.A., Women Read Romance: The Interaction of Text and Context. (Dikes. G. & Humez. J., Gender, Race and Class in the Media; 1995: 202-214). When conducting her interviews Janice relied on Dot Evans for her cohort of readers. Dot is a female book store owner with a regular clientele of fifty to seventy-five regular readers who considered her opinion very highly. They relied on her view of which romance novels to avoid, and to buy. However Dot has had a large amount of success in interpreting, categorizing, and evaluating romantic fiction; to the point where she has created a business from it but more focally, gained the attention of writers and editors for whom she reads manuscripts and galleys.

This clearly shows strength of source for Janice Radway’s rational and ultimately the reason she went about trying to prove the existence of a romantic reading culture. This attempt to persuade the general population of a romantic reading culture is well balanced due to the method used. Her method involved gathering data from individual and group interviews with 16 of Dot’s regular customers, adding to this a lengthy questionnaire to forty-two of the women. Janice also read 40 books herself to try to get a better insight into the content, and the psychological impact that romantic books could offer the reader.

The psychological angle that Janice took was to help prove that romantic novel culture exists through explanation of “escape”, both literally and figuratively; by means of reading a romantic novel to draw them away from their present surroundings. Radway, also refers to women readers physical and emotional depletion with the constant burden of having to nurture or with men not being able to properly fulfil their emotional needs and thereby neglecting a sense of self. This imbalance, Radway deduces, needs to be rectified in this case through the means of escapism through reading romantic fiction novels. As covered in Janice Radways’ research ‘Chodrow’ maintains, on the other hand, that because male children are also reared by women, they tend to separate more completely from their mothers by suppressing their own emotionality and capacities for tenderness that they associate with mothers and femininity”. This, perhaps all too briefly, is suggested as the main reason why it is predominantly women who read Romantic Novels. Perhaps Janice Radway could have considered what kind of men read Romantic novels and further what criteria of Romantic Novels did these men read; did they differ in their emotional escapism?

Also, why did she not expand on the location of (region) her, ‘predominantly urban mid-western state’? Is this a case of the stereotypical group giving a stereotypical answer? Obviously Janice would have had to put many more hours into her research, and of course did not want to stereotype or put audiences in to pigeon holes. She mentions in her research, “the...
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