Representation of the Press and Media Theory
As a journalist viewing this film, I was interested in the portrayal of the press. As usually presented, the members of the media were camped outside the senator’s home waiting to descend on him the minute he made an appearance. Of course, as I mentioned, his appearance came atop a ladder from his bedroom window in the back of the house and not a single member of the press questioned his actions. Throughout the film, the mainstream press was presented as one single-minded mass. The only independent thinker seemed to be the writer for the tabloid, who ironically became the leader for the other media.
At one point, the senator and his wife were listening to a television talk show on which he appeared and which featured several other political personalities. They were shown engaged in an argument in which not a single one of the speakers could be heard or understood. While viewing the program, the senator noted, “It’s the perfect forum. It’s the most intelligent show on television.”
Towards the end of the movie, Albert is assessing the media members below from the window above. When he spies someone approaching, he notes, “Oh, that’s just print news” and dismisses whoever it is. At the end, when Albert concocts a way to sneak the Senator out past the media (by dressing him in drag), he justifies the plan by latching on to something else the senator says, “The people in this country don’t pay attention to the details, just the headlines.” I understand the commentary on the mass media made by the director based on common criticisms and wonder if the last statement is more a commentary on public awareness or the role of the media in society. I think it represents the agenda-setting theory of the media and the agenda-setting role the media plays, especially amid political scandals such as the one into which the senator is being drug.
Coding this movie gave me an opportunity to see it through a cultural study perspective, but also helped me to see that entertainment theory plays a part here. Through viewing a movie with culture in mind, I understand how media can shape opinions on cultural aspects of society, such as homosexuality and family structure, and therefore perpetuate or accost stereotypes – or both, as I think this movie accomplished. And while all these constructs are somewhat evident through this film, I believe framing theory is at work here as well. A scene at the end of the movie is a perfect example of someone trying to make sense of the social world within his own expectations of that world. When it is finally revealed that Albert is Mrs. Coleman, that Armand and Albert are a couple, that the “Colemans” are actually the Goldmans and Jewish, and Albert is who Val considers his real mother, Senator Keeley is dumbfounded. He just cannot process any of this information. It takes Val, Albert, and Mrs. Keeley repeating the details for the Senator to begin to understand, and the first thing that breaks through is “You mean, they’re Jewish.” Again, the scene is played for comedic effect, but so many aspects of the situation do not fit into the senator’s perceptions of the social world, that there is a disconnect that takes repeated disclosure for him to make sense of it.