Representation in film and TV is the concept of re- presenting what is seen as ‘reality’ into the film production in a controlled, fabricated, often biased and ‘pleasing to the eye’ way. Certain characters, situations, themes and moods are designed and exaggerated by filmmakers to create an entertaining and grasping narrative, that is not necessarily realistic, but quite often far from.
An important thing to note is that there is really no such thing as one reality- every one has their own view of reality, as everyone sees the world in different ways and from there own personal point of view. Having said that, it is quite difficult to create a world on the screen that mirrors the real world exactly and from a non biased point of view. However, creators can sometimes take their production a little too far from what actually goes on in the world, presenting it in a way where it appears that it does. This can be misleading to viewers, creating wrong perceptions and stereotypes in peoples minds and consequently causing a lot of controversy on how the media should represent certain things in society, keeping in mind just how much influence they have.
The way things are represented in Film and TV are often through stereotypes, Archetypes and Counter-types, which all involve judging the appearance of a subject and assuming certain things about it without actually knowing it’s full story.
Stereotypes are the most commonly known, and can specifically be defined as a generalised and oversimplified idea or belief about a person, group of people, or thing. The TV show The Big Bang Theory (2007), is full of stereotypes, this being it’s made comedic element. Most agree that this is what makes it funny, and it should not be taken offensively and to a certain extent this is true. However, it is safe to say that some of the ‘jokes’ made contributing to the stereotypes can cross the boundary and even have negative effects on the way the audience views the people described in the show, in the real world. The blonde is portrayed as dumb, the physicians are geeky and socially awkward, the woman from Texas is particularly religious and occasionally racist; this shows humour thrives on its stereotypes. One particular stereotype in The Big Bang Theory is the representation of Raj, who displays characteristics that are commonly associated with Indians.
(James Sheldon 2016)
In his strong Indian accent, he often compares practices in India versus America, highlighting the theory that many Indians admire American culture so much more than their own. Furthermore, Raj is the most socially dysfunctional character on the show, and his inability to speak to women plays with the idea that nerds and young foreign men find it difficult to communicate with attractive women. Blogger Joel Feldhake interestingly commented “throughout the series one can see a plethora of simple jokes that require certain stereotypes in order to work. Without such stereotypes, much of the show’s easily-generated side humor simply wouldn’t function.” he continued, ‘their ethnic backgrounds are played off each other to generate maximum comedic effect.’ Using stereotypes is the most financially clever thing to do int he eyes of the creators. Unlike hour long dramas, sit coms are required to fit in as many laughs as possible into a 30 minute slot. Without the time for lengthy character development, creating stereotypes that the audience can already relate with is a controversial yet money making technique.
(Channel Four Television Corporation 2016)
Furthermore, a Counter-type is something that challenges a stereotype. It looks at the positive attributes that someone might possess despite the negative connotations people may create about them from their appearance, or first meeting. A great example of this is displayed in the British TV show Run (2013) .One of the episodes is centered around middle aged drug addict Lennie, from London. He walks around the streets trying to sell miscellaneous items and occasionally begs for money, in his bedraggled and worn out clothing always carrying his hat and rucksack with all his possessions. Everyone around him quickly dismiss him, assuming the worst about his character, yet he is trying desperately to get clean and turn his life around. His daughter, Sabrina means absolutely everything to him, and his motivation to quit his addiction for good is so that he can be a part of her life, and ‘give her something’, as he never was able to do before. He tries everything in his power to change his situation, and genuinely only has good intentions, but no one is on his side because of his history, reputation as a drug addict and his rough appearance.
His ex wife won’t allow him to see his daughter, his mother refuses to believe he is actually clean, and the police arrest him him in a drug related interaction when he blatantly had nothing to do with it. Whats more, he lost his position and home at a rehab centre because of this arrest and was forced into becoming homeless. Lennie James, the actor who played Richard in this episode commented, “It’s lovely to play, and it’s the kind of thing I like to play because it’s a lot about what’s going on, on the inside.” This is so appropriate, as a countertype like the character Richard shows the story that most people don’t see or wouldn’t know about, but would judge and cast negative stereotypes about anyway.
(Billy Quien 2016)
Interesting video on representation in film from people of colour. (madeTV 2016)
Representation Quotes | Quote Addicts. 2016. Representation Quotes | Quote Addicts. Available at: http://quoteaddicts.com/topic/representation-quotes/k. [Accessed 17 November 2016].
Channel 4. 2016. Run – Profiles – Richard – All 4. Available at: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/run/profiles/all/richard/382. [Accessed 17 November 2016]
Quora. 2016. What do Indians think about the portrayal of the character Rajesh ‘Raj’ Ramayan Koothrappali in The Big Bang Theory? – Quora. Available at: https://www.quora.com/What-do-Indians-think-about-the-portrayal-of-the-character-Rajesh-Raj-Ramayan-Koothrappali-in-The-Big-Bang-Theory. [Accessed 17 November 2016].
Flavorwire. 2016. The Most Racially Stereotyped Characters on TV Right Now – Page 5 – Flavorwire. Available at: http://flavorwire.com/265006/the-most-racially-stereotyped-characters-on-tv-right-now/5. [Accessed 19 November 2016].
Blogger. 2016. Knowledge Comes, but Wisdom Lingers: Stereotypes in The Big Bang Theory. Available at: http://joelfeldhake.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/stereotypes-in-big-bang-theory.html. [Accessed 19 November 2016].
Goliath. 2016. The 10 Worst Things About ‘The Big Bang Theory’ | Goliath. Available at: http://www.goliath.com/tv/the-10-worst-things-about-the-big-bang-theory/. [Accessed 19 November 2016].