Representation, Discourse and Power

This week’s focus was on representation, discourse and power. Representation is how something is portrayed, referring to codes used to create meanings around groups in society. Discourse involves what is being said, who to, how you say it and how it’s understood, it suggests how we create and understand power.

These three key terms are intrinsically linked, giving us a framework for understanding cultural texts and issues.

The readings I looked at this week are, Rock & Sexuality (Frith & McRobbie, 1990) and “Heritage Rock”: Rock music, representation and heritage discourse (Bennett, 2009). Frith & McRobbie look at how music and sexuality are intertwined and how they change over time. The main idea is that rock music is mostly male dominated within the industry and women are discouraged and referred to as sex objects. In contrast to this, while still focusing on rock music, Bennett looks at the representation and discourse of this genre from a different point of view. It illustrates how rock music (defined as an aesthetic back in the mid 60’s), is now being culturally and historically repositioned through the application of “heritage rock” (Bennett, 2009). He breaks it down into three specific forms; Classic Albums Live, Canterbury Sound Website and Songworks Record Label.

The representations of males and females in rock have led to the discourse that females’ creative roles are limited and mediated through male notions of female ability (Frith & McRobbie, 1990). The term “cock-rock” is mentioned, as a way of expressing male sexuality in rock – crude, aggressive and explicit as seen with rock musicians such as Robert Plant. Men are represented as dominant and sex icons which can suggest they have a higher status in the rock scene as they’re seen as desirable to females, whereas women are seen as sexually repressed and in need of male servicing (Frith & McRobbie, 1990).

Classic Albums Live refers to albums already endorsed by the music industry that are chosen for live replications and thus, cited by mainstream music magazines e.g. Rolling Stone. These offer a populist representation, suggesting the “heritage rock” discourse offers new dominant established reading of rock mastery (Bennett, 2009).

To investigate representation of gender further, research into radio DJ’s could be conducted through ethnography. By focusing on one company and seeing their male/female ratio in creative roles, observing how they’re treated etc. could give further insight into females in the music/radio industries.


Frith, S & McRobbie, A, (1990). ‘Rock & Sexuality’. In: Simon Frith & Andrew Goodwin (ed), On Record: Rock, Pop & the Written Word. 1st ed. UK: Pantheon Books. pp. (371-389).

Bennett, A. (2009) ‘”Heritage rock”: Rock music, representation and heritage discourse’, Poetics, 37 (5-6), pp. (474 – 489).


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