Incorporating theory and context into media studies teaching

Audience: students should be able to write about passive and active audiences.


War of the Worlds broadcast 1938

Effects – audience passive and manipulated

Advertising (1)
3D films audiences visibly react to objects coming towards them

Cultivation theory: desensitising audiences due to repeated exposure e.g. violence, poverty (Dougal and the Blue Cat – Katie) (2)

James Halloran wrote it’s now ‘what people do with the media’ 1970 even more apt now!

Blumler and Katz Uses and Gratifications 1974 (3)

McQuail came later

Stuart Hall – encoding and decoding (The Long Engagement – film about soldiers in the first world war due to be shot for desertion / opening is barren landscape, trenches … sets up expectations.)

David Morley did a study in 1980 on TV News programme Nationwide. Did an audience study; divided into groups – some took message wholesale, some took oppositional stance, and some negotiated meaning. (4)

Books: AS and A2 Media spec pub. Hodder Elspeth Stevenson

Also Essential Media            Steve Kruger and Pete Wall

Citizen Media – internet / social networking sites… more democratic?

Media 2.0 ‘everyone’s a participator’ actor, creator (5)

Narrative – see sep sheet – but essentially – narrative arc: exposition / problem / complication / climax / resolution (6)

Binary codes

E.g. someone packing a suitcase / suitcase full of money

E.g. the cigarette butt in ‘Brick.’

Characters – Stereotyping – countertypes; representations are more diffuse in modern world.

‘Requiem for a Dream’ – representations of black men – here a black deaf man with power.

‘The Wire’ – Omar Little – black and gay

‘Pulling’ 3 women / Karen a primary school teacher – predator

The Sun website / representation – stereotypes!!

[ can do own 10q’s survey.]

[Media Magazine theory articles!!]

Post-modernism – essential. See sheet.

Hyper-reality – Katie Price! Everything about her is unreal.

Lara Croft

Jade Goody (7)

Fragmentation – e.g. Noel Fielding’s multiple identities in ‘The Mighty Boosch’, series 3 ‘party’ representation and postmodernism.

Case Study 1.

Gavin and Stacey series 1 episode 5 (8) audience / uses and grats / encoding / 2 Step Flow / narrative arc (stag night hen night, poss pregnancy, uncle left out, Stacey been engaged before…) / stereotypes (behaviour of lads on stag night / behaviour of girls on hen night/ black guy break dancing…) / countertypes (Nesser) / binary opps Welsh girls vs Essex girls, class, mums, males vs females, comedy vs drama, countertypes Nesser vs Stacey…/ action and enigma in the form of Achmed who gives away the information! / contextual info ie. background the families are all named after serial killers the Wests, the Sutcliffes, the Shipmans!!

Also in this episode: layering in texts: pastiche = the Full Monty / intertextuality = G4, congestion charge/ Eastenders, Davina Mc Coll, Morrisons / Hyper-reality would he rather have sex with Pat Butcher or Pam St Clements the actress!

Additional context Corden and Horne went onto to make stand up series but couldn’t quite escape their characters from this series.

A2 Marxism classical: 2 classes in conflict (9):

See exercise 10 below the bourgeoisie didn’t care about the needs of the individual.

The raison d’être of capitalism is the need / desire to make a profit.

Gramsci and Hegemony – government by consent – those in power convince the others that they should have the power. (10) [Tina does an exercise where she locks the classroom door then tells the students that they have a choice either they can write a timed essay and get a sweet or she will beat them with a stick until they write it anyway!! This teaches the idea of hegemony!!]

Students should be able to apply the concept of hegemony – i.e. governing by coercion or by bribe. Can they think of examples in British life / culture / work…?

Case Study 2.

‘Little Miss Sunshine:’ look at opening sequence for the representations of old people (11) but also of the little girl. The old man, played by Alan Alda, is a drug addicted old reprobate so he is anti-hegemonic. The father tows the hegemonic party line with his inspirational lectures on ‘go and make your dreams come true.’

Anti-hegemonic representations (12) are more likely in Indie / European films non-mainstream. (13)

Example ‘This is thi six o’clock news’ poem from the English Anthology. Discuss whether this attitude is prevalent and / or true!

Case Study 3.

Watch an episode of Shameless and discuss the way people actually feel about this kind of family, behaviour, attitudes to sex, employment, the law etc and the way people feel they should feel!!

Contrast this with a discussion about programmes such as Jamie Oliver, or Trinny and Susannah or How Clean is Your house, Wife Swap… and the increase in ‘middle-classisation’ of the working class! Is this attempt to perpetuate and extend middle-class values acceptable, desirable and would it even work???? (14)

[Could also look at opposite Hegemonic views for example Muslim anti-commercialism, anti-capitalism, anti-materialism.]

George Ritzer 1996 Hyper-reality – he pointed out:

  • The breakdown of distinction between high and low culture e.g. BBC4 Enid Blyton, or Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet
  • Breaking down of barriers between genres and styles [NB creativity] e.g. Ashes to Ashes
  • Mixing up of time and space and narrative e.g. LOST particularly with the flashbacks then flash forwards now the parallel time line of possibility!
  • And emphasis on style over content e.g. reality shows high production values.
  • Finally the blurring of the distinction between reality and non-reality

Example here of Skins actor Nicholas Holt – if do a Sun website search it writes about Nicholas as tony – then look at his website or MySpace page, he is clearly middle-class and well-educated which is at odds with the representation on The Sun’s website.

Feminism Romantic individualism Angela Mc Robbie in her research into young women’s magazines discovered they were all about finding women a man and how women were urged to look attractive for men.

Ferguson further identified the older women’s magazines as – ‘now you’ve got your man, how to keep him.’

Laura Mulvey’s
Male Gaze Theory (15)

Patriarchalism – predominant ideology is that men don’t like to watch gay men kiss.

Case Study 4.

Skins series 1 episode 1.

No parity on screen, men clothed, women naked; slow motion on Michelle, her legs as she walks towards Tony. Later a long slow upwards travelling shot of a girl shaving her legs from her legs to her face. Fragmentation. In both cases they slow the narrative down.

Tony by contrast is seen totally differently – quick edits when he’s exercising.

See report in the Guardian about a report on the treatment of women by bouncers in Clubs in Coventry.

Lady Gaga video. She’s wearing a bikini. Post modernism / post-feminism / feminism? The way she dresses is an example of bricollage.


Texts not made in a vacuum. Made in certain sets of circumstances. Background and history. (16)

Changes in content are impinged on by changes in society and in law e.g. little smoking now seen on screen see Life on Mars for contrast with 1970s Britain.

You tube: ‘The Public Enemy’ with James Cagney he pushes a grapefruit in a woman’s face acceptable then but not now. Whereas then they couldn’t show the act of murder. And sex violence and swearing was implicit rather than explicit now.

Drug use – now become quite common in the media with rare comments on the consequences. Easy Rider banned when it came out in this country.

Case Study 5.

Find out who owns the social networking sites. Why is this important what else do they own?

And now a note on Creativity – could refer to the difference in use of a PC vs a Mac in reference to ease of use, software availability, technical expertise, cost etc.

Finally break the assessment objectives down to keywords in the mark scheme.

And remember 20,20,10!!

(1) Research into what products people most recently bought due to an advert. Discuss findings.

(2) Memories of what first frightened individual students.

(3) Show clip of Skins or similar and ask why they would watch programs like this. Put categories on board.

(4) Homework – watch something as a family – survey what different people thought about it / gender / age / class diff opinions?

(5) Survey class – how many have made something and uploaded it? How many have been in something?

(6) Watch episode of something and identify the stages of narrative.

(7) What is New York Like? How many have been there? How do they know what they know? Probably from the media.

Or what do they know about John Terry, Tiger Woods, Gordon Brown? Probably nothing but what they’ve learned from the media.

(8) Watch this episode see how many of the different aspects the students can identify and illustrate; could give them a grid to fill in.

(9) Role play: give the students cards with a variety of character profiles on e.g. hotel owner, factory owner, business man etc. plus others e.g. single-mother with 2 year old child, woman who gets pregnant and tells boss, married man with 3 children… the latter category have to apply for jobs and the former have to choose who to give the jobs to, why and why not.

(10) Exercise – if you weren’t here what would you be doing? Or what were you told from a very young age? E.g. be good, work hard, get good grades, get a good job, get married, have children, be a good citizen, keep the law.

(11) Mind map hegemonic representations of old people / pensioners.

(12) Research task find examples of anti-hegemonic representations of groups in contemporary media.

(13) Are your chosen texts anti- or hegemonic is it a reflection of their institutional outlook?

(14) Task: make two adverts for the same product [e.g. car] using the same models/ actors e.g. girl in provocative clothes being sold a car by a middle-class salesman versus a female salesperson in a suit using technical language and where the client is a man who doesn’t understand.

(15) Task: film or story board a film sequence of a woman. How would she be viewed? See Skins Episode 1 Tony’s story.

(16) Research the Hays code and see how it affected film making while in place. The Hays Code – Motion Picture Production code of 1930.


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