This is the theory revision I created for my A2 Media group a couple of years ago. There is some general narrative theory, Media theory Laura Mulvey etc and Racial Representation theory, Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy, bell hooks etc. This was based on Media and Collective Identity focusing on the representation of black culture in British Film and American Music Videos.
Media Theory Revision
This contains all the theory we have
gone through over the past year.
Go through the different theories and make notes as
to how you can apply these to both your course work
and the case studies we have been through in class.
Note: with section A you must make references to
films you gained ideas from to gather the ideas you
demonstrated in your work.
For section B you must make references to both the
films and the music videos and any other media that
you feel with support your arguments throughout
The Male Gaze
Film represents women as passive objects of
Audiences are forced to view women from the
point of view of a heterosexual male even if
they are indeed; heterosexual women or
“Men look, women appear”
Women are there solely for the objectification
of women within all platforms of the media.
(Think of examples of different magazines,
films, TV shows or websites where this is
evident, how are women represented in your
The colour codes: Lighter skinned women are
considered more desirable and fit better into
the western ideology of beauty.
Black women are objectified and sexualised in
hip-hop reflecting the colonialist view of black
women (sexually disposable).
Commodified blackness, a mediated view of
black culture that is considered the norm.
The media and therefore audiences often blur
race and class. Often associating particular races
with a particular class.
Audience reception theory; audiences
read/understand a particular text according to
their cultural upbringing.
Western (white dominated) cultures. Continue to
misinterpret ethnic minorities in the media due
to underlying racist tendencies. Ethnic minorities
are often represented as ‘the other’.
Stuart Hall: Slave Figure
Black Characterisations in the Media
Hall outlines three base images of the
'grammar of race' employed in 'old movies'.
The first is the slave figure which could take
the form of either the 'dependable, loving…
devoted "Mammy" with the rolling eyes, or
the faithful fieldhand… attached and devoted
to "his" master' (Hall, 1995:21).
Stuart Hall: The Native
The second of Hall's base images - the native
(ibid:21). Their primitive nature means they
are cheating, cunning, savage and barbarian.
In movies, we expect them 'to appear at any
moment out of the darkness to decapitate the
beautiful heroine, kidnap the children …
Stuart Hall: The Clown/Entertainer
The last of Hall's variants is that of the clown
or entertainer, implying an 'innate' humour in
the black man (ibid:22). Interestingly, the
distinction is never made as to whether we
are laughing with or at the clown; overt
racism is rare in the media rather, says Hall, it
is 'inferential' (ibid:20).
Hip Hop gives black female rappers a voice
introducing female empowerment.
Hip hop gave audiences an insight into the
lives of young black urban Americans and gave
them a voice.
Black music articulated diasporic experiences
of resistance to white capitalist culture.
Employs the notion of ‘diaspora’ and how
ethnic minorities (particularly black people)
experience dislocation from their homeland.
E.g. feeling as if you do not totally belong in
Britain but you also are considered ‘English’ in
the Caribbean, Africa or Asia etc
Michael Eric Dyson
Political rap didn’t get the support that it
deserved when it was prominent in the 80s
and early 90s.
Therefore it reverted to the flashy, sexualised,
criminal rap which we know today, as through
displaying this it became more prominent and
Black gay film opens up audiences to the
understanding of the dual exclusion (being gay
But through directors such as Isaac Julian they
introduce a varied representation not just pigeon
holing into the ‘black’ or ‘gay’ stereotype.
Audiences are exposed to diverse representation
displaying verisimilitude rather than ‘stereotype’.
The Mirror Stage: Where infants see their
reflections in the mirror and see it as a superior
reflection of themselves that they must aspire to.
Seeing iconic rappers who are successful ‘young
black males’ may see them as a superior
reflection of themselves they could aspire to.
Particularly those iconic figures whom have
struggled through a deprived childhood e.g. 50
Cent and Biggie Smalls (Notorious BIG).
'Archaeology' is the term Foucault used during the
1960s to describe his approach to writing history.
Archaeology is about examining the discursive traces
and orders left by the past in order to write a 'history
of the present'.
Archaeology is about looking at history as a way of
understanding the processes that have led to what
we are today.
Therefore when analyzing your contemporary case
studies you need to take into account those past
representations and how they have contributed to
what we have today e.g. Birth of a Nation 1913,
Blaxploitation films (70s), The slave trade
Audience Reception Theory
A preferred reading (or dominant system of response) is a way of understanding
the text that is consistent with the ideas and intentions of the producer or creator
of the product. This may lead to an acceptance of the dominant values within the
With a negotiated reading (or subordinate response) the individual has a choice
as to whether or not they accept the preferred reading as their own. Audience
members may read the text though the filter of their own personal agenda.
Although there may be an acceptance of the dominant values and existing social
structure, the individual may be prepared to argue that a particular social group
may be unfairly represented.
In an oppositional reading (or radical response) individual members of an
audience may completely reject the preferred reading of the dominant code and
the social values that produced it.
An aberrant reading is where an entirely different meaning from that intended by
the maker will be taken form the text. This could be when individual members of
the audience do not share, in any way, the values of the maker of the text.
The theory suggests that the mass media
could influence a very large group of people
directly and uniformly by ‘shooting’ or
‘injecting’ them with messages designed to
trigger a response.
A moral panic is the intensity of feeling
expressed in a population about an issue that
appears to threaten the social order.
Todorov: Equilibrium, disequilibrium, new
Levi Strauss: Binary Oppositions
Roland Barthes: Enigma Codes
Propp: Characters/roles often found in
Todorov’s Narrative Theory
2. Disruption of equilibrium
3. Recognition of this disruption
4. An attempt to repair the equilibrium is made
5. Equilibrium is restored OR a new
equilibrium is established
Propp’s Narrative Theory
Hero: Individual(s) who's quest is to restore the equilibrium.
Villain: Individual(s) who's task is to disrupt the equilibrium.
Donor: Individual(s) who gives the hero(s) something, advice,
information or an object.
Helper: Individual(s) who aids the hero(s) with their set task.
Princess (Prince): Individual(s) which need help, protecting and
The King: Who rewards the hero.
Dispatcher: Individual(s) who send the hero(s) on their quest.
False Hero: Individual(s) who set out to undermine the hero's
quest by pretending to aid them. Often unmasked at the end of
Levi-Strauss: Binary Oppositions
Argued that meaning in narrative is based upon
binary oppositions. He observed that all
narratives are organised around the conflict
between such binary opposites.
Good Vs Evil
Human Vs Nature
Black Vs White
Protagonist Vs Antagonist
Humanity Vs Technology
Man Vs Woman
Human Vs Alien
Roland Barthes: Enigma Code
Refers to any element of the story that is not
fully explained and hence becomes a mystery
to the reader. The purpose of the author in
this is typically to keep the audience guessing,
arresting the enigma, until the final scenes
when all is revealed and all loose ends are tied
off and closure is achieved.
David Gauntlett. Media Gender and Identity:
An Introduction. 2002.
Dan Laughey. Key Themes in Media Theory.
Stuart Hall. Representation: Cultural
Representation and Signifying Practices. 1997
Bell Hooks. Black Looks: Race and
Tricia Rose. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black
Culture in Contemporary America. 1994
Hall, Stuart (1995), 'The Whites of Their Eyes - Racist
Ideologies and the Media' in Dines, Gail and Humez,
Jean M., Gender, Race and Class in Media - A Text
Reader, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, London
and New Dehli.
Hooks, bell (1991), Yearning - race, gender and
cultural politics, Turnaround, London.
Gilroy, Paul (1983), 'Channel 4: Bridge or
Bantustan?', Screen, 24, 130-136. Cited in Ross
Ferguson, Robert (1998), Representing Race -
Ideology, Identity and the Media, Arnold, London,
New York, Sydney and Auckland.
Some of the theorists have videos on Youtube
which are very useful in understanding their
theories and concepts in relation to
representation and audience reception.
Link the views of the theorists to all sections
of the exam. Mostly to section 2 (which will be
based on your case-studies).
• Stuart Hall Representation
• Bell hooks Rap
• Bell hooks Commodified Blackness
• Michael Eric Dyson
Hip Hop’s commodity fetish
• Paul Gilroy Contemporary Racism
Why does hip-hop display the
representations it does?
Hip Hop Beyond Beats and Rhymes
Beyond Beats and Rhymes