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Cultural and Media Analysis

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Richard Adams Cultural and Media Analysis Take Away Examination, March 2005 Question 6): 'Today the flux of meaning around masculinity has produced a 'debate' between them. The representation of different masculinities has produced two idealised images that correspond to the repressed and public meanings of masculinity: what I will call the New Man and the Retributive Man respectively.' (Rutherford 1988: 28) Explore the validity of this statement in relation to contemporary media representations. It is contended that elements of Rutherford's statements are invalid when applied to contemporary media representations of masculinity. Rutherford's argument is threefold. Firstly, he contends that his contemporary media portrayed two polarised images of men; they were either sensitive "new" men or they were more stereotypical, patriarchal "retributive" men, arguing that there is no grey area in between or overlaps apparent. Secondly he proposes that this was an aspiration and thus an unreal construct; that these states were desired and that men strove to meet them, as they were somewhat out of the reality that most men conceived. He also here appears to imply a value judgement- that the media intended to influence the shaping of men and through an idealised perception. Thirdly he argues that in the late 1980's the new man was repressed and that the retributive man was the public face of masculinity. While the validity of Rutherford's arguments in his own time is certainly open to debate for its inaccuracies and oversimplification over the portrayal of masculinity, it is contended that much of it is also invalid when applied to the contemporary media portrayal of men. It is proposed, here, that while the modern media still utilises these polarised images of man, it allows for a more well-developed and rounded conception to be ordained- masculinity is not necessarily conceived as one or another. It is also contended that these images are also not always used as an ideal, as Rutherford naively argues- there portrayal in the modern media is used for more than aspiration in purpose. ...read more.

Middle

He wants 'Lights out' and feels he has to 'entertain' women -not just the one in the song, but also all women. Kurt Cobain's lyrics are typified by his almost neurotic emotional state. His portrayal of masculinity seems almost emotionally out of control. A far cry from repression. In fact he seems to be releasing the repressed emotion of an entire generation, rather than repressing any sense of retributive patriarchy. To use music and an example of the retributive mans decline however is to ignore the most popular strand of the most popular music form in the world. That of 'Gangsta Rap' Here we are faced with a form of communication which is popular all over the world but with has often been accused of blatant misogyny; even the epitome of the 'retributive man' strong, dominant, competitive and misogynistic? In his Article "Attack on Rap Music" Peter D Slaughter makes the point that African American people in America have no real sense of identity "the Macho image that African American men have of themselves is a distorted Image that comes From a White supremacist male point of view. Since the days of being brought (rather bought) here as slaves, African American males have never had their own definition of being or model of being black"(1997). I so according to Slaughter; in the absence of a sense of who they are the African American males have taken there sense of masculinity from a sense of cultural disenfranchisement, dominating or being in charge of what they can; women being one of those area's. As Leola Johnson points out on media studies.edu: "A lot of Gangsta Rap lyrics are revenge fantasies"(1994) The idea of revenge fantasies was something that immediately struck me particularly its sexist tendencies. The entire musical form is a fantasy, part revenge part pastiche- a key element of post modernity. The African American community in many poor areas of America and the west wants its revenge for years of oppression at the hands of the white establishment, the prospective "Gangster rappers" dream of becoming rich and successful just like those they see as oppressors. ...read more.

Conclusion

There are no groups to belong to, there's no need to picket, to march, to lobby or to work for women at all. All the barriers are down, it's every girl for herself and may the best girl win...Now I come to think about it I'm not sure I qualify as post. I'm too old, too flabby and I'm too rude to men. What's worse I'm not going to do anything about it." (Quoted in Bell & Klein, 1996:276) As hall point out; it is when trying to gain a thorough understanding of masculinity, to locate it "within a wider field of gender relations as a whole; that is, in relation to the contemporary formations of femininity. (Hall, 1997:296) If therefore feminism as a recognisable force for women's equality no longer exist within today's post modern existence. Gender relations seem more divided as individual achievement becomes the new mantra. "Initially debates within postmodernism had little to do with feminism...more recently however postmodernism has offered feminism a way in which to conceptualise it's ongoing dilemma: the desire to seek equality within the very institutions and discourses which feminists have attempted to dismantle." (Phoca & Wright, 1999:89) In conclusion, it is fair to say that while some elements of Rutherford's arguments- that the polarised representations of masculinity in the media are used and that they can be used as an aspiration for men- are true, the spirit of his hypothesis is incorrect in this era. Masculinity is used in the media for a wider range of purposes than he conceived, the masculine image is much more well balanced, and not as polarised as he proposes, and his distinction between the repressed and the public faces of masculinity no longer hold true. What is more apparent is that it is truer to say that those two separate ideals in a state of flux, are now joined. Only with those elements which suit the individual being taken at any one time. If what Lyotard states about Feminism no longer being a viable option, then that is also true that masculine ideals also. ...read more.

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