Identify/outline issues involved in thinking about representation and media Define the concepts of representation, stereotyping and associated sub-categories Use rhetorical, semiological, genre and narrative analysis to analyse media representations Examine debates around the depiction of individuals and social groups
Questions What kind of groups feature in your text? How would you categorise the individuals and/or groups depicted? What kinds of ideas and feelings about them do you have as a result of your media consumption?
Why Representation Media forms have their own rhetoric and language that position us as audience members for entertainment purposes, they are not divorced from the social, cultural, political and historical contexts of their making. Representation informs our understanding and outlook on various groups and individuals – which can affect how social relations are played out.
Represent Equivalence/corresponding to Proxy/substitute for something or someone else Typify/epitomise
RepresentationTo represent something is to describe or depictit, to call it up in the mind by description,portrayal or imagination. To represent alsomeans to symbolise, to stand for, to be aspecimen of or substitute to.
All media forms contain only afraction of what could have beenpresented – they are selective intheir portrayals and are thusabstractions in the way they work atemphasising or inflections limitedelements or characteristics of whatis on show or known.
Representation How the media shows us things about society – through a careful process of mediation – hence, re- presentation. For representation to be meaningful to audiences there needs to be a shared recognition of people, situations, ideas etc. All representation therefore have ideologies behind them. Certain paradigms are encoded into texts and others left out in order to give a preferred meaning.
Representation When analysing media representations in general it’s useful to ask a few questions posed by Richard Dyer (1983): 1. What sense of the world is it making? 2. What does it imply? 3. Is it typical of the world or deviant? 4. Who is it speaking to? For whom? To whom? 5. What does it represent to us and why? How do you respond?
Representation1. What sense of the world is it making?2. What does it imply?3. Is it typical of the world or deviant?4. Who is it speaking to? For whom? To whom?5. What does it represent to us and why? How do you respond?
Ideology and representation A hegemonic view of society – fundamental inequalities in power between different groups. Groups in power exercise their influence culturally rather than by force (‘soft’ power) This concept has its origins in Marxist theory – it explains how the ruling class can protect economic interests. Representations are therefore encoded into mass media texts in order to do this – to reinforce dominant ideologies in society.
Ideology and representation Ideology refers to a set of ideas which produces a partial and selective view of reality. The notion of ideology entails widely held ideas or beliefs which are seen as ‘common sense’ and become naturalised (Tim O’Sullivan, 1998). What is important is that the media’s role can be seen as: Circulating and reinforcing dominant ideologies Undermining and challenging such ideologies (less often)
Ideology and representation Ideologies are never simply ideas in people’s heads but are actually myths that we live by and which contribute to our self worth. (remember Barthes?) Think about documentaries: how are our national, regional and historical identities constructed through the mediation of a text? ‘Identities are not ‘given’ but are constructed and negotiated.’ (David Gauntlett, 20020)
Postmodernism and representation Life becomes a soap opera. The trial’s of OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson are examples - neither real nor a simulation The Gulf war as hyper-real - it never happened Reality mixes with ‘art’, a supposed reflection of postmodernism’s ‘slipperiness’ when it comes to truth. Politics as entertainment - the projection and consumption of hyper- real images. Collapse of boundaries between classes, high and low culture, politics and news and entertainment but ultimately between reality and simulation. This has led to a collapse of meaning. The ‘real’ society that existed before the takeoff of this latest stage of mass consumer capitalism has disappeared into a black hole - replaced by the terminal of the hyperreal - the TV screen.
Depicting individuals Trevor MacDonald TV Newsreader Middle class Man What else does this media figure ‘represent’?
Depicting individuals George Michael Pop star in concert What other ideas does the media figure represent?
The campaign to find Madeleine McCann What do such images come to represent beyond the literal identification of a lost child?
Types Types A grouping based on shared characteristics; a class. An individual that represents the ideal for its class; an embodiment. Archetypes A perfect or idealised person or thing that exhibits such core values and identities that offer a model or pattern for the way in which a culture is viewed Stereotypes Stereotyping is a process involving the expression of an exaggerated belief about a group that serves to qualify or justify the conduct towards that group of those who hold and express that belief.
The archetypeThe wealth of music Curtis Jackson releasedand his 2000 shooting conspired to turn 50Cent the rapper into a local legend before hisdebut album had even been released. In somesenses, he represents the latest incarnation ofan archetype that crops up time and again inpopular music. Early blues singers oftenretold in song the story of a deadlyconfrontation between Billy Lyons and apimp called Lee Shelton ( known variously asStagger Lee or Stagolee), two real-lifecharacters from the Deep South whose 1895shoot-out resulted in Lyonss death.In Stagolee Shot Billy, a book about the socialhistory of the myth, writer Cecil Browndescribes how Stagolees persona as the badblack hero feeds into our perception ofcharacters as varied as Puff Daddy, OJSimpson, Malcolm X and Huey Newton.
Stereotypes Stereotypes Stereotyping is a process involving the expression of an exaggerated belief about a group that serves to qualify or justify the conduct towards that group of those who hold and express that belief. Stereotypes are a form of shorthand narrative
Building stereotypes Appearance Behaviour Fit Implicit/explicit comparison
Functions of stereotypes in media texts Functions for stereotypes in media texts relate them to broader social and historical contexts An ordering function – a short-cut to meaning in the face of the messiness of reality A metonymic function - an index of a wider reality and set of values about the group (one person ‘stands for’ the group)
Stereotypes: difficulties According to Tessa Perkins (1979): Stereotypes aren’t always negative (French good cooks) They aren’t always about minority groups or those less powerful (upper class twits) They are not always false – they may be supported by empirical evidence They are not always rigid and unchanging
(new) Media Representations With the development of ubiquitous, cheap and easy to use equipment and the electronic networks for distribution, media representations have proliferated over the last ten years. The following are some experiments that are harnessing those developments.