Structuralism Ferdinand De Saussere Structuralism states that culture is to be understood as a system of signs or semiology which structuralists attempted to construct. Structuralism investigates the structures through which meaning is conveyed, within a culture. In the 1960s-1970s, Foucault and Lacan suggested that structure exists in all texts and therefore developed the structuralist theory; they believed art forms are short hands based on our cultural understandings. E.g. due to our cultural understanding of Western films, we can say it will likely contain cowboys; be set in a saloon bar or desert; have villainous cowboys or Native Americans as the enemy and use props such as guns, horses, spurs, hats etc...
Structuralism Structuralist film theory accentuates how films convey meaning through the use of codes and conventions similar to the way language is used to convey meaning. Structuralists believe in paradigms and that everything has a set of rules to be followed; this is true of structuralist theory of films. Different types of paradigms include props, characters and setting. Structuralists believe it is easier for experienced readers than non experienced readers to understand/interpret a text as there must be a structure in every text. E.g. Someone who had seen a lot of horror films can understand them best.
Conditions of Possibility: Kants theory is that you can’t understand anything in the world without understanding the world first. E.g. a trailer isn’t a film because it’s too short and doesn’t make sense Conditions of Possibility is similar to the idea of Binary Opposites. Immanuel Kant
Myth Theory: Things that start off as a myth, then become reality and are often distorted. The idea that horror plays on myths that become reality and our fears concerning society, economy and the youth of today. Ball of Thread Theory: A text is like a tangle of threads which, in order to see the potential meanings of it, have to be separated, as there are several ways of looking at it. Every interpretation is valid with reason why you might interpret it in diverse ways. Enigma Code: An element of mystery is portrayed in a text to entice the audience, thus intriguing them further to view it. Pleasure of Texts: The notion that before we go to the cinema, we know what happens in the film. You can guess what happens in most films and we take in pleasure in seeing this play out. However, another layer of pleasure is when the unexpected happens. Film links: Poltergeist, SAW, The Descent Roland Barthes
Tzvetan Todorov Theory of Narrative: The idea that every story has a certain structure. Equilibrium – balance and harmony at the start of every story. Moment of Disequilibrium – equilibrium is shattered as something bad happens e.g. someone bad turns up. Disequilibrium – the hero struggles to mend the wrongs that surround them and return to a place of equilibrium. New Equilibrium – the villain is defeated and peace is restored but at a cost. The new equilibrium is tainted by the loss of something or someone.
The 4 C’s Conflict – the hero is challenged by an outside force. Complication – the hero’s efforts to get what they want are thwarted (often three times). Crisis – overwhelmed by these difficulties, the hero comes close to quitting but is usually talked out of it by a helper, a God or something as such. Climax – after deciding not to give up, the hero has one final chance and achieves what they want.
Binary Opposites: Constant creation of conflict/opposition propels the narrative. The narrative can only end on a resolution of conflict, but you need opposites to create that tension and conflict. Oppositions can be visual, conceptual or to do with soundtrack, e.g. light/darkness; love/hate; calm music/sinister music. Film links: The Shining Claude Levi Strauss
Louis Althusser Interpolation: The concept that media products lead us to create a false recognition of ourselves, so we get lost in an ideal image of ourselves, that will always be negative. We need to identify with the characters to get the most pleasure from the text. This is used a lot in advertising, where they build false relationships with the audience through language; this is called synthetic personalisation. Film links: SAW
Vladimir Propp Eight Character Types: Propp established that there are only thirty one storylines which are repeated. Propp stated that, in horror there are a limited number as well as a limited number of characters; these characters are: Villain Dispatcher (Magical) Helper Princess/Prize Her Father Donor Hero or Victim/Seeker Hero False Hero Film links: Scream
Carol Clover Final Girl - A feminist approach to audience identification: Clover says that as an audience we are structurally ‘forced’ to identify with the resourceful surviving female, not the villain. Clover suggests we identify with the masochistic voyeur - the victim and not the sadistic voyeur - the villain. Clovers application of psychoanalytical theory to horror: Sadism – Post-Oedipal; attention is switching from the mother to the father (from a submissive baby state, to a self-motivated child state). Masochism –Pre-Oedipal; the mother is all powerful so as an audience, we are masochistic and pre-oedipal as we take pleasure in identifying with the female. Our identification with the surviving girl, means that we are subject to feminist theory as well as structuralist theory. Film links: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween
Sigmund Freud Freud’s theory: The Id (pleasure principle; wanting), Ego (reality principle; wanting within reason) and Superego (our sense of right and wrong derived from parents and society). The Oedipus Complex: Oedipus unintentionally killed his father and married his mother.
Laura Mulvey The Male Gaze: Classic Hollywood cinema protagonists were men who the audience were encouraged to identify with. According to Mulvey, 50’s and 60’s Hollywood female characters had ‘to-be-looked-at-ness.’
Poststructuralism A theory which only exists as a critique of structuralism. It argues that there is no structure inherit in every text. Modernism: A movement away from structure, developed from poststructuralism. Involving a deliberate break with the past and emphasising new ideas. For discontinuity and against smooth change, it approved of disruption rejecting or moving beyond simple realism in literature and art. There can be meaning without rules and structure. Deconstruction: An active process; what the art form does. It attempts to deconstruct the audience’s expectations; going to a film with expectations and the film deconstructs them. It’s about being smart about how this process happens.