G235: CriticalPerspectives in MediaTheoretical Evaluation of Production 1b) Representation
Aims/Objectives• To reinforce basic representation theory.• To have a basic understanding of how to evaluate your coursework against key representation theory.
Representation• How the media shows us things about society – but this is through careful mediation. Hence re-presentation.• For representation to be meaningful to audiences there needs to be a shared recognition of people, situations, ideas etc.• All representations therefore have ideologies behind them. Certain paradigms are encoded into texts and others are left out in order to give a preferred representation (the preferred syntagm) (Levi – Strauss, 1958).
• Richard Dyer (1983) posed a few questions when analysing media representations in general.• 1. What sense of the world is it making?• 2. What does it imply? Is it typical of the world or deviant?• 3. Who is it speaking to? For whom? To whom?• 4. What does it represent to us and why? How do we respond to the representation?
• In terms of your coursework you will be looking at representation in terms of :• MARXISM• FEMINISM• POSTMODERNISM• STEREOTYPES
Ideologies and Representation (MARXISM)• A hegemonic view of society – fundamental inequalities in power between social groups. Groups in power exercise their influence culturally rather than by force.• Concept has origins in Marxist theory - ruling capitalist class are able to protect their economic interests.• Representations are encoded into mass media texts in order to do this – reinforce dominant ideologies in society.
Tim O’Sullivan et al. (1998) Ideology – refersto a set of ideas which produces a partial andselective view of reality. Notion of ideologyentails widely held ideas or beliefs which areseen as ‘common’ sense and becomenaturalised.What is important is that, in Marxist terms, themedia’s role may be seen as :•Circulating and reinforcing dominantideologies•(less frequently) undermining and challengingsuch ideologies.
• Links to Roland Barthes (1973) Myth – ideologies work through symbolic codes – mythic in the sense of having the appearance of being ‘natural’ or ‘commonsense’.
• Judith Williamson (1978) detailed that advertisements (film posters, adverts for music texts you created) draw heavily on myths – they use cultural signifiers to represent qualities which can be realised through the consumption of the product. (fulfilment of needs – Maslow).• In the case of magazine texts and adverts they are encoded specifically to represent an aspirational lifestyle offering audiences images of an ideal self and ideal partner (Carl Rogers,1980).
• Rosalind Brunt (1992) details that ideologies are never simply ideas in peoples’ heads but are indeed myths that we live by and which contribute to our self worth.• In terms of documentaries – how are our national, regional identities, historical identities constructed through the mediation of a text?• David Gauntlett (2002) argues that “identities are not ‘given’ but are constructed and negotiated.”
• Marxist Louis Althusser (1971) looked at the way audiences were ‘hailed’ in a process known as interpellation. This idea is the social/ideological practice of misrecognising yourself based on a ‘false consciousness’ mediated by media representations.
• In terms of music videos – do we aspire to emulate the artists – ‘shaman’ as defined by Carlsson (1999) through the representations?• Does this lead to a further analysis of sub- cultures – representations in videos actually provide identities - ideological basis for fans. Sarah Thornton (1995) described “subcultural capital” as the cultural knowledge and commodities acquired by members of subcultures raised their status and helped them differentiate – key to representations.
• Michel Maffesoli (1985) identified the idea of the “urban tribe” – members of these small groups tend to have similar worldwide views, dress styles and common behaviours – leads to the decline of individualism.• Look at the idea of the Collective Identity.• David Gauntlett (2007) argues that “Identity is complicated. Everybody thinks they’ve got one. Artists play with the idea of identity in modern society.”
Gender and Ideology (FEMINISM)• Masculinity and femininity are socially constructed.• Ideas about gender are produced and reflected in language O’ Sullivan et al (1998).• Feminism is a label that refers to a broad range of views containing one shared assumption – gender inequalities in society, historically masculine power (patriarchy) exercised at right of women’s interests and rights.
• Particularly in relation to music video and film – objectification of women’s bodies in the media has been a constant theme.• Laura Mulvey (1975) argues that the dominant point of view is masculine. The female body is displayed for the male gaze in order to provide erotic pleasure for the male (vouyerism). Women are therefore objectified by the camera lens and whatever gender the spectator/audience is positioned to accept the masculine POV.
John Berger ‘Ways Of Seeing’ (1972)“Men act and women appear”. “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at”.“Women are aware of being seen by a male spectator”
• Jib Fowles (1996) “in advertising, males gaze and females are gazed at”.• Paul Messaris (1997) “female models addressed to women....appear to imply a male point of view”.• In terms of magazine covers of women, Janice Winship (1987) has been an extremely influential theorist. “The gaze between cover model and women readers marks the complicity between women seeing themselves in the image masculine culture has defined”.
• In Slasher movies the psychopath is finally stopped by a character, which Carol J. Clover(1992), calls the ‘Final Girl’.• The ‘Final Girl’ is always a pure, innocent girl who abstains from sex and may be less attractive than the other female characters. The message here is clear, in horror movies, if you are a women, Sex = Death.
• Barthes (1972) view on sexualisation of females in texts is this:• “Striptease is based on contradiction. Woman is desexualised at the very moment when she is stripped naked”. He is suggesting it is clothes that sexualise her more – loads of evidence of this in pop videos. Can this be subverted in your texts by your representations or not?
• Paul Willis (1990) states, based on a postmodern return to feminism, that “pop stars are symbolic vehicles with which young women understand themselves more fully...shaping their personalities to fit the stars’ alleged preferences”.
Gay Gaze• It can be argued that we can also have a ‘gay male gaze’ (Steve Neale, 1992). Images which show men in passive, submissive, sexualised poses – lying down, looking up at the camera so that the viewer is dominant can be described as homoerotic. In this case the male subject will have hands behind their heads in a pose which could suggest relaxation but could also be read as submissive and non- aggressive.
POSTMODERNISM AND REPRESENTATIONS OF REALITY• In a media saturated world, the distinction between reality and media representations becomes blurred or invisible to us (Julian McDougall, 2009).• Modern period came before – people were concerned with representing reality, but now this gets mixed around and we end up with pastiche, parody and intertextuality. For example, Daniel Strinati (1995) details that “reality is now only definable in terms of the reflections of the mirror”.
• Jean-Francious Lyotard (1984) and Jean Baudrillard (1980) share the belief that the idea of ‘truth’ needs to be deconstructed so that dominant ideas (that Lyotard argues are “grand narratives”) can be challenged.
• Baudrillard discussed the concept of hyperreality – we inhabit a society that is no longer made up of any original thing for a sign to represent – it is the sign that is now the meaning. He argued that we live in a society of simulacra – simulations of reality that replace the real. Think Disneyland.
• We can apply this to texts that claim to represent reality – documentary, news. Merrin (2005) argues that “the media do not reflect and represent the reality of the public but instead produce it, employing this simulation to justify their own continuing existence”.
• We often judge a text’s realism against our own ‘situated culture’. What is ‘real’ can therefore become subjective.• Stereotypes can be used to enhance realism - a news programme, documentary, film text etc about football hooligans, for e.g, will all use very conventional images that are associated with the realism that audiences will identify with such as shots of football grounds, public houses etc.
Stereotypes?• O’Sullivan et al (1998) details that a stereotype is a label that involves a process of categorisation and evaluation.• We can call stereotypes shorthand to narratives because such simplistic representations define our understanding of media texts – e.g we know who is good and who is evil.
• First coined by Walter Lippmann (1956) the word stereotype wasn’t meant to be negative and was simply meant as a shortcut or ordering process.• In ideological terms, stereotyping is a means by which support is provided by one group’s differential against another.
• Orrin E. Klapps (1962) distinction between stereotypes and social types is helpful. Klapp defines social types as representations of those who belong to society.• They are the kinds of people that one expects, and is led to expect, to find in ones society, whereas stereotypes are those who do not belong, who are outside of ones society.
• Richard Dyer (1977) suggests Klapp’s distinction can be reworked in terms of the types produced by different social groups according to their sense of who belongs and who doesnt, who is in and who is not
• Tessa Perkins (1979) says, however, that stereotyping is not a simple process. She identified that some of the many ways that stereotypes are assumed to operate aren’t true.• They aren’t always negative (French good cooks)• They aren’t always about minority groups or those less powerful (upper class twits)• They are not always false – supported by empirical evidence.• They are not always rigid and unchanging. Perkins argues that if stereotypes were always so simple then they would not work culturally and over time.
• Martin Barker (1989) - stereotypes are condemned for misrepresenting the ‘real world’. (e.g. Reinforcing that the (false) stereotype that women are available for sex at any time) . He also says stereotypes are condemned for being too close to real world (e.g showing women in home servicing men, which many still do).• Bears out Perkins’ point that for stereotypes to work they need audience recognition.
• Dyer (1977) details that if we are to be told that we are going to see a film about an alcoholic then we will know that it will be a tale either of sordid decline or of inspiring redemption.• He suggests this is a particularly interesting potential use of stereotypes, in which the character is constructed, at the level of dress, performance, etc., as a stereotype but is deliberatIey given a narrative function that is not implicit in the stereotype, thus throwing into question the assumptions signalled by the stereotypical iconography.
• As part of stereotyping to create meaning in ‘factual’ texts such as news, television theorist John Hartley (1982) argues that aspects such as the presenters’ voices are stereotyped in order to create shorthand meanings for audiences at a particular but of drama, action, light-heartedness etc.• This means they are personalised and this personalisation creates characteristics which become stereotyped for the audience.
Essay“Representations in media texts are often simplistic and reinforce dominant ideologies so that audiences can make sense of them”. Evaluate the ways that you have used/challenged simplistic representations in one of the media products you have produced.