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Media theories

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  • 1. Media Theories
  • 2. Structuralism Ferdinand de Saussure: Structuralism states that culture is to be understood as a system of signs. From this semiology (system of signs) was achieved. Structuralism explores the structures through which meaning is formulated within a culture. Ferdinand de Saussure also developed the idea of paradigms, which is a group of conventions in texts. Foucault and Lacan: Foucault and Lacan developed the theory of Structuralism. Suggesting that structure exists in all texts, and that art forms are short hands purely based on our cultural understanding. (We can also apply this this to film.) Kant’s Theory: Kant’s theory is the conditions of possibilities. Which is slightly a similar idea the idea of binary opposites.
  • 3. Roland Barthes’ Theories Myth theory: What starts of as a myth, becomes reality and are often distorted. Horror uses this, and plays on myths that become reality, by using our fears, such as; ecological, social, the youth of today. Structualists film theory emphasises how films convey meaning through the use of codes and conventions most dissimilar to the way languages are used to construct meaning in communication.
  • 4. The Enigma code: Barthes enigma code states that a text portrays an element of mystery to entice the audience, thus intriguing them further to view/read a text. Ball of thread theory: Barthes states that a text is like a tangle of threads in which we have to separate them in order to see the potential meanings of it, as there is more than one way of looking at it. Each and every interpretation is as valid as the other with reasons behind why you might look at it in different ways. there’s loads of ways in interpreting a text, he also states that there’s loads of reasons behind why you would interpret it in that way. Theorists and philosophers who devised the idea of the enigma code. This theory suggests that a text (film/poster/television) portrays an element of mystery to entice the audience.
  • 5. Pleasure of the text theory: Barthes states that before we go to the cinema we know what is going to happen in the film. For example if we go to see an action film we automatically know that the ‘hero’ will save the day, same as if we go to see a romantic comedy, we know that the couple will eventually find happiness after overcoming their obstacles. You can almost guess what happens in most mainstream films and seeing this play out is the pleasure we receive from the text/film. However, there’s another layer of pleasure that we receive when the unexpected happens: You only get a ‘Jouissance’ when you don’t expect it – 6 th sense, usual suspects.
  • 6. Todorov’s Theory of Narrative. Todorov came up with the idea that every story has a certain type of structure. Equilibrium: At the start of every story; everything is balanced; harmony accord. Moment of disequilibrium: Something has happened; someone bad turns up, equilibrium is shattered. Disequilibrium: The ‘hero’ struggles to fix the wrong, that beset them and returns to a place of equilibrium. New Equilibrium: Villain is defeated and peace is restored but at a cost. Something or someone has always been lost and the new equilibrium is tainted by this experience.
  • 7. The 4 C’s Other than Todorov , we can also look at the 4 C’s, which is another structural device implied in most stories. Conflict: The hero is challenged by an outside force. Complications: The hero’s efforts to get what they want are thwarted (often 3 times) Crisis: Beset with such difficulties, the hero comes close to quitting (usually talked out of quitting by a helper, or god, or some device.) Climax: Finally decided against quitting, the hero has one last guess and achieves what they wanted.
  • 8. Levi Strauss: Binary Opposites . Claude Levi Strauss stated that constant creation of conflict/opposition propels narrative. Narrative can only end on a resolution of conflict. Oppositions can be used (light/darkness, movement/stillness) or conceptual (love/hate, control/panic.) and to do with the soundtrack.
  • 9. Louis Althusser - interpolation Louis believed that media products, lead us to a false recognition of ourselves, so we get lost in our ideal image of ourselves. That will never be possible. This is used a lot in advertising, they make us think that if for example we buy the product, we well be like the model advertising the product.
  • 10. Propp’s: Eight Character Types : Propp was a folklorist, who worked out that in tales, there were 31 separate storylines only that kept representing themselves. We can see that in horror there are a limited number of storylines, that keep repeating. Also, Propp worked out that in texts there are a limited number of character types. We can transpose these to film.
    • The Villain
    • The (Magical) helper
    • Her Father
    • The Hero or victim/seeker ‘hero’
    • The dispatcher
    • The princess or prize
    • The donor
    • False hero
  • 11. The Final Girl: A feminist approach to audience identification . What you already know:
    • Girls always survive
    • If a girl dies, it is because she’s promiscuous
    • Girls are not often the villain
    • Often the victim, due to the vulnerability, and the link between horror and rape.
    Formal theoretical assumptions about horror:
    • It is passive
    • We identify with the victims
    • It’s male- cantered and driven.
  • 12. New Ideas:
    • Theories and media commentators now accept that these old assumptions are wrong
    Key Words:
    • Sadism : Deriving gratification from another's pain or domination of another
    • Masochism : Deriving gratification from ones own pain or from submission to another of others.
    • Voyeurism : Deriving gratification from the observation
    Freud’s Fault – Freud’s Theory:
    • Freud was concerned with working of the mind; the subconscious, id, ego and superego.
    • Identified the Oedipus complex: Oedipus murdered his father and married his mother.
  • 13. What has this got to do with horror films?:
    • Carol Clover in ‘men, women and chainsaws’ argues that as an audience we are structurally ‘forced into identifying, not with the killer but with the resourceful surviving finale.
    • So instead of identifying with the sadistic voyeurs, Clover suggests that over identification has switched to the victim (a masochistic voyeur)
    • Clovers application of psychoanalytical theory (Oedipus complex, Freud) to horror
    • Sadism = POST- OEDIPAL attention switches from the mother to the father (away from a natured submission baby-state to a more independent self-motivated child state)
    • Masochism however is PRE-OEDIPAL the mother is less powerful, so as an audience we are masochistic & pre-oedipal because we take pleasure in identifying with the female.
  • 14. Examples:
    • Jamie lee Curtis: Halloween
    • Betsy Palmer: Friday 13 th
    • Heather Langenkamp: A nightmare on elm street
    • Eliza Dushku: Wrong Turn
    Our identification with the surviving girl, means that as an audience we were subject to feminist theory as well as structualist theory.
  • 15. Post Structuralism :
    • Structuralism (early 20 th century) structure exists in all art forms.
    • Post structuralism is a theory which exists only as a critique of structuralism and has no form of its own. It argues that there is no structure which is inherent in every text.
    • They attempted to distance themselves from structuralism
  • 16. Modernism : Modernism: A movement away from structure, it developed out of post structuralism. A new direction in art, literature theology, etc., emphasising new ideas and including a deliberate break with the past. Modernism grew, as a reaction to the first world war, artists began to question conventional structures through their art. The movement embraced discontinuity and rejected smooth change. It approves the disruption, rejecting or moving beyond simple realism in literature and art. Modernism: There can be meaning without rules and structure.
  • 17. Deconstruction:
    • Deconstruction is an active process.
    • In this instance It does not simply mean analysing or breaking down into meaning (as we often use when studying a text)
    • Deconstruction is what the art form does. It attempts to deconstruct the reader/viewer’s expectations and its about being smart how this process happens.
    • Its about getting to a film with a set of expectations. The film deconstructs your expectations.
    • ‘ Shaun of the dead’ deconstructs your pre-conceived notions about horror film genre, character etc.
  • 18. Postmodernism :
    • Doing the unexpected in a knowing way. It’s about knowing the rules a d breaking them.
    • The loss of rule of combination is called “bricolage” (French term, meaning jumble, like brick-a-brack shop)
    • Postmodern films are self-referred. They play with generic conventions knowingly. There’s a deliberate subversion of paradigms.
    • W.B: postmodernism is different from parody (poking fun at something to create a humorous reaction) it’s different between a postmodern film like “Shaun of the dead” and a spoof.
  • 19. Laura Mulvey: The male gaze In classical Hollywood cinema, viewers were encouraged to identify with the protagonist of the film, who tended to be a man. Meanwhile Hollywood female characters of the 1950s and 60s were according to Mulvey, coded with “to-be-looked-at-ness”.