By Michele Chiacchio and Alessandro Pigoni
Today we are producing more food than ever before in history, and yet one third of the global population suffers from malnutrition. This problem has only worsened with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where a large percentage of rural households depend Communication experts have long been interested in the potential role narrative fiction, such as movies, has played on shaping public attitudes. For example, experts have looked at how fictional representations of certain minority groups have increased social stigma through negative portrayals. However, there has been very little study of whether an excessive and repeated portrayal of certain animal species in the context of animal-horror movies can increase hostilities toward animals.
TIn this review, we conducted the first quantitative analysis on the representation of animals in movie history from 1950 to 2019 to discuss how it changed over the years. Specifically, we reviewed the plots of 263 movies that portrayed animals from an antagonistic perspective and analyzed what species was featured, how they were depicted and whether there was a human responsibility behind the conflict. This analysis showed that animal-horror movie production has increased over time. Animal-based horror movies have featured a large diversity of species but five groups (sharks, insects, snakes, crocodiles and spiders) have been the most common. Similarly, the different themes addressed and the graphic approach have changed through the years, with topics such as nuclear radiation and pollution common used as conflict-trigger in earlier years and laboratory experiment or genetic manipulation in more recent times.
We suggest that this trend is both the consequence of technological, societal and fashion changes. Indeed, audience interests have changed over time while new technologies allow directors to adopt solutions that would have been impossible with earlier technology, and so movie productions adapted to keep pace. However, it remains unclear whether these animal representations have increased hostilities toward the species depicted in these films.