Why shouldn’t she spit on his grave? Critical discourse analysis of the revenge narratives in american popular film from the developmental point of view

Open access


One of the premises of developmental psycholinguistics is that we live our life according to certain narratives that are learned through language and media. These narratives teach children to express emotions and to attribute actions in a variety of life situations; they construct the way in which the threatening feelings such as anger, injustice, or the urge of vengeance are experienced. In this paper, we present a critical analysis of the gendered discourse in popular American cinema, based on the plot analysis of 60 films featuring male or female protagonist seeking revenge. We use critical discourse analysis to decipher the patterns of the gender roles, behaviors, and emotions, which these movies intent to force upon the viewer. As the psychological research does not clearly testify to gender differences in the experience and expression of the trait anger, we would like to argue that it is a matter of the socially moderated narrative patterns, rather than inborn tendencies, that urges boys and girls to play such different roles in those situations as well as experience them in distinct ways. Our most crucial conclusion is that Western societies have developed the narrative-based mechanisms which later helped to successfully discourage women from expressing anger in the form of physical aggression, under the threat of being left out of the discourses of femininity and, in some cases, humanity.

Adorno, T. (1991). The culture industry. Selected essays on mass culture. New York, NY: Routledge.

Al-Krenawi, A., & Graham, J. R. (1999). Social work intervention with Bedouin-Arab children in the context of blood vengeance. Child Welfare, 78(2), 283-296.

Archer, J. (2004). Sex differences in aggression in real-world settings: A metaanalytic review. Review of General Psychology, 8, 291-322. doi:

Archer, J. (2009). Does sexual selection explain human sex differences in aggression? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32, 249-266. doi:

Baillargeon, R. H., Zoccolillo, M., Keenan, K., Cote, S., Perusse, D., Wu, H. X., et al. (2007). Gender differences in physical aggression: A prospective population-based survey of children before and after 2 years of age. Developmental Psychology, 43, 13-26. doi:

Bettencourt, B. A., & Miller, N. (1996). Gender differences in aggression as a function of provocation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 422-447. doi:

Bettencourt, B. A., & Kernahan, C. (1997). A meta-analysis of aggression in the presence of violent cues: Effects of gender differences and aversive provocation. Aggressive Behavior, 23(6), 447-456.

Björkqvist, K., & Niemelä, P. (1992). New trends in the study of female aggression. In K. Björkqvist & P. Niemelä (Eds.), Of mice and women: Aspects of female aggression (pp. 3-16). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Bokus, B. (1997). Referential space in story-telling: Findings on children’s narrative discourse. Psychology of Language and Communication, 1(1), 53-64.

Campbell, A., & Muncer, S. (1994). Sex differences in aggression: Social representation and social roles. British Journal of Social Psychology, 33(2), 233-240. doi:

Card, N. A., Stucky, B. D., Sawalani, G. M., & Little, T. D. (2008). Direct and indirect aggression during childhood and adolescence: A metaanalytic review of gender differences, intercorrelations, and relations to maladjustment. Child Development, 79(5), 1185-1229. doi:

Driscoll, H., Zinkivskay, A., Evans, K., & Campbell, A. (2006). Gender differences in social representations of aggression: The phenomenological experience of differences in inhibitory control? British Journal of Psychology, 97(2), 139-153. doi:

Eisenstein, S. (2014). Film form: Essays in film theory. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Foucault, M. (1972). Archeology of knowledge and the discourse on language. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

McGowan, T. (2007). The real gaze: Film theory after Lacan. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Morrissey, B. (2003). Women who kill: Questions of agency and subjectivity. London: Routledge.

Nisbett, R. E., & Cohen, D. (1996). Culture of honor: The psychology of violence in the South. Durham: Hachette UK.

Polanyi, L. (1985). Telling the American story: A structural and cultural analysis of conversational storytelling. New York, NY: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Quervain, D. J., Fischbacher, U., Treyer, V., & Schellhammer, M. (2004). The neural basis of altruistic punishment. Science, 305(5688), 1254. doi:

Van Dijk, T. (2008). Discourse and power: Contributions to critical discourse studies. Houndsmills: Palgrave McMillan.

Weiss, G., & Wodak, R. (Eds.). (2007). Critical discourse analysis. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wilkowski, B. M., Hartung, C. M., Crowe, S. E., & Chai, C. A. (2012). Men don’t just get mad; they get even: Revenge but not anger mediates gender differences in physical aggression. Journal of Research in Personality, 46(5), 546-555. doi:

Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2002). A cross-cultural analysis of the behavior of women and men: implications for the origins of sex differences. Psychological Bulletin, 128(5), 699. doi:

Journal Information

CiteScore 2017: 0.34

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.144
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.359


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 199 199 49
PDF Downloads 168 168 34