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American Health & Fitness Essay.
To explain how media texts ‘work’ in creating particular occasions of reading, it is important to study the theoretical approaches to representation and understand how media texts might be said to ‘work’ in forms of representation. In this essay, I will examine five chosen media texts from the organisational category “Gendered identities: images of the ‘real’” and explain how they ‘work’ in relation to the question, along with an analysis of the relationship between texts, occasions of reading and audiences.
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According to Mercer (1986: 184), “one of the places that bind potentially destructive antagonisms in a neutralising mutuality is texts – occasions of reading”. By this, it is evident that Mercer addresses the notion of ‘occasions of reading’ as the text being the ‘occasion’ and the ‘reading’ taking place through audiences’ interaction with the text. ‘Occasions of reading’ do not simply mean reading a newspaper but that we are socially, culturally and institutionally positioned as audiences in terms of the ways of seeing, watching or enjoying a particular text.American Health & Fitness Essay.
As mentioned earlier, to explain how media texts create particular occasions of reading, it is important to understand how media texts might be said to ‘work’ in forms of representation. So, what is representation? According to Hall (1977: 61), “representation is the process by which members of a culture use language or a signifying system to produce meaning”. This definition emphasises that physical objects or people do not have any fixed or true meaning in themselves.
They only take on meaning and become objects of knowledge within discourse (Hall 1997: 45). It is therefore, through the conventions of discourse that media texts create particular occasions of reading. Discourse is a set of systematically organised statements with the “power to structure, classify and normalise the social world” (Schirato & Yell 2000: 58). Foucault sees discourse as the main key to constructing a topic, in which it defines and produces knowledge about a particular object or person, thus dictating the way we reason things (Hall 1997:44).American Health & Fitness Essay.
Although meanings are produced through discourses, meanings interpreted depend not only on the discourses of a text. Rather, they depend also on other contexts such as individual knowledge and understanding which are delimited in time, culture and inherited compositional practices subject to social and historical contexts (Burston 2004: 13). I will now evaluate the chosen media texts and explain how these texts create particular occasions of reading. Media text 1 (Appendix 1) is chosen from a men’s magazine, American Health & Fitness.
With six of the world’s most desirable female fitness models sexily dressed in their bikinis and one of them seen to be covering her breasts with both hands, it is certainly inviting for men – the target audience for the magazine. The media text portrays discourses of femininity and female sexuality where women are represented as traditional objects of scrutiny. In most cases, female identity is constructed in relation to object-hood rather than subject-hood. As Berger said, “men act and women appear” (Berger 1973: 47), it indicates that men look at women while women watch themselves being looked at.
Thus, women turn themselves into objects, particularly objects of vision for the male gaze. The words and photographs of the text could be interpreted into various meanings, therefore creating particular occasions of reading. For instance, in the Western culture, the words “sex drive” and photographs of women dressed sexily are deemed normal and not obscene for media publication. However, in the Asian culture, it could be deemed inappropriate if published in magazines intended for young people.American Health & Fitness Essay.
Then again, as Asian culture is becoming less conventional nowadays, photographs of women posing sexily and almost naked might be appreciated and accepted in adult magazines. With this example, it proves that meanings are not autonomous and permanent, but are different and vary in terms of differing cultures and contexts. Men and women would also interpret the text differently. The male readers could be drooling over the photographs and approaching their understanding of such a text towards the genre of pornography, where pornography seems to have been something of a man’s pastime.American Health & Fitness Essay.