The media have the power through selection to give us an influential portrayal of different groups, situations and ideas. We see these representations in different ways according to our own assumptions. Representations can change over time and give us a kind of social barometer of changing representations of social groups and trends.
Many media sources portray the youth in the same way, with a limited view of them as being sex obsessed. However, some material is more sensitive and sympathetic. An example would be the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this offers quite sensitive portrayals of youth coping with relationships, authority and identity.
If we look at this representation in one particular area such as the representation of young men, we can see that many media texts portray young males in a variety of ways. This is because there are many types of young males to look at and there is always a change in fashion and ideology through the years. The two texts I have chosen are both different in their representations and I shall explore these representations in detail.
In the USA, since the ending of the Production Code and its replacement with the MPAA film rating system in the late 1960s, some filmmakers began to experiment with vulgar humor. The movie which pioneered the gross out comedy genre was 1972’s Pink Flamingos with its infamous dog excrement eating scene, followed by 1974’s sketch comedy sleeper The Groove Tube. The first movie to which the label “gross-out movie” was actually given to was 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House, which was a great box office success and thus started a new trend. Since the 1980s, gross-out films increased in number, and became almost the norm for US comedy films. With these films being aimed at more of a younger audience from 16-25 years of age, such films include There’s Something About Mary, Porky’s, American Pie and more recently Wedding Crashers.
The first text I will look at is ‘American Pie’. In this film there are a range of young males who are all represented in different ways. The film is a typical American teen movie with huge parties and gross out comedy, and was heavily influenced by such films like Porky’s Revenge of The Nerds. From looking at the DVD cover to the film, you can see that the main picture is a group of youths who all look relatively the same with only one standing out as different to the rest. This is showing us who the main character of the film is going to be and with him with his top off it gives the impression that this will follow the same American party style, sex obsessed film of portraying young males. If we look at three of the main characters we can get a better insight to how young males are represented. The first character to look at is the main character, Jim, in the film he is shown as the geeky, sexually frustrated one out of the boys. He is shown in the film along with the other boys making a pact to lose their virginity before their high school graduation, this goes along with the usual sex obsessed stereotype of young men in the media. Another part of the film that goes along with this view is one of the main scenes of the film where the name of the film comes from, this is when Jim is caught masturbating with an apple pie after being told “3rd base feels like warm apple pie.”
The next character I will look at is Steve Stifler, nicknamed ‘Stifler’, from the name you can see he will be represented as the ‘sex god’ character, this is shown in the film when he says, “I got laid 23 times this year and I’m not counting the hummer I got in the library stacks, baby!” here it is the representation of young men being obsessed with sex again. Stifler is also known as the party animal of the group, and always seems to be the main one involved in the gross out comedy in the film. The way he talks to people throughout the film is very arrogant and often seems to be a bully at times.
The last character I will look at is Oz who is portrayed as a stereotypical jock, but eventually softened by a girl who told him to pay more attention to girl’s feelings. In the film Oz joins the jazz choir because the girls there won’t have heard about his reputation as a jerk jock. Heather, the choir girl he falls for, ends up winning his heart. He confesses the pact that the guys have made to her and admits that he doesn’t even care about the sex, he just wants to be with her. This is a key example of how Oz is represented as a good guy, and unlike the others isn’t looking for sex.
In the film there are two youth panicking over how to answer the college entrance exam question,
“What is your most emotionally significant moment?” The girl says “How am I supposed to know my most emotionally significant moment is? I have no idea what I want to do…Thank God, I thought I was the only one.” In another scene the boys acknowledge their confusion about what they want and where they are going. One boy says, “I don’t know what I’m doing”, but the movie ends happily as they all agree they aren’t supposed to know. They say, “You can’t plan everything” and then they toast to “right now” and “the next step”. This shows the youth more as young adults thinking about the next step, but with the traditional ideology that things never work out the way you want, so why bother?
The second film I have chosen to analyse is Hot Rod which is not a big box office film unlike American Pie, with less of a variety of young males represented in it. It falls in the Anchorman, Benchwarmers, Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre category of humour films. It is physical, stupid, corny, unexpected, and just plain off the wall humour.
The film is about Rod Kimble who has the heart of a daredevil, but he’s just not very good at it. His main goal in life is to make his deceased father proud of him through his stuntman ways, and to earn the respect of his stepfather, Frank Powell. The problem is that the only way to gain Frank’s respect is to whoop him in a fight, something that Rod has not yet accomplish. When Frank becomes ill and requires a heart transplant, Rod steps up to the challenge of raising the money needed to save Frank. Rod’s motivation is not necessarily love or caring, but the desire to have another chance to beat him in a fight and thus earn his respect. Just from taking a look at the plot of the story you can see how the high school comedy representation of young men is not going to appear in this film, and you will see more of a suburban representation of young men, where it portrays people as being more naive.
If you take a look at the DVD cover to the film you can see the main characters of the film, with the main image being of the main character and co characters around him, like American Pie it has a montage look about it. Looking at the characters on the cover all have a nerdy look about them bar the girl, this goes along with the same ideology as American Pie where the nerd gets the girl in the end. From the dress codes of each character you can see that young males here are represented completely different to American Pie, as in American Pie they are all dressed normal so to say, while on the cover here you have Rod in a jumpsuit type outfit which gives the impression that he doesn’t get the girls which is in contrast to a main part of representation in American Pie.
Again I will look at characters from the film and see how each are portrayed through what they wear and how they interact with other characters. Firstly I shall look at the main character of the film, Rod Kimble, he is shown in the film as a nerdy white boy as Jim is but doesn’t have the sex obsessed ideology but rather an ambition to be a stunt man and prove to his step dad he is a man. This story line gives us the impression he is not the most ‘coolest’ of people and shows males from suburban areas as being less intelligent and more idiotic. Also in the film he drives a rundown moped, when you first see this you can’t help but laugh, this could be the media saying that young males are a joke. Rod also has a fake moustache he wears when doing stunts saying,
“All great men have moustaches.”
Giving the interpretation that young males want to seem older than what they are by growing stupid looking moustaches or in this case wearing a fake one, again with the idea that young males are idiots and a joke. This also is shown in the way he speaks as the quote above shows.
The next character I will look at is Rod’s slightly younger step brother, Kevin, who is a skinny boy with a bowl hair cut and wears retro style tops tucked into his skin tight jeans pulled up to his waist, this gives him a dorky look and quite a retro appearance which you can see in such films as Superbad through the character Evan. In the film he looks up to Rod and see’s him as role model, this is a stereotypical younger brother attitude.
Both films have uses and gratifications for the viewer with the main one for each being the entertainment value they have through the comedy used. There is a sexual gratification in both films for each gender, with attractive males and females in both films. They offer the audience social gratification giving people the chance to talk about the films to one another in everyday life, and to an extent both films have role models for the audience to look up to and sympathise for. Again in both of the films there is a fairytale ending, in Hot Rod where he gets the girl and his step dad’s respect and in American Pie where Jim also gets the girl and everything is back to normal.