Film Anthropological Review – Roxanne

The following is an edited anthropological research review of the 1987 film, Roxanne. Initially this had been written as an assignment for a course at KSU, but has since been revised. The intended audience includes scholars interested in anthropology and human psychology. The purpose is to encourage deeper discussion about the concepts discussed in this review, including their social, psychological, and cultural significance. The review starts with a film summary, then makes use of the textbook The Essence of Anthropology, 4th Edition for reference. It also recalls concepts as they are discussed in the Intro to Anthropology course at Kennesaw State University. This particular review pays attention to personality development as influenced by one’s culture, parental influences, and environment. It also pays some attention to communication and behavioral trends between individuals of differing genders.

Film Summary

            The movie Roxanne follows the story of a fire chief with an unusually large nose named Charlie as he struggles with his feelings for the movie’s namesake astronomer Roxanne.  Charlie’s new fireman Chris wants to try going out with her too, but is too nervous to approach her.  Both he and Roxanne caught each other’s eyes and ended up asking the fire chief for help hooking up with one another.  Charlie ultimately ends up writing a number of romantic letters, signed in Chris’ name, to try and help them out, and later realizes that those were his own words he was putting on paper, and vocalizing in one case when he posed as Chris.  Though she was moved, she was ultimately led to believe those were Chris’ words for a while.  She did find out later when a mutual friend of hers and Charlie’s, a local diner owner named Dixie, revealed the truth to her after discovering it herself.  Roxanne and Charlie did initially have an argument as a result, but she was ultimately moved by the fire chief’s words and fell in love with him due to his personality, wit, humor, and intellect.

Film Analysis

            In terms of personality, keeping in mind the context in which it is discussed in Chapter Ten of The Essence of Anthropology, we should start with Charlie’s distinctive way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.  The cultural influence on his personality comes partially as a result of his large nose, and its conflict with commonly accepted societal norms.  It one of the bigger influences in the development of his personality.  Throughout much of the film, he comes off as fairly confident, even if he is somewhat confrontational towards most of those who insult the shape or size of his nose.   First, this suggests a developmental factor that helped him resist the pressures of cultural norms.  It can be inferred that his upbringing involved a thorough education or interest in comedy, literature, and self-defense. He exhibits skills with each when confronting those who insult him, or interacts with others in general.  Each of these personality traits also suggest his upbringing involved an overall focus on intellectual development.  This can also be inferred from his interest in discussing astronomy with Roxanne.  It is likely that influences from both his culture’s education and its entertainment played a significant role in guiding his development down this route.  It may also suggest that these were skills encouraged by his parents, though their identities remain unspecified, making this difficult to confirm.  There are still moments where he exhibits insecurities about the shape of his nose, such as when he feels it gets in the way of romantic pursuits, further suggesting the influence of his culture’s perception of what is considered normal.  Narrowed down, it means that Charlie’s intellectual and witty way of thinking was heavily influenced by his apparent interests, while his way of feeling does involve some culturally enforced insecurities.  His way of behaving is characterized by the frequent use of said wit and intellect when approaching various different situations, though he does make some mistakes as a result of the aforementioned insecurities.  These examples help to showcase possible variables in a process called enculturation, discussed in Chapter Ten of The Essence of Anthropology, where attributes of his culture and environment shaped his personality, and how those influences can shape individual development overall.

            These personality details also lead to another conclusion about his upbringing, regarding the child-rearing pattern.  Mentioned in Chapter Ten of the textbook are three such patterns.  The first is dependence training, which results in individuals seeing themselves as part of a larger whole.  The next is independence training, which results in individuals developing goals of self-reliance, seeking personal achievement.  It is notable that this is apparently the more common one in the United States, and an example exists in the promotion of competitive sports in schools.  The last, interdependence training, is a sort of combination of the two. It usually involves individuals having both goals of personal achievement, and the ability to see themselves as part of a larger whole.  Initially I had thought Charlie to fit under the “independence training” profile due to his seeking personal achievements such as a relationship with another, and the satisfaction of getting a step up on the individuals who insult him.  He is also fairly self-reliant given his ability to handle many situations with his own personal skillset.  Upon closer inspection however, I realize he may have had a more interdependence styled upbringing.  Though he does have personal goals, he also pursues the goal of improving the firefighting force of his community, by trying to hire professionals and train up his existing team.  He also sees value in the advice and input of those he considers friends.  This lines up with my own upbringing.  Though I myself have goals of self-reliance and personal achievement, I was taught to still see myself as part of a larger whole, and to do my part to build up my community whilst taking into consideration the input of others.  Lessons to do so currently exist in the US education system, suggesting that interdependence training is a major component of child-rearing patterns in the US.

            In terms of gender differences in language, there are examples of gendered speech throughout the film.  This could be called “genderlect,” a term mentioned in an Intro to Anthropology lecture at Kennesaw State University, which refers to differences in the communication methods of American men and women.  Examples of this tendency occurred several times during Charlie’s argument with Roxanne towards the end of the film, when he challenged her assertions with quite a few of his own. For example, one of the “features of men’s communication styles” was that “they are more likely to challenge or dispute their partners’ utterances.” Another example was Roxanne’s demands for answers or explanations throughout a couple heated interactions with Chris and Charlie.  She exhibited the women’s communication’s style feature of “doing more of the routine work of keeping the conversation going” in many of those cases, another concept discussed during the aforementioned lecture. These are just a few examples, but they help paint a picture of differing norms of communication between men and women.  It makes it easy to discern how it is easy to miscommunicate between the genders when witnessing how examples of these “Features of Communication Styles” can lead to heated arguments and misunderstandings.


  • The Essence of Anthropology, 4th Edition, by William A. Haviland, Harald E.L. Prins, Dana Walrath, Bunny McBride.
  • Intro to Anthropology – Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences – Kennesaw State University

Feature Image is the Roxanne Film Poster – Source


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *