“The role of the mass media in representations
of age, social class, ethnicity,
gender, sexuality and disability”.
© Chris. Livesey 2007: www.sociology.org.uk
AS Sociology For AQA
Representation refers to
how the media constructs
realities in terms of certain
key markers of identity.
Connor (2001): “…representation is not
just about the way the world is presented
to us but also about how we engage with
media texts...representation is, therefore,
just as much about audience interpretation
as it is about the portrayals that are
offered to us by the media”.
Major key markers of identity include class, age,
gender, ethnicity and disability - 'CAGED'.
In the real world these
key categories aren’t
woman, for example,
may be represented
differently in the
media depending on
her class, age and
How social groups are represented
focuses on the role of the media in
terms of how representations of, for
example, gender, contribute to the
creation of social identities of
masculinity and femininity. What we’re
interested in here, therefore, is how the
media uses representations for a variety
of intended and unintended purposes,
to construct social identities.
This encapsulates the idea of the way social
identities constructed through the media are
used to lock people into identities such as
“male” or “female”.
One-sided or partial
representations of, for
example, a social group (such
as “white people”); they involve
oversimplified expressions of
group characteristics and
usually accentuate some
feature in a negative way
(although sometimes groups
can be positively stereotyped).
Media stereotypes are not necessarily used in a simple
ideological or biased way (to demonise a particular social
group, for example). Often - as in television advertising
where a message has to be transmitted and understood in
about 30 seconds - they’re used to ensure a wide audience
quickly understands the background to something. In this
respect, stereotypes are often used as codes to familiarise
an audience with particular situations.
AS Sociology For AQA
The media generally presents information through the
eyes of middle class professionals or upper class owners.
Example: News images of the working classes are often
framed in term of conflict, whereas fictional images often
reflect idealised images of “community”. And conflict.
News reporting involves a
representation of reality that Fiske
(1987) calls the transparency fallacy a rebuttal of the idea news reporting represents a neutral “window on the
world”, reflecting events as they unfold.
This concept - originally
developed by Mulvey (1975)
as a way of expressing the
idea of male power and control
over female representation in
Hollywood films - can be
applied to understand
representations of social class
across a range of media.
Heider (2004) suggests class
visibility or invisibility is related to
journalistic (and audience) news
values: "People in [American] news
rooms each day either choose to
cover or not to cover stories
depending on whether they think a
particular audience will be interested.
In many cases, if the victim of a
crime is poor, the story won't be
given the attention it would if it were
someone with wealth or influence”.
Where some groups (such as the
working classes) feature in the
media they’re restricted to a fairly
narrow range of appearances or
situations. A positive area is sport
(especially male professional sport).
On the negative side, there is the
association with crime and industrial
unrest. Middle class representations
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