Interrogating Influential Representations
Author: Kylo-Patrick R. Hart
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Pub
Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
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If, in fact, "Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her [step]mother forty whacks," why (from a representational standpoint) did her stepmother deserve it? If older gay men in Internet chat rooms regularly provide much-needed acceptance and advice to younger gay males during the coming-out process, how is it that they continually reinforce racist ideologies and powerless subjectivities while doing so? What sorts of media images are commonly presented of individuals and groups that are regarded as being deviant in society, and whose interests do they ultimately serve? The answers to these important questions and many others are provided in the pages of Mediated Deviance and Social Otherness: Interrogating Influential Representations, which explores provocative representations of deviance in various media forms including books, films, musical offerings, news accounts, television programs, and Internet sites and their substantial cultural, political, and social consequences for the lived realities of individuals of different backgrounds and lifestyles. The eye-opening chapters of this book enable readers to more fully realize the regularity with which media representations continuously contribute, in powerful ways, to the formation and perpetuation of influential social constructions of deviance and otherness as they pertain to delinquents, criminals, and individuals of all ages, classes, genders, races, sexual orientations, and health/(dis)ability statuses. Mediated Deviance and Social Otherness: Interrogating Influential Representations is a thought-provoking anthology that offers fresh insight and new approaches to critically analyzing social constructions of deviancy across a variety of media forms. While scholars have long examined the relationship between media and deviancy, this collection of essays features a range of theoretical perspectives through which to investigate deviancy and its various interpretations in original ways. In the process, it deepens our understanding of how deviancy has been constructed across time and in differing social/cultural milieus. The essays in this anthology reflect the diverse disciplines of their contributing scholars. At the same time, the anthology does not waver from its clear focus on deviancy, lending it substantial coherence and readability. The book is expertly structured and edited. Each of the essays draws inspiration from a refreshing variety of sources and fields of study. The anthology is accordingly divided into six distinct yet related sections that mark its coherence and readability. Simultaneously, the essays within each section are quite different from one another, allowing the reader to make thought-provoking connections between representations of deviancy both within sections and among them. Mediated Deviance and Social Otherness: Interrogating Influential Representations is an important text. Considering the growth of new media forms, its investigation of both old and new media in relation to social constructions of deviancy represents a timely and topical contribution to the field of media and cultural studies. Given its breadth and scope, the anthology represents a highly significant scholarly contribution that will greatly benefit scholars, students, and interested individuals of all levels. It offers eye-opening insights to anyone with an interest in cultural studies, disease and disability studies, film and television studies, LGBT studies, criminal justice, sociology, and related fields. Brief Reviewer Bio: Metasebia Woldemariam, Ph.D., is an associate professor of communication and media studies at Plymouth State University who specializes in media representations of deviancy and otherness. Mediated Deviance and Social Otherness: Interrogating Influential Representations is an erudite collection offering critical and cultural analysis of media representations within various media forms, including journalism, film, documentary, television, fiction, music, and the Internet. The book is divided into six sections that highlight the categories of deviance and otherness the contributors emphasize: (1) Age; (2) Crime and Criminals; (3) Disease and Disability; (4) Gender, Race, and Class; (5) Sexual Orientation; and (6) "Other" Forms of Deviance, which include masochism, carnival "spectaculars," and cultures of violence. While some chapters feature links to topics common to media studies, such as the Motion Picture Production Code, what is powerful about the collection is how varied the interpretive standpoints of the contributors are. An example of one such unique interpretive perspective comes from Linda K. Fuller, whose chapter examines the sexual-political aspects of African AIDS-related films based on her work in West Africa "with a sexologist collating and critiquing appropriate media for Life Skills." This interpretive variety inspires novel examination of media representations through the originality of varied genres of analysis: the collection offers analysis of classic as well as popular literature, popular as well as veiled news media, award-winning as well as obscure television series, and outlaw country music as well as rap music. Because "media" is so broadly interpreted within the collection, readers are encouraged to view mass media as a crucial cultural landscape for meaning making. Each contributor offers a timely perspective about past or contemporary society through the analysis of unique media genres and artifacts, or even through analysis of representations in multiple media forms. For example, Annette Holba examines multiple forms of the media representations of a less emphasized person in the Lizzie Borden case, Borden's stepmother. Editor Kylo-Patrick R. Hart's own contribution examines multiple media representations of the visible physical signs of AIDS before focusing on their representation in two particularly noteworthy film melodramas. Rather than focusing on stereotypical categories of deviance and otherness, the contributors focus on less commonly acknowledged representations or challenge commonly acknowledged understandings of media. This is evident through Christopher J. Pèrez's ethnographic observation of instant messages from Gay.com participants, which dispels the notion that such online communities allow for positive expressions of gay identity. Through its broad interpretation of media, the collection offers an ample array of less commonly acknowledged media genres, as evident in Margaret Weigel's class analysis of the electric-bulb advertising sign "spectaculars" in Manhattan from 1892 to 1917; Wendy Korwin's visual analysis of a set of four image plates used within prescriptive literature; and Amanda Klein's cinematic comparison of portrayed deviance in the 1950s juvenile delinquency teenpic and the 1990s ghetto action film. Incorporated also are unique perspectives on traditional news media representations, as in Thomas Grochowski's interpretation of celebrity defendant perspectives of O.J. Simpson. Occasionally, common themes thread particular chapters together, allowing opportunities to understand how critics view the same or similar media differently. For example, David Sealy and Georges-Claude Guilbert as well as Valentin Locoge offer analysis of the HBO television series OZ. Additionally, contemporary moral dilemmas and societal issues are covered as they appear in various media representations, as when Barbara Barnett's discussion of journalistic representations of maternal infanticide and perfection appear alongside Robert Goff's analysis of the textured view of abortion provided by the film Vera Drake. Hart's collection is important to expanding the scholarly understanding of media representations because it provokes thinking about what makes media mean so much to humans in particular social, cultural, historical, and even technological contexts. The issue of the detrimental effects of "shared notions of deviance and social otherness" is evident in chapters that highlight original perspectives useful for either scholarly analysis or challenging, graduate-level classroom discussions. Also, because the collection includes literary analysis, it could serve well those with interest in literary criticism. ELESHA RUMINSKI, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with experience teaching mass communication, film studies, and visual communication.