Audience perceptions of female characters in Chinese documentaries
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Media companies are more aware today than ever before of the impact of visual products. How audiences cognitively and emotionally connect with documentary content has become an area worth studying. With scholars' perspectives moving from passive audience exposure to active audience reception, this study hoped to bring insights into how audiences emotionally and cognitively relate to female characters. Using two Chinese independent documentaries, Still Tomorrow and Small Talk, the study employs a between-subjects factorial experimental design to examine audiences' perceptions of female characters. The purpose of this research is to examine audience perceptions within a crosscultural context, as the researcher compared audience perceptions of female characters based on the audience members' cultural backgrounds. This study supports that the documentary viewing experience evokes audiences' concerns about gender equality issues. Building on the theoretical concept of identification, the study finds that empathizing with media characters could increase audiences' awareness of gender issues portrayed in the documentary. From a pragmatic perceptive, the researcher provided some insights for media producers and documentary filmmakers in terms of documentary character construction and documentary narratives, with a comparison between two characters' narratives.