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Lecture 9

Lecture Nineteen: Representation and Inequality in Mass

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David Young

Representation and Inequality in Mass Media: The Representation of the Working Class in Media Content November 11, 2013 – November 21, 2013 Under-Representation of the Working Class • News Media o Robert Hackett (1983), “The Depiction of Labour and Business on National Television News”  Business was mentioned in 17% of the news stories while labour was mentioned in only 11% of the news stories  86% of the references to labour were in news stories about industrial relations (especially strikes or other conflict between management and labour) • Labour is clearly under-represented except when it is on strike or under conflict with management • Entertainment Media o Since 1980s, Richard Butsch has been doing research on the representation of the working class in domestic situation comedies (sitcoms that focus on a family)  In some of his early research, he compared the representation of the working class family and middle class family in sitcoms  Between the years 1946 and 1990: found that 11% of the comedies focused on a working class family • 70% of the comedies focused on a middle class family • In most of the remaining 19% of the comedies, the class position of the family could not be identified  Majority of the United States are working class which is completely at odds with what we see represented in the media o The working class is under-represented, and the middle class is over- represented Mis-Representation of the Working Class • Key Characteristics o Represented in negative ways  Working class men are portrayed as being dumb, immature and irresponsible  These men are portrayed as being well intentioned (trying to do well) – they are also loveable, not worthy of respect o Situation comedies  Situation provides the basis for the comedy  Comic situation involves the husband and father in the family  The situation is something the husband and father created himself and his wife has to help him out of the situation • Some Examples o 1950s, The Honeymooners’ character “Ralph Kramden” created a stereotypical working class character  Played a bus driver – loud and always getting into crazy schemes  Also had a sidekick (Ed – dumber than Ralph) o 1960s, The Flintstones’ character “Fred Flintstone” continued to portray the stereotypical working class man  Fred and Barney were dumb and their wives got them out of the trouble
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