Week 10 – BBC Radio & the Public Sphere

Jurgen Habermas defined the concept of the ‘Public Sphere’ as ‘a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed’. He saw it as a sphere that mediates between society and state, to be legimate public opinion must be formed on a platform that is generally accessible, free of all privileges and discovers norms and rational legitimations.

The Stephen Nolan Discussion Show 

  • The show supported the concept of the public sphere, in the ‘free from privileges’ sense. The callers and radio panelists did not necessarily speak the received   pronunciation that we have come to expect from much of BBC Radio.
  • However the lack of rational among many of the callers and the talking over of each other between the hosts and callers did not support Habermas’ concept.
  • A reasoning public viewership could certainly not be presupposed when listening to the show, mere opinions were offered that at times seemed racist and homophobic.
  • Though the callers are able to discuss matters in an unrestricted fashion, the lack of sensibility and education among some of them disagrees with the concept of the public sphere, at least within the show.

BBC World Service – World Have Your Say 

  • The show aims to create a global conversation, using many forms of networking such as email and Twitter, it creates a platform.
  • The topics discussed as well as the manner and tone do suggest ‘private individuals assembling to form a public body’. For example, a writer from the Wall St. Journal was brought in to discuss Syria.
  • This agrees with Habermas and rather than being elitist, the show is open to anyone. The public contributors influence the discussion, though rational legitimations could be found from both the hosts and callers.
  • In short, the show agrees with the concept of the public sphere as specialist private individuals are brought in to discuss topics and the public also have their chance to express their opinion also.
  • The show is located on Radio 4 so a particular class and demographic

  BBC Radio 4 – Any Questions Any Answers 

  • The show is located on Radio 4 so a particular demographic in terms of listener was obvious from the callers.
  • In sense it may disagree with Habermas’ concept, as though the show is open to anyone, there was not one caller that sounded ‘working class’.
  • However it was not the bourgeoisie ‘transacting private affairs’ but rather a selection individuals relating to the public through the host.
  • The panelists frankly discussed matters such as drug use free from social or legal constraints. This would tie in and agree with the concept of the public sphere.
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Notes on Masculinity as a Spectacle

Notes on Masculinity as a Spectacle

  • The author speaks much about the identification of males as a spectacle – even the most attractive of males are rarely portrayed as sex objects, unlike women. Instead, the focus is often around their power and control.
  • It is suggested that “repressed homosexual voyeurism” helps contribute to the negation of the idea that men should be seen purely as sex objects. A heterosexual society suggests the male body cannot be marked explicitly as an erotic object of lust.
  • The male body, when exposed, is used to generate a feeling of fear and aggression within the viewer, rather than lust.
  • The use of language, or lack of it, contributes to the “construction of an ideal ego”. The author uses some of the roles Clint Eastwood has portrayed in his career as an example of how silence and the absent of language can help create an omnipotent presence.
  • Numerous references to Laura Mulvey’s work is made, including her notes on the voyeuristic themes in many Hitchcock films, where the male hero is the one looking at the woman as the object of their sadistic minds.
  • Rock Hudson is used as an exception to the rule, where his body and his look is portrayed as a symbol of eroticism. However, this is done by applying feminine rules to his persona and look.
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Race and representation in Eastenders

Eastenders is a soap aired on the BBC which is filmed and set in london. although london is well known for being very diverse culturally, the show still has a predominantly white cast- as a londoner myself its most definitely an unrealistic depiction of an ordinary street. after 23 years the show aired and ‘all black’ episode. the episode centres around the character ‘Patrick Trueman’ and the episode attempts to examine the changes in attitudes towards race since the 1950s (when the character first moved to the U.K). Although other characters feature in the programme, none of the white characters had any lines.

during the episode In the episode, Patrick, tells a young black character – ‘Chelsea Fox’ about being arrested in the 1958 race riots at Notting Hill. he explains views on race in the 1950s and how things have changed alot since then – suggesting they are now equal despite their skin colour and whilst this point being mostly true – the mere fact there was a whole episode highlighting the differences of races and bringing up how things used to be is not good way of effectively changing the way in which the public views ‘ethnic minorities’ – although in this day and age – especially in London – ethnic minorities are not as much of a ‘minority’ as may be expected and definitely not the way in which the show depicts it to be.

overall although i do see the episode was meant to be a way of making the black characters on the show ‘accepted more’ and embraced by the viewers, i think the bbc could have done this in a much better way. highlighting the differences in race is not the way to go about achieving equality and society accepting all people no matter their race  – this could have been done alot more subtly adn without drawing attention to their differences.

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Spring Term week 6:“Visual pleasure in narrative cinema” by Laura Mulvey


Initially after reading this article I was shocked at how a woman could write such an article, but on further reading I realized the message she was trying to portray.

Mulvey throughout the article talks about how ‘women’s desire to possess a penis’ which on first reading I took literally, however I now see her ‘tongue-in-cheek’ approach to the women in film “womens desire is subjected to her image as bearer of a bleeding wound, she can only exists in relation to castration and cannot transcend it” (page 7). She mocks society and how a ‘simple’ biological difference, which cannot be either premeditated or overcome, can have such an affect on the expectations people have on others throughout their lives.

The article begins by mentioning the psychoanalytic theory (initially developed by Freud) being used as a political weapon – things around us everyday can influence thought, and in this case, sexual instincts/desires and the expectations of men and women in society.

Mulvey talks about how cinema has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Many advances in technology have allowed alternative cinema to advance, but despite this Hollywood still restricts itself and follows the dominant ideology in order to gain the most viewers and in turn make money. Society then makes assumptions -for example- of the roles of men and women. Alternative cinema challenges both Hollywood as well as society in general “by reacting against these obsessions and assumptions” (page 8). An alternative cinema challenges viewer on what they think is ‘right’ and fighting against the psychoanalytic theory. She talks about how the mainstream film industry “arose, not exclusively, but in one important aspect from its skilled and satisfying manipulation of visual pleasure” (page 8) and how because this went unchallenged Hollywood became “the language of dominant patriarchal order” (page 8) and that the viewer is only satisfied with the outcome of the film due to the industries alienation of their mind.

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Week 9 – Subcultures

The two subcultures that we chose to analyse on the university campus are members of LGBTQ specifically lesbians as well as urban hipsters.

Sussex University is host to students from a wide array of backgrounds. However the liberal free-thinking attitude that Brighton is known for, as well as it’s  its’ close proximity to London, means that the university has attracted many young people of a specific class and culture. The term ‘Hipster’ has been used to describe many different subcultures, however in recent years, particularly in Brooklyn New York and East London it has come to be associated with a specific style of dress, a particular kind of attitude and similar interests, such as certain drugs. In September 2010 a video entitle ‘Being a dickhead’s cool’ was uploaded to youtube, it cleverly poked fun at the cliches associated with being a hipster, earning over 6million views

Though the video is obviously painting the hipster image in a derogatory fashion, the viewing response confirmed the very real existence of this contemporary subculture. The video identifies rolling tobacco, a single gear bike and having a moustache. It also shows various images to ensure the viewer fully comprehends what the subculture look like. Having lived on campus, certain sights have become familiar, though the hipster image is not always their in its’ purest form, elements of the culture are regularly apparent. Features of peoples dress that may seem idiosyncratic such as the folding up of trousers around the ankles, were in fact popularised by the hipster culture. The subculture is loosely defined by a geographical affiliation, but the disdain towards mainstream culture is another uniting factor. Films like ‘Boyz N the Hood’ are revered rather than ‘Kidulthood’, there is an appreciation of what is perceived as a higher class artistically in terms of media consumption. The music interest will always vary especially among a relatively new subculture that has attracted young people from various backgrounds, though nights in Brighton that tend attract hipsters often play Hip Hop, Dancehall and Bashment music.

Photo’s From Campus 


Brighton is well known for having a large gay community. This was a determining factor when it came to choosing Sussex University for the girls that we spoke to. The Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Society exists to support all the members of the subculture, as well as organise social events, campaigns and much more. Besides being gay, we attempted to unearth other factors that united the girls and see how they might have changed since arriving at University. One of the common themes among the girls was an interest in sports, four of the group that we spoke to were members of the Sussex University Women’s Football Team. They talked about how they had always enjoyed football, spending their childhood playing predominantly with boys, it was a refreshing change to meet so many other girls that shared a similar interest. Another recurring theme was nicknames, Ledge, Midge and Longcat were just a few of the girls that we spoke to. They agreed that nicknames transcended the sports culture into the Lesbian subculture. Though there is not a single unified style among Lesbian’s, the girls all agreed that dresses and skirts were of no interest to them, using the term ‘tomboy’ as a more accurate representation of their style. Interestingly the group universally agreed that since arriving at University they had become ‘more butch,’ citing a ‘butch chart’ that they had made that included factors such as ‘owning more than three checked shirts’ and hair length. The photo’s below show the Uni Football Team, as well as a picture of Wonder Woman above a chart displaying which girls the group had kissed.

Having spoken to many girls, we came to understand that simply coming to University had allowed them to feel more themselves than perhaps ever before. They discussed how they previously felt somewhat secluded from the Lesbian subculture and would sit alone reading ‘Diva’ in an attempt to feel connected. Simply by making friends and connections within the subculture, the girls spoke of being ‘more themselves’ and happier than ever before.

Photo’s from Campus


Comparing the two subcultures we noted that the Hipster subculture actually felt more subverted from the mainstream than the Lesbian subculture. Bourdieu asserted ‘Nothing classifies somebody more than the way he or she classifies.’ Undoubtedly the hipster culture sniggers at mainstream popular culture, watching the X Factor would define you as a generic zombie that is happy to consume the non-sensical garage spewed out by ITV on a Saturday night. Popular nightclubs like ‘Oceana’ are considered homes to these people that could never be accepted within the ‘cool’ hipster culture. On the other hand a seemingly more separated subculture in the Lesbian group, were in fact much more accepting of those from varying social backgrounds, with no single specific style or music taste. The lesbian subculture, that was once a clandestine socially unaccepted group, was in fact more integrated into popular culture.

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Race and representation in Twilight

Race and representation in Twilight

  • The Cullens are seen as “super-white” in the school, and are portrayed as beautiful, mysterious and extremely pale.
  • Their social status within the school is somewhat elitist – they eat alone in the cafeteria, seem to exclusively date within their own circle and act somewhat cold to other members of the school. This status is reinforced by their beautiful home and expensive possessions, as well as Carlisle’s respected profession as a doctor.
  • They nearly exclusively wear white, and their appearance seems to present a sense of purity.
  • An interesting comparison is that between the vampires and the werewolves. In their human form, the werewolves are native Indians, have little money and own few possessions. The vampires, in comparison, are pale, white Americans with a wealthy background and beautiful home.
  • In the town of Forks, the population is predominantly white, but in Bella’s high school we see a few other examples of ethnic diversity. There is a white, blonde boy that immediately has a crush on Bella, as well as an Asian boy who is “quirky” and subverts stereotypes of Asian males.
  • Bella is extremely white herself, and her paleness is referenced to when one of the girls she meets at her school asks why she hasn’t got a tan, despite having lived in Arizona. Bella is portrayed as very pretty, mysterious girl who is the focus of attention as soon as she arrives at her new school, but ironically, it is pretty much the one person whiter than her (Edward) for whom she falls for.
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Race and representation in Emmerdale

Race and representation in Emmerdale

The characters featured in Emmerdale are predominantly white. The show features various families that interact with each other, including the Gallagher, Walker, Thomas, Macey, Sugden, King and Pollard families – all of whom are white. I believe that the show does not accurately portray the ethnic diversity throughout the United Kingdom, and that it’s reasonable to assume there are few communities in this country that are nearly exclusively populated by white people. Other soaps such as Eastenders feature numerous other races and ethnicities which give a more accurate depiction of racial diversity in this country. The majority of the white characters hold stereotypical, lower-middle class jobs – working as mechanics, cleaners, factory workers and farmers, among other occupations. There are a few exceptions, however – a couple of businessmen reside in Emmerdale, which is not a particular common occupation for people residing in the countryside. Furthermore, almost everything about the show works within a stereotype of white people living in the countryside, from the way they speak, the way they dress and the activities you’d expect of such people (visiting the pub, shopping in the grocery store, speaking to neighbours on the street). There is little featured in Emmerdale that breaks social conventions or subverts stereotypes of village communities.

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Week 5 spring term: Feminism in Little Miss Sunshine:

The film is a comedy about a ‘dysfunctional’ family, although most viewers can relate to this dysfunction in some way or another. The daughter, Olive is an average, slight chubby 8-year-old girl enters a beauty pageant and the family set across America to bring her there in time.

The film is extremely feminist in its views – the uncle, Frank, is gay and at the beginning of the film attempted suicide. Throughout the film although accepted by some characters, he is mocked for his homosexuality by the grandpa.

On arrival to the pageant the brother, Dwayne – along with the viewers – is shocked at the way in which these young girls are being ‘dolled up’ to look like Barbie dolls. Throughout the scenes at the beauty pageant there is an unnerving subtext about the objectification of women – despite the girls being way too young to be objectified.

When asked to look at the role feminism has in the film I immediately recognized the main point being made: ’Post-feminism’ was mocked. That the mere thought that men and women and now equal because, although physically different biologically, they both have strengths and weakness which equal themselves out – men are physically stronger however women have a sexual hold on men which they can use to equal out this inequality. In order for this to work effectively, women must make themselves more attractive – i.e like the young girls in the pageant. The scene in the motel where Olive asks her grandpa if he thinks she’s pretty deems the response: “I’m madly in love with you Olive and it’s not because of your brains or personality’ suggesting that not only has the popularity in ‘post-feminism’ caused many insecurities (which can also be applied to Franks attempted suicide) aswel as a feeling of brains and personality not mattering – which is quite obviously ridiculous.

The way in which post-feminism is portrayed suggests it is a ridiculous claim to men and women are equal in today’s modern day society and with the sudden popularity of the post-feminism movement, women are now objectifying themselves so that men don’t have to.

To conclude, the film suggests that Feminism is still a major issue in today’s society. With the introduction of post-feminism and young girls looking up to their idols and wanting to be like and dress like them by objectifying themselves from such a young age is extremely worrying and infact reversing feminism.

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Week 3 summer work: the representation of race in Coronation Street

Coronation Street

Coronation Street is based in Manchester which is a highly multi-cultural city. However, there is not a diverse range of ethnic groups within the cast, as the majority are white. There are no black families in the programme. The few ethnic minority characters in the soap conform to racial stereotypes in one way or another, and their storylines explore the issues of race and cultural issues.

Dev Alahan

Dev Alahan is an Asian character who owns seven branches of Alahan’s corner shops and a Prima Doner takeaway. He is mainly seen within this shop and is only on the odd occasion filmed elsewhere. Dev’s character conforms to a stereotypical representation of race as corner shops are stereotypically linked to those of Asian origins. Dev’s character as the owner of a corner shop reinforces negative stereotypes.

Although he seems to have a good nature, he had been portrayed as a “bad” character through having an affair with a married woman and secretly fathering several children with women he had employed in his shops. These storylines depict him as predatory, and could be interpreted as “the bad asian” seducing the “white” characters to corruption.

His online profile on the Coronation Street website claims that his “likes” are Bollywood films; this is highly stereotypical and connects him to his origins.

Sunita Alahan

Sunita Alahan is Dev Alahan’s wife. She enters the soap as a woman who has fled an arranged marriage by her family. This storyline explored religious and cultural struggles however it caused criticism among the press for reinforcing negative racial stereotypes.

Sunita works alongside her husband Dev in the corner shop. The image of an Asian family running a corner shop is very stereotypical.

The marriage between Sunita and Dev was a traditional Hindu ceremony. It provided an insight into a culture and belief system which is different to hegemonic understandings in Britain. It is interesting how the only two Asians on the street were placed together

Xin Proctor

Xin Proctor is a new character on the street, and the first Chinese ethnicity to appear in the programme. She works as a waitress at the Royal Panda Restaurant which is an unskilled low paid job.

In her storyline, she trained a nurse and unless she could find a job for what she had trained for, she would be deported back to China. Tina comes up with an idea that if her boyfriend Graeme marries Xin, she can get a VISA and stay in Britain. This story of immigration highlights her as an “outsider.”

In her online profile on the Coronation Website, it claims that her “like” is “UK life” and her  “dislike” is “immigration officials.” This further highlights her status as an outsider and a foreigner.


The only characters of race in Coronation Street deal with issues which are associated with other cultures. They are labelled as “different” as their lifestyle and beliefs are different to that of dominant ideologies.

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Feminism in Friends


Feminism in Friends


  • The main female characters hold stereotypically female jobs – Rachel works in the fashion industry after working as a waitress, Monica cooks for a living as a chef and Phoebe is employed as a masseuse.
  • Sue Thornham states in Women, Feminism and Media (2007) that “soap opera is undoubtedly a hegemonic form, its pleasures designed to reinforce ‘dominant conceptualizations of women’ by position them as ‘consumers for their households’ but it is nevertheless a ‘leaky’ form which creates ‘gaps’ through which women can contest that position”. Friends could be applied to this statement, as the main female characters maintain stereotypes (i.e. Monica is obsessed with cleaning and her weight) but they sometimes appear through the ‘gaps’ (Rachel is actually a very successful businesswoman towards the end of the series, which included a job offer in Paris working with Louis Vuitton).
  • The female characters are also often depicted as the submissive gender when it comes to love and relationships – they are often the ones that cry, become heartbroken and act irrationally in relationships.
  • Although female stereotypes are features throughout the show, some characters often subvert some common conceptualizations of women. For example, before Monica’s relationship and subsequent marriage to Chandler, she is portrayed as a strong and independent single woman who is also there to offer emotional advice to her friends.
  • It could also be argued that some of the portrayals of the male characters could be conceived as anti-feminist, such as Joey’s frequent womanising and Ross’ mild homophobia.
  • There is little to argue against the stereotype that ‘skinny is beautiful’, as Monica is frequently mocked for being fat in her youth and the vast majority of the female characters in the show are thin women.
  • Comic references to pornography, including one episode where Monica buys porn for Chandler in an attempt to be a ‘perfect wife’, normalises it despite it’s devaluation of women to sexual objects.

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