Caitlyn Jenner has become arguably one of the most debated, recognised, admired and loathed representations of the transgender populace in the 21st century. Bruce Jenner’s very public transition from male to female delineation sparked countless responses from many sections of the public, which varied profoundly.
But what is it about this image that seems to be able to trigger such an expansive range of reactions, even though we all view exactly the same picture?
People from all different societies, generations and backgrounds will interpret an image differently based on their ideological position. This is, their individual set of beliefs, values and morals will determine their understanding of and reaction to any form of media. For example, in this image the denotation is, at its simplest, a transgender woman called Caitlyn Jenner. As we see, she is shown to be sitting on a stool, and clothed in a white corset against a minimalistic backdrop.
However it is the connotations that this image has for the various sectors of society that ultimately challenges its interpretation, and hence prove that an image can most certainly be read in more than one way. The Fine Brothers Entertainment created the video below to depict the reaction of teenagers to Caitlyn Jenner’s transition. Perhaps it was due to a sense of naivety, or simply the age within which the generation has been raised that one user described their responses as comprising an “overall ‘you do you’ mentality.”
Meanwhile, the image also attracted a plethora of negative responses, indicative of the way differing factions of society can interpret an image based their own personal connotations.
29 year old actor Drake Bell was just one of the many who took to social media to express their opinion on the matter, stating rather bluntly: “Sorry….still calling you Bruce”.
“His momma named him Bruce, Imma call him Bruce” read a Facebook post from 44 year old rapper Timbaland.
Fox Business anchor Neil Cavuto in a segment reporting Caitlyn Jenner’s story expressed his cynicism passively through series of offensive transphobic jokes, including introducing the Jenner segment by shouting “What the HELL is going on?!”
There is no question that a media image can be interpreted in more than one way. A person’s previous experiences, beliefs and values play a significant role in how any form of media is viewed. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words, but it’s how these words are read that can make all the difference.
Ge, L. (2015). Bruce Jenner Poses for First Post-Transition Shoot: ‘Call Me Caitlyn’ (Photo). [online] TheWrap. Available at: http://www.thewrap.com/bruce-jenner-poses-for-first-post-transition-shoot-call-me-caitlyn-photo/ [Accessed 20 Mar. 2016].
YouTube. (2016). TEENS REACT TO CAITLYN JENNER. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mO8TK-QaIf8&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 20 Mar. 2016].
Mail Online. (2015). Nickelodeon star Drake Bell faces backlash over Caitlyn Jenner tweet. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3106964/Sorry-calling-Bruce-Nickelodeon-star-Drake-Bell-faces-backlash-negative-Caitlyn-Jenner-tweet.html [Accessed 21 Mar. 2016].
YouTube. (2016). Fox News Mocks And Misgender’s Caitlyn Jenner. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQSvlI6K8n4&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 21 Mar. 2016].