Firstly, representation within the media refers to the construction in any ‘medium’ (most commonly the mass media) focusing on aspects of ‘reality’ such as people, places, objexts, events, cultural identities and other abstract concepts. It is important to mention how it is not only how identities are represented by the people sending out the ‘message’, but also how this representation is received by the audience, of whom will more than likely be part of another demographic group.
For instance, the issue brought about by feminist Laura Mulvey in the late 20th century: ‘the male gaze’; how are women perceived by men, as an object of desire, or as an image of beauty? She declared that in patriarchal society ‘pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female’ (Mulvey 1992). According to her findings ‘Men do the looking; women are there to be looked at’. This issue has been around since before even the Renaissance period, however theorist John Berger argues that since the Renaissance onwards, women have been depicted as being ‘aware of being seen by a [male] spectator’ (J. Berges, ‘Ways of Seeing’, 1972). Within this dominant representational tradition the spectator is typically assumed not simply to be male but also to be heterosexual and often also white.
Under-representation within the media has been an on-going issue ever since the media industry was first established. Of course, there have been certain individuals who have been victimised my the media, but particular groups of people have been subject to scrutiny and have been unpopular with the vast majority of those controlling the flow of the media. I have been doing some research and have found that over the past few hundred years, ever since the media was first recognised as an industry, it has unfortunately been people of ethnic minority or females who have been victimised the most by the media and the viewers themselves.
In terms of racial representation, theorist Stuart Hall, added his views to the issue of cultural under-representation within the media (see video bellow).
The media cannot present the world to us, despite their assertions of truth, reality and verisimilitude. In practice, the individuals who have influence over the media (for example media mogul Rupert Murdoch) offer us perspectives or selected views on our world. They represent that world to us by constructing images and behaviours for lots of different groups within, and indeed outside, our own society.
Looking at representation in another particular area we can see that many organisations and groups are keen to portray youth for purposes of commerce or social comment. The problem with the youth market is that it is a very difficult one to address because youth’s level of engagement with the mass media in general is less than the average with the exception of film and music.
The youth market audience is one that is also characterised by continuous change. So, how accurately can the issues and concerns of youth be shown by these media producers? Are these people responsive and sensitive in reflecting the shifts in youth culture? The press also its times in under-representing young/teenage groups because it tends to aim towards selling products to adults and when they target youth they see them as students, jobseekers or other consumerist categories. However many press stories do involve youth (yob culture, club scene, drug stories) and the accuracy of these portrayals needs to be addressed. Films such as ‘Kidulthood’ and Television series such as ‘Skins’ can evidently portray and reinforce this ‘yob culture’; a major issue in terms of the representation of this demographic in modern contemporary media.