Assess the view that the representation of ethnicity in the media accurately reflects a contemporary multicultural UK 
A multicultural society is a diverse society in which different ethnic groups live side-by-side and the cultural differences within these groups are celebrated. The concept can be controversial, as some members of society believe that cultural differences can cause conflict in society and therefore it is preferable to assimilate ethnic groups (encourage them to share the same norms and values). However, Britain is usually considered and multicultural society and
there is considerable debate in Sociology regarding the extent to which this is reflected in the mass media.
Historically, this has certainly not been the case and many studies have demonstrated that many ethnic minority groups are either un-represented or negatively-stereotyped. Moore et al found, for example, that black people are usually represented as one of five negative stereotypes: As criminals (e.g. ‘black’ often used as a prefix for criminals), as a threat (e.g. immigrants threatening British jobs and culture), as dependent (e.g. third-world countries dependent on aid), as unimportant (e.g. issues affecting black communities ignored by the media) or as abnormal (e.g. presenting cultural differences as being strange). Content analyses by Van Dijk supported this view, finding that the British news media was ‘unconsciously racist’, as it used negative language to describe ethnic minorities and usually reported on issues that affected minorities from a white-British perspective.
A study by Malik suggested that this situation was improving; Malik found evidence of far more black and Asian people on British television in a much more diverse and non-stereotypical range of roles. However, Malik still argued that the media was not fully represented a multicultural society, as there were still many areas in which positive representations were limited (e.g. few strong Asian female characters; few Black presenters of factual television other than sports coverage) and there were still relatively few black people in high-level positions within the media industry. A study into the TV soap opera ‘Eastenders’ supports this; Eastenders is set in an area of East London that – in reality – has extremely high levels of ethnic diversity. Eastenders does have an increasingly diverse range of ethnic minority characters, but the overwhelming majority of the cast is still white and is therefore not representative of this multicultural area.
Some Sociologists argue that these issues are being addressed by a wider range of television channels and networks aimed specifically at ethnic minority audiences (e.g. BET – the Black Entertainment Television network). The array of available channels/networks could be argued to represent a multicultural society. However, others argue that this can make the problem worse as it leads to ‘ghettoization’ (isolating mainstream audiences from minority cultures) and gives the mainstream media an excuse for not covering minority issues.
In conclusion, there is evidence that representations in the media are becoming more diverse, but stereotyping and negative representations may still persist and therefore it is difficult to argue that the media is an accurate representations of multiculturalism. Finally – and to further complicate the debate - Postmodernists argue that increase in hybrid identities among ethnic minority groups have blurred the boundaries between groups and mean that representations of ‘traditional’ ethnic groups are outdated and largely meaningless.
Sample answer taken from the recent mock exam question; I've written it within the recommended time-frame (20 mins), using only material from the class Powerpoint and following the essay writing guide issued.
Outline and evaluate the view that gender representations in the media have become more diverse 
Traditionally, men and women were represented in the media as distinct and different. Women tended to be represented as either housewives, mothers or sex objects whereas men were stronger and more dominant characters. Sociologists have different views on the extent to which these representations have changed or become more diverse.
Gauntlett provides evidence that gender representations have become more diverse. His content analysis of prime-time television shows such as ‘Friends’ showed male and female characters being represented increasingly as ‘equal’ and behaving in ways that were not stereotypical or traditional. For example, male characters are shown as sensitive and emotional; female characters are strong, confident and career-focused. Gauntlett found similar patterns in another content analysis of Hollywood movies, where female characters were more assertive and traditional (‘hegemonic’) masculine behaviour was shown to be flawed. For example, one film in his study was Spiderman 3. In this film, the normally sensitive and thoughtful Peter Parker/Spiderman adopts a more aggressive, sexist, egotistical persona when he comes in contact with the alien ‘Venom’. This causes his life to go downhill, as he loses his girlfriend and becomes isolated from his friends and family.
Gauntlett did identify that despite the positive changes, there were still problems. Men were still more likely to get leading roles in television dramas and movies, particularly as they got older.
Rutherford, like Gauntlett, identified more diverse portrayals of males in cinema. He identified the rise of the ‘New Man’ – more emotional and in touch with his feminine side - in cinema towards the end of the 20th Century. However, Rutherford also described the re-emergence of more traditional, aggressive masculinities in cinema, which he described as the Retributive Male (examples could be violent, male-driven movies like Taken and Batman Begins).
Opinions on changes to female representation are also divided among different feminist perspectives. For example, Liberal Feminists are optimistic about changing representations and believe that more women being involved in media production has led to a wider variety of roles played by women. Radical Feminists on the other hand believe that little has changed; traditional stereotypes are still present throughout the media, which remains dominated and controlled by powerful males (e.g. Rupert Murdoch, who owns a huge amount of print and visual media outlets, including tabloid newspapers which routinely objectify women). Marxist Feminists also take a more negative view, arguing that gender stereotypes reinforce the capitalist system, reducing the opportunities of women whilst also promoting the beauty myth, which ensures women spend lots of money on cosmetic and dietary products by making them feel insecure about their appearance.
In conclusion, there is evidence that gender representations have become more diverse and many areas of the media do present a wider range of masculinities and femininities, while criticising some a traditional stereotypes. However, for many, these changes are only superficial, as those traditional stereotypes do still appear and may still be actively promoted by some areas of the media and there is still a way to go before true equality and diversity of gender in the media is achieved.
Introduction to the 1960s moral panic surrounding the mods and rockers subcultures, including an interview with Stan Cohen.
The new AS course involves studying and conducting some content analyses; in 2016, the AS students have been conducting a content analysis in relation to gender representation on the movie 'Knocked Up'. Does this film reinforce gender stereotypes and promote a hegemonic masculinity, or does it instead provide a range of non-traditional gender roles and show the problems and flaws of hegemonic masculinity in the 21st Century?
Naomi Wolf summarises her seminal work on the representation of women in the media and the motivations behind it...
Anita Sarkeesian's youtube series exploring gender representation in video games offers a feminist perspective on the history and limited roles of female characters in video games. Useful viewing studying gender/media...although perhaps more telling is the story of what happened after the series was released. Sarkeesian was the victim of a prolonged and vicious harassment campaign, through which she received rape and death threats (similar threats were issued to other women who offered support to her), games involving beating her up being created, public appearances by her having to be cancelled due to bomb threats and far more besides, to the extent that she had to leave her home.
So...watch, to see what all the fuss is about!
Short discussion on the way gender is portrayed in Hollywood movies and the role of Hollywood and Netflix in shaping (and reshaping) gender identities. Very useful for students considering gender stereotyping in the media and the influence of media on identity.
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