The notion that media content reflects changing dominant discourses with regards to masculinity and femininity appears to be an on going debate, although traditional representations of men and women are still very much evident in media content, for example domesticity, motherhood and women’s role in the home, it is notable that due to shifts in a cultured society, one that claims to be of fairness and equality, that there are still repetitious marginalisation’s which currently proliferate within media content with regards to the representation of femininity and masculinity. (Allrath et al, 2005, p.29)
For example, there appears to be a noticeable trend with regards to gender, between programmes aimed at smaller niche audiences and those of mainstream Hollywood cinema. The primetime soap opera ‘Eastenders,’ for instance plays on these traditional attributes of femininity by depicting female characters in ‘motherly,’ or ‘sensitive roles,’ The current story line between Martin and Sonia Fowler and the fight for custody over their daughter, also highlights Sonia’s needs as a mother to be with and care for her daughter. However, what is most interesting about this plot line is the instance in which Martin is granted full custody of daughter Rebecca. Although the characters still display traditional attitudes of masculinity and femininity, the issue of Martin obtaining custody over the mother, is a possible juxtaposition of the genders, a ‘role reversal,’ as with the emergence of contemporary assertive and independent female characters, comes the development of more sensitive, responsible males, which could be the only option of overriding the prevalence of this new confident female archetype. ( MacKinnon, 2003, p.13)
This current representation of masculinity could in conclusion be a contemporary attempt by media institutions to place women back into the original stereotype of which they previously came, as secondary to men, as the sex with the least power and influence.
Furthermore, with reference to mainstream cinema, it is roles regarding femininity which are typically challenged, the film ‘Domino,’ for example is one text which highlights this contemporary modification of gender roles, as it features actress Kiera Knightly in a masculine role of a bounty hunter. The masculinity of this role is also emphasised by the fact that she works along side other men. However, films such as ‘Saw II’ and III which place female antagonist Amanda in a powerful role is overridden by the fact that her male ‘teacher,’ is considerably ill and close to death, in this case it appears that the dominance of Amanda’s role is therefore used as a ‘substitution.’
Moreover, when focusing on other contemporary films such as ‘Broke Back Mountain,’ which highlights homosexuality, proves an important point of focus when observing changing discourses about gender. Both characters have female partners, but are clearly in favour of their homosexual lifestyle, this again demeans the role of the females but brings to light the notion of homosexuality which is still deemed ‘abnormal,’ in some cultures. (MacKinnon, 2003, pg.7)
MacKinnon notes that problems with masculinity are often brought to light by the concept of homosexuality, stating that, ‘femininity is taken to apply to the world of women, it is taken also to apply to homosexual males, to whom culture often imputes effeminacy.’ MacKinnon also goes on to illustrate that, ‘the fear of homosexuality that seems intrinsic to normative masculinity has another explanation – that passive anal intercourse is seen as disturbingly feminizing. Heterosexual intercourse has been explained in ideological terms by asserting not just women’s penetrability but men’s impenetrability.’ (2003, p.7) MacKinnon goes on to conclude that this can help to explain to understand the ‘fear of the feminine,’ as a reason why homosexuality is often broadly excluded in mainstream cinema. (2003, p.8)
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