The representations of ethnicity in a range of soap operas Essay

Published: 2020-01-08 11:22:24
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Looking at the way in which media messages and values are conveyed. We need to compare the representations of ethnicity in a range of soap operas.

Ethnicity is a subgroup of people sharing a common origin, culture, religion. When looking at the way ethnic roles are depicted in soap operas, we can see that there is a minimal amount of asian or black characters. The society we live in today is not fairly represented in the soap operas. They do not clearly embody the ethnic minorities.

The way we need to consider ethnicity within soaps is in terms of how the characters are portrayed, what their social status is, what their occupation is and what their social desirability is. Across the media spectrum soap operas are not an exception, they try to involve ethnic minorities but do not always succeed and most commonly use stereotypical views they have to portray the actual asian characters. Since the year 2000 the cinema industry has embraced an Indian culture and this is what needs to be achieved by producers of soap operas.

They need to concentrate on showing the multicultural world showing that the world is no longer dominated by white people but that other ethnic minorities are having a significant contribution to society. To achieve a balance they need to show the demographic mix i.e. show different people, of different religion, with different backgrounds as one whole community and not split off into ethnic groups. Because we live in a media specific society, where we are hopefully becoming more enlightened, multiculture is reflected through media and every text is a product of its time. When analysing the soap operas we will see whether there is a better demographic mix than there has been previously.

The concepts of messages and values are concerned with the relationships between the producers purpose and intended meaning and the actual meaning that the audience will derive from a media text. Different sections of a community might, for example, interpret different things. Audiences experience texts as individuals with personal and cultural backgrounds and as a part of a society which sometimes have contradictory values and mor¯¿½s.

Ethnicity sometimes has no impact upon the soap opera. Broadcasters have recently been accused of being colour-blind meaning that although a character could be black or Asian, they could just as easily have been white because their ethnic background had no impact on the story. Soap operas like Eastenders and Coronation Street, some of the countrys most popular shows have received critiscm for being patchy in their representation of ethnicity despite being set in cities with huge numbers of blacks and asians. Only the Liverpool set series Brookside was said to be consistent. There are many soap operas around at the moment that try to represent the ethnic minorities in the community but use stereotypes instead. Eastenders shows Anthony and Paul Truman and their father Patrick, Gus Smith and Nita Mistry. In Coronation Street it is Dev Alahan, Vik and Ravi Desai, and in Family Affairs it is Yasmin Matthews, Becky & Darren Scott and their father Adrian.

When looking at this, and comparing the amount of characters that are part of an ethnic group, to those that are white, we can see that there is only a small number that are represented as Asian or black. Virtually any program, either it be a documentary or a soap opera can make room for Asian characters. And just because a part isnt explicitly written as Asian doesnt necessarily mean that it cant be cast with an Asian actor. It is important for the producer of the programme to be responsible. Ethnicity should, equally, be viewed as a positive facet of any community. Storylines and characterizations should help to promote such a view.

Coronation Street is set in the suburbs of Manchester area, and the one main focal point is the local pub The Rovers Return. Families featured tend to be white middle/ working class. There are few Asian families although Manchester has a wide ethnic mix but is not really represented in the Street itself. Black characters tend to be the minority here. The main people that represent the Asians are Vik Desai who is the pampered son of Ravi Desai, but is a failed accountant. Ravi Desai brought the corner shop in 1999. Whilst his sister Nita happily worked in the shop Vik preferred to chase the local girls, including Maxine Heavey and Leanne Tilsley. He suffered a shock when Ravi sold all his shops to his cousin Dev Alahan, thus depriving him of his inheritance. Vik and his friend Steve McDonald set up their own mini cab firm, Streetcars, which operates from Victoria Street. Vik was dating factory girl Bobbi Lewis until his affair with married housewife Hazel Wilding caused the couple to break up.

These job opportunities that have appeared seem to offer a stereotypical view of Asians. The parents buy a corner shop and the daughter is happy to work in it whereas the son would rather be wandering the streets. Dev is seen as a slimy entrepreneur in the stereotypical corner shop. It is seen as keeping things in the family. Dev is like a pseudo Mike Baldwin but is neither as successful nor as influential. He did harbor a relative who was trying to escape from an arranged marriage, this again shows that the producers had a particular view of Asian values and that Asian families have been portrayed as traditional.

Dev whose character has elements of western thinking too, could, on this occasion act as a bridge. Each area of the UK has different views on ethnicity and so portrays it in different ways. In coronation Street there are not really and positive role models for the ethnic community, Dev is slimy, devious and Vik begins to get involved with illegal smuggling. Overall this gives the ethnic minorities in that area a bad name and does not clearly represent the ethnic population and the values being represented are largely negative. But it has to be noted that for the first time in 25 years an Asian family has existed on Coronation Street.

In Eastenders we have seen a number of Asian characters who are seen to be portraying the ethnic communities. Eastenders is set in Albert Square in the east end of London. Only the residents of the square are featured and most of the action is centered around the local public house. There is a wide ethnic mix in Albert Square but the stories tend to revolve around established families.

One family that was well known in Eastenders was the De Marcos. Rosa was a middle aged matriarchal figure who was the stereotype of an Italian mama. The Italian culture was reinforced via the plot vehicle of the family business. The producers use their knowledge of the Italian culture to try and portray this family to the best they can. The older brothers Gianni and Beppe were both fiercely protective of their younger sisters. The Grandmother, who was also present in the storyline, helped in the restaurant, this is showing the idea of extended rather than nuclear family. Rosa De Marco had an affair with George a middle aged, gangland character who we seemed to associate with the mob. This could be seen as stereotyping because it is going on the basis of imagination. People might not know that there actually is a mob in Italy but would portray one because it is interesting.

In Eastenders we have a huge number of black characters, Paul, Anthony, Patrick Truman and Gus. Patrick is unemployed and has just recently appeared on the scene. For many years he had not been involved in his sons lives. Paul is seen as a trickster like his father he is also unemployed but loves his scams! Paul was revealed to have taken the blame for Anthonys car accident to save Anthonys career.

This shows that most characters have two sides, one soft side and the other a hard side that they reveal to the other people on stage, but because a soap opera dwells further we get to know the characters more personally and can connect with them on a more personal level. Gus Smith is a sensitive, poetic soul who was attracted to Albert Square by Sonias mysterious charms. Ho won the affection of Dot and Jim and seemed all set to pop the question, before his world turned upside down. We, as the audience empathize with these kinds of characters because they represent what we feel like. Gus is seen as a sensitive male who has found what he wants but its out of his reach.

A number of Asian characters have also been featured, Asif and Nita. Asif is a friend of Martins; he is seen as a typical 18 years old that is carefree and is chilling. His ethnicity does not seem to be fore grounded whereas Nita and her son Anish have moved to Walford to get away from things. The story is still continuing of how Nitas mum is calling her back over to India again to live with them however she has now settled down with Robbie. After the death of her husband, she fled to Walford to escape her suffocating family. They portray Nita and Asif in different ways because I think they want to show males and females (Asians) and how they are treated due to their sex.

The demographic mix in family Affairs is not very equal. There are a limited number of black or asian characters, the only black/asian characters that I am aware of is Yasmin Matthews and Becky and Darren Scott. Yasmin has been portrayed as an extremely difficult character. Yasmins thoughts may be shallow but her past isnt. A murdered husband, an estranged father, and a miscarriage clutter her past but Yasmins personality and her character allow her to cover that up and play her part well. When looking at all the things that Yasmin Matthews has been through it seems unbelievable that this has happened to one person.

This may not be realistic as the producers want it to seem. Becky is seen as a rebellious schoolgirl who is living by the motto ill live my life as I wish she has had her ups and downs with her mother regarding her boyfriends and has her regular family feuds with her mother and brother. Becky first appeared on Family Affairs in January 2000, this shows that during this time producers became more aware of ethnicity and knew they had to portray it in their soaps.

This is what Coronation Street has done, because for the first time in 25 years there has been an Asian family on the Street which I see as an achievement. Darren in the last noticeable ethnic character present in Family Affairs. Darrens life has been filled with all sorts of traumas both major and minor. For instance, his dad Adrian was an ex-convict, his step dad lost his job, and his stepbrother Luke assumed the role of his new stepfather after he started an affair with Nikki and then rubbed more salt in it by proceeding to date his sister. This background shows the audience that the child may be unstable and so his character will be slightly disturbed.

A media theory concerning why people use and enjoy different forms of media. In other words we all watch different forms of media because we get something out of it most commonly. When analysing the soap operas according to messages they portray we see that the storylines are a form of escapism i.e. to escape the harsh realities of everyday life.

We also watch them to gain information about the outside world Raj Persaud psychologist says that we gain a lot of useful information from soap operas which helps us to rehearse the way in which we would deal with similar crises to the actors in the soap opera where they too affect our lives. Another message we can get from soap operas is the fact that they use stereotypes this is so that we can compare ourselves with other people e.g. if I was age same age as Nita or Asif in Eastenders I would look at them and then compare them to myself.

A critic Erwin Panfosky (1979) said that all of the personality types that we see represented on our screens are actually derived from the theatre which was used in early cinema. Types are characters who are defined by what they represent rather than being genuine individuals. A type is signified by an actors appearance and behaviour and, unlike the stereotype, does not really exist in the real world. Types that exist in Eastenders are Winston and Tracy, that are just normally hanging around and dont have an actual storyline.

Stereotypes offer a kind of sophisticated shorthand about characters and people in the real world. However in Image and Representation by Nick Lacey, he tells us that although stereotypes are very common there are many assumptions (according to Tessa Perkins in her book Rethinking stereotypes) which people have about stereotypes. E.g. they are pejorative concepts, they are usually about oppressed or minority groups, they are simplistic and they are rigid and unchangeable. Because someone holds a stereotype of a group his or her behaviour towards a member of that group can be predicted

Overall producers has attempted to portray ethnicity to the best of their ability and have not been able to at times due to lack of research, but it is noticeable that society is beginning to accept ethnic minorities in soap operas and accept them as part of the community.

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