The society of nowadays is filled with advertisements, messages, films, blogs, technology, etc. The meanings that they carry have to be transmitted to the audience through different media. (Branston and Stafford, 2006) It appears important for the receiver to analyse and understand the meanings carried by each type of medium. In order to do so, the different “vehicles” used by media have to be identified. Different vehicle theories include: semiotics, genres, narratives, representation, audiences, etc. (Ibidem) And while they all have to be gathered and related to form a medium, these theories have on their own signs to be interpreted by the viewer.
Media has to construct meanings about the world in order to represent it appropriately or logically enough for the audience to understand, and make sense out of what they are seeing. (O’Sullivan etal., 1994) Representations of the world have to be understood by the audience. It allows an easier and faster understanding of what media is trying to portray and by doing so saves time needed to achieve other goals o since the media has limits of time and space. (Wilson, 1993) For instance, T.V. shows, in order to save time and capture viewers in the story faster, resort to stereotypes “There may be a shared recognition of the world as represented through familiar or dominant images and ideas” (O’Sullivan etal., 1994)
A good example of a type of media that uses representations as a way to help audience identify with the world presented on T.V. is the very popular show named: Friends. It debuted in 1994 through NBC and moved on to become one of the shows with the highest rate in television. It won multiple awards during its time on air until its end in May 2004. In 2002 the show won an Emmy for outstanding comedy series. (TBS.com, 2009) It had a big cultural impact, for instance, phrases from the sitcom became common in American slang, and songs from the show became very famous around the globe.
It is a sitcom that presents the life of six friends (3 males and 3 females) middle aged, middle class who live in New York. They live close to each other and spend a lot of time together discussing very different themes. They all have different personalities and different backgrounds but compliment each other comically. This case study will analyse through the theory of representations, the stereotypes presented by the female characters: Rachel, Phoebe and Monica.
When referring to representations in the media, it is important to notice that stereotypes are present very often. Especially in a commercial T.V. show such as Friends, creators have to turn into cultural stereotypes in order for the audience to easily and quickly identify each role; who plays whom in a story and, in certain situations, justify their actions. “Within the media, limits of time and space plus the desire of achieving rapid audience recognition have obliged the stereotypical representations to be constructed and portrayed…” (Wilson, 1993)
The role of Rachel Green represents the rich bimbo girl. She comes from a wealthy background, her father, is a successful doctor able to provide her and her sisters with a fancy childhood. She has never worked, is not self sufficient, and as mention in chapter 12 of season 6 “The one with the joke” (Blinkx.com, 2000) she is always trying to please others. She is in many ways an exaggeration of a spoiled American girl. Rachel is dumb, lost, and she does not know what she wants. According to Wilson (1993) stereotypes have to be exaggerated or maximised, since there is a necessity for audience recognition. If there is no recognition then it becomes a commercial failure. For this reason the character of Rachel is exaggerated. She cries over anything, she is afraid of commitment, irresponsible, and does not want to take care of anyone as much as she wants to be taken care of. But there is a necessity for her to form...
References: Branston, G. and Stafford, R. ( 2006) The Media Student’s Book. 4th ed. Routledge. U.K. Pp. 141-156
Blinkx.com (no date) Friends. The one with the joke. Retrieved online on 3rd October 2009 from:
O’Sullivan, T. etal. (1994) Studying the media. An Introduction. St. Martin’s Press Inc. New York, U.S.A. Pp 113, 115, 117, 122, and 125.
Tbs.com (2009) Friends, About the show. Retrieved online on 3rd October 2009 from : http://www.tbs.com/stories/story/0,,268,00.html
Wilson, S. (1993) Mass Media, Mass Culture. 3rd ed. Mc Graw Hill. United States. Pp. 225-236
Warnerbros.com (2009) Friends. Retrieved online on 3rd October 2009 from: http://www.warnervideo.com/friends15/
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