Media and collective identity theory revision

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Media and collective identity theory revision

  1. 1. 5143500-200025Media and Collective Identity – Theorists Bible<br />You have one hour to answer one question from Section B. You need to leave yourself enough time to complete this question. You may want to do Section B first. You are doing the Media and Collective Identity topic. You will be given a choice of two questions for this topic. You answer one question.<br />In the exam you need to talk about one historical text, the majority of your essay should be focused on contemporary texts. You must talk about at least two different media in your exam (e.g. film and TV).<br />Giroux (1997)<br />Giroux argues that in media representations youth becomes an ‘empty category’. This is because media representations of young people are constructed by adults. Because of this they reflect adults concerns, anxieties, and needs. As a result of this media representations of young people do not necessarily reflect the reality of youth identity. When applying Giroux to media texts you need to think about who constructed the representation, who it is aimed at, and does the representation reflect adult anxieties or serve the purposes of adult society (e.g. by reinforcing hegemonic values).<br />Acland (1995)<br />Acland argues that media representations of delinquent youths actually reinforce hegemony. They do this by constructing an idea of ‘normal’ adult and youth behaviour, and contrasting it with deviant youth behaviour which is shown to be unacceptable. <br />Acland also claims that media representations of young people out of control allows the state to have more control of them (e.g. media reports about delinquent youths led to ASBOs). This is something Acland calls the ‘ideology of protection’ – the idea that young people need constant surveillance and monitoring. This happens because youth is the time when young people learn about social roles and values, and allows the state to make sure they conform to hegemonic values. <br />When applying Acland think about the extent to which media representations show young people as in need of control. Do the representations show young people as behaving in an unacceptable way? If so does this identify what behaviour society thinks is acceptable (i.e. hegemonic)? You may want to focus particularly on how the representations we looked at show working class youths to be deviant, thus reinforcing middle class hegemony.<br />Hebdige (1979)<br />Hebidge studied British youth subcultures in the late 1970s. His work is more focused on the reality of youth culture, than Giroux or Acland who are concerned with media representations of youth. Hebdige argues that youth subcultures are a way for young people to express their opposition to society, and to challenge hegemony. This is primarily expressed through style. In this context you may consider how the working class youths’ behaviour is a response to their position in society (e.g. the class envy of the characters in ‘Eden Lake’ who steal the signifiers of middle class wealth such as the 4x4 and the Ray Bans).<br />Hebidge also argues that representations of young people are quite limited showing them as either fun or trouble. Again this suggests media representations of young people do not really relate to reality.<br />Gramsci <br />Gramsi developed the concept of cultural hegemony. This is the idea that one social class (usually the middle class) is able to dominate a society by making their way of life and values appear normal, natural, and common sense. As a result other social classes accept these values as the normal way of life. Gramsci does see hegemony as a site of constant struggle – societies are constantly debating what is and isn’t acceptable. You could relate this to the more positive representations of working class youth in ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘Misfits’ as representations which challenge the perception of working class as thugs.<br />Cohen (1972)<br />Cohen studied the media response to the mods and rockers riots in the 1960s. He argued that from time to time ‘folk devils’ emerge in a society which reflect the anxieties of society at that time (e.g. mods and rockers reflect social anxiety about the emergence of youth culture, rock and roll, etc.). A moral panic occurs when the media reports on these ‘folk devils’ in a sensationalised way which leads to intervention by politicians, and the police. The effect of a moral panic is to reassert hegemony by allowing a society to make clear what values it does not accept. The representation of working class youths suggest they have become a contemporary ‘folk devil’, perhaps tapping into economic anxieties, concern about a benefits culture, and long term unemployment.<br />Althusser<br />Althusser argues that one of the ways in which the state maintains control is through ideological state apparatus. This includes the media, education, religion, family. Ideological state apparatus are a range of different groups who transmit dominant ideology to the people, again maintaining hegemony. You could consider the extent to which the media representations we have looked at are reinforcing dominant values.<br />Gerbner (1986)<br />Gerbner studied the effect of television on people’s perception of crime. He found that people who watched a lot of television tended to overestimate the levels of crime. He called this ‘mean world syndrome’. Because news reports, TV dramas, films, contain lots of representations of crime over time this influenced people’s perceptions of the world. This is called ‘cultivation theory’. You could apply this to media representations of young people. The large numbers of representations of young people as delinquents could, over time, influence how they are perceived by society.<br />Greg Philo – argues that contemporary ‘hoodie cinema’ reflects middle class anxiety about the threat to their dominance posed by the working class.<br />Angela McRobbie – suggests that contemporary British TV often contains ‘symbolic violence’ against the working class, i.e. representations which emphasise middle class dominance and depict the working class in very negative ways (e.g. ‘Eden Lake’, ‘Harry Brown’.<br />Media Texts<br />‘Rebel Without a Cause’ (1955)<br />Reflected anxieties in American society about teenage delinquency in the post-war era related to the birth of youth culture (Giroux – empty category). Whilst the representation of youth is quite negative and can clearly be linked to contemporary representations (young people are shown to be violent, engage in criminal activity, knife fight, car theft, youth subcultures signified through style – leather jackets) the representations are not as extreme. This can partly be explained in relation to what was acceptable to 1950s audiences, and much stricter censorship. The representation is also more sympathetic to young people, who are shown to be troubled. The film ends with the main character entering adulthood/accepting hegemonic values – signified by him putting on his father’s grey jacket. The film shows young people to be in need of care and attention (or surveillance – Acland), and reinforces hegemonic values.<br />‘Eden Lake’ (2008) and ‘Harry Brown’ (2009)<br />Both these films represent contemporary working class British youth in extremely negative ways. Both films have middle class, adult characters as the main protagonists. ‘Eden Lake’ begins by introducing us to Jenny and Steve who clearly represented as middle class (Jenny is a primary school teacher, Steve has an expensive car, they are about to get engaged). They are contrasted with the working class teenagers who are initially shown engaged in anti-social behaviour – listening to loud music, swearing. This escalates into them hunting and killing the middle class characters. The film uses the conventions of the horror film to portray working class teenagers as monsters. The film plays on the fears of the middle class. Whilst ‘Eden Lake’ depicts a middle class nightmare ‘Harry Brown’ is a middle class fantasy in which anti-social youths are hunted down and killed by an elderly man. In ‘Eden Lake’ middle class characters are tortured and killed by working class youths – the audience is clearly supposed to be horrified by this. In ‘Harry Brown’ working class youths are tortured and killed by a middle class adult, which the audience is encourgaed to endorse. Both films suggest that working class youths are virtually loathed by the middle class. It is significant when discussing the films to emphasise that they are representing working class youth, rather than youth generally. Middle class youths are absent from these representations. Acland can be related to both these films, as their purpose is to reassert hegemonic values by constructing negative representations of working class people. This suggests that middle class values are the ‘best’ and ‘right’ ones. <br />‘Fish Tank’ (2009)<br />The representation of working class life is less extreme in ‘Fish Tank’. The film employs a similar ‘broken Britain’ approach, with a sink estate setting, dysfunctional broken family, anti-social behaviour. Despite this Mia is represented more sympathetically and is seen in more of a victim role. In fact the middle class boyfriend character is represented more negatively, being shown to exploit Mia. The film’s more sympathetic approach could be related to issues of genre – it is a low budget independent film aimed at a niche audience of art film fans. ‘Eden Lake’ and ‘Harry Brown’ employ popular genres and are aimed at wider target audience, as a result they may be more likely to reflect dominant ideology. <br />‘Misfits’ (2009-)<br />‘Misfits’ uses stereotypical images of ASBO teens, but represents them in a likeable way. It challenges the negative stereotype by giving them superpowers. Unlike the other films it does not have an adult point of view. The adult characters are represented quite negatively. In the opening episode the probation officer is represented as the monster (contrast with ‘Eden Lake’). Significantly his dialogue is about how young people have no respect, suggesting that the preferred reading is that the hateful representations of young people in our society is the thing that is truly monstrous. You could link this to Gramsci’s argument that hegemony is always a site of struggle. ‘Misfits’ is participating in that struggle by suggesting that working class young people should not be portrayed in such negative ways. The fact that ‘Misfits’ is broadcast on E4 which is aimed at niche audience of 15-35 years olds may explain why its representation of young people is more positive.<br />Newspapers <br />The ‘Hoodies or Altar Boys’ (2009) study of newspaper representations of teenage boys found that these representations were overwhelmingly negative. The most popular words used to describe teenage boys in news reports were ‘thugs’, ‘yobs’, ‘feral’, ‘evil’, ‘monsters’, ‘scum’, ‘inhuman’. The majority of stories about teenage boys were in relation to crime. This can be linked to Acland’s argument that these representations reinforce hegemony by identifying acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.<br />For more resources (sample essays, handouts, copies of powerpoints, links to other useful resources) go to http://mediastudiesnwcc.blogspot.com/ and click on the A2 Media and Collective Identity link at the top of the page.<br />

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