How does Fish Tank challenge typical representations of gender? (A-level homework piece) 800~ words

This is a so-and-so homework essay typed up using examples looked at during lessons. It’s no masterpiece of course because it was only done for homework. The Point, Example, Explain structure has clearly been overused. Another problem is the flow of consciousness, there’s no clear paragraph structure and ideas have been typed out as they came to mind. The writer clearly didn’t take this work seriously and even made a reference to Othello as a joke (which reading back on, wasn’t funny at all).

How does Fish Tank (2009) challenge typical representations of gender?

Representation is defined as re-presenting something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature. Media representations have been known to have a powerful influence on society’s ideologies and hegemonic values, they shape the way we think about issues, events and ideals among other things. Gender in the media has a variety of portrayals and attitudes to gender segregation have diminished over time, leaving less divide over male and female representations. However; gender stereotypes still exist and are used in the media industry mostly as a form of entertainment whereas countertypes are used for other purposes, predominantly as a device to attract audiences to the unusual convention as it deviates from the norm. Sometimes women are represented as sex objects to attract males or men as strong and charismatic, to attract females. In Fish Tank, the female director Andrea Arnold likely had a powerful influence on how gender was represented. Arnold’s films commonly explore female sexuality and Fish Tank is no exception, she excels in social realist dramas that are conventional in their working-class settings but her focus is refreshingly female. Accordingly; Arnold created Fish Tank with a mainly female perspective on an abused love relationship between a teenage girl and her mother’s older boyfriend.

Mia is in control of the narrative, being the protagonist we follow throughout the film she influences how the story pans out. She challenges female stereotypes by acting masculine, she is adventurous and overconfident, for example in the opening scene she is seen instigating violence amongst a group of girls dancing by head butting one of them in the face. Typically, young women as protagonists are seen as soft, caring and empathetic such as half of the characters in the television soap Eastenders and are only seen otherwise if they are antagonists such as the vampires in adventure film Van Helsing, making Mia a uniquely portrayed female antagonist. Mia is socially trapped and is used as an archetype for people who live in council estates. At one point when Connor is introduced, Mia is seen staring at Connor in relation to the female gaze theory. In a mid-shot; sunlight protruding from a window glistens against Connor’s body to sexualise him and to help the audience see from Mia’s perspective his attractiveness. Mia’s character is an undiscovered one in media and has a rare representation, although girls like her exist in real life, both in character and situation.

Connor is the first significant male character introduced and in the first half of the film, he is perceived as a hero. He is a father figure; good with children, polite and wealthy – almost the opposite of Mia who lives in poverty without a father. Like a Hollywood hero, Connor is an alpha male shown through his charismatic personality and almost depicts perfectness in a man. This sort of representation of a male early in the narrative leads the audience to believe he is the typical hero until certain scenes suggest he is taking advantage of Mia and her mother. As he is seen caring for Mia, the relationship between them becomes more palpable each time. For example; Connor earlier gives Mia a piggyback so she doesn’t have to walk on the cut on her ankle and then later, when he carries her to bed and takes off her trousers and tucks her in. Each of these scenes progressively become more intimate and is signified by the diegetic sound of intensified breathing this carries on until eventually the turning point is reached when Connor initiates intercourse with her. At this point, Connor is seen as a fiend who turned from hero to villain, sharing some similarity with Shakespeare’s play Othello. This goes against the norm that the wealthy, charismatic and handsome male remains heroic for the entire text, instead Connor uses these traits to take advantage of the family. It is unknown whether Connor had it planned from the beginning but it is likely since he already had a woman and child in his life.

Billy is first introduced as a minor character when Mia attempts to free a horse from captivity next to a caravan owned by a group of ‘pikeys’. In this scene, two of the boys abuse her, push her around, take her bag and carry her as if to perform a malignant act on her but she manages to escape. After a failed first attempt to free the horse, Mia turns up again and this time Billy confronts her. Unlike his brothers, Billy is sympathetic and more sensible, suggesting that the younger you are the more innocent you are. This gives evidence that there are certain overt characteristics that can be attributed to a character of either gender, in this case being empathy attributed to age rather than gender unlike in other media texts where empathy is typically associated with females.

Using detailed examples, explain representations of masculinity – AS Level essay

 

This is a so-and-so homework essay done using examples looked at during lessons. Some major let-downs are that it doesn’t have an introductory paragraph, connectives, or a good conclusion. Other than that, the body is rather spot-on for a homework piece.

Male stereotypes such as men being heroes and strong are seen in media such as Die Hard 4.0 and The Expendables through the use of actors with muscular bodies, revealing glistening physiques and low-angle shots. Countertypes are also present in the media, for example; stayathomedads.co.uk and some news articles address role-reversals in the stereotypical husband and wife relationships. Advertisements aimed at men often use stereotypical images to be able to relate to the target audience; the Dove moving image advert during the American Super Bowl uses this convention. Among these representations, there are indications of drug use by males in films like Shifty. There are also subtly displayed stereotypes in some of these materials such as men being gamers, lovers and leaders.

In film; a stereotype commonly seen is the representation that men are brave, strong and protectors; ‘The Action Hero’ stereotype. This common stereotype is represented in Die Hard 4.0, The Expendables and Skyfall. Representations of this stereotype are expressed through medium close-ups and low-angled shots which show the strength and power of the male characters. In terms of character; costumes are usually war-torn with facial expressions depicting aggressiveness, which are connotations of fighting/violence – this is mostly seen in The Expendables. Another technique to show strength is used in oiling the actors’ muscles and the light source from fire and explosions cause their bodies to glisten, putting emphasis on their strength. The title of Die Hard itself connotes the determination to win, or die in attempt. In Skyfall, the main protagonist is seen holding a gun in one of the opening shots, which is an action code that signifies that there will be action in the film. The protagonist also gets a reward in the form of a girl, which is stereotypical of male heroes. Skyfall represents ‘The Strong Silent Type’ stereotype, with the character being in control and succeeding with women. These stereotypes are reinforced with calmness of characters and the skilled use of weapons.

In an English urban thriller, Shifty portrays the main male protagonists in in varied ways from typical action/adventure films. The scene is set in a council estate in London, as such; all characters are designed to suit the environment. In terms of male representation, all of the males portrayed in the film appear to have something to do with drugs. Because of its dark nature, the film’s lighting is low-key for most parts. It also incorporates cultural identities and the fact that ‘Shifty’ has 4 A-levels but still deals with drugs rather than having a real job – from these plot devices, a complex representation is drawn which consists of various interpretations, such as men being aggressive, submissive and professional at their occupation. ‘Trevor’ is shown to have control in his family through having demands in choices that affect his family. Trevor is not a stereotypical drug user since he has a reasonably nice house and family, whereas Shifty and Chris are more stereotypical ‘lads’ – they use colloquial language, repeated use of cursing and going around carrying out deals. These social realism techniques make the entire representation seem real; as such we receive more complexly constructed representations.

Advertisements aimed at men often use stereotypical images to relate the good/service to the target audience. An example of an advertising campaign that uses this scheme is the Dove USA Super Bowl XLIV ad for grooming products for men. The advert was shown during the event because middle-aged American men are the primary audience for the sport. It made use of a chronological stereotypical American male’s life in a montage of shots in sync with a man’s voice singing a narrative to the tune of ‘William Tell Overture’, which consists of activities which men would stereotypically do throughout their lives, such as getting married and “(having) three kids”. Each stereotype is visually shown, such as a boy playing with some masculine toys and riding a bicycle. This is an example of anchorage; the narration leads to an open range of interpretations. The main perspective the audience should receive is the representation of stereotypical things men would do in their lifetime. The montage of different scenarios serve as ‘hooks’ while the narration through song provides an anchor to the meaning.

In the music industry, there are vast representations of male stereotypes. One Direction is a ‘boy band’ with a target audience of teenage females. On their website, the colour scheme makes use of soft colour shades such as light green and sky blue – these soft colours suggest femininity, which suits the target audience. The font and use of symbols such as stars and hearts make the page look like a girls’ scrapbook, which helps relate the band to the target audience. A contrasting representation to this is the Dizzee Rascal website.         On this page, the colour used is mainly black and white – these two colours connote simplicity and perhaps even the artist’s ethnic origin, which is clearly presented on the page. His serious expression shows dedication to his occupation. These conventions show that his songs are aimed at males rather than teenage females.

A representation that most industries refrain from using is of the metrosexual male; a man who is in touch with his feminine side who has male qualities but also takes pride in appearance. This representation was used in a perfume advert for ‘1 Million by Paco Rabanne’. The actor used is not a stereotypical strong, manly character but instead; he is clean cut and slim with contrasting formal attire which is shown in each of his shots, showing he cares about his appearance. He wears a feminine belt and each pose he strikes resembles one that a female would do – however, when he clicks and a girl’s dress falls off, his heterosexuality is signified. A groovy, rebellious lifestyle is indicated with each click; whenever the actor clicks, a quick fix is shown for cars, gambling and women which could represent the wants of men. So as with the Dove advert, the institute uses scenarios to relate with the target audience of men.

A countertype in the media representing masculinity is househusbands. Daily Mail news articles address that househusbands are becoming increasingly common. The online news article has images which portray closer relationships between a father and child. The first image on the page is constructed for the article and depicts a man with a baby in a doorway with a woman in the background in office clothes, presumably going to work. This image shows the role-reversal in the relationship where the wife provides income for the family and the husband stays at home, looking after their child to match the context of the article. The shot is medium-long and is focused on the man and child in the foreground in order to bring attention that the husband will be staying at home with his child so that the audience is shocked with what is first perceived, because it is against the norm. This challenges the stereotype that society widely accepts. A second image is used and uses the same aesthetics. Older generation audiences are likely to have an oppositional reading to this countertype because in their generation, it was idealistic for the women to stay at home while the husband provided an income for the family to thrive on. There are lots of audience viewpoints and responses based on how they were brought up on this idea.

It is apparent that stereotypes are used by the media to appeal to a certain audience, such as adverts using stereotypical images to appeal to men who are familiar with the stereotypes and can therefore relate with the imagery. However; along with stereotypical representations, oppositional readings can be made by certain audiences such as the older generation with ‘househusbands’.