Free Critical Media Analysis #2: Representation And Power Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Representation, Rhetoric, Discourse, Theater, Culture, People, Power, Stereotypes

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/10/26

In Stuart Hall’s thoughts on representation and power, he notes the importance of representation as not just an indicator of culture, but a creator of culture. In many ways, there is a bit of a discursive loop that occurs when images or people are represented in media; while there may be a grain of truth to the representation that is being conveyed in that initial representation, what eventually happens is that people and cultures start modeling themselves after these images and representations. This is the power of representation - the discourse allows people to use these representations as signposts for shaping and changing their own culture because, in essence, they believe that is what they already look, sound and act like.
Language is the primary means by which this changing of paradigms occurs; language can be both textual and visual (Hall 19). Language systems often carry at least some resemblance to the thing it is representing, though it rarely is able to represent the entirety of the thing in all its nuances and abstractions; people instead fill in the blanks with their own preconceptions and values. This is where ‘reading’ can get warped, and representations can become inaccurate; as we all have the capability of reading the same sign in different ways, even within code-sharing cultures (Hall 21).
Hall notes that three theories of representation are prevalent in these kinds of discussions – the reflective approach, in which the “meaning is thought to lie in the object, person, idea or event in the real world”; the intentional approach in which “the authorimposes his or her unique meaning on the world through language,” and the constructionist approach, in which “we construct meaning, using representational systems – concepts and signs” (Hall 24-25). The constructivist approach is what most closely relates representation to power; with the right representation, social and cultural construction can affect the perception of a thing based on their interpretation of this representation. Representations can change, based on many factors like the circumstances of the signifier and signified in the moment of reading (Hall 32).
Through the constructionist perspective of media, representation is shown to require the connection of reality, concepts and the sings which is meant to communicate concepts (Hall 61). Discourse not only discusses the subject as it is observed, that same discourse helps to define and determine it; whether or not the discourse matches reality, reality can soon find itself changing or being perceived differently to fit the discourse. This can have a profound effect on the subjects of discourse themselves, changing to match what is being said about them whether or not it is true. This can lead to an escalation of stereotypes; for example, the stereotype of the ‘welfare queen’ has become so pernicious and prevalent in discourse that the subjects themselves (e.g. poor minorities on the dole) might end up fulfilling those stereotypes as a result of not being able to escape them.
One example of the way representation can have its own power to change the culture and how it relates to others is the Jeremy Lin cover of the New York Post, which featured a Lin-based pun on his name. This is just one of many New York Post covers that shows a screaming Jeremy Lin on the court, with a huge, corny play on Jeremy Lin’s last name (which is of Asian origin) and a common phrase, like “Linsanity” or “ThrilLin’”. In this way, Jeremy Lin’s representation no longer becomes about his skill as a basketball player, but as a punch-line related to his name. His Asian name is perceived in the discourse as being silly or easily turned into a joke, which serves to marginalize him and Asian people in general (Lin being one of the only prominent examples of Asian men in professional sports). Because of the nature of the subject, and the power of the ‘Linsanity’ meme, Jeremy Lin was known just as much for the puns related to his name (started by publications like the New York Post) as he was a skilled basketball player, offering a decidedly un-masculine portrayal of Asian men in the media.
Through these examples and more, Hall’s central point is clear: representation isn’t simply a mirror of what people see about the world. In the right circumstances, it can be a self-perpetuating cycle of stereotypes and misrepresentations about people which can feed into the discourse to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the case of Jeremy Lin, the remarkable nature of being the rare Asian guy in basketball (due to the stereotype of Asian men not being good at sports) ends up perpetuating itself because of the infantilizing nature of “Linsanity” and the audience’s preoccupation with his ‘silly’ Asian name over his performance as a player. This gives power to representation in media, allowing it to shape the discourse just as much as it reflects it.

Works Cited

Hall, Stuart. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. SAGE
Publications, 2003.
Hall, Stuart Representation & the Media.

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"Free Critical Media Analysis #2: Representation And Power Essay Sample," Free Essay Examples -, 26-Oct-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 30-Jun-2022].
Free Critical Media Analysis #2: Representation And Power Essay Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Oct 26, 2020. Accessed June 30, 2022.

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