KEY POINT –
Batchelor found that being gay was not generally integrated into mainstream media representations. Rather, when it did appear, e.g. in television drama, it was represented mainly as a source of anxiety or embarrassment, or it was seen as a target for teasing and bullying. The study also found that, in mainstream young people’s media, lesbianism was completely invisible
Media representations of sexuality in Britain are overwhelmingly heterosexual in character. Gerbner (2002) argues that the media participate in the symbolic annihilation of gays and lesbians by negatively stereotyping them, by rarely portraying them realistically, or by not portraying them at all. Craig (1992) suggests that when homosexual characters are portrayed in the media, e.g. in popular drama, they are often stereotyped as having particular amusing or negative psychological and social characteristics.
- Campness – this is one of the most widely used gay representations, found mainly in the entertainment media. The camp persona reinforces negative views of gay sexuality by being somewhere in between male and female.
- Macho – a look that exaggerates masculinity and which is regarded by heterosexual men as threatening because it subverts traditional ideas of masculinity.
- Deviant – gays may be stereotyped as deviants, as evil or as devious in television drama, as sexual predators or as people who feel tremendous guilt about their sexuality. In many cases, gay characters are completely defined by the ‘problem’ of their sexuality and homosexuality is often constructed to appear morally wrong.
- Responsible for AIDS – Watney has illustrated how British news coverage of AIDS in the 1980s stereotyped gay people as carriers of a gay plague. He argues that news coverage of AIDS reflected mainstream society’s fear and dislike of the gay community and resulted in unsympathetic accounts that strongly implied that homosexual AIDS sufferers only had their own ‘immoral and unnatural’ behaviour to blame for their condition or death.
Gauntlett argues that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are still under-represented in much of the mainstream media, but things are slowly changing for the better. Gauntlett suggests that tolerance of sexual diversity is slowly growing in society, and images of diverse sexual identities with which audiences are unfamiliar may assist in making the population generally more comfortable with these alternative sexual lifestyles.