Representation is the constructed and mediated presentation of people, things, ideas and places. Constructed representation it the way a media text is pieced together, involving the choice of camera angles and certain aspects of editing to depict a character, setting or event in a particular way. Mediation representation is the process that every media text goes through before it reaches an audience; such as a film script being re-written to ensure that each aspect is depicted in the way as desired. Described by Rayner, representation is the process by which the media presents the ‘real world’.
Technical codes explores the constructed representation of a media text. Through utilising camera angles, blocking, lighting and other aspects of camera work an editing, characters can be portrayed in different ways. For example, in my AS coursework ‘Mummy’s Girl’, the mother is typically shown from low angled shots to represent her powerful status over the daughter, shown through high angled shots. The weather setting when the mother is first shown is grey and miserable, thus representing the darkness of what is to be revealed later in the film. Symbolic codes also contribute to the representation within films, however, these can be connotative as cultural and personal associations may affect the symbolism of the representation. They show what is beneath the surface of what is physically shown on screen, perhaps representing aspects of a characters personality or the significance of their actions. For example, in western society, black connotes mourning or depression, and red can represent danger. In Mummy’s Girl, we manipulated the representation of the mother through adding a subtle red filter over the shots of the film; connoting danger to the audience and thus representing the mother as someone to be feared. Written codes may also influence the representation of a character, such as the use of catchphrases or social buzzwords. In Mummy’s Girl, there is little dialogue. However, the words that are spoken are from the mother towards the daughter. When she first arrives she says “I’m home” and asks if she wants tea. Socially, this would represent the mother as someone who is caring towards their child. However, our film then went on to subvert this representation through the mothers cruel behaviour towards her child.
Stereotypes also help with the representation of a character or setting. Social stereotypes allow the audience to make their own judgements on a character through the way society depicts and receives their stereotype. Lippmann described that stereotypes proclaim, ‘This is what everyone — you, me and us — thinks members of such-and-such a social group are like’, and by utilising these stereotypes a character’s place in society can be made understandable just from the characterisation. For example, a character wearing a jumper with the hood up and their hands in their pockets may represent a criminal to some audience members, and therefore they would not trust the character. In Mummy’s Girl, we adhered to the social stereotypes of a mother and daughter relationship to make the contrast at the end of the film much more shocking. The mother wears casual clothing and speaks with a smile, thus making her seem like a friendly and caring person. When she spoke, it was with love thus representation the stereotype of a caring mother. When the daughter doesn’t respond, the audience presumes that she is representing the rebellious teenager, almost too ‘cool’ to be at home with her parents. However, this stereotype is contradicted when we see her dressed in childish clothing. By following the stereotypes of a young girl, wearing pastel coloured dresses, knee high socks and her hair in pigtails, audiences instantly recognise the representation of a teenage girl in childish clothing. Victims and their kidnappers are also stereotypes explored in Mummy’s Girl. The daughter appears to be submissive and afraid of the mother, a stereotype explored through most victims. Her behaviour rejects the wishes of the kidnapper by refusing to drink the tea, which leads to punishment which is stereotypical of most kidnappers.
The representation of women through the male gaze, considered by Laura Mulvey also explored the representations of females in media texts. Although there are no men featured in Mummy’s Girl, the women in the film are not seen as typically strong and therefore may appeal to male audiences. When we first see the mother, there are shots of her legs as she walks as opposed to her face, thus drawing in the objectification of the female form. This could also be said for the teenager, as she wears a dress which reveals her legs, she also wears makeup thus making her attractive to men. Therefore women in Mummy’s Girl are seen as being stereotypically beautiful. There is a female victim in Mummy’s Girl, thus showing women to be weak in comparison to the strong male. If considering the film through the male gaze, if the victim were male, the film would possibly explore his fight for freedom as opposed to the teenagers submission to the powerful captor. By representing women as fragile and without power, the male gaze allows the male audiences to enjoy films without their masculine ideals being threatened.
Ultimately, representation allows people to understand films with deeper meanings, rather than taking what they are shown on screen at face value.