Sunday, December 5, 2010

Representation & the Media

In his lecture entitled "Representation & the Media," Cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall highlights many fundamental ideas of queer theory:

Though he focuses on race rather than queer people, his scholarship raises many important questions about queerness:
- How are queer people represented in the media? As caracatures of themselves
- Who creates the images that serve as mainstream representations?
- How powerful is language in relation to the meaning of "queer," as defined by our society?

Hall brings attention to the distorted representations of underrepresented people (i.e., people who do not fit the social standard of being male, white, heterosexual, etc.; queer people). Though his focus is on black men in the media, this idea can be applied to representations of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people, all people of color, disabled people and many more "queer" groups. He gives examples of stereotypical representations, which apply to all queer people who are visible in the media. For example, gay men most frequently portrayed in the media as flamboyant, feminine, promiscuous and comedic. This stereotypical representation has a strong influence on the meaning society as a whole attaches to "gay man."

He also reveals that these mainstream representations of queer people are more often than not created by white, heterosexual males.

Hall explains that language is extremely powerful when it comes to how a culture portrays, views and treats queer people. He asserts that representations, by nature, are depictions - when something already present is re-presented, like a representative is someone standing in for someone else/others. Therefore, people form meanings based on how they see something represented.

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