G235: Critical Perspectives in Media
Theoretical Evaluation of Production
Question 1(b) Representation
• • You will be able to describe what representation is. Be able to identify the types of groups that are represented? You will be able to discuss representation in your products
• The media does not present and construct reality, but instead represents it.
• Representing is about constructing reality, it is supposed to contain versimilitude and simplify people’s understanding of life.
Representation refers to the construction in any medium (especially the mass media) of aspects of �reality� such as people, places, objects, events, cultural identities and other abstract concepts. Such representations may be in speech or writing as well as still or moving pictures.
The term refers to the processes involved as well as to its products. For instance, in relation to the key markers of identity - Class, Age, Gender and Ethnicity (the 'cage' of identity) - representation involves not only how identities are represented (or rather constructed) within the text but also how they are constructed in the processes of production and reception by people whose identities are also differentially marked in relation to such demographic factors. Consider, for instance, the issue of 'the gaze'. How do men look at images of women, women at men, men at men and women at women?
Richard Dyer (1983) posed a few questions when analysing media representations in general:
1. What sense of the world is it making? 2. What does it imply? Is it typical of the world or deviant? 3. Who is it speaking to? For whom? To whom? 4. What does it represent to us and why? How do we respond to the representation?
How are the following groups represented in the media?
Types of people:
– Class – Age – Gender – Ethnicity – Sexuality
Refer to your AS Exam for assistance with this?
• How are men and women represented in films? • What roles do men and women have in films? • What do they look like, which seven character types are they?
Representations of sexuality in cinema
• How are gays/lesbians represented? • What roles do gay/lesbian characters have in films? • What do they look like, which seven character types are they?
• How is ethnicity represented? • What roles do these characters play in films? • Which seven character types are they?
Representation - Definition
• How the media shows us things about society – but this is through careful mediation. Hence re-presentation. • For representation to be meaningful to audiences there needs to be a shared recognition of people, situations, ideas etc. • All representations therefore have ideologies behind them. Certain paradigms are encoded into texts and others are left out in order to give a preferred representation (Levi – Strauss, 1958).
• 1. 2. 3. 4.
In terms of your coursework you should be looking at representation in terms of : MARXISM FEMINISM POSTMODERNISM STEREOTYPES
Ideology – refers to a set of ideas which produces a partial and selective view of reality. Notion of ideology entails widely held ideas or beliefs which are seen as ‘common’ sense and become naturalised.
What is important is that, in Marxist terms, the media’s role may be seen as : Circulating and reinforcing dominant ideologies (less frequently) undermining and challenging such ideologies.
• Rosalind Brunt (1992) details that ideologies are never simply ideas in peoples’ heads but are myths that we live by and which contribute to our self worth. • David Gauntlett (2002) argues that “identities are not ‘given’ but are constructed and negotiated.”
• Michel Maffesoli (1985) identified the idea of the “urban tribe” – members of these small groups tend to have similar worldwide views, dress styles and common behaviours – leads to the decline of individualism. • Collective Identity • David Gauntlett (2007) argues that “Identity is complicated. Everybody thinks they’ve got one. Artists play with the idea of identity in modern society.”
2. Gender and Ideology (FEMINISM)
• Masculinity and femininity are socially constructed. • Ideas about gender are produced and reflected in language O’ Sullivan et al (1998). • Feminism is a label that refers to a broad range of views containing one shared assumption – gender inequalities in society, historically masculine power (patriarchy) exercised at right of women’s interests and rights.
• Particularly in relation to film – objectification of women’s bodies in the media has been a constant theme. • Laura Mulvey (1975) argues that the dominant point of view is masculine. The female body is displayed for the male gaze in order to provide erotic pleasure for the male (vouyerism). Women are therefore objectified by the camera lens and whatever gender the spectator/audience is positioned to accept the masculine POV.
John Berger ‘Ways Of Seeing’ (1972) “Men act and women appear”. “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at”. “Women are aware of being seen by a male spectator”
• Jib Fowles (1996) “in advertising, males gaze and females are gazed at”. • Paul Messaris (1997) “female models addressed to women....appear to imply a male point of view”. • In terms of magazine covers of women, Janice Winship (1987) has been an extremely influential theorist. “The gaze between cover model and women readers marks the complicity between women seeing themselves in the image masculine culture has defined”.
• In Slasher movies the psychopath is finally stopped by a character, which Carol J. Clover(1992), calls the ‘Final Girl’. • The ‘Final Girl’ is always a pure, innocent girl who abstains from sex and may be less attractive than the other female characters. The message here is clear, in horror movies, if you are a women, Sex = Death. • The Final Girl is explored explicitly in many postmodern slasher flicks like Scream and Cabin in the Woods
3. POSTMODERNISM AND REPRESENTATIONS OF REALITY
• ‘In a media saturated world, the distinction between reality and media representations becomes blurred or invisible to us.’ (Julian McDougall, 2009). • Modern period came before – people were concerned with representing reality, but now this gets mixed around and we end up with pastiche, parody and intertextuality. For example, Dominic Strinati (1995) details that “reality is now only definable in terms of the reflections of the mirror”. • “Television, is it the reflector or the director? Does it imitate us or do we imitate it?” United States of Hypocrisy.
• Jean-Francois Lyotard (1984) and Jean Baudrillard (1980) share the belief that the idea of ‘truth’ needs to be deconstructed so that dominant ideas (that Lyotard argues are “grand narratives”) can be challenged.
• Baudrillard discussed the concept of hyperreality – we inhabit a society that is no longer made up of any original thing for a sign to represent – it is the sign that is now the meaning. He argued that we live in a society of simulacra – simulations of reality that replace the real. Remember Disneyland?
• We can apply this to texts that claim to represent reality – social realist films? • Merrin (2005) argues that “the media do not reflect and represent reality but instead produce it, employing this simulation to justify their own continuing existence”.
• We often judge a text’s realism against our own ‘situated culture’. What is ‘real’ can therefore become subjective. • Stereotypes can be used to enhance realism - a news programme, documentary, film text etc about football hooligans, for e.g, will all use very conventional images that are associated with the realism that audiences will identify with such as shots of football grounds, public houses etc.
• O’Sullivan et al (1998) details that a stereotype is a label that involves a process of categorisation and evaluation. • We can call stereotypes shorthand to narratives because such simplistic representations define our understanding of media texts – e.g we know who is good and who is evil.
• First coined by Walter Lippmann (1956) the word stereotype wasn’t meant to be negative and was simply meant as a shortcut or ordering process. • In ideological terms, stereotyping is a means by which support is provided by one group’s differential against another.
• Orrin E. Klapp's (1962) distinction between stereotypes and social types is helpful. • Klapp defines social types as representations of those who 'belong' to society. • They are the kinds of people that one expects, and is led to expect, to find in one's society, whereas stereotypes are those who do not belong, who are outside of one's society.
• Richard Dyer (1977) suggests Klapp’s distinction can be reworked in terms of the types produced by different social groups according to their sense of who belongs and who doesn't, who is 'in' and who is not
• Tessa Perkins (1979) says, however, that stereotyping is not a simple process. She identified that some of the many ways that stereotypes are assumed to operate aren’t true.
• They 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 – supported by empirical evidence. • They are not always rigid and unchanging.
Perkins argues that if stereotypes were always so simple then they would not work culturally and over time.
• Martin Barker (1989) - stereotypes are condemned for misrepresenting the ‘real world’. (e.g. Reinforcing the (false) stereotype that women are available for sex at any time) . He also says stereotypes are condemned for being too close to real world (e.g. showing women in home servicing men, which many still do). • Bears out Perkins’ point that for stereotypes to work they need audience recognition.
• Dyer (1977) details that if we are to be told that we are going to see a film about an alcoholic then we will know that it will be a tale either of sordid decline or of inspiring redemption. • This is a particularly interesting potential use of stereotypes, in which the character is constructed, at the level of costume, performance, etc., as a stereotype but is deliberately given a narrative function that is not implicit in the stereotype, thus throwing into question the assumptions signalled by the stereotypical iconography. • In other words, the codes and conventions of genre narratives rely heavily on stereotyping.
“Representations in media texts are often simplistic and reinforce dominant ideologies so that audiences can make sense of them”
– Evaluate the ways that you have used/challenged simplistic representations in one of the media products you have produced.