by E. Ersatz
How is Newcastle represented in the media? An essay.
|How is Newcastle represented in the media?
There is a particular stereotype of the North East, or more specifically the people of the North East. The stereotype is often a negative one, and mainly stems from the way that the media represents the area. During this essay I will try to uncover some typical stereotypes and the reason that this idea of the North East has been built up in this way. I will analyse three main media texts- the film Purely Belter, the TV programme ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ and a cartoon strip from ‘Viz’ magazine. Some common stereotypes of the North East include the idea that all ‘Geordies’ drink, smoke and take drugs, that they are impoverished, single-parent criminals and above all that they have a deep, passionate obsession with football. Many of these stereotypes are purely media-warped, but the media is an extremely powerful tool and therefore this is how a Geordie would appear to someone outside the North East.
Common negative representations
The idea of violence as a Geordie stereotype is spread widely through the media. It is also prominent in all three texts. According to the cartoon ‘The Bacons’ from Viz magazine it would appear that Geordies use violence quite offhandedly and casually. This is even visible in the first episode of the first series of the more positively represented ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ when the programme subtly refers to this stereotype by showing one character carelessly throwing a brick at another character, seeming not to care about the potential physical damage to his companion. In ‘Purely Belter’ violence is nonetheless pronounced, but is dealt with in a more serious way (in one scene, the boys are in danger from being beaten up by a very violent man, in another one of the boys gets beaten up by an ice hockey team). These events suggest that violence is the norm for residents of the North East. Another stereotype is that of crime. In the film ‘Purely Belter’ crime is a recurring theme. The boys steal and take drugs, and seem not to be averse to breaking any laws, such as underage drinking, smoking laws etc. and truancy from school. The scene in which the boys attempt to steal from a bank (although it is one of the most serious crimes contained in the film) however is not represented as addition to this stereotype, as it is referred to in a completely different way- the boys are desperate and possibly do not understand how serious the crime is, rather than they are stereotypical, casual criminals- this also adds to the idea of extreme poverty in the North-East leading to crime.
The overuse of alcohol and cigarettes is another frequent North East stereotype. In all three media texts and all over the media Geordies are represented as smokers and heavy drinkers. In ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ the adult stereotype is developed to show that the Geordies all like to have a good night out, that they drink a lot and like to get drunk (and disorderly with it). Also, all the men smoke, as though it is ordinary for people of the North East.
In ‘Purely Belter’, again this is dealt with in a more serious way. The young stereotype is also portrayed as one which smokes and drinks as though it were usual, but is designed to be more shocking towards the audience because the Geordie is underage- also there is quite a lot of solvent abuse- again designed to shock the audience, especially as they are young.
Football of course is the most frequent stereotype contained within these texts. Devotion to football is the soul reason that the boys in ‘Purely Belter’ are striving to make money. It is strongly represented as the most important thing in a Geordie’s life. Indeed even when, like in ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ and ‘The Bacons’, football is not part of the scenario, it is still referred to, however subtly. This could be done, rather cleverly, to remind the audience that football is always high on the list of priorities for a Geordie, whatever he is doing. Comparing these stereotypes found in the three media texts to the stereotype I described in the introduction, you can see that the typical texts do support the overall stereotype, with each character containing more than one, or all of the attributes (if, say, one character smoked and the other was violent, it would mean they were just individual people with certain attributes).
Why does the media represent Newcastle in this way?
When using stereotypes, the more it is used the more well-known it becomes to the audience. If an idea is well-known then it is easier to get the point across to the audience, it is a faster way of going about something than explaining it in detail. Stereotypes are easy to fall back on, and give the audience something to relate to, as they’ve heard the same idea before.
I believe that one of the reasons that media texts outside of the North East represent Newcastle in this way is that the rest of the country needs someone to hate, an underdog so to speak. Because of the power that the media has, they can create an entire persona for an area of the country, some of it truth-based but most of it fiction. It would give, I imagine, a sense of satisfaction to a non-Geordie audience to think that they are better than someone else, as is human nature. And, as always the media’s entire purpose is to bring the market audience satisfaction. Stereotypes can also be very entertaining, a sort of truthful slapstick. Entertainment is another key purpose of the media. By creating an almost comical stereotype of Geordies, this can be used to make humour.
During this essay I have covered some main points on how Newcastle is represented in the media. I have outlined a main stereotype and backed this up with references from some media texts. I have come to the conclusion that although some stereotypes have been based on the truth, they have been warped by the media and are often unfair to the group of people which come underneath them. The Geordie is one such of these stereotypes. The according to the media, the Geordie drinks and smokes from an early age, commits crime as if it were the norm and is very violent, with an idiotic obsession for football. Unfortunately, only we in the North know this not to be true.