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Introduction to-representation-richard-dyer

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Sample of Richard Dyer's writing on representation

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Introduction to-representation-richard-dyer

  1. 1. 5.1 5.2 viii lllustrations 4.26 Lesbianfeministtypification:JEB, 'Mara. BroomesIsland, Maryland.1976' VeronicaLake:startlinglyunrealsensuality Hard-boiledlooks:Dick Powellin MarderMy Sweet (usA 1945) Butchdyke(Ruth Gillette)confrontshard-boiledhero (HumphreyBogart)in In a LonelyP/ace(USA 1950) SmartbutchJo(BarbaraStanwyck)in A Wctlkon the Wild ,Slde(USA 1962) 5.5 Viciousdyke(Kate Murtagh) puts hypodermicinto hero (RobertMitchum) in FarewellMy Lolely (USA 1976) 62 5.6 Fastidiousqueen(PeterLorre) andimmaculatefemme fatale(Mary Astor) in TheMalteseFalcon(USA l94l) 63 5.7 Fastidiousand immaculateyoungmen(FarleyGranger (right) and JohnDall) with mentor (JamesStewart)in Rope(USA 1948) 64 5.8 Elegantqueen(Clifton Webb)and luxury milieu in Zaara (usA 1944) 65 6.1 Victim'.PH and Mickie, queerfalseleads 73 (t.2 Victim:Fullbrook, Callowayand Farr,all queer 14 13.I Orderlyrows,full light, debate thewhite meetingin Simba 132 I3.2 Looseformation,darkness,yelling- the blackuprisingin Simba 134 13.3 A marginalbut foregroundedblack figtre in Jezebel 137 13.4Jazebel:the red (dark)dressat thewhite ball 139 14.I Li ianGish 150 f4.2 LarsHansonand Lillian Gish in TheScarletLetter (usA1926) 153 |5.I fllsic(Lillian Gish)and the Klan in TheBirth oJa Nation (lers) 160 f5.2 15,7'l'hcBirthd a Nallorz:Silas(GeorgeSiegmann)and lilsic(li amccnlalgements) 168-69 I shoLrkllikc to thlnk lnd ackttowlcdgethe followingfor stillsor other ilfrrsllrrtitrrrsrltlrl Slills,I)ostcrsittrclDcsign(ligures4.1,4.'7.4.8,4.9,4.14, 4,|5.4,|7.4,Itt,4.20,4.2l,4.22,5,l.5.2,5.3,5.4,5.5.5.6,5.7.5,11.61.(,'?, ll,l, L1,.1,1.1.,1.1.1,4),,llilt tutl (illd llitg litoks (ligttltx'1,.rl. 'l 'J'1,4 .15, '1,lo), 41 56 57 59 6l Chapter1 lntroduction The essayscollectedhere all deal, through particular instances,with the cultural representationof socialgroupings.This is 'imagesof analysisof the kind thit hasburgeonedin the pasttwentyyears,startingwith work on women and black people,spreadingto other marginalizedor oppressed groups,suchas ethnicminorities,lesbiansand gay men, the disabledand ihe aged,and now beginning,with studieson men,to encompassdominant or majority groups.Theseessayswerepart of that traJectory. The impulsebehind the writing of them was political. It sprangfrom lhc lcelingthat how socialgroupsaretreatedin cultural representationis part and parcelof how they are treatedin life, that poverty,harassment, icll'-hatc ind discrimination (in housing,jobs, educationalopportunity i[rd soon) areshoredup and institutedby representation.The resonances ol' thc tcrnr 'representation'suggestasmuch. How a group is represented, prriscntodover again in cultural forms, how an imageof a memberof a grrrLrpis takcn as representativeof that group, how that group is repre- nutttodin thc scnseof spokenlor and on behalf of (whetherthey repre- r10l. sltcirklirr themselvesor not), theseall haveto do with how members ol'gloups scc thcmselvesand others like themselves,how they seetheir plrreciri socicty.thcir right to the rights a societyclaimsto ensureits cllizurn,lklrrrlly rc+rcsentation,representativeness,representinghaveto do rtlsowilh how othcrssccntembersof a group and their placeand t'lgltll, olltots wlto hitvc thc power to affect that place and those llghll, llow wc ttltj sccnclctcrminesin part how we aretreated;how we ltull ()lltct$is lrttscdon ltttw wc scc them; such seeingcomesfrom t'gt'Fr(t||llrli(|r1, il'ho ts;tt'elcttltrliottol wolllcllttndothot opprcsscdgloupswas,and by Itt(l l tlu rillllin,rt rolcrrllcssptlttldottl'insttllsAngcr.clcspaitor contempt I lltpieltolN'ltttttguol' wrilillg hlll cttttttlsolrlocklcitl invcstigation' Mttghlnrrrgt'tttlulyriilttuutttttottly lo tlctltrrltllnllelhlll cvclylhillSis thc tttnrs nrl lt'riirll rrWl!1,'l'lttt't ll t{ttltclltltrgtlirrtllyttbttttlrttr,:ltlc(lllcliv0 Wtll: il lFlhlrra lilllelrrrlthrrrrkrr,rnttlrr,rlill[, [olllh,ully,ll ir itttprtt'lttttl 5.3 5.4 I tltl lrt hrrclltg lll'Frll 'ltllll$elul'wltL lrttl ll ttr't'rlrlrt ll'tt'ttrlllti'rlhy
  2. 2. 2 ThoMflltorof lmltgos lntroductlon3 co'si(lcr.illio'slllittgct ')ol.c ncitrlyitl lllc e()'ll)lrxilvl't(l flltNivf'c$s,rnu rcitlPolitiiritldillicully,ol't.cpt.cscntittio s. 'l'hisntcans,lirst ol'illl, stressingthat rcprcscntitlionsiuc l]|.esolitlions, alwuysand ncccssarilyentailingthi useof tLecodesandcorvcntronsoI the availablecultural formsofpresentation.Suchlormsrestrictandshnpewhat can besaidby and/or aboutany aspectof realityin a givenplacein a given societyat a giventimq but if that seemslike a limitatio*non ,uyirrg,,t n ulro what makessayingpossibleat all. Cultural forms set the wider terms ol. limitation and possibilityfor the (re)presentationof particularitiesand we haveto understandhow the latter are caught in thi former in order to understandwhy such-and-suchgets(re)presentedin the wayit does.With_ out understandingthewayimagesfunction in termsof, say,narrativggenre orspectacle,wedon't reallyunderstandwhy theyturn oui thewaytheydo. Secondly,cultural forms do nol have singli determinatemeanings_ peoplemake senseof them in different ways,accordingto the cultural (including sub-cultural)codesavailableto them. For insiance,peopledo not necessarilyreadnegativeimagesof themselvesasnegative.One of the firsf_publicationsto point this out wasAnn Kaplan'scoliectionon women in fiIn noir_(1978).whichsuggestedthat it waspossibleto beinspiredrather tnan ofiendedby lmagesthat had beenassumedto be,and probablywere culturallyencodedas,negative,that therewassomethingexhiiaratingabout thewayfemmesfatalesin film noir givementherun_aro"undandexudesuch incandescentpower.Much work sincethenhasstressedthemultiplewaysin whichaudiencesmakesenseof images.In stressingcomplexitya'ndcontra- dictorinessat the point of reception,however,iam not sulgestrngttrat p_eoplecan makerepresentationsmeananythingthey want th!"mto mean. Weareall restrictedby both theviewingandthJreadingcodesto whichwe haveaccess(by virtue of wherewe aresituatedin the world and the social order) and by what representationstherearefor us to view and read.The prestigeofhigh culture,the centralizationof masscultural productlon,the literal poverty of marginal cultural production: theseare aspectsof the powerrelationsof representationthat put theweightofcontrj overrepre_ scntation on the side of the rich, the white, the male, the heterosexual. Acknowledgingthe complexityof viewing/readingpracticesin relatronto ropresentationdoesnot entail the claim that thereis equalityand freedom in thc regimeof representation. Thirclly,what is re-presentedin representationis not directlyrealityitself but other representations.The analysisof imagesalwaysneeis to seehow nlly giveninstanceis embeddedin a network of other instances.Agarn,as with.thcpoint aboutreceptionabovgI needto drawbackfrom someofthe oonclusionsthat might appearto follow from sayingthis,evenwhileinsist_ ing th t it is so. By emphasizingthe textuality of representationI am not rlguingthattcxtsareall xhereisin theworld,ihat thereisnothingofwhich foproscntattons:lrcrcprescntations.This is dilicult territory.I acceptthat ottcrrltprr:ltctttlsrcrrlilyottlyllrlouglrlcl.rtcscttlir(iortsol'r'cality,thlough lcxls,discoulsc,irnagcs;thclc is no suchthing as unnrcdiatcdaccessto lcrrlily.llul bccaLrsoorrccausccrcalityonlythroughrepresentation,it does nol Iollowthatoncdocsnotscercalityat all.Partial selective,incomplete, lirrrrirpoin(ol vicw visionof somethingisnot no visionof it whatsoever. 'l'lrcconrplcx,shilling businessol re-presenting,reworking,recombining r'(.!l)rcsontatiors is in tensionwith the reality to which representationsrefer irtrd which thcy allect. This is evident in three ways.Firstly, reality sets lirnits to what, barring idiosyncraticexamples,humanscan makeit mean. ( li) nlistilkca cow for a hat isnotjust an error in logic.)Secondly,realityis rrlwrrysrllorc cxtensiveand complicatedthan any systemof representation crrr ;.rossiblycon.rprehendand we alwayssensethat this is so representa- liorr rrevcr'gets'reality,whichis why humanhistory hasproducedsomany tlillcrcnt andchangingwaysoftrying to getit. Thirdly,representationshere rrrrdrrowhaverealconsequencesfor realpeople,notjust in thewaytheyare llcirlcd elsindicatedabovebut in terms of the way representationsdelimit rrnrlcnablewhatpeoplecanbein anygivensociety. 'l'his lastpoi11tis most sharplysuggestedby the caseof lesbiansand gay nrcn,Many would agreethat the categoriesof'lesbians' and 'gaymen' are tto( givcn by reality. Most societiesrecognizesexual relations between ntcnrbclsol'the samesex,whetheror not theyproscribe,institutionalizeor olcvirtcthem, but only a minority havean idea of personswho habitually, cxclLrsivelyand'by nature'havesuchrelations.Thisis an importantpoint, ht:cluscit indicatesthemalleabilityof humansexactivity,thepossibilityof ohirrgc.llut welive in this societyat this time,wheresomepeopledo feel lhrt( lhoy 'are' lesbianor gay,and often enoughto wish to makecommon cnuscwilh otherswho feelthe same.It is true that suchidentitiesarcnevcr lcllly 0scomprehensiveastheyclaim that rnanylesbiansandgaymen,for inst ncc,do not recognizethemselvesin theidentitiesclaimedeitherwithin losbian/gayoulturesor by thelesbian/gaymovements but it isalsothecase lllnt onc czmnotlive outsidethe society,the network of representations,in which onc finds oneself.Negativedesignationsof a group havenegative sors0cluclrccsfor the lives of membersof that grouping, and identifying wilh thatgrouping,howevermuchit doesn't'get'allof whatoneisperson- rlly o[ oll ol'what everyonein that groupingis,nonethe lessenablesoneto lry to clralrg0thecircumstancesof that sociallyconstructedgrouping. 'l'hcr.rasco1'lcsbiansandgaymenpresentsin sharpform whatisnonethe lessirnothcrgeneralcharacteristicol representation,namelythat it consti- tutcs tlrc vcry socialgroupingthat it alsore-presents.(This is why I prefer 'llrouping'to'gror.rp',sincethelatterseemsmorefixedand given,thefor- m0t sIrlsscsthc busincssof construction.)Ethnic representationfor instrrrrecis luscd not on incvitablecatcgoriespre-existinghuman con- ncioLrsrrr:sslrrrton llrcolganizationol'perccption.To taketwoexamples:to !'olbrlo soulconcrrs'ncro'(hlack)in northcrnItalyisliablc[o betakenas
  3. 3. 4 ThoMallorol lmogog lntroductlon5 lllc lting lhitt tlrc ;rcl.sonis ltunr soulhcrn ltrrlyl ir liglrt_skiIlt(f(1,l)lltck_ idcnriliccllii,rd o| nrincrbuntltrrar.hcwastr.catctraswiritcwrr,r rrcvisitoti Al)'ica.tlthnicityis in thc eyeof thecult[r.e.Eventhc catcgodcalscxdis_ t|trctionmale:I'emale(and not just the genderdistinctionm-ascuhne:f-emi_ nrnc)may not be the bottom line of how we must representhumans,as JudithButler (1990)amongothersargues.In sayingthis,howevelI giveno groundto thosewho saythat thereis no realityexceptrepresentationitself. Therearevariationsin skin colouq therearegenit;l diFerences,thereare differentsexualpractices reprcsentationis theorganizationofthe percep_ tion of theseinto comprehensibility,a comprehinsibility that is -always fiail, coded,in otherwords,human. The complexityof representationlies then in its embeddednessin cul- tural forms, its unequal but not monolithic relationsof production and reception,its tenseand unfinished,unfinishablerelation to the reallty to whichit refersandwhichit affects.It alsolies,finally,in its comprehensive- ness.Women,ethnicminorities,gaypeopleandsoon arenot the only ones to,besocialgroupings;everyonebelongi to socialgroupings;indeedwe all belongin manygroupings,often antagonisticto oni anoth'erorat ttreleast implying very differentaccessesto power.The groupingsthat havetended not to get addressedin ,images of work, however,aie thosewith most accessto power:men,whites,heterosexuals,the able_bodied.The problem with not addressingthem as suchis that they then function as simply the human_norm,without specificityand thuswithout a specifiableielation to power.Latterly the studyof the representationof menind masculinityhas becomea growth industry, but there is still next to no work on whites, heterosexualsor the able-bodied.Suchwork, adumbratedin a coupleof pleceshere,seeksto make normality strangg that is, visibleand spiciflc. This must not imply, howevel an equivalencebetweensuch imagesand thoseof women and other oppressedgroupings.The project of taking normality strangeand thus ultimately decentringit muit not seemto say that this hasalreadytakenplace,that now -u."-ulioity, whiteness,hetero_ sexualityand able-bodiednessare just imagesof identity alongsideall othem.That rnaybethepoint wewishto reachbut we arenot thereyet.As in all othersissuesof representation,wemustnot leavethematterofpower oul ol'accountanymorethan thematterof representationitself '1'hccssaysthat follow havenot beenalteredfrom their originalpublication cxccptlbr minor errors.This secondeditionaltersfrom thJfirst only in that lhr:chaptclon thesadyoungmanhasbeenremoved(andcannowbefound nltrry.I'ltc ('ulturaol Quaers(Routledge2001))and that threenewchapters l]l'",i ll""i atklctl (Scrial.Kitling. Lillian Gish,TheBirth of a Nation);sug_ gcslio|lsli)r lirlthcr rcadinghavebeenupdated.With a collectionlike thls rf,.r1inn,]."itt1oto cknowledgcall thosewho contributedto the writing ol llrcrn,but I shoLrkllikctr)thankthoscwho comntissioncd,cdilcdrrni cncotrtirgcdlhcnl:Slrirhllcnlon,.linr(bok, l>hilipl)otlcl.CluisCranlund, l,irlly (iloss.'lirny I lruloltl,.lim tlillicr, Martin l-lumphries,RichardKing irntlf lclcn'l'aylor'.ClhLrckKlcinharrsandJumpCal, KobenaMercer,Andy Mctcrrllb.SallyTownsenci,ard ArmondWhite. Itl,)trDRItNCES lfLrllcr',.fuditlr(I990)Gender TroubIe,London/NewYork:Routledge. Krrplirn,E.Ann(ed.)(1978)WoueninFilmNoir,London:BritishFilmInstitute. ir
  4. 4. Chapter2 lna word Many peopleput a great deal ol energyinto cleansinglanguage.A col- leagueof mine is tirelessin her useof 'chairperson'in the faceof almost everyoneelse'simplacableuseof 'chairman'. JesseJacksonhas headeda campaign to make everyoneuse 'African-American', a campaign that seemsto be working, at least as far as the liberal pressin the Statesis concerned.It is oneofthe moreastonishingachievementsof 1970spolitics that queersnow find themselvescalledby a term they themselvesnomin- ated,gay. Strugglingoverwords is one of the most immediate,practical,day-to- day forms of what may be broadly characterized as left cultural politics. They areat oneendof a continuumthat includesattentionto presentation acrosstheboard,thenowwidelygrantedcentralityofidentity asa basisfor activity,ideologicallyinflectedreviewingofthe artsandthe increasedstress on the role of consciousnessand culturein our generalunderstandingof why and how things are as they are and how to changethem. The term 'cultural politics' to coverall that is itself inadequate.In someways,the venerablesocialistreferenceto'the strugglefor heartsand minds'is better, becausemoreconcreteandinclusive,but it hadits own drawback.It tended to imply that thereis 'realpolitics'and a correctway,to whichsocialistshad to persuadepeople(their heartsand their minds) to assent,whereas'cul- tural politics' seesall aspectsofthe life of theheartandmind asthemselves political and all politics asemotionaland ideological.'Culture'is not just the vehiclewherebyyou win people over to somethingelsethat rs not culture cultureis politics,politicsis culture. Thereis no doubt in my mind abouttheimporlanceofthis development. It is not excessivelysweepingto observethat the overwhelmingreasonfor the failure of socialismso far, from what we now observein Eastern Europe,is not a failure ol presentationbut the desperateinadequacyof a politicsthat wasnot aboutwherepeoplewereat in their heartsand minds, what they wanted,what fulfilled them. Yet for all that, thereis ir plohltrtn aboutcLrlturalpoliticsanclit iswellillustratcclby thc problcrrts()lNlrll!8lol ovct'wot(ls. ln a word 7 Insistingon chairperson,African-American,gay,is a drip-drip-drip that we haveto keepup, yet there'ssomethingunsatisfactoryabout it too. It's not so much its slownessand the seeminginertia of languagebut the way there nearly alwaysturns out to be somethingoff about the words and terms we want to get established.We rnay succeedin somemeasurein bringing aboutthe changein vocabulary,but how aboutthe rneaningsand feelings,themindsandhearts? The feministprojectis in somewaysdifferentfrom that ofethnic minor- ity or lesbian/gayinterventions.Changing'man' to 'person'and so on is about renderinglanguagegender-neutralso that we come to seemost humanfunctionsasjust that, human,not male.For ethnicminorities,les- biansand gaymen and other groups(theelderly/seniorcitizens/peopleof the third age,for instance,or the disabled/physicallychallenged/differently abled),on the otherhand,it is morea questionofgetting newtermsestab- lishedto describewho we are.It is this word projectthat I want to focuson here. I hadbettercomestraightout with oneofthe thingsthat setmethinking about this: I haveneverliked the word'gay'. It's still the word I would usc antl wish to haveusedto describemyselfand thoselike myself,but all the sanrcit cmbarrassesme I'm not giving ground to thosewho alwayssaid thll thc gay movementhad 'spoilt' the word 'gay', had 'deprivedthe lan- guugcol'a veryusefulword' by associatingit with sexualpeculiarity- thosc pooplcan:vcrywelcometo haveback'queer','bent','pervert'andall thc olhcl vcry usefulwordsthat werein dangerof going out of all but homo- phobic conrmission.Nor am I going along with the likes of Richald Ingrttnts,who opincdin a recentSundaynewspaperthatmostol the gays Itc knr,:wwclc not gay but miserable(as well any gay man knowing hinr nllgh( b0). lt's just that to me 'gay' is a rathertrivial word, too muclr tuggo$tingonly lirn-l'un-lirn,not adequaleto thecomplexitiesand varicd- nou ol boing, . . gay.No wordcouldcverdo erllthat,but'gay' f'eelslikca rlclintitution,un insistcnccon oncaspcct. 'l'holllclnu(ivcsulc no bct[cr,ol'coursc.The 'homo'words,cluitoapart li'om tho lorrnodlccl whct! one wantsa oolloquialtefm to tlip oll'thc m(tuth,olrchhttvc(hcirproblcms,'llornoscxual'istoocmphaticallyscxual. wlth no rllbulivcor sociulling;'honro-erolic'iskxr broatl,trxrwitloly(and urollllly)rpplls(l(o trry libidinrlly0h0r'gcdconlrctlrctwccn;rcoplcol'thc IttRl€tgr (rttchtN litlholsttnd rttns,c()rr([ctspol'ts,nrr.:nin linc pocing); 'homophllo'h lrxr rrlrnby-prrnrIty,not $cxurlcnough,rrndlrrywlryn0v0r' oes5hto[, 1'halltutogy ol'r'ocluirninghonrophobicworth, turningthcnr dhoottoottlnglylt 0k oll iocloty,[s In lhs(lullnntuncol"lirggo('urrtl'rlrocr" bymrnynetivhtl,(losrnolrl(lruehwor(llol'rllorriltionrol'oddnorrrruntl mtfglnsllty,$ndonlytounrlrFfiru(llogHynr6|lwho(lon'll'ooluxhunrorlol' helttgqrteer, '(Jty'hArdnlrlh€rprlrhlernl{xr,B0nl€lr€0plefltcil lo u|l|!lylr)h0lll
  5. 5. 8 TheMattorof lmag€s won.lcllrtndmcr (and I havea sensethat in North Americathis is rncrcas- ingly soamonglesbians/gaywomenthemselves),but feministlesbianshave generallyresistedthis.However,'lesbian'insteadis not a straightforward issue.I remembera meetingat the BirminghamGayCentreaboutchanging its name(aswasagreed)to the Lesbianand Gay Centre.Most of the men present,well trainedor genuinelycommittedto lesbiansdecidingfor them- selveswhat they shouldbecalled,werehappyenoughto go alongwith the change.The strongestvoicesraisedagainstit camefrom women,generally older,generallymore identifiedwith the bar scene,for whom 'lesbian'was the term 'they', the doctors and psychologists,had alwaysused against womensuchasthemselves.One saidthat she'dratherbecalled'bent' than 'lesbian'.A word with sucha positivering lor onegroupofwomen sounded verynegativeto another. This examplesuggeststhat thereis only a limited extentto whichwecan make words feel to everyonehow we want them to feel. Words come trailing clouds of connotation that are very hard to shakeoll Take the history of progressivetermsto describeUS Americansof African descent. Eachnewterm introducedseemedto breakthrough the hatredand preju- dice enshrined in the prevalent vocabulary,yet each term itself was revealedto be oppressive,requiring a new term to supersedeit. 'Negro', ficr instance,drew from an aspirantlyobjectivedescriptionof differences betweenpeoplesand wasadopted,notablyby the Harlem Renaissance,in a spirit of'taking pride in one'srace'.It wasthe way in which one (who- everone was) was positiveabout African-Americansat that time, yet it wasfoundedon biologicalnotions of racethat seemthe epitomeof reac- tion now, especiallyin the light of whereracial pride can lead in Aryan hands.'Coloured' at first sight seemedto avoid this, no longer conjuring up notionsof blood ancestry yetnot only did it still focuson a biological diflerence(skin), it also had the effectof suggestingthat therewerenor- mal peopleand 'coloured'ones,asif all peopledo not sharethe quality of beingsomecolour or other.'Black', by ineluctablysuggestingthe counter term 'white', avoidedthis by insistingthat black peopleare l/zlscolour; it stood againstthe associationsof blacknesswith evil, insistingthat black peopletake pride in their colour. Yet it seemsthat 'black' too may have run its course,perhapsbecause'black' is still sowidely usedin connection with the bad,perhapsbecauseit too still focuseson skin. The sameis true of the socially generous 'people of color' (including all non-WASP groups), which still implies a norm of uncoloured whiteness.'African- American'is the first genuinelycultural label,but, apart from beingsucha nrouthlul, may run aground on old problems about the 'Africanness' ol' Af ican-Anrcricans,an Africannessin which many Africansdo not rccognizcthcmsclvesand whichnranyAfrican-Americansdo nol in litct rclllc((). 'l'ltcltislot'icrol poli(icrrlwolrlchrrnllcscclnltlwltvslo In,llrirllrr!ltl, ln ln a word I llirll tlrishts (o do with having(o havca wottl at all. Whitc peoplc, lrclcloscxLrals,thc ablc-botliccl,tio uot gcncrallygo aroundworryingover wlrirt(o call thcursclvesand havcthemselvescalled.Havinga word for orrcscllandonc'sgroup,makinga politicsout ofwhat thatwordshouldbe, (lrirwsirttcntior'rto and also reproducesone'smarginality,confirmsone's plirccor,rtsitlcol'power and thus outsideof the mechanismsof change. llirvirrg a word also containsand fixesidentity. It is significantto most nspcctsol'who I am thatI am gaybut all thesameit is onlypart ofwho I r nriyct tholabel,andthe veryrealneedto makea songand danceaboutit, ir lirrblckr suggestthat it is all that I am, that it explainseverythingabout rrrc.ll lrls thc ellectof suggestingthat sexualityis fixed,that it consistsof t'lcirl rrnchangingcategories,which is untrue both lor individualsand for lhe historicalconstructionsofsexuality.Similarly'disabled'lumpstogether rtll lirrns ol'dcpzrrturefrom a physicalnorm, asif theseall lorm onecom- nor cxpcticncewhich determineswhat needsto be known by and about tlisublcdpcople.We will alwaysfeel frustratedby havingto havewordsto oxprussoul socialidentity,evenwhile that socialidentity meansthat wedo lltrlocrlhavcto havewordsfor it. 'l'hc liustlation meansthat we will almost certainlyget fed up with the wor'dslhirt wc u$eand seethe negativeassociationscreepback in. This has lllo lo (lo. howcver,with the fact that words do not necessarilychange t'(.llily.77x,,!t,?nowusestheword'gay',but withjust thesamehatredasit woltl(l lllrvcuscd'queer'or 'pervert'.No amount of changingthe termsto rlorclibc Ali icln-Americanswill changeattitudes,aslong asmaterialcon- tllllorrs kccp Alj ican-Americansoverwhelminglyin the jobs, housingand eon(lili()nslit litr 'niggels'.As longasthematerialrealityofa socialgroup t'Flllrinsoncol'oppression,thewordusedto describeit will sooneror later Itocorrrcr.:ontirnrinr(edby thehatredand self-hatredthat arean inescapable ipoul()l opplcssiorl. 'l'ltolinritationsol'word politicsare of a piecewith thoseof the intel- loelt|lllirHhionstt thootherendofthe continuumof culturalpolitics.Just ttr lcll plrrctieulpoliticshastakenon theimportanceofwords,ofpresenta- l[rn ttnrl r'hololic, so much radical intellectualwork in recentyearshas lirettroditnultcntionon discourse,on thewayrealityis perceivedthrough ltl(l Nltnpo(lby sor,illly oonstructedwaysof making senseof reality.This lnt6llo{lurlwotk wasmuohnccdcd:it hasbrokenwith tendenciesto think ol'tsltllty ri out tltotc.scparatcliom consciousnessand culture;though ollett lhrrttghlol' n$ unti-humanistin its rejectionof moralizingabout httntttttdonliny,il i$itl litct pnrlirundlyhumanistin its stresson thehuman lh('lol'lheeullunrl(:r)0$(fucliorlol our livcs.It isa politicalandintellectual tlnlte€lhrl '{ltottl(l illttt(l tt$it)goodstcrdag instany revivalof'scientific' Folltleiwith lhcirwall(lr)ctttllcnlc(lirtltLtntitnconscqucnccs.Yetwordpolit- [,r ttttrlrlin'otltr*e(litlc(]lttNcttttttltc tisk ol thinkingthatwoldsand dis- u{I ie tI tll llti,tclr,ol'I'rrlgt'llirrglltttlwrtttlsttnddisctttttscsilr0iltlcnlPts
  6. 6. 10 Tho Mattorol lmages Chapter3 to makesenseof what are not themselveswordsand disr.:otttscs:botlies, l'eelings,things. What we arecalledand what we call ourselvesmatter,havematerialand emotionalconsequences,but we can expecttoo much ofwords. Changing them is a necessarybut not a sufficientpart of politics. We changethe world throughwords,but not throughwordsandculture- or,cometo that, bread alone.It hasto beboth. Marxism Todny(Iune 1991) Theroleofstereotypes 'l'lta wold 'slcrcotype'is today almost alwaysa term of abuse.This stems l't'onrllrc wholly .justifiedobjectionsol various groups- in recentyears, hlttekr,womcn and gays,in particular - to the waysin which they find lhotlt clvc$stcrcotypedin themassmediaandin everydayspeech.Yetwhen Wtltol l,ippnrunncoinedtheterm,hedid not intendit to havea whollyand Iteuortttt'ilypo.jorativeconnotation.Taking a certainironic distanceon his Ittb,ioet,l,ipltl1]an none the lesslays out very clearly both the absolute nl($rully lbl urrdthe usefulnessof, stereotypes,aswell astheir limitations tttttlkloologicllimplications: A pttlloln ol' stereotypesis not neutral. It is not merely a way of tIbrtituting ordcr for thegreatblooming,buzzingconfusionof reality.It It not nrclclya slrortcut. It is all thesethingsand somethingmore.It is lho gttrttrtntocof our self-respect;it is the projection upon the world ol'oul own senseof our own value, our own position and our own tlght*'l'hc $tcreotypesare,therefore,highly chargedwith the feelings thnt ttt'ortttuchcdto them. They are the fortressof our tradition, and bphlntlitr dulbnscswecancontinueto feelourselvessafein the position .w0ocoupy. (1956:96) lAboetthoglnlo un(lclstandsomethingof howstereotypesworkbyfollow- In5uplhoidottsntiscdbyLippmann- inparticularhisstressonstereotypes Er(ll unoxlctingproocss,(ii)a 'sholt cttt',(iii)referringto 'theworld',and (lvl erpte*lng'our'vrlucslnd bclicl'.s.Thercstof thisessayisstructured lmund thototoplon,concludingwithsomctorrtativcremerrkson therele- VERE€ol' whlrth[$ gonc bolirt'cto thc rcpresentationof alcoholism. Thnru5horrt,I r ovcltolwounlhcnrorosociologicllconcernof Lippmann (ltowrl€I€otype(l!nclionin nor,rillthought)undlhcspccilicacsthoticcorl- E€fllr(ltowrlFrdolypotltnollottin ll(rliotls)lhnl ntttttlttlsolrcintrotlucccl Inloltty eonrlrlelnllonol'nrctllurcprcrenluliotlH,'l'hcpruitiottltr.:ltindrtll
  7. 7. 12 The Matterof lmages theseconsiderationsis that it is not stereotypes,as an aspectol human thought and representation,that arewrong, but who controlsand defines them,what intereststheyserve. AN ORDERING PROCESS Stereotypesasa form of 'ordering' the massof complexand inchoatedata that we receivefrom the world areonly a particular form to do with the representationand categorizationof personsr of the wider processby which any human society,and individuals within it, make senseof that society through generalities,patterningsand 'typifications'. Unless one believesthat there is somedefinitively'true' order in the world which is transparentlyrevealedto humanbeingsandunproblematicallyexpressedin their culture a belief that the variety ol orders proposedby different societies,asanalysedby anthropologyand history,makesdificult to sus- tain this activity of ordering,includingthe useof stereotypes,has to be acknowledgedasa necessary,indeedinescapable,part of the way societies make senseof themselves,and henceactuallymake and reproducethem- selves.(The lact that all such orderings are, by definition, partial and limited doesnot meanthat theyareuntrue partial knowledgeis not false knowledge,it is simplynot absoluteknowledge.) Thereare,howeve!two problemsabout stereotypeswithin this perspec- tive.Firstly, the needto order 'the greatblooming, buzzingconfusionof reality' is liable to be accompaniedby a belief in the absolutenessand certaintyof any particular order,a refusalto recognizeits limitations and partiality,its relativityandchangeability,anda correspondingincapacityto dealwith thefact and experienceof bloomingand buzzing. Secondly,asthework of PeterBergerand ThomasLuckmann,amongst others,on the 'socialconstructionof reality' stresses,not only is any given society'sorderingof reality an historicalproduct but it is alsonecessarily implicatedin the powerrelationsin that society asBergerandLuckmann put it, 'he who has the biggerstick has the betterchanceof imposinghis definitionsof reality' (1967:127).I shall return below to thesetwo prob- lemsof Lippmann'slormulation - order(stereotypes)perceivedasabsolute andrigid, order(stereotypes)asgroundedin socialpower. A SHORT CUT Lippmann's notion of stereotypesas a short cut points to the manner in which stereotypesarea very simplg striking,easily-graspedform of repre- sentationbut arenonethe lesscapableof condensinga greatdcal ol com- plexinl'ormationanda hostof connolations.As T. E. Pcrltirlsltolr'sitt hor kcy alticlc 'ltcthinkingSlctcolypcs'.thr:olicrrohsctvcrl'rlltpllclty'ol' slcrc{)lylxsisrlcce;tliv0: The roleof stereotypes 13 to refer 'correctly' to someoneas a'dumb blonde', and to understand what is meantby that, impliesa greatdeal more than hair colour and intelligence.It refersimmediatelyto /zersex,whichrefersto herstatusin society,her relationshipto men, her inability to behaveor think ration- ally, and so on. In short, it implies knowledgeof a complex social s ucrure. (1919:139) 'flre samepoint emergesfrom Arnold S.Linsky'sanalysis(1970 1) of the rcpresentationof the alcoholic in popular magazinesbetween1900and |966,wherechangingdepictionsof alcoholicsare shownto expresscom- plcxand contradictorysocialtheoriesnot merelyof alcoholismbut of free will anddeterminism. RItTNRENCE l,ippnrannrefersto stereotypesasa projectionon to the'world'. Although Itc is not concernedprimarily to distinguishstereotypesfrom modesof I'cpttscntationwhoseprincipalconcernis not theworld, it is important lor tlfl lo do so, especiallyas our focus is representationsin mediafictions, wltich nre aestheticas well as social constructs.In this perspective, Hlr,,rcotypcsarea particular sub-categoryof a broadercategoryof flctional clnfflctcrs, the type. Whereasstereotypesare essentiallydefined, as in l,ippnrunn, by their socialfunction, types,at this level of generality,are pr'lnrllily clclinedby their aestheticfunction, namely,asa modeof charac- lalinrtion in fiction.The type is any characterconstructedthrough the use ol'l lbw inrnrodiatelyrecognizableand definingtraits,whichdo not change ot'tlcvclop' throughthecourseofthe narrativeandwhichpoint to general, l'srullcnt I'caturcsof the human world (whetherthesefeaturesare con- ueDtttrtlizcdas universaland eternal,the'archetype',or historicallyand gttllunrllyspcoilio,'socialtypes'and 'stereotypes'a distinctiondiscussed helow),r'l'ho oppositeof the type is the novelisticcharacte! definedby a multlplicityol'ttaits that are only graduallyrevealedto us throughthe t.loltt'ricol'thc nflrr tivo,a narrartivewhichis hingedon thegrowthor devel- opnont ol'thc uhi[actct'andis thuscentredupon the latterin her or his unlqttsIndivitlurrlily,ltthol thanpointingoutwardsto a world. In ttttt'r*ocicly,il isthcnovclisticcharacterthatisprivilegedoverthetype, Ittl'lhe0bvi0LrsI0l$onth t oUlsocictyplivileges atanyrate,atthelevelof loghl fhulot'ir: lhu intlivitltrLrlovcl thc collectiveor the mass.For this fgstoll, lhc tlut,i()tity()l'lietionNlhltt itdtlrcssthcnrselvesto generalsocial l uel lerrdlrev$t'lh{luNllo r:ntlttp lclling lho stot'yol't particularindi- vklttttl,herrstt'r,lttt'nlttgrlrcittlirrttel lo pur'0ly|rotsonttlttndpsychological Oll€t,(ltlle wg ltrlrlt.|.rrrttttt*r'lvr'ttl lllc r'flllcielllllliorlttttrltlclilli(iollol'
  8. 8. 14 The Matterof lmages socialcategories- e.g.alcoholics we haveto considerwhat is at stakein onemode of characterizationrather than another.Wheredo we want the emphasisof the representationto lie on the psychological(alcoholismas a personalproblem),on thesocial(alcoholismasanaspectof society)or in somearticulationof the two?The choiceor advocacyof a more novelistic or a more typical representationimplicitly expressesoneor other of these emphases. THE EXPRESSION OF VALUES It is Lippmann'sreferenceto oar tradition, and indeedhis useof'our' and 'we' throughoutthepassagequoted,that takesusinto the mostimportant, and most problematic,issuein stereotyping.For we have to ask, who exactlyare the 'we' and 'us' invokedby Lippmann?- is it necessarilyyou andme? The effectivenessof stereotypesresidesin ihe way they invoke a consensus.Stereotypesproclaim,'This iswhat everyone- you,me and us, thinks members of such-and-sucha social group are like', as if these conceptsof these social groups were spontaneouslyarrived at by all membersof societyindependentlyand in isolation.The stereotypeis taken to expressa generalagreementabout a socialgroup, as if that agreernent arosebefore,andindependentlyof, thestereotype.Yetfor themostpart it is from slereotypesthat we get our ideasabout socialgroups.The consensus invoked by stereotypesis more apparent than real; rather, stereotypes expressparticular definitions of reality, with concomitant evaluations, which in turn relateto the dispositionof power within society.Who pro- posesthe stereotype,who has the power to enforceit, is the crux of the matter- whoseIradition is Lippmann's'our tradition'? HereOffin E. Klapp's distinctionbetweenstereotypesandsocialtypesis helpful. ln his book Ileroes, VillainsandFools(1962)Klapp definessocial typesasrepresentationsofthose who'belong'to society.Theyarethekinds of peoplethat one expects,and is led to expect,to find in one's society, whereasstereotypesarethosewho do not belong,who areoutsideof one's society.In Klapp, this distinctionisprincipallygeographic i.e.socialtypes of Americans,stereotypesof non-Americans.Wecan,however,rework his distinctionin termsofthe typesproducedby differentsocialgroupsaccord- ing to their senseof who belongsand who doesn't,who is 'in' and who is not. Who doesor doesnot belongto a givensocietyasa whole is then a function of therelativepowerof groupsin that societyto definethemselves ascentraland the restas'other', peripheralor outcast. In fictions,socialtypesand stereotypescan berecognizedasdistinct by thedifferentwaysin whichtheycanbeused.AlthoLrghconslru(l(,(licorlo- graphicallysimilarlyLothc waystcrcotypcsillc eonslrr(lo(l(ir', n ldw vgt'- balantlvistrrll[irilsiuc usctllo sigrrrrlllrccllrfl('lr,rl. not'trtllVltcltl lt hr, The roleof stereotypes 15 usedin a much more open and flexibleway than can stereotypes.This is nrostclearlyseenin relationio plot. Socialtypescan figurein almost any kind of plot and canhavea widerangeof rolesin that plot (e.g.ashero,as villain, as helpeq as light relief, etc.), whereasstereotypesalwayscarry within their very representationan implicit narrative.Jo Spencehasargued in the contextof the representationof womenthat, despitethe superficial varietyof images,theyall carry within them animplicit narrativepattern: visualrepresentationswhich may appearto dealwith diverseideasbut whichareall aimedat womentendto actaspart ofan implicit narrative. 'fhis hasa'beginning'and a 'middle' (birth, childhood,marriage,family lilb) but thereis only minimal representationofits'end', of growingold itntltlying. (1980:2e 45) In anarticledealingwith thestereotypingof gaysin films,I tried to show Itow tlrc useof imagesof lesbiansin a group of Frenchfilms, no matter whrrlkind of film or ofwhat'artistic quality', alwaysinvolvedan identical Ffol firnction(1977:33 5).Similarly,we surelyonly haveto betold that we flfc goingto seea film aboutanalcoholicto know that it will bea taleeither ol' nortliddcclineor of inspiring redemption.(This suggestsa particularly inlorosling potential use of stereotlpes,in which the characteris con- llt'ttulg(|. lrt the level of dress,performance,etc., as a stereotypebut is tlollbcnrlclygivena narrativefunction that is not implicit in the stereotype, thttnthlowing into questionthe assumptionssignalledby the stereotypical luonogluphy,) 'l'ltolocirrltypc/stcreotypedistinctionis essentiallyone of degree.It is nllot ttll vcty hrlrd to draw a line betweenthosewho arejust within and lhoro rlolirtitclytrcyondthe pale.This is partly becausedifferentsocialcat- €gorio[ovcrhrp o.g.men'belong',blacksdonot,but whatofblackmen?It h ulro bccfluscsonlcol'tlrc categoriesthat the socialtype/stereotypedis- tlnutlnnkcopsuprrtt oannotlogicallybekeptapartin thisway.Theobvious gtsl ploihclcurcnrcnandwomen,andit isthisthatcausesT.E. Perkinsto Efc0t tho rllxtinctiou(lt)7t):140 l). As appliedto men and women,the mtllsltypc/rlctcolypo(lislinctionirnplicsthaturenhaveno directexperience €fwonlenltr(l lhnl th0r0ooul(lbca socictyconrposedentirelyofmen:both Ef tltererls virluullyinrponsiblc.Yr.:til scomsto me that whatthedistinc- tlcn Folntl to, ttr*rtppliodl() w()nlcnitnd nrcn.is a tendencyof patriarchal lhFught'toHtlclnpllo nlrln(uit)lhc intpossiblo.by insistingon tlre'olher- nilt'of wont€tltttd tllctl(t)tt'ltlhct'lhl"olltct'ncss'ol'womcn.nrcnbeingin lftfldtuhyllteltttttttttt||ot'|lllo whlehwont(tlttrc'{)lhut')in tholirccol'thcir nC{!9llhl'yr,,0llllh0fllh}lrIn lthloty Ill(l H(xJlrly,('l'ltt'tlintincliolrtlttcstrlso ftftf ltl pdt'lltr I rettlreptttttllottltt ilrclttltttlttttlt'ttlt'ttl|i,i'u'llrulirclol'tnIlu
  9. 9. 16 The Matterof lmages and female'preserves':the pub, the beauty salon,the study,the kitchen, etc.)What the distinctionalsomaintainsis the rzbsolr.iledifferencebetween menand women,in the faceoftheir actualrelativesimilarity. This is themost important function of the stereotype:to maintainsharp boundarydefinitions,to defineclearlywherethe paleendsand thuswho is clearlywithin andwho clearlybeyondit. Stereotypesdo not only,in concert with social types,map out the boundariesof acceptableand legitimate behaviour,they alsoinsiston boundariesexactlyat thosepoints wherein reality there are none.Nowhereis this more clear than with stereotypes dealingwith socialcategoriesthat areinvisibleand/orfluid. Suchcategories areinvisible,becauseyou cannottelljust from looking at a personthat she or he belongsto the categoryin question.Unlessthe personchoosesto dressor act in a clearlyand culturally definedmanner (e.g.the working- classman'scloth cap,themalehomosexual'slimp wrist) or unlessonehasa trainedeye(asthosedealingwith alcoholicshave?),it isimpossibleto place the person beforeone, whereasmany socialgroups- women and men, differentraces,youngand old arevisiblydifferent,andthis differencecan be eradicatedonly by disguise.Socialcategoriescanbefluid, in the sense that it is not possiblein reality to draw a line betweenthem and adjacent categories.We make a fuss about and producestereotypesabout - the differencebetweenwomenand men,yet biologicallythis is negligiblecom- pared to their similarity. Again, we are led to treat heterosexualityand homosexualityas sharply opposedcategoriesof personswhen in reality both heterosexualand homosexualresponsesand behaviourare to some extentexperiencedby everybodyin their life. Alcohol useis clearlyin this category it isnotoriouslydifncult to drawthe line betweenharm-freeand harmful drinking. But stereotypescan. The role of stereotypesis to makevisiblethe invisible,so that thereis no dangerof it creepingup on usunawares;and to makefast,firm and separ- atewhat is in realityfluid and muchcloserto the norm than the domrnant valuesystemcaresto admit. In the widestsense,thesefunctionsof renderingvisibleand firm can be connectedto Lippmann's insistenceon stereotypesas ordering concepts, and to the tendencytowardsrigidity that may be implied by this.All soci- etiesneedto haverelativelystableboundariesandcategories,but thisstabil- ity can be achievedwithin a context that recognizesthe relativity and uncertainty of concepts.Such a stability is, however,achievedonly in a situationof real,asopposedto imposed,consensus.The degreeof rigidity and shrillnessof a stereotypeindicatesthe degreeto whichit isan enforced representationthat points to a reality whoseinvisibility and/ol lluidity threatensthe receiveddefinitionsof societypromotcdby tlrosrrwilh lhc biggeststicks.(E.g.il womcnitrcnot so vcty dillclclrtlirrrrrrrrt', whyttr.c lhr:ysrrboltlinirlerl'/;il rrlcoholisnrisrrolsor,rrrilyrlintilgrrlrlrerllllm togiltl Theroleol stereotypes17 drinking, can we be so comlortablein our acceptanceof the latter and condemnationof the former?) In this perspective,and speakingvery tentatively,what is striking about the current mediarepresentationof alcoholismis its absence.It seemsno longer to be identified as a key social personalproblem, to be marked stereotypicallyasbeyondthe pale of 'normal' behaviour.Ratherit hardly seemsto be thereat all. This may be relatedto the developmentof mari- iuanauseasa focusof media/'public'concern dopeaddictsareamongthe most shrill of today's stereotypes.In this context, all alcohol use seems redolentof old-fashionedvalues,and especiallyof 'masculine'valuesset againstthe 'effeminacy'of'hippie' culture. To this one would add the cnormous financial involvement of the alcohol industry in the leisure industries,of which themedia area key part,and in particular the reliance of televisionand cinemaon advertisingrevenue(which,in thecurrentlegal situ:rtion,cannotcomefrom marijuanapromotion but can,anddoes,from tulcoholpromotion). If welook backat thecinema,however,it isfairly clearthat thealcoholic tficl serveto distinguish clearly alcohol usefrom abusg as if a definite line could be drawn, in order to legitimatethe 'social' use of alcohol. This inclutlesthe legitimationof excessiveconsumption,drunkennessand other ttlcohol-inducedanti-socialbehaviour,sinceit is possible,by the use of rtcruolypes,to seethis asdistinct from 'real' alcholism.The questionthat tltt{.:lrananalysisposesis,in whoseinterestwasthisdistinctionmaintained?a It'ttttt .firnCook and Mike Lewington(eds)Imagesof Alcoholism,London: llt'itishl,'ilmlnstitute(1979) NO'l'l,ls | | conllncnysollhcreto thediscussionof stereotypesasa formof represenling ll6t'Nonr,Ilthoughthcworditsell(especiallyin adjectivalform)isalsousedtor.efer tttldotts.bchuviour'.scttinlls.ctc, I ll lt irttporllurtkrslr'osstlicrolcol'conceptualizationinthedistinctionberween,on lll0Intchur(1,lr'chcly;lcs,and,onthcotlrc4socialandstereotypes,sincewhatmay holr(lllbulc(llo 1yDoits univcrsalandctcrrr{ltrait,hcnccmakingit archetypai. mttyonlybcrrhislolicrrllyrndculturitllyspccilictr.ritmisundcrstoodasaunivcrsal 0lltl!tcfnlllI[it itiN,ull0[rrll.lhctcudcncyol don]initntvalucsystcmsinsocictic$ k)pu$lhuirvlrllcHo{l'flrInivor'$ully|d ctclnallyvirlid. I lly pflltllt(hyI nrull lhutltou8hllyntonrthutlogitiurltcsthcpoworol'n1cnandthc tllhtt(llltltllortl'wrttttsnittNociclyl (lonotnroflDllnl(i1isncccssarilyandsinrply howIll t$ lltlrrkol'wolrcrr,rrlllrorrghil irIn ovo|wholn]ing(lct0rnlinitntonth t. il ll h lttlerentlltttlo olslhlrlllrr,lltltrollntlrBl|ylrrHhc0rrunxioUsto t,0inli)rcalhc VlFwlh l nlroholhulr trrltllrrl rlhcnmurllcrcrlhyrrrrrinolityol'thcpopulrrtiorr. IHlhdftlttttvnrl$llsrul'lltflt, whlelrlrryolr,lrrrlghlr.xpur'lrrrrr,,r,in vrrryirrgrlngrucn, rllllplt ltt tl lr'rttllrtl rlrllllr! loo nll('ltloo ollln A plr,vcrrllvcpolhrybrrlr,rl ttFttnlltFl llFrvl6wlrlghlwt,llhe,ttItturlltl tr,rlr,htglIvelxol t'rrrHrrrrrItirr(rrrrrl

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