Media Theorists


Narrative theory

Vladimir Propp:

By looking at existing folk tales, he identified a series of typical characters:

  • The hero
  • The Villain
  • The donor
  • The dispatcher
  • The false hero
  • The helper
  • The princess
  • Her father
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Narrative Theory

Tzvetan Todorov

Identified 5 stages of narrative/plot:

  • Equilibrium
  • A disruption of the equilibrium
  • A realisation of the disurption
  • An attempt to repair the damge left by the disruption
  • A restoration of equilibrium
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Narrative Theory


Was a sturcturalist philosopher and looked at the world as a series of opposites. He called these Binary Opposites. These can be applied to characters, themes and symbolism.


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Narrative Theory

When a person reads a text, they are creating new meanings from the text iteself and from previous experiences of consuming similar texts. He called this 'Negotiated meaning'.

The enigma code refers to the hook or sense of mystery that attracts the reader in the first place. There are 2 codes:

  • The hermeneutic Code: Any element of the story that is not fully explained and hence becomes a mystery to the reader. (Typically used to keep the audience guessing)
  • The Proarietic Code:: Builds on tension, referring to any other action or event that indicates something else is going to happen, and which hence gets the reader guessing as to what will happen next.
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Representation Theory

Richard Dyer:

How we are seen determines how we are treated. How we treat others is based on how we see them. How we see them comes from representation.

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Representation Theory


"Identities are not given, but are constructed and negotiated"

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Representation Theory

Walter Lippmann:

Stereotypes allow us to categorise certain people or groups, we identify them through certain features, such as patterns of behaviour, clothes, patterns of speech.

In media texts, they are a constructed, and quite often an exaggerated version of 'Reality'.

They represent a dominant ideology of the producer.

Stereotypes in a media text allow the audience to make quick assumptions about their feelings for the character and their role.

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Representation Theory

Richard Dyer:

Developed Lippmans definition of stereotypices by explaining how they have four functions:

  • An ordering process: They help us to organise what we see in the world and order them into categories, allowing us to make easy sense of them.
  • A short cut: Stereotypes are rather simple, straightforward representations of people. They help us to make quick, though rash and harsh judgements of people.
  • A way of referring to the world: A refelection of the world we live in?
  • An expression of 'our' values and beliefs: Are they really the way we think, or are they part of a dominant ideology that have been presented to us by media producers.
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Representation Theory

Roland Barthes:

Idea of denotation and connotation. Denotation is the literal description of something and Connotation is the meanings/ symbolism / interpretations that we apply to something. 

These things will depend on the audiences personal experiences, beliefs, education, knowledge etc.

Signs are polysemic - They have more than one meaning or interpretation according to different people.

Barthes also referred to representations as 'Myths' meaning that they have the appearance ofbeing natural, realistic or having common sense.

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Representation Theory

Richard Dyer:

Posed some important questions about how representation work:

  • Who or what is being represented and how is it representative of certain groups?
  • How is it created? Micro details
  • Who created it and what is their intention? What ideology/ message/ stereotype did they intend to show?
  • What is the effect of the audience? How do we respond to the representation? Link to audience theory concepts.

Study of signs/symbols and how they might represent/stand for something.

The signifier - The sign/object itself

The Signified - The meaning we attach to the sign.

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Genre Theory

David Chandler:

"Conventional definitions of genre are basen on the idea that they share particular convention of content e.g. Themes or setting"

  • Have typical features that they all share.
  • We know what to expect
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Genre Theory

Steve Neale:

"Genres are instances of repetition and difference; this is what pleasure for the audience is derived from"

  • All similar but have to be original
  • Audience want familiarity but cant be boring
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Genre Theory

John Hartley:

"The same text can belong to different genres in different countries or times"

  • Can talk about hybrids
  • Different times and places have different views
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Genre Theory

David Buckingham:

"Genre is a constant process of negotiation and change"

  • Similar to Steve Neale (Can Link them)
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Genre Theory

John Fiske:

"Genre attempts to structure some order into the wide range of texts and meanings that circulate in our culture for the conveniences of both producers and audiences".

  • Puts it into a category
  • Easy to make supply and demand
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Genre Theory


There are five functions of genre:

  • Reinforcement of a cultures ideas and values (Reflects the culture and lifestyle of that society)
  • Creation of a set of audience expectations (Idea of what youre going to see)
  • Creation of characteristics by producers which audiences recognise
  • A relationship between audiences and producers which minimises the risk of financial failure
  • Dynamism and flexibility - Constantly transforming with new examples
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Audience Theory


Idea that the audience passively accepts what they institution is feeding them (They don't challenge it or process it).

Suggests that the experiences, intelligence, opinions and interpretations of the viewer are not relevant when receiving the text.

Suggests that we are easily influenced by what we receive, and our behaviours and thinking could be manipulated/swayed.

This theory is responsible for theories of moral panic.

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Audience Theory


'Audiences are not blank sheets of paper on which media messages can be written; members of an audience will have prior attitudes and beliefs which will determine how effective media messages are'

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Audience Theory

Bulmer + Katz:

Audience are able to make choices what they do when consuming a text. Means the audience can actively consume a text for different reasons in different ways.

They stated that following purposes/uses of a text by an audience:

  • Diversion - Escapism (Getting away from everyday problems)
  • Personal Relationships - (e.g. soap operas, or TV or in film franchises)
  • Personal Identity - (e.g. the Intbetweeners movie being able to understand your emotions, identity, feelings, morals and behaviour by emphasising with a characters situation)
  • Information and education (Finding out about the world we live in)
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Audience Theory

Stuart Hall:

Suggested that producers/creators of texts 'encoded' their products with certain features/symbols/themes/ideas that related to their own social and cultural backgrounds.

However once the reader decoded that text then the meanings intended by the producer may change because the viewer may not have the same social and cultural backgroundor experiences as the creator.

Encoding - Symbols we interpret

Decoding - Us working it out

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Media Language


Semiotics - The study of signs. This means a text contains signifiers and the signified, making meanings open to interpretation (Polysemic) and engaging the audience by making them take notice of small details/clues.

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