How does contemporary representation compare to previous time periods

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  • 1. How does contemporary representation compare to previous time periods? Having researched collective identity with regard to the representation of black British people in the media I can say that their collective identity has gone through a syncretic process rather than a process of acculturation. “While the ‘reflexive individual is more than the sum of his/her gender, race, class, sexuality and ethnicity, he or she does not enjoy complete cultural autonomy, with the media serving as a major extrinsic force.” (A. Ruddock, 2007)1 Although it would be nice to think that we have complete control over the shaping of our identity, this can not be the case when we live in such a media saturated world “…our knowledge of the world is constructed by media representations”2. Therefore it can be said to some extent that in shaping our own identity and in feeling part of a collective identity this is influenced in some part by the media but not exclusively. Hall demonstrates, representation not only affects the understanding of ethnic minority groups within society as a whole, but also how ethnic minority groups come to perceive their own identities.3 “…collective identity [is] an individual's cognitive, moral, and emotional connection with a community, category, practice, or institution. It is a perception of a shared status or relation, which may be imagined rather than experienced directly, and it is distinct from personal identities, although it may form part of a personal identity. A collective identity may have been first constructed by outsiders, who may still enforce it, but it depends on some acceptance by those to whom it is applied. Collective identities are expressed in cultural materials - names, narratives, symbols, verbal styles, rituals, clothing, and so on - but not all cultural materials express collective identities. Collective identity does not imply the rational calculus for evaluating choices that "interest" does. And unlike ideology collective identity carries with it positive feelings for other members of the group“ (Polletta, Francesca; Jasper, James M, 2001)4 When discussing the collective identity of black British people we are in fact referring to the black diaspora, and even though this is spread over many continents for the most part this mainly includes the USA and Africa. Our collective identity is formed when we feel an affiliation with a particular social group and anything regarding that social group is likely to have an effect on us. The term black British in this essay refers to a British resident with specifically Sub- Saharan African ancestral origins, who self-identifies, or is identified, as "Black", African or Afro-Caribbean. The representation of black British people in the media is an interesting one considering the history of the British Empire and it’s many ex- colonies. 1
  • 2. In the beginning there was the Empire and, then (post-1945), there was the Empire no more. In a nostalgic bid to keep the idea of Empire alive, the British establishment first created the Commonwealth and, in 1948, voted through Parliament the Commonwealth Act whereby all citizens of the ex- Empire could come to the mother country: the United Kingdom. (Susan Hayward, Jump Cut, no. 41, May 1997, pp. 49-58) England was seen as ‘The Mother’ country for many West Indians who migrated here (most famously on Empire Windrush) in the hope of good jobs, a new life and a warm welcome. The early experiences of immigrants from the West Indians can be said to be canonized in early films such as Sapphire (Basil Dearden, 1959) and Flame in the Streets (Roy Ward Baker, 1962) films that have become to be known as social problem films5. Both films reflected social zeitgeist and were released at a time of social unrest, the film Sapphire even ‘adopted Notting Hill locations to underwrite its reference to the inter-racial riots’6 that occurred prior to it release. “…it was the 1958 "riots" which brought race onto the TV agenda in a strategically different way. Race was now presented as a problem in the UK rather than as an end-of-Empire debate as it had been previously” (Susan Hayward, Jump Cut, no. 41, May 1997, pp. 49-58) The problem with these early films is that they were both directed by white directors therefore the representations of black people presented to us were frame a white frame of reference. During the time of release for both films blacks were seen as ‘those "imperial Others" who once lived in remote marginal colonies, [and] now demand[ed] inclusion and belonging on British soil, "invading" public national and private family spaces’7, and a problem for British society (also reflected in the changes to immigration law that also occurred at the time). These films did nothing to contract these ideologies and in fact served as hegemonic devices to keep these thoughts in the minds of the British people. (use some textual examples) In the 1970s representation changed somewhat with influences from the USA, there was an air of militancy and Horace Ove’s ‘Pressure’ (1976, the first feature film made by a black director) moved away from migrant representations from a white perspective to representations of first generation British born blacks from a Black perspective. In the film, ‘overtly political issues such as police harassment, blatant racism, poor housing and discrimination in the workforce are juxtaposed with the more subtle aspects of popular culture such as food, language, music and fashion.8 (use textual examples) Comparing these representations to those of more contemporary texts such as Adulthood (Noel Clarke, 2008), 1 Day (Penny Woolcock, 2009) Freestyle (Kolton Lee, 2010), I would say that there are varying degrees of difference with regard to representation. The biggest difference that exists is that blacks in Britain are no longer represented as a ‘social problem’, and unlike in ‘Pressure’ there seems 2
  • 3. to be a distinct lack of representation of the older generation of black British people the ‘original immigrants’. There is more of a focus on the young people, (this is similar to ‘Pressure’), and there disaffection with society. Adulthood – talk about the move away from separate black youth representation, to a move where it’s a representation of youth full stop, youth in London who all feel disaffected (but still somewhat influenced by black culture) As Gilroy proposes going beyond essentialist modes of identity and nationalist cultural representations, the new concept of syncretism is the only one able to examine cultural resistance in the hybridized context of black Britain. The same subversive force of this hybridizing tendency is once again emphasized by Hall, according to whom identities are not an essence but a positioning, and thus diaspora identities are constantly producing and reproducing themselves anew. CENTRING MARGINALITY THROUGH BLACK BRITISH NARRATIVES: SMALL ISLAND AND YOUNG SOUL REBELS, Francesca Giommi Kidulthood – similar to Adulthood, but throw in the idea of these representations being potentially dangerous Various characters within “Kidulthood” are shown to be involved in criminal activities such as drug dealing and gun making. It can be said that “black people, particularly Afro-Caribbeans are portrayed in the media as criminals”9 as “the media are highly selective in the way in which they construct and represent the world back to us”10 Due to how they are represented within “Kidulthood”, it suggests that young black males may have been subjected to receive negative treatment as a result of being represented with such pessimism and in turn advocates that they will be treated as criminals if they have been represented in that way. http://jaleesadenton-mest4.blogspot.com/ “how we are seen determines in part how we are treated; how we treat others is based on how we see them; such seeing comes from representation.” Dyer, Richard. (1993). The Matter of Images: Essays on Representations (1 ed.). New York: Routledge Day 1 – Could mention how most of the time black British is represented by black London and this film is a move away from that. Although still utilising dangerous representations of gang culture – is this stereotyping or just real-life social commentary? Freestyle – and it’s attempts to move away from mainstream negative representations of young black British. Presenting settled young black people with minor communication of them being the other. In education, aspiring to do well vs. the lack of opportunity presented in ‘Pressure’ due to skin colour. Mixed race character accepted vs. Sapphire. Reminder of how it was from the mother character, turning negative stereotypes on its head with the use of the single dad character. 3
  • 4. Conclusion Real exam need to reference at least TWO types of media combinations: Film and T.V. Film and Music Film, TV and Music 1 Investigating Audiences, Routledge 2 Andrews, Maggie. Burton, Julia. & Stevenson, Elspeth. (2009). AQA A2 Media Studies: Student's Book (Aqa Media Studies for A2). Surrey: Nelson Thornes Ltd 3 Fatimah Awan, Young People, Identity and the Media, PhD Research Project, 2008 4 COLLECTIVE IDENTITY AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. Annual Review of Sociology, January 01, 2001 5 John Hill, ‘The British ‘Social Problem’ film: ‘Violent Playground’ and ‘Sapphire’, Screen Vol. 26, No1 6 John Hill, ‘The British ‘Social Problem’ film: ‘Violent Playground’ and ‘Sapphire’, Screen Vol. 26, No1 7 CENTRING MARGINALITY THROUGH BLACK BRITISH NARRATIVES: SMALL ISLAND AND YOUNG SOUL REBELS, Francesca Giommi 8 Joel Karamath, http://www.bfi.org.uk/education/teaching/blackworld/howto.html 9 http://www.helium.com/items/265124-how-are-ethnic-minorites-portrayed-in-the-media 10 Kruger, Stephen. Rayner, Philip. & Wall, Peter. (2004). Media Studies: The Essential Resource. London: Routledge, London and New York. 4