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Media, Identity and the Popular - Essay Example

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Media, Identity and the Popular

Given the power, extent, and outreach of popular media – including films and television, the social construction of characters belonging to racial and ethnic minorities are bound to have a significant impact on the wider audience (Downing & Husband, 2005). Signorielli (2001) described television as "the nation’s primary story-teller" (p. 36) engaged in the role of continuously 'feeding' its audience with healthy doses of what can be construed as 'mainstream' views (Gerbner et al., 2002). The representation of racial and ethnic minorities in films and television, hence, is a critical subject of analysis and needs to be explored because the sheer extent of media outreach and the number of ardent viewers these forms of popular media attract almost ensure a greater social impact over a period of time (Mastro & Greenberg, 2000). This essay aims to highlight, explore, and analyse the manner in which these popular mediums of communication particularly films and television portray racially and ethnically diverse characters; the gradual shift in such portrayals over time; followed by the influence and impact of the same supported by theoretical implications of such representation. The examples discussed as a part of the study include popular films and television shows from the UK, U.S., and Canada. Media representation of racial / ethnic minorities: An Overview Hall (1981) stated that media as a key tool of propagating ideologies often uses the platform to generate representations of the socio-cultural environment around us by way of images and characters. These characters in turn accentuate the understanding of its audience with regard to the manner in which the world around is and influence them to interpret the messages coded therein with regard to the members of the racial and ethnic minorities. The persistent portrayal of such images leads such characters and / or images to become naturalized enabling the viewers to understand these images and characters in the way they are portrayed (p. 11). Cultural theorists focused on investigating cultural and racial representations in popular media have identified the portrayal of 'whiteness' as the dominant theme and as a strategic rhetoric. The images and characters associated with the dominant white population are often indicative of their privileged status in both films as well as on prime time television shows and /or soap operas. It is also often argued that 'whiteness' is often the most dominant and overarching norm against which all other races are measured and compared (Ott, 2010: p. 139). African-Americans have consistently been under-represented as compared to their white counterparts in films and television programs in the United States (Wilson, 1996; Dixon & Rosenbaum, 2004). Although there has been a commendable and dramatic change in trend with regard to portrayal of racial and ethnic minorities on television shows and films over the years, the blacks continue to be either under-represented or portrayed in characters / roles that tend to perpetuate and even increase stereotyping (Dill, 2013: p. 253). Most of the popular television shows aired during the previous decade often included Caucasians as key protagonists with supporting ...Show more


How are characters in current or recent television or film texts specifically coded in relation to race and/or ethnicity? “As a way of categorizing people, race is based upon a delusion because popular ideas about racial classification lack scientific validity and are moulded by political pressures rather than by the evidence from biology” Banton & Harwood, 1975: 8 Introduction: The role of media in creating and perpetuating dominant images through public representation of socio-cultural relations is undeniable…
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