What is representation?

The term Representation is used to talk about how the media, including film and TV, deal with issues of class, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, ethnicity and national or regional identity.

Film is a very powerful and persuasive art-form and can do a lot to shape an audience’s knowledge, understanding and opinions about these issues.


A stereotype is a simplified depiction of a person or groups of people through the use of obvious and overly generalised characteristics.

Stereotypes are often wildly exaggerated and can be positive or negative.

A positive stereotype can benefit people in the group being depicted.

Negative stereotypes can be harmful as they may lead some audience members to make damaging generalisations about vast groups of people.

Illustration of negative representationWomen in horror films are often portrayed as helpless victims, while ethnic minorities in action films are sometimes portrayed as criminals.

Depictions like these can also make audience members from those groups feel excluded or marginalised.

How a character is portrayed on screen can have a huge impact if that character is from a class, race or place that is not normally given prominence.

A United Kingdom (2016) tells the inspiring true story of Seretse Khama, the King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from their families.

Disabled people, ethnic minorities, women and the elderly are often under-represented in films.

This under-representation can make examples where they do appear more powerful.