In this area of study students focus on the relationship between society’s values and media texts. Media representations reflect and mediate ideas from particular economic, social, cultural, political or institutional points of view. Students undertake the study of an identified significant idea, social attitude or discourse located in a range of media texts to critically analyse its representation in the media.
Credit: Study Design
Before delving deep into this Outcome, define what the title means: ‘Society’s Values in Media Texts’.
‘Values’ are generally regarded as principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgement of what is important in life – the unwritten laws by which we live by. Values could be centered around such things as respect, health, well-being, religion, environment, technology, etc.
A persons values may be shaped by their environment, family, friends, teachers, sporting/celebrity icons, authors, artists and… wait for it….. THE MEDIA!
- What are the values that you hold dear?
- Who or what has shaped your values?
‘Society’s Values’ are simply regarded as values held by a society or community; for example, Victorians, Australians or Americans. Take, for example, the discourse of ‘same sex relationships’ in the 21st Century. Australia’s values have shifted dramatically in recent years – more people have become accepting of the issue which has prompted the debate for same sex marriage which may soon be legislated. Some societies, however, value same sex relationships very differently – some countries in north Africa, for example, enforce harsh penalties for individuals that are found to be in a same-sex relationship.
‘Media Texts’, such as print media, film and television contain representations that are shaped by societies values. For this outcome, students will refer to two or more media texts, much like Unit 3, Outcome one; Narrative.
By analysing the media texts and the representations contained within them, it will give us an insight into society’s values during the time in which it was produced.
- Do you believe the media has played a role in shaping your values?
- Do you believe societies values have the power to shape the media?
- Consider the discourse of same sex relationships/marriages. Western Societies values have shifted dramatically in recent times. What texts (consider television series, films and advertisements) reflect this?
- Create a timeline which reflects different cultures/societies attitudes toward same sex relationship/marriages. Note the following:
- 19 States in America now allow same-sex marriage
- In the 1960s, some English countries jailed homosexuals for two years if found to be in a same sex relationship
- Some countries continue to offer the death penalty if found to be in a same sex relationship
Discourses and Society’s Values
Discourses are ways of thinking that are set up by the culture of the language we use. Discourses contain social values – but often lots of different competing points of view about them. Consider as an example the repeated discourse of mateship. The discourse contains social values to do with group loyalty. But there are are competing points of view within the discourse. Some speak of a heroic quality while another point of view sees it as ‘ganging yup’ against outsiders (often women).
Outcome Two: Discourse
The discourse studied for Outcome Two is that of same-sex unions. The main focus is on western society’s changing attitudes toward same-sex relationships from the early 1980’s to present which was fueled by social issues and events such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
Students will be expected to research social issues related to the discourse, and discuss how these issues have helped to shape society’s values and attitudes toward same-sex unions. Students will also analyse a minimum of two texts from different time periods which contain representations that are built around society’s attitudes toward the discourse.
For this outcome, students will formally analyse the following texts:
- Modern Family (2009-present)
- Degrassi Junior High (1987 – 1991)
- Society’s Attitudes Toward Homosexuality: Societal attitudes toward homosexuality vary greatly in different cultures and different historical periods, as do attitudes toward sexual desire, activity and relationships in general.
- A pivotal era in LGBT History? Whilst there have, undoubtedly, been significant milestones in LGBT history in earlier decades, I believe the Eighties was a particularly important period.
- The History of AIDs: The history of HIV and AIDS in the USA began in 1981, when the United States of America became the first country to officially recognise a strange new illness among a small number of gay men.
Absolute values are those that are fundamental to the structure and functioning of society, unchanging and true for all members of society. These values may include truthfulness and respect for one another.
Relative values are less fixed and are subject to change as society and the individuals within it develop. Society’s values may change as a result of issues and events that occur at a particular time and place.
In America, for example, same-sex marriage became legal nationwide on June 26th, 2015. This social issue is representative of society’s changing attitudes towards acceptance of same-sex marriage and is reflected in a range of media texts such as Modern Family, Glee and Looking, just to name a few.
Research social issues related to same-sex unions in America from 2009. Have these issues shaped the representations in Modern Family? Use the links below to download some examples:
Modern Family is an American television sitcom that premiered on ABC on September 23, 2009, which follows the lives of Jay Pritchett and his family, all of whom live in suburban Los Angeles. Pritchett’s family includes his second wife, his stepson, and infant son, as well as his two adult children and their spouses and children.
- So; the discourse is: same-sex unions
- the media text is; Modern Family
- Time of production: 2009 to present
- Place of production: America
What was happening during the time of production?
Traditional family values (dominant): represented as a ‘nuclear family’. The term ‘family values’ is somewhat vague and has shifting meanings, but most men and women agree that it is about “loving, taking care of, and supporting each-other”. The American media often associate ‘family values’ with Christian values.
- Promotion of traditional marriage
- Opposition to same-sex marriage & abortion
- Support for abstinence education
Generally speaking, traditional family values are reflected in the Dunphy family
Divorce rates increasing: 90% of marriages end in divorce within 11 years.
Gay rights: 19 states in America now offer same-sex marriage. Peoples values and attitudes have evolved substantially since the late 20th century.
Acceptance of other cultures. Interracial families – represented by Mitch and Cam adopting a Vietnamese child named Lilly. Same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt children in some American states.
In the 1960’s, a more general movement for gender equality developed based on women’s liberation and feminism. The central issue was that the rights of women should be the same as men.
Over time, there has been significant changes in peoples attitudes, but many believe that the objective of gender equality has not been full achieved, especially in non-Western countries.
Representations in Modern Family
When analyzing representations, consider the following:
- What do these actors bring to the character; i.e; how to they walk, talk and interact with other people? What defines them?
- Do you like them? If not, why is this? Do they not support/challenge the same values you live by?
- Do the representations support and/or challenge society’s values?
Cameron Tucker, played by Eric Stonestreet (right), is a charismatic, flamboyant and sometimes feminine character who is in a loving same-sex relationship with Mitchel Pritchett and is a father to an adopted Vietnamese girl named Lilly.
The relationship Cameron has with Mitchell is, in part, what makes Modern Family unique and defining. The couple were introduced in the pilot episode (2209) at a time where there was a growing acceptance of same-sex unions in American society. Modern Family spent no time focusing the social awkwardness and difficulties one may have when ‘coming out of the closet’, instead, Cameron and Mitch were shamelessly in love and open about there sexuality from day one.
The relationship between Cameron and Mitchell is arguably what put Modern Family on the map – its a step in the right direction for the LGBQT movement; however, it owes its humor, in part, to the gay stereotype. In Season 5 Episode 23, Cameron Tucker is preparing to get married. He begins to get flustered when the dry cleaners gave him the wrong tuxedo he plans to wed in. His high pitched sequel at moments of panic, animated hand gestures and mannerisms are often exaggerated; yet this is where Modern Family finds some of its humor.
SAMPLE SAC QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
Describe an idea, an attitude or a discourse that is evident in a text that you studied this year:
A discourse evident in the texts studied is that of same-sex unions. The main focus was on western society’s changing attitudes from the 1980’s to the present day.
With reference to Modern Family, describe an attitude in the form of society’s values held during the production period:
Since the late 20th century, Western societies general attitude toward homosexuality, gay rights and same-sex marriage is beginning to shift. The majority of American’s are supportive of the gay rights movement which has resulted in some states legalizing same-sex marriage – this attitude is supported through Mitch and Cam who maintain a successful same-sex relationship and legally marry in later episodes.
Describe a representation in Modern Family and to which these representatives support and/or challenge dominant, emerging or oppositional values of society of the production period.
Cameron Tucker is represented as a stereotypical gay man who is in a relationship with Mitchell Pritchett. His role is often centred around the household – he’s a cheerful, feminine and flamboyant stay-at-home dad who looks after their adopted Vietnamese daughter whilst Mitchel works during the day. Since Modern Family aired in 2009, Cameron has always maintained a healthy relationship with his partner – more recent episodes have even seen the two get married. By using Cameron, Modern Family’s Producers was making a commentary on peoples emerging attitudes of acceptance toward gay-rights and equality. Society is becoming much more accepting of gay relationships, which is supported through these representations.
Degrassi Junior High (1987 - 1991)
Degrassi High is the third in the Degrassi series. A teen drama about the lives of a group of teenagers living on or near De Grassi Street in Toronto, Canada. It first aired from 1989 to 1991 and followed the young people from The Kids of Degrassi Street and Degrassi Junior High through high school.
The episode in which student will be studying is:
Degrassi Junior High: Season 3 Episode 6
He Ain’t Heavy
Originally aired on December 5, 1988
- Episode begins in the classroom discussing the topic of AIDs. Is this still an issue in today’s society? Do any of your teachers discuss the issue of AIDs? Probably not as the AIDs virus has a very low prevalence in Australia – it really isn’t an issue in our society. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most effected by the virus. In 2010, an estimated 68% (22.9 million) of all HIV cases and 66% of all deaths (1.2 million) occurred in this region.
- Homosexuals were represented as a group of people that started the AIDs epidemic – sometimes referred to as ‘gay cancer’.
- When exiting the classroom, Snake and his friends laugh about the idea of getting AIDs and automatically assume the role of gay people as if they are the only ones that get AIDs.
- Glenn (older brother of Snake) – comes home after ‘moving out of the dorm’ to live downtown with a friend. Snake assumed it is a girl until he reveals shortly after that it is a guy.
- When Glenn reveals that he is gay, Snake is visibly in shock and appears somewhat disappointed.
- Snake cannot accept that he is gay. Becomes very defensive and aggressive. It becomes apparent that Glenn’s parents are not accepting either… “I don’t exist anymore. Your (Snake) the only son they’ve got now.”
- On a positive note; Degrassi High brings these controversial issues (of the time) to the table, but there is a stigma that exists toward homosexual people – they are represented negatively in this episode.
- That is to say, a dominant value at the time of production was that homosexuals were synonymous with disease and that it was a lifestyle choice to be avoided with one wish to remain a respected and active member of society.
- Interestingly, Glenn’s brave confession to his brother and parents is woven into a plot line about AIDs – an infection caused by that transmission of bodily fluids – commonly through sexual acts and hypodermic needles. Interestingly, the majority of transmissions worldwide occur through heterosexual acts. In the USA, however, 64% of transmissions occurred from man to man.
Quotes from the text:
Glenn: “..it’s a guy… His name is Greg”
Glenn: “He’s gay.”
Snake: “Why are you living with one of those for?”
Glenn: “I’m gay too.”
Snake: “Your joking, right?”
Snake: “Why couldn’t you have kept it (being gay) a secret?”
Snake: “I’m not going to be like you, am I?”
Glenn: “I don’t exist anymore. Your (Snake) the only son they’ve got now.”
In addition to the Outcome Two revision questions distributed in class, there are many other resources and texts that offer sample questions to further your understanding.
- The Heinemann Media text-book offers students comprehensive information about Society’s Values in Media Texts including case-studies. Whilst it may not make specific reference to our discourse (same-sex unions), there is plenty of advice and information that will help students to structure responses.
- VCAA post past examinations, sample responses and assessor reports on an annual basis. These downloadable documents are great resources which offer students sample questions that will help in preparation for the Outcome Two SAC and the end of year examination:
- Define the following key terms;
- Dominant Values
- Emerging Values
- Oppositional / alternative values
- Using the text that you studied, explain how social values shaped and are seen in the text. Do these social values support or challenge the dominant social values of the time?
- “Films reflect the time in which they are constructed.” Discuss this statement using the text that you have studies, including references to dominant and oppositional social values
- Social values exist in the representations we see in a text. Discuss how social values come to be in a text and how they can be seen in at least two representations in the text that you have studied. Explain whether these representations support or challenge some of the dominant social values of the time.