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22 useful theory for the exam
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22 useful theory for the exam



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  • 1. Key theory revision
    • Narrative theory
    • Character types theory
    • Binary opposites
    • Action and enigma codes
    • Feminist theory
    • Realism
  • 2. Aims
    • To be confident in understanding theories
    • To be confident in applying theories to your own and real media texts
  • 3. Todorov
    • His theory identifies the classic narrative pattern – he says that all
    • stories can actually be broken down into the same 3 part structure
    • Equilibrium > Disruption > Restoration
    • In order to achieve restoration (ie a new equilibrium) the hero must develop an understanding of the disruption and make many (thwarted) attempts to resolve things. When he does achieve resolution (ie defeats the villain, removes the danger), then society can move forward to a new equilibrium – everything has changed but order is restored, and there is hope for the future.
  • 4. Levi-Strauss
    • He identified the notion that all narratives are based on a set of binary opposites that create conflict and therefore drive the narrative forward (eg heroes v villains, war v peace, science v humanity etc)
  • 5. Barthes Barthes argued that all narratives are based on a set of codes. The main two are enigma and action codes. Enigma : all stories have questions or puzzles built into them Action : where the character performs something that means one set of actions will happen afterwards. For instance, a cowboy puts a holster on; this means a gunfight will follow shortly afterwards in the film
  • 6. Propp
    • Propp claimed that there are a set of character types that always appear in a narrative and that they have a specific function (eg donor, hero, villain, princess, dispatcher)
  • 7. Feminist theory
    • This theory suggests that cultural products such as films and TV programmes are partly responsible for creating negative messages about women in society
    • It argues that although these messages are often subtle, they can be quite influential and can affect the way audience’s perceive women
    • Exploring representations of women in action-adventure films from a feminist perspective is an interesting activity. Research into this area suggests the following:
  • 8. Feminist theory and A-A female roles
    • A-A films celebrate male power and authority – this is never questioned as being anything other than normal
    • Men are in powerful roles and women are subservient and are there only as decoration
    • These messages will be seen often, and if continually repeated over time, they will appear normalised
    • Women in A-A are are often the ‘object’ of male spectatorship (there to be looked at) and thus, do nothing to advance the narrative in a useful way
    • Often women are seen as the prize for the male hero - if he sorts all the problems out, he will ‘get the girl’
    • White, professional middle-class men tend to dominate in the Film and TV industries and therefore make most of the decisions about casting, character representations and so on, therefore the patriarchal (male-centred) power and influence just simply goes round in a circle.
  • 9. Realism/ virtual realism
    • So what actually is real? Realism is a tricky concept, but
    • here are a few key points to consider:
    • All media texts are constructed, but many attempt to recreate real life. Even if the are shot in the future, they still aim to be plausible, believable.
    • Complete reality is impossible to recreate; only the real is actually real
    • The director and her/his crew try to create ‘real’ situations, but it has been shot, mostly out of sequence, and then put together
    • With CGI, constructed places/settings and people look so real, that audiences readily suspend their disbelief, and are able to immerse themselves into the world of the film. This is ironic as CGI is simply about the creation of binary code, and is about as un-real as it is possible to be.
    • Sometimes something more real, actually appears less real