G235: CriticalPerspectives in MediaTheoretical Evaluation of Production 1b) Narrative
Aims/Objectives• To reinforce the key narrative theorists.• To have a basic understanding of how to evaluate your coursework against key narrative theory.
Definition• Tim O’ Sullivan et al. (1998) argues that all media texts tell us some kind of story.• Through careful mediation, media texts offer a way of telling stories about ourselves – not usually our own personal stories, but the story of us as a culture or set of cultures – these are ideologies.• Narrative theory sets out to show that what we experience when we ‘read’ a story is to understand a particular set of constructions, or conventions, and that it is important to be aware of how these constructions are put together.
Task 1. – O’Sullivan’s definition.• You have 3 minutes to write down how the production you are writing about for Q1b) has a ‘narrative’ i.e. tells a story or communicates an ‘ideology’.• Back this up with at least 5 specific elements/examples from this production.• Must be specific camera, mise en scene, editing techniques.
Structure Of The Narrative System• According to Pam Cook (1985), the standard Hollywood narrative structure should have:• “Linearity of cause and effect within an overall trajectory of enigma resolution”.• A high degree of narrative closure.• A fictional world that contains verisimilitude especially governed by spatial and temporal coherence.
• Tzvetan Todorov (1977) was interested in the way language is ordered to infer particular meanings and has been very influential in the field of narrative theory.• Stage 1: A point of stable equilibrium, where everything is satisfied, calm and normal.• Stage 2: This stability is disrupted by some kind of force, which creates a state of disequilibrium.• Stage 3: Recognition that a disruption has taken place.• Stage 4: Action directed against the disruption.• Stage 5: Restoration of a new state of equilibrium. We have already learnt this as three stages.
• In short, as O’Sullivan (1998) suggests, narratives have a common structure, starting with the establishment of plot or theme.• This is then followed by the development of the problem, enigma (Roland Barthes, 1977), an increase in tension.• Finally comes the resolution of the plot.• Such narratives can be unambiguous and linear.
Task 2. – Structure of Narratives• You have 3 minutes to write down how the narratives within your production are structured – picking Cook or Todorov as a starting point.• Show how you used/challenged these ideas about narrative structure with at least 5 specific elements/examples from this production.• Must be specific – camera, performance, editing techniques, mise-en-scene.
Use of opposition to construct narrative Claude Lèvi-Strauss’s (1958) ideas about narrative amount to the fact that he believed all stories operated to certain clear Binary Opposites e.g. good vs. evil, black vs. white, rich vs. poor etc.Think about your text:• Who were mediated as protagonists/ antagonists?• What was mediated as morally good/positive / morally deviant or bad?
• The importance of these ideas is that essentially a complicated world is reduced to a simple either/or structure. Things are either right or wrong, good or bad. There is no in between.• This structure has ideological implications in relation to the construction of hegemony.
Task 3. – Binary Opposition.• You have 3 minutes to write down how you used Levi-Strauss’s theory of binary opposition to communicate a meaning or story.• Do this by putting down at least 5 specific elements/examples from your production.• Must be specific – camera, performance, editing techniques, mise-en-scene.
Narrative Codes• Barthes (1977) suggested that narrative works with five different codes and the enigma code works to keep up setting problems or puzzles for the audience. His action code (a look, significant word, movement) is based on our cultural and stereotypical understanding of actions that act as a shorthand to advancing the narrative.• Adrian Tilley (1991) used the buckling of the gun belt in the Western genre as a means of signifying the preferred reading of an imminent shoot out, and this works in the same way as the starting of a car engine etc.
Task 4. –Narrative Codes.• You have 3 minutes to write down how you used Barthes’s narrative codes to communicate a meaning or story e.g how did you communicate star persona? Ideal self/partner? Community?• Do this by putting down at least 5 specific elements/examples from your production.• Must be specific – camera, editing techniques, mise-en- scene.
Character Roles• The Russian theorist Vladimir Propp (1928) studied the narrative structure of Russian Folk Tales. He argued that all narratives feature stock characters and that audiences understood stories because of such features.• Villain or antagonist• Hero or protagonist• Helper or supporter• Princess or one that is rescued/saved/help
Task 5. –Characters• You have 3 minutes to write down whether you used Propp’s chracters to communicate a meaning or story.• Do this by putting down at least 5 specific elements/examples from your production to challenge or support this idea.• Must be specific – camera, performance, editing techniques, mise-en-scene.
Music Video – audio visual poetry?• Michael Shore(1984) argues that music videos are: recycled styles … surface without substance … simulated experience … information overload … image and style scavengers … ambivalence … decadence … immediate gratification … vanity and the moment … image assaults and outré folks … the death of content … anesthetization of violence thorough chic … adolescent male fantasies … speed, power, girls and wealth … album art come to turgid life … classical storytelling’s motifs
• Andrew Goodwin (1992) argues that in music video, “narrative relations are highly complex” and meaning can be created from the individual audio-viewer’s musical personal musical taste to sophisticated intertextuality that uses multidiscursive phenomena of Western culture.• Many are dominated by advertising references, film pastiche and reinforce the postmodern ‘re- use’ tradition.
• Sven Carlsson (1999) suggests that music videos in general, videos fall into two rough groups: performance clips and conceptual clips.• When a music video mostly shows an artist (or artists) singing or dancing, it is a performance clip.• When the clip shows something else during its duration, often with artistic ambitions, it is a conceptual clip.
• Performance Clip If a music video clip contains mostly filmed performance then it is a performance clip. A performance clip is a video that shows the vocalist(s) in one or more settings. Common places to perform are the recording studio and the rehearsal room. But the performance can take place anywhere, from the bath tube to outer space. Walking down the street is another performance cliché, which is common in rap videos.
• The performance can be of three types: song performance, dance performance and instrumental performance. Almost every music video includes song performance. Some videos combines song and dance performances.
• Narrative Clip If a music video clip is most appropriately understood as a short silent movie to a musical background, it is a narrative clip. A narrative clip contains a visual story that is easy to follow. A pure narrative clip contains no lip-synchronized singing.
• Art Clip If a music video clip contains no perceptible visual narrative and contains no lip- synchronized singing then it is a pure art clip. The main difference between a music video art clip and a contemporary artistic video is the music. While the music video uses popular music the artistic video uses more modern, experimental music, such as electro-acoustic music.
Standard music video
• Carlsson (1999) developed a mythical method of analysis of music video - centred on a "modern mythic embodiment" . Viewed from this perspective the music video artist is seen as embodying one, or a combination of "modern mythic characters or forces" of which there are three general. The music video artist is representing different aspects of the free floating disparate universe of music video.
• In one type of performance, the performer is not a performer anymore, he or she is a materialization of the commercial exhibitionist.• Another type of performance in the music video universe is that of the televised bard (telling their story through lyrics and music). He or she is a modern bard singing banal lyrics using television as a medium. The televised bard is a singing storyteller who uses actual on-screen images instead of inner, personal images. The greatest televised bards create audio-visual poetry.
Essay Task“Analyse one of your coursework productionsin relation to narrative”.Structure-Intro-P-D-Q format with the focus on the ‘D’-Aim to use at least 5 theories in your answer.-For each theory there may be 2-3 examples fromyour production.- Conclusion