Representations in the media sociology aqa a level

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  • Created on: 08-04-20 19:24



Children's Express found 7 'deadly' stereotypes of children in newspaper headlines:

Kids as victims

Cute kids

Little devils

Kids are brilliant

Kids as accessories

Kids these days

Little angels  

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Young people are often the subject of negative media stereotyping. These representations are driven by media news values, as exciting stories and sensational headlines which exaggerate the deviant behaviour of young people.

Cohen found that young people are an easily identifiable group to blame for society's problems. The media generate a moral panic against the ‘folk devils’ who allegedly pose a threat to society. In turn, media-generated moral panic causes young people to be negatively stereotyped and labelled as troublesome.

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Older people are either invisible in the media or represented negatively. They are often depicted as being poor, in ill-health, a burden, forgetful, anti-social, incapable and grumpy. However, there are differences between elderly men and women in the way they are stereotyped: 

Older men are often presented in a positive light - for example, in movies, they are shown as experienced, wise and successful businessmen. 

Older women are often symbolically annihilated in the media because women are expected to be forever young and youthful.

White et al believes that audiences accuse the media of being ‘insulting’ and ‘out of step’ with the ageing society, with negative stereotypes of older women focusing on their incapacity to move with the times.

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Social Class


Curran and Seaton argue the content of newspapers aimed at working-class audiences (Eg. Daily Star, Sun, Daily Mirror) suggest the working class have little interest in public affairs, but instead is predominantly interested in over-dramatized, exaggerated and made-up human interest stories.

The main representations of the working class include:

Dumb and stupid Buffoons

A source of trouble and conflict

Living in idealised/romanticised working-class communities

White trash scum: ‘chavs’ and the demonisation of the working class

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Social Class


The middle class are highly over-represented in media content; their exposure is more than what is justified by their proportion of the population as a whole. The middle class are represented as mature, sensible, educated and successful. Such representations are the product of the media gaze: they confirm and promote the dominant hegemonic ideology of middle-class life.

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Social Class

                                                                  UPPER CLASS

The upper class are represented as ‘well-bred’, cultured and superior. TV and film often portray the lavish lifestyles of the upper class in the form of luxury homes, cars and exotic holidays.

Pluralists - the coverage of upper-class lifestyles is simply providing what media audiences want to see.

Neo-Marxists - see the coverage of upper-class lifestyles as a celebration of hierarchy and wealth, which promotes the dominant ideology and seeks to legitimise existing inequality.

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Black people are frequently negatively stereotype and used as scapegoats in the media.Hall et al argue the media exaggerate the extent of black crime, and suggest that black people are more prone to criminality than white people. This led to the moral panic of the ‘black mugger’ in the 1970s, who became seen as a folk devil. However, the ‘black mugger’ became a distraction for the wider social and economic crisis of the time.

The main stereotypes include:

Deviants and lawbreakers

Posing a threat

Causing social problems, conflict and trouble

Having limited talent and skills

Having problems internationally

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The media industry is largely unrepresentative of women, with men being the owners of larger media corporations and women have little say in how they are represented. In media content, women are sexually objectified and seen as an ****** object for audiences and characters.  In essence, the media tends to spread the patriarchal ideology.

Mulvey suggests there is a male gaze in media content. The male gaze occurs when the audience is assumed to be filtering content through the lens of a heterosexual male. Women are viewed as an ****** object for spectators or characters to view, which is highlighted by the use of cinematic conventions such as slow motion. In turn, females in films only exist in relation to the male.

Ferguson argues teenage girls magazines traditionally prepare girls for feminized adult roles, and generated a ‘cult of femininity’, which included themes such as being a good wife, keeping a family happy and what to wear. These themes socialised young girls into the stereotyped values and roles of a woman​

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The main stereotypes of a woman include:


The sex object

The supermum

The angel

The ball breaker

The victim 

The changing representations of women:

McRobbie argues a new form of popular feminism in a postmodern society has emerged, and is shown in females magazines. It promotes female assertiveness, being in control and independent.

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Men are represented more often in the media, appearing in the public sphere and carrying higher status than women. Rutherford argues that the media attempts to reassert traditional masculine authority by celebrating traditional male concerns such as football and women. 

The main stereotypes of men include:

The joker

The jock

The strong, silent type

The big shot

The action hero

The buffoon

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The changing representations of men:

Gauntlett argues media portrayals of men are also changing, with a wider range of representations of masculinity, opening up new choices for men to construct identities different from the traditional hegemonic masculinity.

Mort argues that the 'meterosexual' male is now emerging in magazines, showing men who are concerned with their appearance but still retain traditional male interests.

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The media view of homosexuality is formed through the heterosexual media gaze. The fear of loss of profits if investors, advertisers or media audiences are offended has meant that homosexuality has been treated by the media as deviant and perverse.

Gill argues that, to avoid the risk of offending heterosexual audiences, mainstream media represent gay sexuality in a ‘sanitised’ way. Gay men are rarely portrayed in a sexualised way, but instead as stylish and attractive figures. However, this is the opposite for lesbians, who rarely appear in media content as anything other than highly sexualised, which links to the heterosexual male fantasy.  

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Those who have a disability are highly under-represented among those who work in the media industry and in media content. Therefore, disabled people face symbolic annihilation.

Barnes - the majority of information about disabled people in books, films, the press and on TV is extremely negative, consisting of disabling stereotypes which medicalise, patronise, criminalise and dehumanise disabled people.

The main stereotypes of disabled people include:

An element of atmosphere or curiosity

As the super cripple

As laughable or as an object of ridicule

As a burden

As non-sexual

As unable to partake in everyday life

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In a nut shell

In a nutshell

In media content, young people, women, homosexuals, black people and disabled people are generally represented in a negative way. Young people and black people are seen as deviants that disrupt societal order, while women are portrayed merely as sexual objects, which refers to the idea of the male gaze outlined by Mulvey. Homosexuals, especially gay men, are underrepresented in the media because media owners do not want to risk ‘offending’ their audience or advertisers.  Disabled people are typically shown as an outsider group that has little relevance in society. In comparison, white, upper-class and heterosexual men are over-represented in the media, this is mainly because they reflect the owners of the large media corporations.

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