Communications Theory: Identity and Difference

These pages are derived from a Communications Theory seminar in which students discussed elements of popular/media culture which are (or have been) personally meaningful to them. The themes shown on the primary page (above) are those which seemed to make up the 'core' of the reasons why people might identify with or relate to particular media figures.




A redefined sense of 'family'

Contemporary life has led some of us to feel a need for a radical reconceptualisation of ‘family’... Relationships, we come to learn, come and go, and so we may feel a need to fix other roots. Even the popularity of the sitcom Friends may reflect this: the attraction of having an ‘alternative family’ made up of friends.

On the one hand we take some media icons to our hearts and make them part of our own imagined family (we found); but perhaps more significant – more ‘real’ – is the meaningfulness of media icons who themselves have no conventional ‘family’. Pet Shop Boys have each other, and a network of other friends, replacing the heterosexual family unit. Madonna, more uniquely, for a long time had herself as the only constant, and the fact that she made this work was seen as empowering.

Madonna having a baby, which had initially seemed bizarre – fathered by her personal trainer and all that – had actually turned out to be rather moving, with Madonna finally finding some sense of place, one true focus of love in her daughter; and Madonna’s words in Little Star (on Ray of Light, 1998) turned what some had viewed rather cynically – baby as fashion accessory, and those other ideas which don’t actually make sense – into something rather revelatory (“God gave a present to me, made of flesh and bones... You are a treasure to me, you are my star: you breathe new life into my broken heart...”). We are happy that Madonna has found some stability within her world. We have grown up with her; her sadness reflects ours; her happiness is our happiness!.

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