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The Great British Class Survey appeared as a collaboration between the BBC and academics

from six universities. By replacing occupation, wealth and education with economic, social
and cultural indicators, researchers discovered that the established model of an upper, middle
and working class has fragmented to such a degree that there are now seven categories ranging
from the precariat to the elite (Jones, 2013). The media are pivotal to the way our society
functions or is perceived. Newspapers, radio and television have been the principal means
through which people obtain information. It can be argued that the media not only selectively
inform about events or society, but they actually shape them (Fulcher and Scott, 2007). The
relationship between media and society has been discussed from a number of perspectives and
the main purpose of this assignment is to analyse how mass media represents different social
groups, and to discuss its emergent effects. First, it examines different ways of representing
social groups. Then, it examines its predominant repercussions.
There are several ways in which social groups are represented by the media. One way of
representation is by gender. Cornell (in Haralambos and Holborn, 2013: 814) claims that cultural
beliefs about gender roles in the UK one century ago were dominated by hegemonic definitions
of masculinity, femininity and sexuality. Furthermore, he adds that media, as a secondary agent
to socialization, reinforced the patriarchal ideology which assumed that femininity was
dominated by masculinity. Tuchman (in Fulcher and Scott, 2007) reports that in America in
between 1950s and 1970s women were portrayed mainly in terms of their sexual attractiveness
and their performance of domestic roles. The trivialization of their activities resulted in what
Tuchman called symbolic annihilation (Giles, 2008: 167). By the same token, Tunstall (in
Haralambos and Holborn, 2013: 814) states that presentation of women in the media is biased
because the media ignore the fact that more than half of British adult women are employed.

On the other hand, Glascock and Meyers (in Giddens and Sutton, 2013: 803) point out that things
are changing, albeit slowly, the depiction of the strong, independent woman appears on the big
screen. Notably, Fauldi (1991) remarks that women who break conventional gender roles wind
up in tears. Although this may be true, Pilcher (in Fulcher and Scott, 2007) states that women
audiences can enjoy the struggles of independent women's characters in soap operas. Moreover,
Gauntlett as a post-modernist (in Jacobson, 2005: 24) informs that the traditional view of the
woman is replaced by the feisty, successful girl power icons. However, stereotypical gender
roles are reinforced in old movies which are recycled on cable and satellite (Holborn and
Burrage et al., 2009). In addition, as Ivory (in Jamieson and Romer, 2008: 354) has put it, in
video games female characters are under-represented and they are much more likely to be
portrayed in a sexually provocative manner than the male characters.
An important effect of gender representation is that the media socializes women to be
subservient to men for those using the hypodermic model on the grounds that communication
from sender to receiver is a one-way linear process (Chandler and Munday, 2011 :193). Equally
important, Frueh and McGhee (in Holborn and Burrage et al., 2009) comment that sex-role
stereotyping is present amongst US children with many hours spent watching TV. Accordingly,
Beuf (in Holborn and Burrage et al., 2009) states that children model themselves on TV role
models. As a result, many girls abandon their ambitions before the age of 6 and females are more
concerned about their body image and the need to get and keep the man. Similarly, Orbach (in
Haralambos and Holborn, 2013) emphasizes that the media create anxieties amongst females
concerning their identity and body image. As an illustration, eating disorders have appeared in
Fiji after the introduction of Western television (Haralambos and Holborn, 2013).

Another way of representation is by class. According to the Marxist approach, the culture
industry and the media are used to offer illusory gratification to the alienated individual in
capitalist societies. From the perspective of cultural criticism, the concept of entertainment
becomes synonymous with evading reality(Stocchetti and Kukkonen, 2011: 66). Regarding
class representation, the media is used by the dominant capitalist class to ensure cultural
hegemony where exploitation and inequality are not recognized as social problems (Haralambos
and Holborn, 2013:825). Reiner and Young (in Haralambos and Holborn, 2013:825) argue that
the UK is represented as a meritocratic society by the media. In addition, British culture is
characterized by chaos of reward whereby celebrities and managers are rewarded for talent
and respectively failure.
The working class appears to be represented ubiquitously. Dodd (in Fulcher and Scott, 2007)
states that the British working class was shaped by the middle-class commentators in the late
nineteenth century. Correspondingly, Giddens and Sutton (2013) suggest that the working class
representation is a distorted reflection of the middle-class which dominates the production of TV
and film. Glennon and Butsch (in Merskin, 2011: 120-1) report consistent representation in
situation comedies. As an illustration, working class families are disproportionately underrepresented in proportion to the U.S. population. Moreover, working-class men were portrayed
as incompetent and ineffectual buffoons while women are more intelligent and generally run the
family. Examples of such men are Fred Flinstone and Archie Bunker. Jones (in Haralambos and
Holborn, 2013:827) states that there is an assumption among journalists that the decent working
class has been replaced by chavs and bling-dripping thugs who lack any moral compass.
Cohen (in Haralambos and Holborn, 2013:827) subscribes to Jones opinion, adding that the
media fails to see the connection between wealth and deprivation.

A further way of representation is by ethnicity. Traditionally the sociological treatment of race


and ethnicity in the media focused on issues of under-representation and negative images (Kirby,
1997). A Broadcasting Standards Commission report from 2000 found that ethnic minorities
were over-represented in media programmes content (7.5 per cent) compared to their percentage
in the population as a whole (5.5 per cent) (Browne, 2002). There is a classic contribution to the
controversy about the existence of racist ideology provided by Hartmann and Husband (in Kirby,
1997: 634) which report that the British press portrays a specific stereotypical image of black
people by concentrating on stories that emphasize racial problems and the strange cultural
attitudes of new immigrants. However, there is a limited reinforcing effect only for those who
live in areas that are not multi-cultural. On the whole, Haralambos and Holborn (2013) suggest
that minority ethnic groups are represented in a problematic way because they are shaped by
what media professionals suppose that the white audience want to hear, read and see.
Representations of ethnicity are tremendous. For example, media coverage of the late 20 th
century moral panic around mugging and the inner-city riots were extensive (Giddens and
Sutton, 2013). Dijk (in Haralambos and Holborn, 2013: 822) notes that black people can be
classified into several types of negative news. For instance, African Caribbeans are portrayed as
criminals or members of organized gangs that defend urban territories and push drugs. This
approach is similar to Maliks (Holborn and Burrage et al., 2009: 169) position which states that
black people are contrasted with the 'whites' which represent the norm.
In terms of media effects of ethnicity representation, Browne (2002) states that these stereotypes
may have a negative impact on audiences, creating and reinforcing prejudices about black people
among whites, and putting a condemnation on black people for problems that are not created by
them. However, there is a difference in between the impact that media messages have in different

areas. Hartmann and Husband (in Holborn and Burrage et al., 2009: 170) state that in the West
Midlands racial relationships between Asian population and 'whites' are seen less of a threat
compared to areas with fewer Asians such as Glasgow.
Having described the way gender, class and ethnicity are represented by the media, the essay will
now consider disability as a form of representation and its resultant effects.
First of all, white, male, middle-class and able-bodied men often form media representations of
disability (Browne, 2002). Fulcher and Scott (2007: 370) inform that disability reflects the vast
cultural identification of the disabled as different. This is reflected in both their absence and
presence. When they do appear, they are mostly presented as dependent, unproductive and in
need of care. Notably, disabled people are never incidental into a storyline, but are included
precisely because of their disability. It could also be said that there are several recurring
stereotypes. Barnes (in Haralambos and Holborn, 2013: 820) mentions that the disabled are
frequently represented as super-cripples. For instance, blind people appear as visionaries with a
sixth sense or super-hearing. Correspondingly, Harnett in (Holborn and Burrage et al., 2009: 171)
highlights that in popular television evil avenger associated with malice and wrongdoing are
common stereotypes.
The effect of mass media representation of telethons is suggested by Roper (in Haralambos and
Holborn, 2013: 820) to create problems for the disabled because they merely confirm social
prejudices about the disabled. An equally significant effect is that for disabled people is hard to
be integrated into day-to-day life. As Cumberbatch and Negrine have put it, for those without
close contact with disabled people, disability is a problem (Holborn and Burrage et al., 2009). In
essence, the view that British culture is superior in its values and norms compared with other

cultures make British news reporting ethnocentric. In effect, the activities of other cultures are
mainly reported as inferior, deficient and strange.
To summarize, the media representations very often conform to and create
stereotypes. The society is bombarded with so many ideas from mass media
that there is an increasing confusion. In addition, media imagery and
representations no longer reflect reality, but actively create reality. However,
the mass media is only one element, albeit an important one, in shaping
peoples lives. A conclusion can be drawn that for the general public, factors
such as gender, class, ethnicity, life experiences, political or religious beliefs
are all likely to influence perception and interpretation of the mass media.

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