Many of the debates and critical approaches to representation focus upon stereotypes, which, according to Dyer (1979), involve a number of processes:
The complexity and variety of a group is reduced to few characteristics
An exaggerated version of these characteristics is applied to everyone in the group as if they are an essential element of all members of the social group
These characteristics are represented in the media through media language
Richard Dyer - 1979 Task 1 : Complete the table giving a summary of many of the media’s stereotypical representations of teenagers. Then discuss your answers with a partner – are there similarities or differences? What does this tell you about the importance of stereotyping in constructing images of social groups?
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Dyer (1979) suggested that stereotypes are always about power – those with power stereotype those with less power. Hence he argued there were more recognisable stereotypes of gay men, non-white racial groups, the working class and women in society , and alternatively it was perhaps not so easy to point to media stereotypes of white, middle class, heterosexual men. Dyer wrote about gay stereotypes nearly 30 years ago and there is much debate about the extent to which the representation of this group has shifted since then. This is an issue that would need to be explored and addressed when undertaking a case study.
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Stereotyping can be seen to exaggerate difference and in doing so may increase antagonisms between groups . A problem with the media’s use of stereotypes is its selectivity , as it conveys values and assumptions that may help construct the audience’s perception of the world and consequently their behaviour. It is important to note that the media does not invent stereotypes, but by repeatedly using them, media can be accused of reinforcing certain values and assumptions.
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Medhurst (1995) has suggested that stereotypes can be seen as a type of media shorthand that provides an easy point of contact when the text needs to communicate quickly with the audience . Some genres and mediums are more prone to the use of stereotypes than others, for example, stereotypes are often seen on television in adverts and sitcoms. Other genres, such as soap opera, use stereotypes for less significant characters or when introducing new characters. Over time, both soap opera and sitcom may develop these initial stereotypes into more rounded and complex characters , which challenge the audience’s first impressions and which provide for more complex enigma narratives.
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Perkins (1979) suggested that stereotypes are not always negative and that they often contain an element of truth. For example, the stereotypical image of the Frenchman as riding a bicycle, wearing the beret and a striped jumper has its origins in the French garlic sellers who, in the first half of the 20th century, came from Brittany to sell garlic and onions to housewives in the south of England. It could be argued that there is some truth behind the representation of Asian families, the Masoods and the Alahans, in both Eastenders (BBC, 1985-) and Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-) as running shops. The problem lies with these being the only representations of Asians within soap operas.
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective It can be argued that it is not the media’s use of stereotypes that is problematic but the audience’s assumption that this representation can be applied to all members of a particular group .
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Examiners Tip Exploring the stereotypes of a particular identity group within different genres of media texts and across different media platforms is a good way to undertake a case study of representation. Analyse how the stereotypes are constructed with reference to clothing, body language or mannerisms, décor of habitat, location, accent or language, music, relationships and lifestyle. In examining a stereotype, try to consider whether Dyer’s (1979), Medhurst’s (1995) and Perkins’s (1979) arguments have any credibility
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Task 2 : Analyse the following extracts in terms of how the stereotypes are constructed. Review the previous three theoretical ideas and see if you can apply them to these texts. Do they have any credibility? Explain your answer. Text 1 : Kevin the Teenager – Harry Enfield and Chums Text 2: Vicky Pollard – Little Britain Text 3 : David Platt – Coronation Street Text 4 : Quorn advert Text 5 : Lauren – The Catherine Tate Show
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Text 1 : Kevin the Teenager – Harry Enfield and Chums http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v =C7H4fYfYsX8
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Text 2: Vicky Pollard – Little Britain http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzUniIMIuGU&feature=PlayList&p=45AF97D479A04407
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Text 3 : David Platt – Coronation Street http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ond3jEhDZ5U
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Text 5 : Lauren – The Catherine Tate Show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvUR8t9tDcc&feature=related
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective How do you feel about these stereotypes and the way in which they are used? What effect do you think such stereotypes have on the audience’s perceptions of teenagers? Read through the following theoretical ideas about the possible influence the media has over its audience. Discuss with a partner whether these ideas might apply to the texts you have been discussing so far.
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Cultivation theory comes under the same tradition as the audience effects model, with the emphasis shifting from immediate to slower, more ideological effects on audiences. It was begun by George Gerbner in the 1960s. Gerbner conducted research on how watching television affects people’s views of the real world. Cultivation theorists argue that television has long-term effects, which are small, gradual, indirect, cumulative and ultimately significant. Television tends to reinforce values already present in a culture and to support the dominant ideology. Cultivation research also focuses on exposure to violence and sex and whether or not this can be said to influence viewers.
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Also known as the ‘drip drip’ theory , cultural effects theory argues that, in the absence of real substantial evidence of the direct relationship between media texts and people’s behaviour, the effects of exposure to the media should be seen as long term and more subtle . Constant exposure to particular messages can be seen as slowly affecting judgement and attitudes in the same way that the constant dripping of water from a tap wears away a stone.
Stereotyping – theoretical perspective Television stereotypes of the teenager have included figures like ‘Kevin the Teenager’, played by Harry Enfield and Chums, and Vicky Pollard, played by Matt Lucas in Little Britain. Members of youth culture groups would probably see both of these examples as hopelessly stereotyped and inaccurate, but this does not matter, as the audience for both is essentially not teenagers .
Representations and Genre The part that representations play in generic products is a fruitful area for discussion for your case studies. Teen films (also called teen movie or teenpic ) is a film genre targeted at teenagers and young adults in which the plot is based upon the special interests of teenagers, such as coming of age, first love, rebellion, conflict with parents, teen angst and alienation. Particularly in American films, often these normally serious subject matters are presented in a glossy, stereotyped or trivialized way. Films in this genre are often set in high schools, or contain characters that are of high school age. Sexual themes are also common, as are nudity and crude forms of humour.
There are many more types of Teen Film which can then be divided again into sub-categories. The classic codes and conventions of teen film come from American films where one of the most widely used conventions are the stereotypes and social groups. The wide range of stereotypes most commonly used include:
The Princess or The Plastic
The Misfit or The Outcast
The Average Girl/Boy (the boy/girl next door)
The New Girl/Boy
Representations and Genre Apart from the characters there are many other codes and conventions of teen film. These films are often set in or around High School as this allows for many different social cliques to be shown. This is different in hybrid teen films, but for the classic romantic comedy teen film this is almost always the case.
Representations and Genre List 2-3 teen films from one of the genres above and list the stereotypes in them – how often are they repeated? What are the key themes that are constantly explored? Why are stereotypes used in teen films? How does this link to the generic idea of repetition and difference? What are the effects of such recognizable stereotypes in teen films like High School Musical on a non-American audience – British audiences for example?
Representations and Genre Make a list of British teen films. Do these stereotypes tend to appear in these films? Make a note of how and why these stereotypes may be similar and/or different. Look at the following critical ideas and see whether you can apply them to your discussion about stereotypes in the teen genre.
Representations and Genre Cultural Imperialism : a process by which one country dominates other countries’ media consumption and consequently dominates their values and ideologies. Hyper-reality : the fact that the distinction between the real world and the media world is disappearing. Media culture is taking over every aspect of our lives, to the point where it has become our only ‘reality’ and no longer needs to make any reference to the ‘external’ social world.
Case Study : Juno (2007) Does the film adopt the stereotypes usually found in the teen genre? Does it subvert those stereotypes in any way? Why do you think this is? Why might this be considered an alternative representation of teenagers? How have social and cultural contexts affected the representations in this film?
Case Study : Juno (2007) - REPRESENTATIONS Some critics labelled Juno as feminist because of its atypical portrayal of Juno as a confident and intelligent teenage girl. Antifeminist Phyllis Schlafly wrote that Juno's theme "isn't love, romance, or respect for life, but the triumph of feminist ideology, i.e., the irrelevancy of men, especially fathers.” Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe noted that "Juno serves cool, intelligent girls something they rarely see in a movie: themselves.” Cody said about writing the film, "Women are clever, women are funny, women are sharp, and I wanted to show that these girls were human and not the stereotypical teenage girls that we often see in the media“ and "There was a lack of authentic teen girl characters ... I saw writing this screenplay as an opportunity to create an iconic female.”
Page praised the film for its positive depiction of teenage girls, describing Juno's character as "really refreshing and allowing for new possibilities in what young women can be" and "honest but original, completely devoid of stereotype," while also highlighting that "Girls haven't had that sort of character before .” She criticized the media perception of her character as a "strong woman," arguing that if Juno were a male character, the "strength" of the character would not be considered remarkable. Case Study : Juno (2007) - REPRESENTATIONS
Diablo Cody was first approached to write a screenplay by film producer Mason Novick, who had previously landed Cody a book deal for her memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper , after discovering her blog about stripping. He persuaded her to adapt the book for the screen, but suggested that she first write a screenwriting sample to show studios, and that sample became Juno . After deciding on an adoption storyline, Cody collected the stories of adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents, including that of her then husband, an adoptee who reunited with his birth parents after she wrote the film. She also found inspiration in the story of a close friend who had become pregnant in high school, and used some details from her friend's experience in the film, such as mistreatment from an ultrasound technician. Much of the film, however, was based on Cody's own high school experiences: she dated a tic-tac-loving boy similar to Paulie, she was best friends with a cheerleader like Leah, and she used a hamburger phone identical to the one that appears in the film. Case Study : Juno (2007) - REPRESENTATIONS
"The Juno Effect" In 2008, after 17 students under sixteen years of age at a Gloucester, Massachusetts high school became pregnant, Time magazine called it the "Juno Effect.“ Time stated that some adults dismissed the statistic as a blip while others accused movies such as Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing teenage pregnancy . Kristelle Miller, an Adolescent Psychology Professor at University of Minnesota-Duluth stated that "[t]he ' Juno effect' is how media glamorizes pregnancy and how it's also... pregnancy is also redemptive of any past problems.“ In September 2008, after Senator John McCain named Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on the Republican presidential ticket, it was revealed that Gov. Palin's daughter, Bristol, aged 17, was pregnant with the child of another teenager. News reports and editorials termed Bristol Palin's pregnancy as the latest episode in the debate over teen pregnancy of which Juno was a part, while commentators made comparisons between Bristol Palin's pregnancy and the film. Case Study : Juno (2007) – THE ‘JUNO EFFECT’ : Contexts
Roger Friedman wondered, " Juno at once violated and vindicated conservative values. The question is, will the public rally ‘round Bristol Palin the way it did Juno? Or will it reject her for getting in this situation in the first place?“ Juno actor Jason Bateman defended the movie. "Unfortunately ," he said, " we’ve had these instances where guys kill people because of what they hear in rock ‘n roll lyrics or some garbage like that. Look, if you’re going to blame a movie or song for your actions, whether they be good or bad, I think you’re looking at the wrong things to influence your life. I think people should look to other areas of their life for lessons and guidance, mainly parents, or teachers, or friends, or whomever. That should probably be where you should point your eyes and ears." Case Study : Juno (2007) – THE ‘JUNO EFFECT’ : Contexts
http://www.slate.com/id/2180275 http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/298588 http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/oscars/articles/2008/02/23/juno_reaches_an_underserved_audience_cool_smart_teen_girls?mode=PF Case Study : Juno (2007) – Wider Reading