Gender Policing in Mainstream Hindi Cinema: A Decade of Central Female Characters in Top-Grossing Bollywood Movies

Subuhi Khan, Laramie Taylor


This study examines the depiction of reward and punishment in the context of central female characters (CFCs) adherence to prescriptive gender norms in Bollywood films. One hundred top-grossing movies from 2003–4 to 2013–14 were content analyzed for the depiction of reward and punishment toward the CFCs. Irrespective of the year of release, all movies that included a CFC depicted that character following some form of prescriptive gender norms. CFCs in old as well as new movies were rewarded when they adhered to gender norms and punished when they violated gender norms. Instances of punishment were higher in old movies than in new movies; violation of prescriptive gender norms was not related to punishment in new movies, and new movies also lacked identifiable female protagonists on average compared with old movies. Findings are explained in context of Hindi mainstream cinema’s role in promoting benevolent sexism.



sex roles, femininity, films, content analysis, Bollywood, gender policing

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