In which ways do media representations construct our identities? Discuss using theories encountered on the unit, and relevant examples from the media.

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In which ways do media representations construct our identities? Discuss using theories encountered on the unit, and relevant examples from the media.                

There is an ongoing argument between theorists whether media representations influence peoples identities or not. A majority of theorists believe that all forms of media effects the way people look, behave and even think, whereas others theorists such as ‘Homi Bhabha’ believe that identities do not even exist at all, that identities are simple used as ‘a weapon in a cultural war’ (H,Bhabha,1979. Pg168). Through using various media examples and theorist opinions I am going to convey why I think that media representations do have an impact on constructing identities.

 In today’s society media is unavoidable and is now part of every day life. On a daily basis people watch television, read newspapers and magazines, listen to the radio and look at and listen to various advertisements. Although people may not acknowledge it, media does contribute in constructing our identities and this is highly connected to repetition. Due to television programmes and films constantly portraying certain stereotype characters of various groups of people, the public in turn try to reinvent what appears on the screen, as it is being repeated so often that they believe what they see. The film ‘American Beauty’ (1999, Sam Mendes) is a good example of what lengths people will go to in order to ‘fit in’. All three of the protagonist females all conform to or try live up to the typical stereotype image of how a female should look. The mother ‘Carolyn’ is a slim attractive woman in her early forties who wears lots of make-up and short and tight fitting clothing and ‘Angela’ who is her daughters friend is a young, slim and attractive girl who continuously wears revealing clothing. The only female character whom does not initially conform to the stereotype female image is Carolyn’s daughter ‘Jane’ as she wears no make-up and hides her slim body under baggy clothing, but we then learn that she  is saving up for breast augmentation surgery, which she does clearly not need. This connotes to the audience that all females should be slim and attractive and do their best to look ‘perfect’ , which is not a realistic or positive message to convey. It is not just this particular film that connotes this message, it is something that is constantly and repetitively reinforced through out media mediums. The majority of advertisements and television programmes contain slim and attractive males and females, for example, the main characters in ‘Eastenders’ (BBC1) are slim and pretty such as Sam, Kate and Sharon and the males appear attractive and often macho like Phil Mitchell and Andy. This results in people trying to reproduce the characters image by purchasing similar clothes as their role models and by pressuring them to be slim. Seeing such representations of people effects our identities, as they are so ‘ anxiously repeated’ (H,Bhabha,1979. pg 66) that what we see on the screen becomes naturalized.

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 Media representations do not only put pressure on people to look a certain way, they  also effect the way we are. Via advertisements, films and television programmes a happy, nuclear family is often positively promoted to us, whereas both of the parents work, the children are in education and in which all family members get on.  This may be an ideal family, but its also an impossible one. For example in ‘American Beauty’ the family is full of unfilled desires, repressed needs and shattered hopes, yet they put on a façade to the outside world as a happy family ...

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