Towards a sociology of cartoons : a framework for sociological investigation with special reference to Playboy sex cartoons
This thesis attempts to develop a framework for the sociological investigation of cartoons by drawing on theories and concepts developed within related areas of sociology. A literature review of past research into cartoons demonstrates that to date there exists little in the way of a sociology of cartoons; most of the previous research has been carried out by psychologists or historians. Sociological studies of cartoons have been partial, atheoretical, and generally not illuminating. This derives ultimately from failure to ground the analysis of cartoons in mainstream sociological debates. Thus the two sub-fields of the sociology of media and the sociology of art are investigated in order to extract those theories and concepts which are most relevant to a sociological understanding of cartoons. The theoretical framework developed is then applied to an empirical investigation of Playboy sex cartoons. Using standard content analysis procedure, the Playboy cartoons are analyzed in terms of the ways in which women and men and the relationships between them are portrayed. The findings of the content analysis are discussed in light of recent feminist theories regarding the nature and effects of pornographic imagery. The problems encountered in conducting a quantitative analysis of cartoons are highlighted and approaches which are more qualitative in nature are investigated and applied to the study of cartoons in general and Playboy sex cartoon in particular. In addition to examining the encoding side of the communication chain, this thesis investigates empirically the ways in which differently situated audiences decode Playboy sex cartoons.