Visual Culture

Reflection on Michael Ryan’s chapter on Visual Culture with Brett Ingram in Cultural Studies – A Practical Introduction.

Visual culture is a field of study. Our life is visual. This encompasses television, films, advertisements, photographs, comic books … anything that relays its story through pictures and images rather than text and words. The chapter introduces The Skeptical Eye, which is to be critical and not believe everything you hear or see in the media. The media often creates a narrow sighted view of the reality, in which some people (mis)take for a fact. It is therefore important as a teacher to give a divers explanation to the students, so they understand that it is a dominated narrative. Having a skeptical eye on’ digital media (news, videos etc) is important to identify the sender of the message and understand the background and context of the dominant narrative represented.

In visual culture, the values that structure dominant narratives are often circulated through mythical stories that condense the complexities of existence into simplified conflicts between good and evil p. 139

Power Structures in Films
It is not just important in today’s media, but it is also not all bad. In contrast to previous (old-school) representations of women on screen: idealised mothers, supportive wives or whores, in Sex and The City the women are representing different and modern female perspectives/roles/personalities, e.g. The character Samantha, who is prioritising career and sex over creating a family – but she isn’t only portrayed as a woman who has sex with a lot of men – but a strong feminist character who is putting her own needs first.

When looking at the old Disney movies, there are plenty of stereotypical representations. One of the most criticised might be Alladin, introducing a lost list of stereotypes of Arab culture –  all the women a represented as sexy or erotic dancers, The Middle East is portrayed as a brutal place where the men are walking on cal, hypnotising snakes, crooks or sword-swallowers – besides the women that are sexy and dancing, the rest of them are covered up and doing laundry. And, finally, the princess Yasmin is seen as being in need of a man to control her.  The original lyrics of Arabian Nights included 

“I come from a land
From a faraway place
Where they cut off your ear
If they don’t like your face
It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”
Though changed in 1993 as they were deemed racist.

Writing this reflection I stumbled upon these videos, which pretty much sums up the Disney issue, empathising that Disney has changed course to a degree, we now see female heroes in movies like Frozen or Brave.

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