This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Every time we encounter a media text, we are not seeing reality, but someone`s version oI it.
This may seem like an obvious point, but it is something that is easily Iorgotten when we get
caught up in enjoying a text. II you see a picture oI a celebrity kissing her boyIriend, you may
Iind it unsurprising that the picture has been altered and does not show the reality oI the situa-
tion, but in Iact we should bear this in mind whatever we encounter in the media. The media
place us at one remove Irom reality: they take something that is real, a person or an event and
they change its Iorm to produce whatever text we end up with. This is called mediation. You
should be looking Ior this with any media text.
Think about a new album by your Iavourite group, Ior example: this is not just the sound oI a
Iew musicians playing together in a studio. Instead, the reality oI the sound that they might
make has been mediated beIore it reaches you. Engineers and producers have re-modelled the
sound and artists have packaged the album. Newspapers and magazines have reported the
group and created a context Ior the album so that most people probably had an opinion about
it beIore it came out. Once again, whatever sound the group made in the studio has been
highly mediated beIore it gets to you.
II you ever go to see a comedy show
recorded Ior the television, you will see
the process oI mediation in action. What
might end up as a halI hour broadcast,
will be recorded over an entire evening
jokes that might seem spontaneous
when watched on the TV will have been
endlessly repeated until 'just right¨. The
studio audience will have been trained
into laughing in exactly the right way by
warm up men and the text that Iinally
reaches the public will also be given
context by use oI soundtrack music and
computer graphics. The whole experience
oI hearing a Iew jokes will have been
OI course, most oI us are aware oI this we know that what we are seeing in a Iilm or a
Soap isn`t real we just allow ourselves to Iorget Ior the time that the programme is on that
it is a Iiction. At the same time, we all have ideas in our heads oI some kinds oI texts which
might be somehow less mediated it is obvious that a Iictional programme isn`t real, but
when we encounter something like the television news, we are more likely to believe in the
straightIorward nature oI the 'truth¨ we are receiving. In Iact, the News is just as sure to be
mediated as anything else someone has decided that these are the Iew news items that are
the most 'newsworthy¨ and has chosen the shots that are used to tell the stories, the graphics
that will go with them and the tie that the presenter will be wearing which will distract you so
much while you are watching. Whatever version you get oI what has gone on will end up be-
ing highly mediated very diIIerent Irom the experience oI someone who was at the scene
as you will know iI you have ever seen a news event taking place.
Representation is concerned with the way that people, ideas and events are presented
to us through media texts. It is a process of construction, actively constructing
meanings about the world and re-presenting them.
In our investigation of both widely circulated media texts and other alternative
representations it will be useful to ask the questions posed by Richard Dyer when
considering representation in popular television:
• What sense of the world is the media text making?
• What does it claim is typical of the world and what deviant?
• Who is really speaking? For whom?
• What does it represent to us and why?
Try and work with both sets of media codes
! technical (camera, editing, sound)
! and cultural (dress, setting, body, props)
The key concept of Representation is a way of studying stereotyping and bias and a way of
investigating who is represented (age, gender, class, region, ethnicity, sexuality) and
how they are represented (technical and cultural codes). It is concerned with the way that
people, ideas and events are presented to us through media texts in a process of
construction which actively constructs meanings about the world and re-presents
Media re-present social groups such as gender, race, class groups, occupational groups. No
media representation can be 'neutral'. Representations are shaped by genre, audience,
institutional context, dominant ideologies in society.
The process of mediation [representing the 'real' world on film or television or in a
newspaper or magazine] involves a process which means representations always carry
meanings and values [choice of shot or camera angle; use of mise-en-scene, costumes,
setting lighting; use of sound and dialogue, role in the narrative...]
Some critics, like Stuart Price, would argue that representations reinforce dominant
ideologies in society:
'If gender differences are socially constructed, and society itself is based on unequal
relations of power, then we can see why many writers argue that mainstream
representations will be biased against subordinate groups. Dominant ideology is
supposedly used to keep the downtrodden in their place... Ideologies of gender
promote sexist representations of women... ideologies make equalities and
subordination appear natural.'
Other critics would argue that representations in the media can challenge and subvert
dominant ideologies in society.
23)4"/"5&$'(6 Whatever ends up on the screen or in the paper, much more will have been leIt
out any news story has been selected Irom hundreds oI others which the producers decided
Ior you were less interesting, any picture has been chosen Irom an enormous number oI alter-
73)8,-%($.%&$'(6 The various elements will be organised careIully in ways that real liIe is
not: in visual media this involves mise-en-scene and the organisation oI narrative, in the re-
cording oI an album the production might involve re-mixing a track. Any medium you can
think oI will have an equivalent to these. This organisation oI the material will result in .
93):'5;.$(-6 mediation always ends up with us, the audience being encouraged towards con-
centrating on one aspect oI the text and ignoring others. II you are watching a Iilm the camera
will pan towards an important character, in a tabloid the headlines will scream, Ior your atten-
tion. It can be easy to ignore how diIIerent Irom our everyday lives this is. II you are walking
through a Iield, you are unlikely to see a sign saying 'look at this amazing tree.¨ You make
your own decisions about what is worth our attention. The media text, through mediation,
tries to do this Ior us.
This kind oI task is actually very important because in the hands oI experienced media proIes-
sionals the practice oI mediation can be transparent we do not notice it happen and are
Iooled into thinking that we are experiencing some kind oI reality. Once again remember:
All media texts involve mediation which you should train yourself to look for.
The result oI this process oI mediation is that we are given a version oI reality which is al-
tered: those are never the real people that we are seeing but representations oI them which
have somehow been created. It is time now to look at this idea oI representation and how it
The OxIord English Dictionary gives two deIinitions oI the word:
It is worth thinking about each oI these Ior a moment: the Iirst one is the more straightIorward
the media are in the business oI describing things to us they represent people and types
oI people to us so that we end up Ieeling that we know what they are like.
What, iI anything, are the Iollowing people used as symbols oI?
Nelson Mandela Britney Spears Madonna David Beckham
Can you think oI any other examples oI people who have become symbols?
What is your opinion oI any oI the Iollowing
Paris Hilton 1ennifer Lopez The Duchess of Cornwall` Star Trek fans Immigrants
In most oI these cases it is unlikely that you know these people personally what impression
that you have oI them must come Irom the media. They have given us descriptions that have
aIIected our views oI these people. The second oI the two dictionary deIinitions is slightly
more diIIicult but also useIul. A representation is something that symbolises something else.
The example the dictionary gives oI the cross is an obvious one, but in the media you can Iind
plenty oI others. David Beckham, as he is represented in the media is not just a Iootball
player, but also a symbol oI many things which some in the media think is positive and nega-
tive: Iashion icon, adulterer etc.
* aka the former Camilla Parker-Bowles, second wife of Prince Charles.
OI course it is too simple to talk just about the media mediating reality and creating represen-
tations; we need a more subtle understanding oI the process. To get this I will look brieIly at
some diIIerent ideas people have had about how representation works. You could broadly
separate these into three:
According to this view, when we represent something, we are taking its true meaning and try-
ing to create a replica oI it in the mind oI our audience like a reIlection. This is the view
that many people have oI how news works the news producers take the truth oI news
events and simply present it to us as accurately as possible.
This is the opposite oI the ReIlective idea. This time the most important thing in the process
oI representation is the person doing the representing they are presenting their view oI the
thing they are representing and the words or images that they use mean what they intend them
to mean. According to this theory, iI you see a picture oI an attractive person drinking a can oI
Coke in an advert, it will have the same meaning to you as the advertiser intended go away
and buy some!
This is really a response to what have been seen a weakness in the other two theories con-
structionists Ieel that a representation can never just be the truth or the version oI the truth that
someone wants you to hear since that is ignoring your ability as an individual to make up your
own mind and the inIluences oI the society that you live in on the way that you do so. This
booklet will broadly be taking a Constructionist approach to representation so it is worth me
spelling out this idea again.
II you`ve seen the Iilm Independence Day,
you may have been amused or annoyed at the
way that British People were represented as
upper class idiots. II you consider the
diIIerent parts oI the Constructionist
approach to representation, they would work
1.! There must be some British people
who the producers either encountered
in reality or in other media texts.
2.! They Iormed an opinion oI them that
they were stuck up idiots which they
used as the basis oI their
3.! As an individual watching this, you
chose whether to believe the
representation was valid or not.
4.! In doing this, you were inIluenced by
the Iact that you are yourselI British
an American watching the Iilm
would probably have come to a
Choose a Hollywood film and outline how British People are represented in it
The last two parts oI this equation the individual and society are an enormously diIIicult
area which you will cover in more detail later in the course. You may Iind that you end up
covering them in your other subjects as well the study oI personality and the individual is
Psychology and the study oI Society is Sociology and you should Ieel Iree to try to apply any-
thing that you learn in these subjects to the media.
For now it is worth thinking about the inIluence oI society on what representations we re-
ceive. II you think oI one oI someone like the Duchess oI Cornwall, you can see that the idea
oI societv having a view oI her is obviously a simpliIication. In society there are ardent royal-
ists and committed republicans, people who hate anyone involved in the collapse oI a mar-
riage and those who believe that relationships are complicated and personal to the people in-
volved a multitude oI views so how can we say that society has an inIluence on our
views oI someone?
The truth is that amid all this conIusion oI opinions, some kinds oI ideas dominate and are
shared by a majority oI people. We call views about how things should be and how people
should behave an ideology and iI an ideology is shared by the majority oI people in a culture
it is called the dominant ideology.
The group oI ideas that make up the dominant ideology in Britain are not something that re-
mains static they change as new ideas are encountered and people discuss them. For exam-
ple the dominant ideology in Britain used to be opposed to homosexual practises. Over time,
however, opposition has changed to tolerance and then to acceptance Ior the majority, allow-
ing openly gay men to present news and entertainment programmes and enter civil partner-
ships with one another.
Here are some things that are generally agreed to be part oI the dominant ideology in Britain:
!! People should put their families first.
!! People should work for their monev and not show off too much about how much thev
!! Women should behave modestlv.
!! Women should look after their appearance.
You may not agree with all oI these morals, but iI I am right that they are part oII the domi-
nant ideology, the chances are that they are the Ieelings oI most people.
Let`s relate this back to the Constructionist view oI representation. II you see an article in one
oI the tabloids about David Beckham having an aIIair with another woman behind Victoria`s
back, you may be shocked and disappointed because his behaviour goes against what the
dominant ideology suggests married men and Iathers should do. Also because representations
oIten act as symbols oI other things, you will also be likely to think that his behaviour shows
exactly what is wrong with celebrity culture / Iootballers` egos etc.
Many constructionists believe that this itselI has an eIIect on what the dominant ideology ac-
tually is aIter all the dominant ideology is only the belieI oI the majority oI people so iI
you and others like you end up even more sure that rich people shouldn`t Ilaunt their wealth
as a result oI seeing the article, then the dominant ideology has become a bit stronger. You
could see the whole process that the constructionists describe as being a kind oI negotiation.
Over the years representations are accepted or rejected by the majority oI people and the
dominant ideology is gradually changed.
Control of race representation through the popular press.
the editor of
the result of
continued, 'all registered trees and houses and background which added nothing to the news
and, if left in, would have taken publication space from the main focus of attention, There is
plenty of detail as well as drama in what remains and at the size and shape reproduced it took
every reader by the eyeball.'
Look at the effect the anchorage and cropping has on an image. Are there any images in the
papers today that you could manipulate in a similar way??
This picture is too ambiguous for the Tabloid front
Why do you think it needed to be changed to satisfy
the dominant ideological position??
Who are the representations aimed at? Are they aspirational images for the
Who is creating the representation [institutional context, director/auteur] and why?
What is the institutional / production context and what constraints does this involve
[budget, studio/production company, genre]
Are there genre restraints on the representation – eg women must appear differently
in horror and musicals.
How are representations affected by social/historic context [key events,
contemporary social values, changes in society, ideological context]
REPRESENTATION and STEREOTYPES
When we talk about people being stereotyped by the media we mean that an assumption has
been made that people are the same as each other, rather than different.
! Stereotypical images come complete with value-judgements and a personal opinion.
! Stereotyped images / language are used by society and the media as a kind of
cultural short cut.
! Stereotyping is an invitation to accept a general and limited picture of a group.
! When employing stereotypes, mainstream media producers assume that the
audiences' attitudes and values are those of the mainstream.
! Stereotyping is part of the naturalisation of what are commonly held attitudes and
'Stereotypes are not one-dimensional distortions of reality. In order to gain credibility and
widespread cultural currency, they usually contain an element of truth... The most
powerful stereotypes tend to be rooted in a degree of reality which is then naturalised
rather than questioned in order to pass judgement about the inevitability of such a situation
or behaviour... The danger is little attention is paid to the function of the stereotype within
the narrative. Is the audience invited to denigrate, laugh at the character.’ B.Dutton,
The idea of stereotypes was defined by Walter Lippman in 1922 - in 'A Matter of Images'
Richard Dyer described four functions of Lippman's definition, which are:
an ordering process;
...stereotypes serve to order our reality in an easy-to-understand form, and are an essential
part of making sense of the world and society. The fact that stereotypes offer an incomplete
view of the world does not necessarily make them false; there is anyway no such thing as a
complete view of the world. Having stereotypical knowledge may be better than having no
knowledge at all.
a short 'cut';
Because they are simplifications stereotypes act as 'short cuts' to meaning. We can
characterise New York in a dozen words which will be sufficient for most purposes... the
words 'macho man' are a short cut to a more complex set of assumptions that reflect society's
a way of referring to the world
They are social constructs and as such are a type of re-presentation. Stereotypes are most
often used by individuals about people, or peoples, they do not know. It follows, then that they
must have received this information from others, especially the media. Stereotypes serve to
naturalise the power relations in society; they have a hegemonic function, so the fact
that women are often stereotypes as subservient to men legitimises their inferior position.
Stereotypes are not true or false bur reflect a particular set of ideological values.
an expression of 'our" values and beliefs.
Much of the power of stereotypes exists because they appear to have the status of
consensus. What stereotypes represent, however, are not the beliefs based upon reality but
ideas which reflect the distribution of power in society - stereotypes are not an expression of
value but of ideology.
The concept of stereotype, as a kind or 'blinkered' mental attitude, is a notion imported into
media study from psychology. Stereotypes frequently attempt to validate certain roles and
behaviour. Far from being necessarily negative (though many are) they often present us with
positive models of behaviour to emulate. The 'housewife' stereotype, common in TV
programmes, films, magazines, news stories, and especially favoured by advertisers, is a role
women are invited to copy and men to reinforce. But both stereotypes and labels reflect
power relations in the wider society and both exist as powerful forces in the real world as well
as being reinforced through the media.
The psychological view of the stereotype
The early interest of psychologists in stereotypes formed part of a broader concern with the
origins of attitudes. They were interested in how attitudes changed and why some seemed
more resistant to change than others. The stereotype was seen as an exceptional type of
attitude - one that was particularly difficult to change. Thus the study of stereotype was
closely linked to the notion of prejudice.
Prejudice implies an attitude that pre-judges reality and that is based not on experience but
on some firmly fixed belief or dogma. The stereotype became a simple, negative and
inaccurate image; it was seen as a rigid and unchanging attitude that was locked within the
individual. Stereotypes were characteristically seen as expressions of hostility towards
particular minority groups such as 'blacks' or 'Jews'. Stereotyped views were thought to be
held by individuals who had little direct and personal experience of such groups.
The sociological view of stereotypes
Sociologists ask, who benefits from the stereotyping of certain groups? Ideas and beliefs that
are 'useful' in this way to those who hold them are what sociologists call ideologies —
'convenient' ideas that benefit some groups at the expense of others.
Choose a current 'Pop' band with 4-5 same sex members.
Identify the group members and using images from
magazines/the internet etc show how each band member
has a constructed 'identity' or stereotype
The four parts of a media stereotype
With any group of people, there will obviously be an enormous number of things that can be
used in a stereotype, but because stereotyping is a form of simplification, normally the
most obvious things are used. These are;
1. Appearance- this can include, physical appearance and clothing as well
as the sound of the voice, e.g. "all teachers wear dreadful old clothes"
2. Behaviour - typical things that people in this group might do. "Grannies like
3. The third feature of media stereotyping is peculiar to the media: the
stereotype is constructed in ways that fit the particular medium. - This is
more difficult to understand but it is crucial for you to look for it. If you watch a
film such as Hannibal or Se7en and then look at the tabloid coverage of Fred
West or Myra Hindley, you are seeing the same stereotype (the typical Serial
Killer) being used, but there are obviously big differences which will depend
on the specifics of the media used:
The film will use close ups of the killer's leering face, soundtrack music and reaction shots of
terrified victims to create their version of the stereotype.
The newspaper will use emotive headlines, blurred pictures of victims and police mug-shots
of the killer along with shocking text and interviews with survivors.
In each case a text will create a stereotype which an audience will find familiar, but will do it in
very different ways.
4. There will always be a comparison whether real or imaginary with
The features of a stereotype are always those which seem somehow different from everyday
behaviour. In fact you could almost start any stereotyped description by saying: "this group
are different because they......."
Stereotypes and Genres.
Obviously, in the Media, there is an even greater need to use stereotypes in whatever
medium, as there are always such limited time constraints. The worst offenders, and the
mediums that offer the best opportunity for fair representation, are listed below:
Medium Average Length Typical Features.
TV Advert 30secs Short narrative and quick idea.
Tabloid Scanned read of 1 minute Sensationalist
Sitcom 30 minutes Characters cannot change much,
nor can situation.
Magazine Scanned read of 1-2 minutes Mix of eye catching and informed
Film 1 hour 45 minutes. Needs to establish set of
characters and narrative
Broadsheet Read fairly carefully – 5 minutes. More in depth analysis
Soap Ongoing 30 min episodes. Often characters change v slowly
Drama Serial Perhaps 3 – 8, 45 min episodes. Room for substantial change
over a more leisurely time scale
©Steve Baker, with modifications by Kevin Brice.
RETHINKING STEREOTYPES (Tessa Perkins)
Tessa Perkins (1979) argues that stereotypes, although simple in form, are in fact
compressed and shorthand ways of referring to quite complex social relationships. She states
1. Stereotypes are always erroneous in content;
2. They are about groups with whom we have little or no social contact; by implication,
therefore, they are not held about one's own group;
3. They are about minority (or oppressed) groups;
4. They are simple;
5. They are ridged and do not change;
6. They are often based on a degree of historical and social truth.
Thus the 'dumb blonde' stereotype portrayed in many films refers to the subordinate
position of women in western societies and in that sense is quite accurate. Women
typically do find themselves in roles that are seen as less intellectually demanding.
Women are often defined in terms of their physical attractiveness to men. But, as
Richard Dyer (1977) argues, the stereotype goes further to suggest that such differences are
inborn — they imply 'natural' differences between the sexes. It suggests, or reinforces, the
view that women's social position is caused by differences in their aptitude and ability. In
doing so it conceals the possibility that such differences may be the effect of their inferior
position in a male dominated society.
Summarizing television content analyses over a twenty-year period Tuchman shows
that images of men outnumber those of women by two to one. If a working person is
portrayed it is almost always a male image and those working women that are depicted
are shown to be incompetent and inferior to male workers:
'men are doctors, women, nurses; men are lawyers, women secretaries; men
work in corporations, women tend boutiques' (Tuchman 1981).
Two thirds of the images of women shown on the screen are of women who have been,
are, or are about to be, married. But the typical male image is of a single person.
These findings are rather crude measures of sex stereotyping in the media. They cannot
catch the subtler points or the range of stereotypes of gender. There is not, for instance, one
single stereotype of women but many: the 'mother-in-law', the 'secretary', the 'call-girl', etc.
Another danger of such content analyses is that they encourage an approach which views
images and stereotypes as divorced from their wider social, political, and ideological contexts.
Tuchman's own discussion of stereotypes in women's magazines shows that stereotypes
are not static, they respond to changes in the actual position of women in society.
Thus, in response to the growing women's movement and the increase in female
employment, American women's magazines directed at working-class women displayed a
more optimistic attitude towards the possibility of combining work and family responsibilities
than did their predecessors, although a dominant ideology of femininity prevailed.
It`s worth now looking in more detail at what is going on in the other parts oI the process
the individuals and the media and their relationship with what is being represented. This
brings us on to the question oI stereotypes another word which is maybe worth a dictionary
A stereotype is a simpliIication that we use to make sense oI a real person or group which is
much more complicated. In reality there are many diIIerent kinds oI Germans who are all in-
dividuals, but it is much easier to Iool ourselves into believing that all Germans cheat with
beach towels and eat strange sausages. The example that I have just given may seem harm-
less, but in Iact it is arguably racist. Stereotypes are potentially highly dangerous but stereo-
typing itselI is impossible to avoid it is a natural Iunction oI the human mind something
that we all do in order to survive mentally in the conIusing world around us. The Iollowing
theory explains how it works.
The Iact that we naturally see the world in this kind oI shorthand way, with connections be-
tween diIIerent character traits, allows the media to create simplistic representations which we
Iind believable. Implicit personality theory explains this process.
!! As humans we use our own unique storehouse oI knowledge about people when we
!! Our past experience is more important than the true Ieatures oI the actual personality
that we are judging traits exist more in the eye oI the beholder than in reality.
!! We have each a system oI rules that tells us which characteristics go with other char-
!! We categorise people into types (e.g. workaholic, Ieminist etc.) to simpliIy the task oI
!! Once we have in our minds a set oI linked traits which seem to us to go together, they
Iorm a pattern oI connections that can be called a prototype. In other words the mix oI
traits that we may consider 'typical¨ oI Ieminists are a prototype oI what a Ieminist is
like to us.
!! II we encounter someone in reality or in the media who seems to Iit neatly into a pro-
totype, we Ieel reassured. It conIirms our stereotyped view we do not need to think
!! Also once a Iew oI the traits seem to Iit our prototype, we will immediately bundle
onto the person the rest oI the traits Irom the prototype even iI we do not know iI they
Iit them in reality.
!! Research has shown that iI we Iind people who do not Iit into our prototypes, we will
Iorm very strong oIten impressions oI them it is surprising to us and disconcerting
it Iorces us to think more deeply.
!! On the other hand, iI it is at all possible, we will try to twist the truth to Iit in with our
prototype, oIten ignoring traits which do not Iit into our neatly imagined pattern oI
characteristics. This will particularly happen as time passes and we have time to Iorget
things that do not Iit in. This can lead to enormous diIIerences between our percep-
tions oI people and the reality.
!! All oI this distortion happens naturally in our minds beIore the media have had their
chance to simpliIy and distort. We do a lot oI the business oI stereotyping ourselves. It
is almost as iI we conspire with the media to misunderstand the world
So stereotyping is something that we all do a natural part oI the way our minds work and
not in itselI necessarily a bad thing. II, Ior example, you were a teacher attempting to plan out
a course which would be suitable Ior your class, you would need to work Irom the basis oI a
kind oI stereotype oI the needs oI 'typical¨ students. Having said this, even in cases where
stereotypes are valuable like this, the good teacher would have then tried to go beyond the
stereotype and looked Ior exceptions.
This is probably something we should all do when we encounter stereotypes be aware that
just as with the process oI mediation the stereotypes involve selection, organisation and Iocus-
ing oI the complicated reality.
How can the media build a stereotype? With any group oI people, there will obviously be an
enormous number oI things that can be used in a stereotype, but because stereotyping is a
Iorm oI simpliIication, normally the most obvious things are used. These are:
These Iirst two Ieatures oI media stereotypes are the same when we make our own stereo-
types. They simply involve us thinking oI something that may be true oI some oI the group in
question and applying it to all.
The third Ieature oI media stereotyping is peculiar to the media:
This is more diIIicult to understand but it is crucial Ior you to look Ior it. II you watch a Iilm
such as Silence of the Lambs and then look at the tabloid coverage oI Fred West, you are see-
ing the same stereotype (the typical Serial Killer) being used, but there are obviously big diI-
Ierences which will depend on the speciIics oI the media used:
The Iilm will use close ups oI the killer`s leering Iace, soundtrack music and reaction shots oI
terriIied victims to create their version oI the stereotype.
The newspaper will use emotive headlines, blurred pictures oI victims and police mug-shots
oI the killer along with shocking text and interviews with survivors.
In each case the text will create a stereotype which it`s audience will Iind Iamiliar, but it will
do it in very diIIerent ways.
The Ieatures which make up a stereotype are always those which seem somehow diIIerent
Irom every-day behaviour. In Iact you could almost start any stereotyped description by say-
ing: 'this group are diIIerent because they.¨
OI course the idea oI what is normal in any society is an absurdity and thereIore in order to
make it clear to us that the stereotyped characters are not behaving 'normally¨ there will Ire-
quently be 'normal¨ people used to act as a contrast to them. So, in a Iilm like Silence of the
Lambs, Jodie Foster is used to give the audience someone to compare Lecter`s behaviour
with. On the news, tales oI striking workers (another stereotype) are always contrasted with
interviews with 'normal¨ people who are suIIering as a result oI their actions.
The normal` person will act as a representative oI us in the text at the same time reIlecting
what we might Ieel, or telling us what to Ieel depending on your point oI view.
Create your own chart oI stereotypes based on those that you have encountered in two or
more diIIerent media (Ior example, television and newspapers)
!"#$#%"&'#( )''#*$*+,#( -#.*/0%1$( 2#30*(#4*5'6#(
You may have seen the blockbuster Iilm
Independence Dav. In this Iilm there is a
character played by Will Smith who is
clearly intended to be a positive and
strong hero. As such, he goes against
many oI the previous negative stereotypes
oI black people in American Iilms. In one
crucial scene Irom the Iilm we see him
responding to the danger oI an alien`s
attack by simply kicking it.
You may also have seen another Iilm
released around the same time: Mars
Attacks. In this there is also a black hero
who also responds to the attack oI a bunch
oI aliens by punching one oI them. Both oI these Iilms were made virtually simultaneously:
how can we explain the Iact that they end up containing what are almost identical scenes? In
both cases, the representation oI black people in these Iilms has probably resulted Irom the
very best oI intentions. The Iilms` producers were probably tired oI years oI negative stereo-
typing oI black people in the movies and wanted to create a new representation. So, instead oI
showing black people as criminals or as animals they have represented them as noble heroes
who get straight to the point and take no nonsense. They have also emphasised the humour oI
these characters and have made sure that they are attractive enough to act as macho role mod-
One analysis oI this would be to say that they have created a new kind oI stereotype a posi-
tive stereotype which could be called a ,%1+"#$"&'#. In the same way as a traditional stereo-
type was made by selecting the negative behaviour oI some members oI the group, the
countertype homes in on some Ieatures which are positive. However the countertype is still
very much a stereotype it is still a simpliIication oI the enormous diversity that must exist
in the population oI black Americans. As such, although it is an improvement on a negative
stereotype, it is still not the whole truth and many black people would probably still Iind it
very annoying in the way that it limits their behaviour.
You will probably be able to Iind Countertypes whenever there is a group being represented
positively Ior the Iirst time by the media. It seems as iI the media Iind it diIIicult to adapt to
change and will always use the old techniques oI simpliIication even iI they`re trying to be
nice about someone. This has led some people to question whether it is ever possible to create
a representation that is Iree oI stereotypes. II you think back to implicit personality theory, it
should be clear how natural the process oI stereotyping is to us and how attractive we Iind this
simpliIied view oI the world. However, iI we are aware oI this tendency in our own minds, we
must be able to at least try to avoid it and to recognise it in the media texts that we are pre-
There are Iew Iacts` in Media Studies. The more you read, the more you will discover that
academics Irom diIIerent ideological starting points draw diIIerent conclusions about the way
the media works, and its relationship with its audience. Representation can be considered
Irom two very diIIerent ideological standpoints.
The hegemonic model says that the ruling classes maintain their power through control oI
ideas and culture rather than Iorce. In hegemony, the ruling classes govern by consensus: they
control the way the media represents the world so as to inIluence the way people think about
the world, and the ruling classes. This can become a running battle between rivals.
A more sophisticated approach to hegemony argues that the mass media adopt a consensus oI
what is normal; a commonsense which is actually an ideology. The very nature oI common
sense means that the audience does not question it. You might think oI it as a kind oI civil re-
ligion: a set oI values that the majority oI people subscribe to without thinking about it.
An Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, developed the idea oI Hegemony, suggesting that the
power that lies at its heart is constantly being negotiated, rather than enIorced.
The pluralistic model comes Irom the opposite perspective to Marxism. Pluralism says that
the media is diverse, with a wide range oI available choices Ior consumers. Rather than the
media inIluencing consensus, consensus values inIluence media representations. II particular
representations are dominant, pluralists argue, it is because they are popular among the audi-
ence, not because powerIul media institutions are pushing` a particular ideology.
AIter all, the main Iunction oI the mass media is to entertain to please their audience: to
provide representations that meet audience expectations. This is where stereotypes come in:
they pander to the views oI the audience. The more media institutions pander to their audi-
ences, the more money they can make.(
MISFITS – E4 ! http://www.e4.com/misfits/
Can you ‘stereotype’ these characters? They are all dressed the same yet the
programme makers manage to create completely separate ‘personalities’ for
each – some questions you should ask are:
1. Are they deliberately dressed the same to make a point?
2. Although they are the same, how have the programme makers gone
about creating individual identities for each character?
3. To what extent is each character a stereotype?
PERSONAL TV SHOW ACTIVITY
Choose a programme of your own (one you watch regularly) and copy and
complete the following chart:
Character Name &
Description of Character
How do you know?
- choose 3-4 characters
- choose main and
- cut and paste an image in