.REPRESENTATION – KEY CONCEPTS.
When analysing a text, we are interested in HOW the subject is represented, but also WHY
they may be represented in that way.
Subverting a stereotype
Reinforcing a stereotype
To make an interesting narrative
or story (humour/intensity)
or to appeal to the
audience’s needs and desires
(to make the product
To comfort the audience by reinforcing
their view of the world, providing a sense
of security or continuity
To promote or reinforce a particular
view or ideology
To reinforce or challenge hegemony*
(e.g. a male hegemony)
* - Power
To enable audiences to relate to the
To challenge audiences by offering an
.IDENTIFYING THE TARGET AUDIENCE.
How to Specify a Demographic:
Start with age:
Select an age range, e.g. 25-31, or...
Describe the age of your target audience: (children, teenagers, young adults, adults or mature)
e.g. 'a teenage demographic' or 'children'
Then consider gender:
e.g. 'female demographic' or 'men'
Next, consider interests:
e.g. 'fans of...' or 'people who enjoy...'
Consider ethnicity, religion , cultural practice and sexuality:
e.g. 'Christians' or 'homosexual men'
Consider viewing habits:
e.g. 'regular readers/viewers of...'
Also consider the size/type of the audience:
Is it a large (mass) audience or a small (niche) audience? Is
is a mainstream audience or an alternative audience?
Where relevant, also consider...
Category A Upper middle class - bankers, doctors;
Category B Middle class - teachers, middle managers;
Category C1 Lower middle class - office supervisors, nurses;
Category C2 Skilled working class - tradespeople;
Category D Working class - unskilled manual labour;
Category E People at the lowest level of income - unemployed, students, pensioners.
Adverts are more likely to be identified using psychographics rather than demographics, for example...
Aspirers: People who want to appear rich and attractive. 'People who aspire to be...'
Reformers: People who want social change, are unimpressed by status and make decisions based
on their values (e.g. environmentalists)
Explorers: Adventurous people who like talking risks
Mainstreamers: People who follow the crowd
Strugglers: People who find it hard to achieve (often connected with poverty)
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY AUDIENCES.
Texts often have a primary target audience, but also a secondary one. For example, Pixar studios primarily
make their films aimed at a young audience, but appeal to a secondary audience of adults (e.g. parents).
.WHY DO AUDIENCES CONSUME MEDIA TEXTS?.
.USES AND GRATIFICATIONS THEORY (BLUMLER AND KATZ, 1974).
According to Blumler and Katz, these are the reasons why people consume media texts.
Media producers may design their texts to appeal to these needs and desires.
Finding out about events
Security through knowledge
Reinforcing personal values
Finding models of behavior (role models)
Identifying with people in the media
Gaining insight into self
Finding a basis for conversation
Identifying with others
Gaining a sense of belonging
Having a substitute for real-life
Gaining insight into the circumstances of
Helping to carry out social roles
Enabling one to connect with family,
friends and society
Being diverted from problems
Relaxing, getting cultural enjoyment
UTOPIAN SOLUTIONS (RICHARD DYER, 1992).
Richard Dyer argued that media offer us something that is lacking in modern life. Specifically,
a sense of…
COMMUNITY The audience feels part of a group.
E.g. Watching soaps can give audiences a
sense of community or shared experiences
with the characters. Talking to people on
Facebook also reinforces this idea.
INTENSITY The audience feels that life is exciting.
E.g. Watching an action film can offer
audiences a sense of intensity.
ABUNDANCE The illusion of having plenty.
E.g. Watching James Bond never having to
worry whether he can afford the next
vodka-Martini can offer audiences the
illusion of abundance.
TRANSPARENCY The illusion that life is simple.
E.g. Action films often offer audiences a
sense of transparency, in that we know
who is good and who is bad.
ENERGY The illusion that you are energetic.
E.g. Watching characters run, jump, shoot
and dodge explosions offer audiences a
sense of energy, which may be missing in
.HOW WILL THE AUDIENCE RESPOND?.
Theorists used to believe that audiences were passive, accepting the messages of
media texts without question. They believed that audiences were easily influenced
and often imitated what they saw or read. Current thinking rightly sees audiences as
more active and discerning, often challenging and questioning what they encounter
in the media.
THE RECEPTION MODEL (STUART HALL, 1980).
Stuart Hall identified that there are three ways in which audiences can respond to a
text. He said there were preferred, negotiated and oppositional readings.
Preferred reading The reader accepts the message that
is intended by the writer and sees it
as natural and transparent (e.g. that
page 3 of The Sun is sexually alluring
or ‘a bit of fun’)
Negotiated reading The audience slightly modifies the
original message, partly reflecting on
their own views and experiences
(e.g. that page 3 is not my kind of
thing, but is still harmless)
Oppositional reading The reader understands the original
message, but chooses to criticise or
go against it (e.g. that page 3 of The
Sun is an example of base sexual
inequality and crass female
DAVID GAUNTLETT'S 'PICK AND MIX' THEORY (2002).
David Gauntlett argues that audiences are very selective when engaging with media
texts. They may pick their own values and identities when reading a text, whilst
ignoring other parts. For example, when reading The Sun, readers may choose to
ignore page 3 altogether and concentrate instead on stories they can relate to.
Masthead Gives the name (and often date) of publication.
Words in large font found at the top of the story, grabbing the audience’s
attention and flagging up the narrative.
Usually answers the questions: who what where and when in a sentence.
Byline The name of the writer (by…)
A quote from an article or interview is copied and enlarged to pique the
audience’s interest (usually something funny or shocking).
Caption The words beside a photo, which explains what the audience is seeing.
Cropping Selecting a particular part of an image for emphasis.
Anchoring The use of words to create and add meaning to an image.
The font style e.g. serifor sans-serif
Copy The writing/article in a print text (the ‘text’ refers to the product, as a whole).
Linear narratives Linear narratives are stories that have a
beginning, middle and an end (which happen
in time order).
These narratives play with the time order in
which the story is shown and may include
flashbacks (for example, in Pulp Fiction).
Todorov suggested that all stories are based
on a change from equilibrium (where
everything is in order) to disequilibrium
(chaos/disorder). This can also be described
as stability versus instability. Eventually, the
narrative is ordered into a new equilibrium.
Claude Levi Strauss (as well as Roland
Barthes') identified that narratives were
often drawn out of the conflict of
oppositions (good vs. evil, strong vs. weak).
Texts can often tease the audience with
mysterious or unexplained elements to draw
them into the narrative. What happened last
night? Why is there a tiger in the bathroom?
Closure Most texts have closure (or a closed ending)
where all of the problems are resolved and
all of the questions have been answered.
Open ending Some texts have an open ending and leave
some elements a mystery.
Exposition Very often, narratives use exposition, where
characters explain essential parts of the plot
(this can include sub-titles or a voice-over).
Propp’s 'Spheres of Action' (1928).
Vladimir Propp analysed one hundred Russian folk tales and found an identical narrative
structure in each of them. He identified spheres of action, where a character would
appropriate specific roles to progress the story.
The eight character roles and their spheres of action are:
1. The villain: villainy, fighting, action
2. The donor or provider: giving, magical agent or helper
3. The helper: moves the hero, rescues from a pursuit, solves difficult tasks,
transforms the hero
4. The princess and her father: a sought-for person who assigns difficult tasks,
brands, exposes, recognises, punishes
5. The dispatcher: sends the hero on quest or mission
6. The hero: departs on search, reacts to donor, attempts difficult tasks
7. The false hero: takes unfounded glory for the hero's actions
However, many of these theories have limitations. For instance, can you think of any texts
which do not follow the above patterns?
.Other narrative devices.
Hooks: A scene where a question is raised and we want to know the answer
Teasers: A scene which gives a clue to the answer
Cliffhangers: A high tension end of an episode or sequence
Dramatic irony: When the audience know more than the characters
Name of Shot Example (with description) Useful for
LONG SHOT (LS)
A wide view of the scene.
Setting the scene (establishing shot)
MEDIUM SHOT (MS)
Cuts the body just below the waist.
Single character’s actions
Just above the head down to the lower
chest - usually only one character in the
Show character’s emotions
Reveal character’s reactions to
Cuts right into the character’s face,
usually focusing on facial features such
as the eyes.
Show subtle emotions
Reveal significant plot details (e.g.
important detail in a photograph)
The camera is positioned behind the
character as if looking over the shoulder.
Taken from below the character as if
they are looking down on us.
Looking up, suggesting power and
Taken from above the character(s).
Looking down, suggesting weakness,
inferiority and vulnerability.
The shot is shakey, as if someone is
holding the camera.
Creates a documentary-like look.
Creates a higher sense of realism.
Shot from a character's viewpoint.
To events from someone’s
Usually used to build suspense (i.e.
we see things from a killer/monster’s
Tracking Camera moves at the side of the action/character, as if on a slowly moving train.
Dolly Camera moves towards the action/character,
Steadicam Camera moves smoothly amid the action (attached to the camera person).
Hand-held Shaky use of camera (realism or documentary style).
Zoom Camera lens zooms towards or away from the action from a fixed point
Camera moves high above the action or from a high point towards the characters
to give an idea where the characters are
Aerial shot Camera shoots from a helicopter to give a huge view of the setting
Low angle Looking up to the subject, suggesting power, authority, superiority.
Eye level Level with characters.
High angle Looking down on the subject, suggesting weakness and powerlessness.
When the camera is tilted/slanted to the left or right to create a sense of
uneasiness or distortion of reality.
Shallow focus Draws attention to a character or object in the foreground
When the foreground character or object is in focus and the lens is ‘pulled’ to
focus on something in the background, or vice versa
Deep focus All characters or objects are important
High key Positive, happy, joyful, lots of light.
Low key Dark, lots of shadows, mysterious and dangerous.
.TRANSITIONS & EDITS.
Cut When two shots are edited together – usually to change angle.
Dissolve A merging between two shots to signal the passing of space or time.
Fade in A shot gradually turns from black to the beginning of a scene.
Fade out A shot gradually turns to black.
Editing gives the illusion of time running smoothly and uninterrupted (most
narratives use continuity editing)
A collection of shots edited together, usually from different times and places (and
usually accompanied by music) that create an idea or tell a story.
The placing of (sometimes contrasting) shots together to create meaning, e.g.
juxtaposing shots of warfare and grinning politicians creates specific meaning.
Diegetic sound Sound which characters can hear (e.g. speech, the sound
of explosions etc.)
Non-diegetic sound Sound that has been added (which the characters cannot
hear) e.g. voice over and non-diegetic music.
Parallel sound Sound that complements the actions onscreen.
Asynchronous sound Sound that is produced in the world of the text but the
audience cannot see it being created (e.g. footsteps
when we cannot see the person walking).
Voice over A person who talks over the images, usually narrating or
contributing to the story.
Contrapuntal sound Sound that is in contrast to what we see onscreen (for
instance tense music over a scene of celebration).
Genre A category of text, with fixed conventions (e.g. horror).
A text that focuses on a particular set of conventions within a specific genre (e.g.
zombie movies are a subgenre of horror films).
Mixture of two or more genre conventions (e.g. Shaun of the Dead is a
Genre code/trope A specific ingredient of the genre (e.g. guns in an action film).
All of the elements of a particular genre. E.g. An old West setting, horses, duels,
cowboy hats and a Sherriff’s badge are the repertoire of elements for a western.
A text deliberately borrows a sequence from an existing media text (e.g. The
Simpsons consistently borrows sequences from other media texts)
A text borrows heavily from a certain genre. (Hot Fuzz uses many conventions
from the buddy-cop action subgenre.)
A text makes fun of certain genre conventions (e.g. Scary Movie makes fun of
Zoning: The placing together of programmes of the same genre to encourage audiences
to stay watching that channel, e.g. Channel 4 comedy programmes on a Friday
evening or a string of Channel 5 crime dramas.
Stripping: Placing programmes at the same time every evening so that audiences get used
to watching them as part of their evening's viewing, e.g. Coronation Street and
.ADVANCED THEORIES & CONCEPTS.
Laura Mulvey - The Male Gaze
Mulvey argued that women are often presented as
passive (often sexualised) 'objects' for the pleasure of
the male gaze.
John Berger -
"Men act. Women appear."
In his book 'Ways of Seeing', John Berger argued that,
in art: "Men act. Women appear." Similar to Mulvey,
he argued that texts often present women as passive
objects of beauty, while men are the decisive
characters of action.
Naomi Wolf -
The Beauty Myth
Wolf argued that, for women, beauty is an economic
value. Women (more than men) need beauty in order
to be successful and it is this value which the media
often presents as being of prime importance.
The Female Gaze
(Gamman & Marshment, 1988)
These theorists claim that men can also be positioned
as sexualised objects for the pleasure of the female
Winship argued that women need lifestyle magazines
because they are excluded from mainstream culture
and that they are encouraged to use products to please
(Earp & Katz, 1999)
Earp and Katz argue in this film that the representation
of men as tough and violent reaffirms the status quo of
male violence (particularly directed towards women) in
The concept of moral panic was developed as a result
of Stanley Cohen's studies of youth groups in the 1960s
and may affect how an issue is represented. Cohen
argues that a moral panic occurs when society sees
itself threatened by the values and activities of a...
(continued) group who are stigmatised as deviant and
seen as threatening to mainstream society's values.
The process by which a moral panic develops involves
stages: 1) The occurrence of a deviant act or social
phenomenon 2) The act or problem being widely
reported on in the media, e.g. initially on the news and
then spilling over into internet chatrooms and
incorporated into fictional narratives etc.
(Shaun Moore, 1998)
Shaun Moore (1998) argued that media texts often
allow audiences to perceive themselves as part of an
imagined community, where the audience feel that
they have something in common with other imagined
members of the audience.
Alvarado (1987) has suggested that there are four
types of representations for members of the black
The humorous – e.g. Eddie Murphy
The exotic – models such as Naomi Campbell
The pitied – representations of needy black
communities through charity advertising or films
such as Blood Diamond
The dangerous – portrayed in news and
documentary reports of black inner-city gangs or
Left and right wing
In short, left wingers believe in the community (e.g.
increased taxes so the wealthy can take care of the
poor, regulation of companies to avoid exploitation)
and right wingers believe in the freedom of the
individual (less tax and regulation and more freedom
to make your own way in the world).
Hegemony This can mean two things. Firstly: any dominant power
(e.g. hegemonic masculinity), but can also be used to
refer to the process by which making that power
appear natural or 'common sense'.
News Values This concept poses that news is prioritised according
to the following criteria:
Is it a negative story or bad news?
Is there the potential for personalisation and
Does the story have shock value?
Does it feature or create celebrities out of people
to whom the general public can relate?
Is there continuity with this or other stories?
Does the story have close enough proximity to
the target audience (e.g. are British people
.HOW TO STRUCTURE A PARAGRAPH OF ANALYSIS.
It is important that you do NOT describe a scene as if it were real, e.g. “The hero looks
concerned before the robber pulls out a gun...”, instead:
1. Identify the use of a technique, using media terminology.
(e.g. “We see a close up of…”)
2. Make specific reference to the text.
(e.g. “a close up of the hero’s eyes, looking concerned”)
3. Use the words “connotes” and/or “signifies”.
(e.g. “This signifies…”)
4. Analyse the purpose or effect of the technique (explore what the
(e.g. “danger, as we know the hero suspects something”).
5. Discuss the impact on the audience.
(e.g. “This is likely to create tension for the audience, as they expect something may
happen, but they do not know what.”)
1. .OPTIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT (CHOOSE FROM BELOW).
Connect with another element (e.g. sound).
(e.g. “This notion is confirmed by the ominous orchestral music that is building”)
Discuss the appeal to the audience.
(e.g. “This may appeal to people in the audience who identify with the hero and want
him to succeed.” or “This offers audiences a sense of intensity (Dyer, 1992)”)
Does it reinforce or subvert a stereotype?
(e.g. “This reinforces the stereotype of men being powerful and in control, as he
appears to sense danger before it happens.”)
Does it support or challenge an ideology?
(e.g. “This supports a patriarchal ideology, as men are the dominant force in the
scene.” Or “This displays a male bias because…”)
Explore alternative interpretations.
(e.g. “Despite being positioned to feel support for the hero, we could see him here in a
negative light - like an angry shark, waiting for the kill.”)