• Todorov, a Bulgarian academic, devised a way of looking at narrative structures
according to the different stages of the narrative
• Using this structure, he believed that narratives were circular - they were about trying
to reach the beginning.
• THE 5 STAGES
• 1.The equilibrium – the state of balance in the narrative, where we get to know the
characters and their situation.
• 2.The disruption – oppositional characters or events are introduced and the story
• 3.The recognition (of the disruption) – Where the story develops, different events and
characters become involved and more drama occurs.
• 4.The attempts to repair the disruption – where there may be a twist or climactic point
• 5.The new equilibrium – the problem is solved and harmony is resolved, though things
may have changed.
On of the most well known of these theorists is Vladimir Propp. Although his theories were originally written in the 1920s (in The
Morphology of the Folk Tale) and refer to Russian Folk Stories, they have since been used in reference to many modern narratives.
Propp referred to eight main character types. These are:
• THE HERO
• THE FALSE HERO
• THE PRINCES
• THE FATHER (OF THE PRINCESS)
• THE HELPER
• THE VILLAIN
• THE DONOR
• THE DISPATCHER
Obviously it is difficult to take a theory from around 80 years ago about Russian stories and relate it directly to every film made. Having said
that, it is surprising how accurately some of Propp’s character types can be applied to many modern film narratives.
Each of these character types has a specific role within the narrative. The dispatcher send the hero on their ‘quest’ – the princess is the
reward for the hero’s endeavours. Sometimes one character may take on more than one character function. For example, Lara Croft in Tomb
Raider combines the roles of princess, hero and helper. The helper and the donor are similar as they both assist the hero in some way, but
each role is slightly differently. The donor gives the hero something to help him, whereas the helper helps them along the way.
Select texts on basis of genre, often because texts are arranged at retail
outlets by genre. Also, certain genres are considered appropriate to
certain ages/genders in society, and choices are made accordingly eg
teen movie, ‘chick flicks’
Have systems of expectations about the content and style of a text,
according to its genre. This enables them to take particular pleasures in
the text, those of repetition, and of predicted resolution. Pleasure may
also be drawn from differences.
Identify with repeated elements in generic texts and may shape their
own identity in response (eg fans of a particular genre of music dress in
a specific way - metalheads in their band t-shirts, for instance)
Genre theorist Thomas Schatz put forward the view that genres tend to pass through a number of ‘stages’, in a predictable pattern or cycle,
through their lifespan
STAGE 1 - INNOVATIVE
Genre texts offer a high degree of innovation, experimenting with genre conventions or merging existing genres to create newforms. At this
stage, genre texts are likely to challenge audiences and to attain popularity through their originality.
STAGE 2 - CLASSICAL
Genre conventions are well established and boundaries between genres tend to be well-defined and more stable. At this stage, genre texts are
likely to generate pleasure through the reinforcement of predictable elements and the repetition of popular structures
STAGE 3 - PARODY
Genre texts take advantage of the audience’s familiarity with their conventions by self-consciously drawing attention to their form and style.
Audience pleasure is generated by the acknowledgement of the shared experience, often in the form of exaggerated orhumourous use of
STAGE 4 - DECONSTRUCTION
Genre texts begin to challenge their generic elements by reformulating the conventions – breaking, ignoring or altering the shared
understanding of genre. Audience pleasure is generated through the genre text’s ability to recognise and to subvert its formsand meanings.
The process of transformation may sometimes lead the genre through to the beginning of the cycle once more
THE SCHATZ CYCLE
• Innovation phase
• Classical phase
• Parodic phase
• Deconstruction phase
Effects 1 – The hypodermic model Just like the syringe used to inject
a drug into a body, the media ‘injects’ messages directly into the minds
of the viewers/listeners/readers; and they can be as addictive as heroin
Effects 2 – Cultivation theory As audiences watch more and more
film and television, they gradually develop certain views about the
world, some of which are ‘false’.
Effects 3 – Desensitisation If we are exposed to too much violence,
or too much blatant sexuality, we will become less sensitive to real life
violence and sexual behaviours.
Effects 4 – Copycat (or modelling) theory This approach suggests that
people will imitate what they see in the media – e.g. if young people watch
Natural Born Killers, they will go out on a killing spree. This is not so much a
‘theory’ as an assumption perpetuated by the Press!
Uses and gratifications Instead of researching what the media do to the
audience, this approach studies what the audience does with the media. This
approach also takes account of people’s personalities and personal needs.
Reception analysis Audiences are seen as active producers of meaning,
rather than as merely consumers of media meanings. They make sense of
media texts according to their social position (in terms of their identity) –
and their gender, race, class etc.
THE INTENTIONAL VIEW
This is the opposite of the Reflective idea. This time the most important thing in the
of representation is the person doing the representing — they are presenting their
view of the thing they are representing and the words or images that they use
mean what they intend them to mean.
Michael Moore can easily be seen to have a political agenda with his documentary
making. In Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), his representation of President Bush was
carefully constructed to create a specific idea of an idiotic and corrupt man. He
selected images and quotes carefully which would support his perspective and
rejected images and quotes that may have challenged this idea of the US president.
He juxtaposed these images with news footage, interviews and other images which
would anchor his meaning and ensure that throughout the film the idea of
President Bush was consolidated.
THE CONSTRUCTIONIST VIEW
This is really a response to what have been seen a weakness in the other two theories — constructionists feel that a representation can never
just be the truth or the version of the truth that someone wants you to hear since that is ignoring your ability as an individual to make up your
own mind and the influences of the society that you live in on the way that you do so.
Any representation is a mixture of:
1. The thing itself.
2. The opinions of the people doing the representation
3. The reaction of the individual to the representation
4. The context of the society in which the representation is taking place.
What this view adds to the equation is the role of audiences and their differing opinions, and the role of society. This addition makes the
concept of representation increasingly complex and there now becomes a whole host of readings and factors that contribute tohow audiences
view things. The truth is that amid all this confusion of opinions, some kinds of ideas dominate and are shared by a majority of people. We call
views about how things should be and how people should behave an ideology and if an ideology is shared by the majority of people in a
culture it is called the dominant ideology. The group of ideas that make up the dominant ideology in Britain are not something that remains
static — they change as new ideas are encountered and people discuss them. For example the dominant ideology in Britain used to be
opposed to homosexual practises. Over time, however, opposition has changed to tolerance and then to acceptance for the majority, allowing
openly gay men to present news and entertainment programmes and enter civil partnerships with one another.
Here are some things that are generally agreed to be part of the dominant ideology in Britain:
• People should put their families first.
• People should work for their money and not show off too much about how much they have.
• Women should behave modestly. Dominant ideologies in other countries might have significant differences