Critical perspectives in the media
Some key theorists:
David Gauntlett–the role of media in self-identity
Judith Butler- ‘gender and sex are socially constructed’
Roland Barthes- semiotics, how meaning is created
C R Acland- ‘media representations of youth maintain social order/ hegemony’
You must engage a discussion about contemporary examples for the majority of the essay
In order to do this you must move from the macro to the micro. By this, I mean that you must
acknowledge the wider, social implications of how certain groups are represented in the media and
use SPECIFIC examples to illustrate you point.
REMEMBER: you can only apply the theory to a media text, not the other way around. For example,
Roland Barthes applies his own theory to a specific media text. He theorized that mythologies are
formed to perpetuate an idea of society that adheres to the current ideologies of the ruling class and
its media. He uses this image of Paris Match magazine to illustrate his argument. Note: this is a very
old magazine cover and has a different cultural meaning than it would
In short, Barthes argues that the young man depicted here is a signifier
who has been chosen by the magazine editor to be on the front cover.
What is signified is that France is a great multi-cultural nation.
He argues that ‘the picture does not explicitly demonstrate 'that France
is a great empire’ but the combination of the signifier and signified
perpetuates the myth of imperial devotion, success and thus; a property
of 'significance' for the picture.
When you are researching, you must bear in mind that media representations often reflect the
dominant ideology of the society in which they are created
All media texts are mediated!
Everything you see in all types of media is carefully selected and constructed
in order to create meaning
In order to answer this part of the exam successfully, you must present an argument and an
alternative argument with particular focus on how groups of people engage in a collective identity
through the media.
Questions to consider:
How do people give meaning to particular kinds of media in relation to their identities?
How do dominant representations inform identity?- does the media reflect society or does society
reflect the media?
How might the intended audience and institutional characteristics determine the re-presentation of