What is representation? Watch the video featuring Stuart Hall. How does he explain what representation is? Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media
Stuart Hall – Key Points Hall emphasises the importance of visual representation – the image seems to be the prevalent sign of late modern culture. Representation – to present/to depict. The word suggests something was there already and has been represented by the media. Representation as that which stands in for something else. Representation is the way in which meaning is given to the things which are depicted that stand in for something.
Semiotics Developed by Ferdinand de Saussure who studied how language created meaning. Language does not reflect reality – meaning is constructed through language. We make meaning through the creation and interpretation of signs. Signs can be words, images, sounds, odours, flavours, acts, objects.
Signs SIGNIFIER + SIGNIFIED = SIGN. The signifier is the form which the sign takes. The signified is the concept it represents. The sign is the total meaning that results from associating the signifier with the signified.
Representation and Signs At a basic level representation is the way in which signs are used to construct meaning. The study of representation has tended to focus upon the way in which different social groups are represented (gender, race, sexuality, social class, etc.)
Laura Mulvey – Visual Pleasure and the Male Gaze Mulvey is a feminist film scholar. ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1975). Analysed Hollywood cinema and argued that female characters were represented as passive objects of male sexual desire. The male gaze – male characters are ‘the bearers of the look’ which is usually aimed at physically desirable, sexually submissive female characters. Mulvey argues spectators watch films through the eyes of the male characters.
Mulvey Scopophilia – pleasure in looking. Cinema offers voyeuristic pleasures – visual pleasures. Male scopophilic desires satisfied. Women connote ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’. Men look, women are looked at. Object/subject.
Mulvey identifies three ways of looking associated with cinema: The look of the camera that records the film The look of the audience that views the film The look of the characters in the film The first two looks are invisible in classical narrative cinema meaning that the only visible look is is that of the characters.
Criticisms of Mulvey Theoretical not empirical model. Focuses on heterosexual male spectators. Assumes mass audience responding to a text in a uniform way. Neglects possibility of male providing visual pleasure. Mary Ann Doane – ‘the masquerade’. Flaunting a flamboyant femininity is an empowering position. Kathleen Rowe argues that being the object of the gaze is a position of power. Richard Dyer questions the association of looking (subject of the gaze) with being active, and being looked at (object of the gaze) as being passive. Ann Kaplan argues women can possess the look and make men the object of the gaze. However this is simply a reversal of roles in which the positions are still defined by dominance and submission. The gaze is not necessarily male, but is masculine.
Analysing the Male Gaze Watch the clip from Two and A Half Men. Consider the following questions: What are the characters (the bearers of the look) shown to be looking at? What is the camera looking? What is the audience expected to be looking at? What are the purposes of the shots of the male and female characters? Who is the presumed spectator? Which characters are dominant and which are submissive? Two and A Half Men
Richard Dyer and the Representation of Men Dyer draws on Mulvey’s work to argue that ways of looking reassert male dominance. He suggests that images of men aimed at women undermine those codes. When men are objectified they will attempt to resist the gaze of the camera – they may look away, close their eyes, wear sunglasses, look aggressive. They may be doing something, i.e. being active not just posing.
Analysing Representation Dyer identifies four questions to ask of a representation: How is it re-presenting the world to us (through technical codes)? What does it suggest is typical and what is not? Who is speaking? For whom? What is represented to us? Why?
Stereotypes Media representations often use stereotypes as a cultural shorthand. Dyer argues stereotypes are a way of reinforcing differences between people, and representing these differences as natural. For example stereotypes about men and women reinforce the idea that they are very different.
Jean Baudrillard - Simulacra Baudrillard is a postmodern theorist. He argues our society has become so reliant on representations that we have lost contact with the real. We can no longer tell the real from the artificial. Reality is determined by representation. There is no distinction between reality and representation, only the simulacrum. Simulacrum – a copy that now has more reality than the object it is a copy of.
Baudrillard For Baudrillard the entire concept of representation is problematic. Media representations are simulations of realities that do not exist. They are hyperreal.
Representation – Key Ideas
Analysing Representation What signifiers are used? What meaning is produced? What social groups are being represented? What is shown to be normal/deviant? Who constructed the representation? Why? Are stereotypes used? What effect do they have? Which characters are dominant/submissive? Who are the objects/subjects of the gaze? What ‘reality’ is represented? How does the representation relate to the ‘reality’? http://music.aol.com/video/one-less-lonely-girl/justin-bieber/bc:44852894001