Texts are created for mass consumption by the producers, but the text and its ideas and storylines are disemminated, perceived and interpreted differently by us- the audience or be it consumers. This leads us onto Stuart hall's encoding/decoding model.
For Hall, the encoding/decoding model is a concept he originally devised where he explains that through the transmission of ideas and messages in the texts, Hall proposed three ways of reading and decoding texts: dominant, negotiated and oppositional. The dominant
reading is where the viewer takes away that meaning from the TV show and accept what has been shown to us; the negotiated
meaning is when the viewer negotiates the viewpoint or idea: in other words we tend to agree with this idea but also disagree with it because of something else. An example of this would be something like professional sports atheletes: the negotiated reading would be that they are good role models for young people and that because of their exisitence this enables them to actively take part in sport and to encourage them to keep fit and be healthy.
Yet the argument to that would be that most professional sportspeople are overpaid for what they do for a living whilst the likes of teachers, sales people and plumbers get paid less in salaries and wages and yet work longer hours. The oppositional
reading is when we disagree with or dismiss that idea or meaning outright by completely rejecting what we have seen on TV. And so in other words, we do not accept what has been shown and neither do we take that idea as being either 'definite', 'genuine' or right.
I am going to apply these theories to Ugly Betty, as well as discuss it with regards to the ideological meanings it conveys to the audience.
In Ugly Betty, the company, Mode was originally created and owned by Bradford Meade and of whom the previous editor-in-chief was fay summers, the woman of whom he had an torrid affair with. Bradford's son is Daniel who was born into a wealthy lifestyle and was given the position of editor-in-chief based on his family's connections. His mother is Claire Meade, who is also the widow/wife of Bradford. They also have a son- or be it daughter named Alexis, who was a he until he had a sex change and became a 'she'. In all, Mode magazine is a family- owned company and run by the Meade family. Wilhelmina Slater- though she is the enemy of the Meades- is Black but beautiful and has a taste in elegant clothes. She is powerful and despite not being as wealthy as the Meades, she bribes, schemes, cheats and lies her way, in order to get what she wants and obtain more power.
By relating the concept of Hegemony, Mode is a successful fashion magazine, whose intentions is to sell and promote the concept of beauty and Fashion to the wider public. However, it can be argued that with Betty Suarez, she is 'anti- fashion' and that with her, she sees the concept of beauty and attractiveness as something that is more deeper and lies beyond the physical side of beauty by saying that you have people with beautiful and good personalities. But in addition, you can also have people with 'ugly' personalities and being rude, obnoxious and bitchy. In Ugly betty, Hegemony also takes place when as assistants, Betty and Marc- of whom are from different minority groups in society; i.e Latino and Gay/lesbian- they work for people, who are financailly more well- off than them and of whom tend as their bosses. Betty does what she is told by Daniel; Marc does what he is being told by Willie. Willie's and Daniel's views on Marc and Betty are very much dependent on a) how they see themselves in them b) the similarities they seem to share and c) how their actions and behaviour impact on them. Betty is a working class Latina, who has had no previous experience working in a fashion magazine but having landed this position, she intends to make the most of it by working hard and remaining loyal to the likes of Daniel.
Preferred/dominant, negotiated, oppositional
Here, i am going to analyse three episodes from Ugly Betty in terms of encoding/decoding and state whether they are either preferred, dominant or oppositional readings, as well as state reasons why I have opted for them.
The first is Tornado Girl from season 3 and the scene where Marc tells Betty how he had cheated on his (then) boyfriend, Cliff with another guy. For me personally, this scene takes on a negotiated reading
because here he admits what he has done and feels so guilty about what had happened- yet he still hadn't told Cliff what he did, until after Betty had spoken to him about it. I agree with this reading because a) he came out and confessed all, rather than remain silent and b) it took Marc a lot of guts to admit to Betty, and Cliff also, about his cheating. But for some, they would disagree with this reading because they thought that Marc should not have told Betty- mainly as they thought that it was a matter of which was of a personal nature that only Marc and Cliff should discuss together themselves and that it would not have made that much of a difference anyway. In the end, Marc lost Cliff and they broke up as a result.
The second is from season 1 and this adapts a preferred/dominant reading
. Here, the scene is taken from the episode, 'Sofia's Choice' when Betty confronts Sofia in her office, after she discovers how Sofia, who turns out to be the villian, humiliated Daniel on national TV and used her to endorse her own career. The dominant reading in this scene is that of Betty being outraged by what Sofia did and of whom felt sorry for Daniel that in the end she quit her position at NYW and returned to Mode.
The third is from season 3 entitled 'Rabbit Test' and this one takes on an oppositional reading
. The scene here is when Willie along with Marc change the paternity results when they discover the mother of Baby William to be Christina, as opposed to Wilhelmina, who had long been interested in having this baby. Ever since she hired Christina to be her surrogate. This is an oppositional reading because with Willie and Marc, as the audience we are supposed to feel anger towards them as they hid the truth away from Christina, and especially with Willie getting Marc to re-type the DNA results.
An ideology is a set of ideas or beliefs that are determined by the ruling classes and very often these ideas are contested and challenged. The media is one outlet which attempts to produce these ideas and beliefs- and yet it is up to us to decide whether or not we ought to agree with and support them, or oppose and reject them. Stuart Hall's encoding/decoding model seeks to highlight that there is more than one way of reading texts and that texts enlist the audience to take up a position- be it, preferred, negotiated or oppositional, based on what they see.
The ideologies in Ugly Betty say a lot about the characters, their predicaments and situations and how the likes of Betty, Daniel, Marc and Amanda go about their daily working and personal lives.
The decisions and actions they take are often made in relation to their status as individuals and via their social and cultural backgrounds.
Through its storylines, the show engages us to think, discuss and decide if those ideas and decisions do challenge how those in power at Mode convey those ideas and make decisions, and whether these are to benefit others or themselves only.
-TKI Media Studies- Ideology
- Google Books: The language of Television, Jill Marshall, Angela Wendly
-The Media Students Book, Gill Branston, Roy Stafford, 4th edition, routledge