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  1. 1. NARRATIVE A Media Studies Key Aspect
  2. 2. What Is It?  Narrative is the media term for story telling.  Narrative is the way the different elements in a story are organised to make a meaningful story. Some of these elements can be facts as in a documentary, or characters and action as in a drama.
  3. 3. What Is It?  When we look at narrative we see that stories throughout the media share certain characteristics. This often links them to genre.  Different media tell stories in a variety of different ways.
  4. 4. Narrative Structure(s)  This is the way the story or plot unfolds.  Is the story an open or closed structure?  A closed structure means the story ends satisfactorily as in most films – this is known as closure.  An open ending means there is no final conclusion to the story – a television soap has no final ending, it just has minor endings.  Some texts have an interactive structure e.g. Big Brother.
  5. 5. Narrative Structure(s)  A multi-strand structure means there are several narratives running at the same time. This is very common in television, such as Holby City, and The Bill.  Other narrative structures include point of view (POV). (Documentaries often do this)  A popular narrative device is the enigma. The plot constructs a puzzle that the audience is asked to solve while the characters act out the story.
  6. 6. How it is informed  Narrative is informed by character, action, and location.
  7. 7. How it is informed  Characters have functions such as heroes or villains, or someone who assists the hero or villain as a helper or messenger.
  8. 8. How it is informed  The action determines how the events in the narrative occur and the influence they have.
  9. 9. How it is informed  The location of a film or television programme is an important ingredient in how the story unfolds. A horror film about Dracula must have a castle.
  10. 10. How it is informed  Narrative is often delivered to the audience by expectation, suspense, tension and closure.  The audience is led to expect certain things to happen which leads to tension and excitement.  Expectation, suspense and tension are created by the use of Media Language,
  11. 11. Our Job  Directors and producers use many techniques to get a story to an audience in an involving, interesting, exciting and entertaining way. Our job as media students is to find out what these techniques are, and see where and how they are used and what they mean in media texts. This is known as Textual Analysis.
  12. 12. Questions to ask  How is the narrative organised?  What is the audience’s role in relation to the narrative?  How are the characters used in the narrative?
  13. 13. Questions to ask  What techniques of identification and alienation are used in the text?  What else does the filmmaker do to engage our attention and tell the story?  What are the major themes of the narrative and what values and ideology are evident?
  14. 14. Run Lola Run  1998 German thriller.  Dir. Tom Tykwer  Franka Potente (Lola)  Moritz Bleibtreu (Manni)  Dist. Sony Pictures  Budget: $1,750,000  Gross: $7,267,585
  15. 15. Narrative Theory  There are four main theorists to consider:  Tzvetan Todorov  Vladimir Propp  Roland Barthes  Lévi-Strauss
  16. 16. TODOROV  Todorov’s theory has three main parts: 1. The text begins with a sate of equilibrium – everything appears to be normal or calm. 2. There is some kind of disruption or disequalibrium – this is often a threat to the normal situation or it could be just a setback. 3. A new equilibrium is produced to end the narrative. In the best narratives there is some kind of change for the better perhaps in the main character’s behaviour or outlook on life.
  17. 17. TODOROV  Todorov suggests there are five stages to how the narrative progresses: 1. The equilibrium has to be carefully shown (otherwise the disruption may not be dramatic enough to create a strong plot) 2. There is a disruption 3. There is a recognition that a disruption has happened. 4. There is an attempt to repair the damage done by the disruption. 5. A new equilibrium is achieved.
  18. 18. TODOROV  Here narrative is not seen as linear, but as circular.  The narrative is driven by the characters’ attempts to restore the equilibrium, although the end result is not quite the same as the beginning.
  19. 19. PROPP  Propp studied folk tales and he proposed ways of grouping characters and their actions into eight broad character types or ‘spheres of action’.  N.B. One character may occupy more than one sphere of action
  20. 20. Spheres of Action  1. The villain  2. The hero, or character who seeks something, usually motivated by a lack of something (money, love etc.) The hero doesn’t have to be heroic in the way most people would understand it – heroes can be male or female, brave or cowardly.  3. The donor, who provides an object with some magic property.  4. The helper, who aids the hero.
  21. 21. Spheres of Action  5. The princess, reward for the hero, and object of the villain’s schemes. Again, this is not necessarily a beautiful damsel in distress – the princess can be male!  6. Her father, who rewards the hero.  7. The dispatcher, who sends the hero on his way  8. The false hero, the character who also lays claim to the princess but is unsuitable and causes complications.
  22. 22. Star Wars  Match them up
  23. 23. Star Wars - An Example  Villain – Darth Vader  Hero – Luke Skywalker  Donor – Obi-Wan Kenobi  Helper – Han Solo  Princess – Princess Leia  Father – The Rebellion  Dispatcher – R2D2  False Hero – Darth Vader
  24. 24. Levi-Strauss  No, nothing to do with jeans!  He introduced the notion of binary oppositions as a useful way to consider the production of meaning within narratives.  He argued that all construction of meaning was dependent, to some degree, on these oppositions.
  25. 25. Examples  Good vs Evil  Male vs Female  Humanity vs Technology  Nature vs Industrialism  East vs West  Dark vs Light  Dirt vs Cleanliness
  26. 26. Roland Barthes  A name you’ll become very familiar with soon. In the meantime, in terms of narrative he suggested five codes:  The hermeneutic code (the enigma)  The proairetic code (the action)  The semic code (the images)  The symbolic code (the subtext)  The referential code (the cultural influence)