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Transcript of Representation Continued
Last week we started to look at
, and discussed what representation is, and why it is an important thing to consider when studying media.
Now we are going to look more in-depth at how Representations are formed, and what
are important in the study and understanding of representation in Media. Referring to theorists will get you higher marks in exams and essays.
Firstly, the theorists...
Stuart Hall's name will crop up reasonably frequently in Media Studies (if it has not done already).
A Cultural Theorist and Sociologist
Prominent figure in media studies theory
Stuart Hall on Representation
Important figure, but not the most exciting.
Hall emphasises the importance of visual representation – the image seems to be the prevalent sign of late modern culture.
Representation is that which stands in for something else.
Representation is the way in which meaning is given to the things which are depicted in the media
In 'Representation & the Media', Hall described 3 main approaches to Representation:
The reflective approach suggests that what we see and hear through the media is a
of real life. In other words, the representation is created from what exists in reality. This approach would have us believe that the producers are taking something's true meaning and recreating it in the mind of the audience.
Can you think of an example of a type of media that we perceive as being
News (programmes and papers) are usually perceived as being reflective media - they take what exists in reality and claim to then
it to us as accurately as possible.
What is reflective about the representations used in this clip?
The intentional approach to representation suggests that all representations are loaded with the
of the producers who created it. Unlike the reflective approach the most important details are not
is shown, but
is showing it. They are presenting their own view and the words and images used mean what they want them to mean.
Can you think of an example of media which most clearly demonstrates an intentional approach?
If we take the intentional approach, all media content represents the intention of the producer. This would mean that the producer would have to have some intent, such as to persuade us something.
is a good example of this.
How is Representation used in this clip? What does this tell you about the producer's intentions?
The Constructionist approach is a mixture of reflective and intentional. It is seen as a response to the weaknesses in those other two approaches, as some would argue that they are too simplistic. This approach suggests that the meaning of a representation is
in the mind of the audience.
Constructionists would say that a representation can never be the absolute truth, nor can it only be the media producer's version of the truth.
These approaches ignore the one thing that you as audiences all have in common - the ability to make up your own minds, in addition to the external influences on you that the text has no control over (society)
So, the representation is
from a mixture of:
The thing itself (image, text or sound)
The opinions of the people doing the representation
The reaction of the individual to the representation
The context of the society in which the representation is taking place
A reflectionist would say that this is how British people really are - they have been
An intentionalist would say that the producers are
to make us believe that this is how British people are, or that the producers are
to genuinely offend British people by mocking them.
A constructionalist would say that this representation is
from the following elements:
There are British people that maybe the producers have seen or met that are like this.
They formed an opinion of them based upon this and they used this as a basis for their exaggerated representation
As an individual, you can choose whether to believe that this is accurate or not, and choose whether or not you are offended by this.
You were probably influenced by the fact that you live in Britain and are (probably) British. An American might come to a different conclusion, and a Russian might come to another.
So, that's Stuart Hall.
The key thing to remember
to persuade you
Constructional - Is
by a combination of the producer,the audience and the society
What term describes the Representation of the British in Family Guy?
Perkins wrote a landmark paper in 1979 called 'Rethinking Stereotypes'. Her theories on stereotypes are key in framing any debate about them.
She is therefore an important one to remember if you ever plan to talk about stereotypes in an essay or exam!
What came out of Perkins' work were 5 key facts about stereotypes...
1. Stereotypes are not always negative
What positive stereotypes are there?
Asian people are good at maths
Gay men are stylish
Native Americans are spiritual
Germans are efficient
Black People are more athletic
Women are sensitive
Men are strong
2. Stereotypes are not always about minority groups or the less powerful
Upper Class Twits (usually most powerful social class)
Male/Female stereotypes - stereotyping half of the human population!
The Tory politician
3. Stereotypes can be held about one's own group
What 'groups' do you belong to?
What stereotypes do you think are valid about these groups?
4. They are not rigid - they change over time
The poor and uneducated working class stereotype....
5. They are not always false (duh!)
This seems obvious. But stereotypes by their nature are based in some kind of reality and common experience. This is why people share these perceptions.
So that's Perkins (1979)...
be about social groups that are powerful or not in the minority
be held about one's own group
change over time
be based in truth
Mulvey's work has focused on the differences in gender representation within the media. In 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', published in 1975, she first coined the term
The Male Gaze
Mulvey analysed Hollywood cinema and argued that female characters were represented as passive objects of male sexual desire.
'The male gaze' – male characters are ‘the bearers of the look’ which is usually aimed at physically desirable, sexually submissive female characters.
Mulvey argues spectators watch films through the eyes of the male characters, and that the female characters' primary value lies in their physical appearance.
Features of the Male Gaze
The curves of the female body will be the primary element of their representation - they will be accentuated through camerawork, sound or language.
Mulvey argued that the male gaze relegates women to the status of mere objects - to be looked at by men.
Does this demonstrate 'male gaze'?
Are the female characters objectified?
Criticisms of the Male Gaze Theory
Some critics suggest that some women enjoy being looked at and objectified
Also, in recent years the awareness of audiences about the sexism in media has led to producers actively moving in the opposite direction...
So that's Mulvey.
' theory says that women will predominantly be represented as promiscuous, seductive and valued primarily as sexual objects.
Does that video disprove Mulvey's theory?
Dyer perhaps summed up the importance and concept of Representation the best. He said:
"How we are seen determines how we are treated, and how we treat others is based on how we see them. How we see them comes from representation"
Dyer is another theorist who will crop up time and time again - due to his extensive work in relation to media, and representation in particular.
Perhaps Dyer's most important contribution is his 4 key questions in decoding a representation...
1. The Re-presentation
What is being shown to the audience?
2. The Representation
What does the re-presentation mean? This requires audience knowledge.
3. The Representer
Who is responsible for the representation?
4. The Audience
Finally, what experience and knowledge does the audience bring? Does this affect their perception of the representation?
Baudrillard was concerned with the effect that the media was having on society as a whole, and representation was a big part of his theory.
Baudrillard argued that our media-focused society has become reliant upon representations.
This is Baudrillard's 1981 Philosophical book. This is where Baudrillard's theories about representation come from.
This means that we have lost contact with the real, and we can no longer tell the real from the artificial. This state of affairs is what Baudrillard referred to as
. The sign or representation of reality is now of more importance or has replaced what it was representing.
These simulations of reality that have replaced the reality itself were what Baudrillard referred to as
Take an example.
Remember this from last time?
None of us has been to Johannesburg.
Last week, we all formed an opinion of Johannesburg based upon Louis Theroux's representation of it (in addition to other representations of it we have seen in the media or heard from friends and family).
This would also be the case for the vast majority of Earth's 7 billion human beings, who have also not been to Johannesburg.
For us, this film and the other photos and videos we have seen stand in for the real experience of what Johannesburg is like.
The opinion we formed about Johannesburg is more important to us than the experience of actually being there (because we have never been).
So if the majority of the human race see Johannesburg this way, what effect might this have on the city itself?
Let's look at another example.
Remember when we
t Facebook Profile Pic
Some would argue t
cebook culture is proo
f of Baudrillard's
Were he alive today, Baudrillard would say that Facebook represents a
Our Facebook profiles are a representation of ourselves. However, we now live in a time where to many this representation is more important than their actual personality, and their interactions on Facebook hold more meaning than their real-life interactions. To some, their Facebook profile is a replacement for their real personality - a
Let's look at one final example of a media form to try and solidify this idea...
Pornography was created and designed to portray real sexual interactions between real people. It is not literally simulated, however the act itself is a simulation (the presence of cameras, the intention to have sex etc. is all 'faked')
A prominent theory is that today men (in particular) have expectations of how women will look and act in a sexual manner in comparison with pornographic performers. This has been argued to lead to relationship problems due to conflicting opinions between partners about what 'real' sex is.
This is another example of
Pornography, which is a representation of real-life sexual relationships, ends up changing (and even replacing) 'real' sexual interactions between real people. A
now exists where men who have grown up with pornography now perceive this to be the reality.
The representation has therefore replaced the reality.
So, Baudrillard key points:
A media-heavy world means an increase in representations of reality
These enter public consciousness...
Which creates a hyperreality made up of representations
The representation becomes more important than reality (a simulacra)
Reality TV also claims to reflect real-life, as it tends to show real people in real situations. How 'real' it is is a subject of some debate, and this debate essentially boils down to the type of representation used.
Write down what you think a
, and a
would say about the representation of events that occur in the Big Brother House.
Mulvey's work will also be key when you come to look at
One other theory worthy of mention in relation to the representation is something referred to as
The Bechdel Test
The test is named after it's creator Alison Bechdel, who noted the stark differences in female and male representation in cinema in her comic strip entitled 'The Rule'
The representation of the city comes to replace the reality - what we are represented with is now more important than what it is actually like.
This is an example of
The copy is more important to most of us than the reality.
This 'Porn on the Brain' documentary is part of Channel 4's 'Campaign for Real Sex'.
What do you understand this to mean?
Whilst they may be perceived as being positive, these are stereotypes nonetheless, and are therefore
and take no account of