Remembering “the scariest movie of all time” : A grounded audience study of the exorcist

Smith, Martin Ian (2019) Remembering “the scariest movie of all time” : A grounded audience study of the exorcist. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This study of the forty-six-year history of The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973) uses grounded theory methodology to investigate how audiences have engaged with and now remember what is still repeatedly voted as “the scariest movie of all time” (Bailey, 2018). Original data from 746 survey respondents and 32 interviewees form the basis for new theories of the importance and meaning of physical and social place in cinema-going, processes of parental regulation over children’s viewing habits and their associated meanings, and the relationship between memories of film experiences and intra-family dynamics.

Since its inception in 1965 in the field of medicine and patient care (Gla ser and Strauss, 1965), grounded theory methodology has provided an insightful, flexible, and participant-driven method of producing research which rejects extant concepts and theories to produce findings which are thus “grounded” in original data. This thesis represents the result of the first study of media audiences to fully employ grounded theory methodology, taking Kathy Charmaz’s (2014) constructivist iteration as its basis. Its findings are contextualised within theorisations of place, censorship, and memory from New Cinema History (Jancovich, Faire, and Stubbings, 2003; Kuhn, 2002; Biltereyst, Maltby, and Meers 2011), censorship studies (Kuhn, 1988; Smith, 2005; Barber, 2016; Smith, 2019), and oral history (Portelli, 1981; Thompson, 2000; Thomson, 2006).

The overarching theme of this study to emerge from participants’ accounts is how memories of The Exorcist are defined not by the film itself, nor by any factor which can be measured with demographic information, but by participants’ relationships with other people. This particularly includes their families and, often, their past selves. In adapting grounded theory for audience studies, this thesis conceives of and provides an outline for grounded audience studies as an alternative approach to researching audiences which can better reflect the complexity of everyday life.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cinema history, Oral history, Grounded theory, Film studies, Memory studies
Subjects: W600 Cinematics and Photography
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2020 08:40
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2022 08:01

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