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Film and media effects

According to this Guardian report, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has charged Hollywood films with unashamed biased potrayals of Muslims. In its research report titled The British media and Muslim representation: the ideology of demonisation, research respondents (Muslims) found a “direct correlation between media portrayal and their social experiences of exclusion, hatred, discrimination and violence”. The Guardian report used the following films as illustration: action (The Siege), family (East Is East), cartoons (Alladin).

To argue for influence on perceptions would have been one thing – but to directly find a correlation between film representation and audience behaviour towards Muslims is stretching research credibility a little too far. Rather than investigating the specific instances of hatred, discrimination, and violence and locating the cause effect, the research takes the oft-repeated methology of working it backwards. In any case, the trail ends at the respondents. I am waiting to lay my hands on the methodology and survey technique. And as argued by David Gauntlett, “assumptions within the media effects research model barely conceal conservative ideology”. And boy was he right! What caught my eye was the following paragraph:

The authors call for more power for cinema censors to be able to curtail or even decline certification of “objectionable material”, as well as more effective media watchdogs and increased responsibility in coverage of issues involving Muslims on the part of newspapers and television. The report, part of a series produced by the commission – a research and campaigning body – with the backing of the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust, is significant in that it seeks to provide a direct voice for the Muslim community in Britain.

Calling for better representation is one thing, but the call for censorship is a completely different ball game. For one, who would sit on the censor panel and what would be the yardstick of a fair/unfair representation?

Interesting times lie in wait!

1 comment

1 Kishore Budha » Countering CBFC chief’s claims { 07.17.07 at 5:55 am }

[…] As I have argued earlier, to say that films influence perceptions is one thing – but to directly find a correlation between film representation and audience behaviour is stretching credibility. It is instructive to note that the cinematic representation is equated as being representative of the public sphere, which it is not. Thus, the imaginary Indian audience and its sensibilities is invoked as if it were a material fact. It is argued that there is cultural non-correspondence between what is shown in films “unreal” vs the “reality” of audience not agreeing with the same. However, the cultural correspondence of the caste system (which is real) is not allowed depiction in the films (leading to unreal representations of the citizen-subject). It is interesting how in both instances the logic of “public interest” is invoked to justify what will be allowed to pass through. […]

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