Stacy L. Smith’s research focuses on children’s responses to mass media portrayals (television, film, video games) of violence, gender and hypersexuality.
Dr. Smith (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1999) joined the USC Annenberg faculty in the fall of 2003. She has written more than 50 journal articles, book chapters, and reports on content patterns and effects of the media on youth. Further, she has received multiple “top paper” awards for her research from the Instructional Developmental Division of the International Communication Association. In terms of the popular press, Dr. Smith’s research has been written about in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Salon.com, The Boston Globe, and USA Today. She also has a co-edited essay in Maria Shriver’s book, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything.
For the last five years, Dr. Smith has been working with a team of undergraduate and graduate students to assess portrayals of males and females in popular media. Over a dozen projects have been completed, assessing gender in films (e.g., 500+ top-grossing movies from 1990 to 2009, 150 academy award best picture nominations from 1977 to 2006), TV shows (e.g., 1,034 children’s programs, two weeks of prime time shows), video games (e.g., 60 best selling), and point-of-purchase advertising (e.g., jacket covers of DVDs, video games). Examining over 5,000 characters, a recent study of 122 G, PG, and PG-13 films theatrically released between 2006 and 2009 showed that less than 30% of all speaking characters are girls or women. Put differently, the ratio of males to females on the silver screen is 2.42 to 1. While on screen portrayals are skewed, the percentage of females working behind-the-scenes is even more abysmal. Across 1,565 behind-the-scenes employees from the same 122 films, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers and 20% of producers were female. This translates into a ratio of 4.88 males to every 1 female.
Given these and other similar statistics from her lab, Smith’s recent research (with Rene Weber & Marc Choueiti) has focused on the economic success at the box office of feature films with women on screen and behind-the-scenes as well as interviewing over 110 content creators (i.e., directors, writers, producers, executives, etc.) about the reasons for the under representation and hypersexualization of girls and women in popular movies. The Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism has funded some of Dr. Smith’s studies and See Jane, a program started by Academy Award winner Geena Davis, has funded others. Currently, Dr. Smith is building a research-driven initiative at ASCJ on Media, Diversity, and Social Change. The initiative will continue producing cutting-edge, timely, and theory-driven empirical research on different entertainment-based minority groups. Educators, advocates, and activists can access and use the research to create sustainable industry change on screen and behind the camera.
In addition to research, Dr. Smith is passionate about teaching. She currently teaches the undergraduate COMM 203 Ð Introduction to Mass Communication course at USC Annenberg. Dr. Smith has been recognized for her outstanding teaching, receiving multiple awards from different constituencies on campus. She has received the Outstanding Professor Award from the Annenberg Students Communication Association three times, the Greek Professor of the Semester Award, the Golden Apple Award from Kappa Alpha Theta twice, the Professor of the Year Award from Gamma Alpha Sigma, and was recognized as an Honorary Member of Lambda Pi Eta. More recently, she was tapped by Mortar Board at USC and was nominated by the Trojan League of Southern California for the 2008 Outstanding Service Award. In 2009, Dr. Smith received the Outstanding Teacher and Mentor Award from the Parents’ Council at USC.
Outside of research and teaching, Dr. Smith enjoys running, laughing, drinking coffee, and telling stories. Her favorite books include The Alchemist, The Catcher in the Rye, Blue Like Jazz, and Pagan Christianity.