My main purpose for posting about the marginalisation of minority groups in mainstream media was to discover and share how truly dominant ‘white culture’ is portrayed. The media are a strong influence in depicting and creating the norms of society. As I’ve discovered through my research, these ‘norms’ they present to us only capture a small part of the diverse cultures and ethnicities that make up our world. The problem with the media’s representation of our world is that it is inevitably altering our perception of real society and culture and therefore fogging us from reality. Those who belong to minority races and groups are constantly viewing images of families, romantic relationships, friendships and day-to-day lives of ‘ordinary’ people who are dominantly white. This has caused minority groups to become disconnected from what is perceived as part of ‘normal society’ (aka only white people can experience a normal life). On the opposite end of the table, constant exposure to this fogging can also lead to racist behaviour from the dominant group. This was clear with SBS’ social project ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’, which highlighted Australian racism towards refugees that were sparked by ideas put in their heads from the mainstream media.
Minority groups are often cast as stereotypes, as shown with the AAMI advertisement of a Balinese woman and the Energy Watch advertisement with an Indian man. Sachin Joab (of Neighbours) has also stated that before his role in Neighbours as part of an Indian family, he found he could only find work by portraying a stereotype of his racial background, despite the fact he was born and raised in Australia. These stereotypes are further reinforced in other aspects of the mainstream media, such as the reality tv show Jersey Shore, which casts Italian Americans as drinking, superficial and violent.
These messages sent to audiences by the mainstream media are being read and encoded as how society is. People see the dominance of white culture plastered across different media communication channels and assume this is what normal society involves. This is very apparent through the people involved in the SBS program and from the rise in minority groups’ complaints. This ‘white’ ideological culture presented to us is influencing audiences in many ways, and its end result is segregation, racism and disillusionment from the reality of our diverse, multinational world.
This ‘white culture’ ideology is signified through the images and lifestyles we see repeated across tv shows, advertisements, news and other media channels. The signifier is the media, as I showed with successful tv shows on commercial channels such as ‘Packed to the Rafters’ and ‘Neighbours’, advertisements such as ‘Rhonda is a safe driver’ and news items highlighting negative aspects of minority groups, such as Sheik al-Hilali’s sexist comment over Mecca Laalaa’s achievement of becoming Australia’s first Muslim lifeguard.
The mainstream media is a one way communication process. As I mentioned in my previous post, despite the fact audiences are starting to advocate for more diverse portrayals of minority groups in the media, it has remained relatively the same. This is because under this form of media, the audience remains passive. Though we can communicate and interact via social networks and comment options on media websites, the move for change isn’t coming through. Media producers and the government clearly don’t appear to be changing their position on this issue.
The guidelines for ethics set up by the government aren’t effective in reinforcing demands for more diversity in the media. This is evident in the Case Report for the AAMI advertisement shown to me through a comment on my post ‘Rhonda’s a safe driver. Her reward? A racist ad’, which denied the advertisement breached any code of ethics and stated that it was within the guidelines. Thankfully, we do know the guidelines do work to some degree through the banning of the Energy Watch advertisement.
Though audiences have always had a passive role in the past, ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’ is an indication that this is in fact changing. After all, the show became hugely successful through active audiences spreading its message on various social media platforms, particularly Twitter. This notes the movement from audiences being passive to having an active role in the media, allowing audiences to have a more influential role in the media, and in particular, what the media communicate and represent.
Though the mainstream media depict a dominant white culture for every impressionable person, there are also advances towards reaching a more equal and diverse representation, as I found in my research. The rise of active audiences speaking up against the marginalisation of minority groups, the success of SBS’ ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’ and the beginning of shows allowing for more diversity (such as ‘The Clap’ and more commercially, ‘Happy Endings’) are all strong indications that the media are very slowly evolving and hopefully heading towards every person, whether they be white or not, having an equal representation in the mainstream media.