What is it?
Representation is the process by which
the media presents the ‘real world’ to
Media texts construct meanings about the
world – a picture, a film, a television
programme or a newspaper article re-
presents the world to help audiences
make sense of it.
A popular understanding of representation
is through stereotypes – what are they?
Stereotypes are a form of
representation in which groups of
people are characterised by
attributing to them qualities that
some individuals possess, and which
later become associated with the
Punks are forever
associated with safety
pins in their clothes and
bodies, and Mohican
haircuts. This is the
stereotype of a punk
although there will be
many punks who do not
look like this.
‘Stereotypes are widely circulated
ideas or assumptions about particular
Stereotypes are also essential tools for
media producers. They can be used as a
shorthand to condense a lot of complex
information and detail into a character who
is easily recognised and simple to deal with
– Ugly Betty is a good example. It makes
it easier for the audience to understand the
character and his or her role in the text.
A further breakdown
Branston and Stafford state there are 4
1. They involve both a categorising and an
evaluation of the group being stereotyped.
2. They usually emphasise some easily grasped
features of the group and suggest that these are
the cause of the group’s position.
3. The evaluation of the group is often, though not
always, a negative one.
4. Stereotypes often try to insist on absolute
differences and boundaries where the idea of a
spectrum of difference is more appropriate.
Compare and contrast the representation
of Ugly Betty with other young fictional
women from TV and film.
Sources could include Skins, Hollyoaks; US
teen films – John Tucker Must Die,
Mean Girls, 10 Things I Hate About
You, American Pie franchise, Bring It
On, A Cinderella Story, Freaky Friday,
Save The Last Dance, Step Up, and for
the historical context: Grease, Saturday
Night Fever, Up The Junction, Strictly
Representation is not just about how
we see people, places and objects but
also how we interpret what our
senses tell us. This depends as much
on who we are, as what we see, hear
An important debate in any study of the media is
about the accuracy of the representations it offers
Is it possible to be wholly accurate?
Does society have a view on accuracy in the
media and who monitors it?
There are official organisations who monitor the
media for accuracy and other codes of behaviours
to make sure that people are protected to some
degree from exposure to lies and deliberate
A film representation of a character for
example consists of at least four
1. The character – gender, ethnicity, age,
sexuality and look
2. The collective cultural background and
views of the producer/director/institution
3. The audience’s reaction to the character
4. Where and when the representation takes
place – cinema/home/ laptop/friend’s
Questions to always ask
How far can we trust the
representation that is being made to
be an accurate portrayal?
In whose interests is it that the
representation is made in this way?
How do we relate to the
Mediation is the process by which a
media text represents an idea, issue or
event to an audience.
Many people think that if you point a
camera at an event or person the ‘reality’ of
that event or person will be immediately
apparent. Seeing something through a lens
changes not just the perspective and size of
a person but also how the audience
perceives that person. Therefore it has been
Three Things to Look For
Selection - Whatever ends up on the
screen or in the paper, much more will
have been left out — any news story
has been selected from hundreds of
others which the producers decided for
you were less interesting, any picture
has been chosen from an enormous
number of alternatives.
Three Things to Look For
Organisation - The various elements
will be organised carefully in ways that
real life is not: in visual media this
involves mise-en-scene and the
organisation of narrative, in the
recording of an album the production
might involve re-mixing a track. Any
medium you can think of will have an
equivalent to these. This organisation
of the material will result in …
Three Things to Look For
Focusing - mediation always ends up
with us, the audience, being
encouraged towards concentrating on
one aspect of the text and ignoring
others. If you are watching a film the
camera will pan towards an important
character, in a tabloid the headlines
will scream, for your attention.
Compare a close up shot and long
shot of a classmate
What can you see on a big close up of
What can you tell about his / her
This is part of Media Language –
working to construct an image
for the audience, through the
As soon as an image is captured on
film or digitally it is a representation
of reality, not reality.
Representation is influenced by how
the scene is set up, whether it is
filming a real event or a fictional
scene. The significance of the position
of the camera is familiar if you are
used to viewing sporting events on
In a film the camera can look at a
scene from many different angles.
Generally the camera will observe.
Sometimes it will focus on other types
The important job for the audience is
to decode and understand the depth
and credibility of the information
which is coming across.
In a movie everything included in the
frame The mise-en-scène is important
for conveying meaning and creating a
‘realistic’ or constructed representation.
Lighting, make up, camera angle, costume,
soundtrack, music and effects all combine
to make the representation of the
characters as effective, and sometimes as
‘real’ as possible for an audience.
Representations do change over time
depending on society’s view of a social
group, and are influenced by cultural
and legislative changes and, arguably,
by media texts
Some good news
We only have one more Key
Aspect to examine... narrative
(the big one!)
But we also need to have a look at Skills and
Language after that