youth representation

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In one sense, youth pictures only became possible when the target audience itself came into existence- arguably in the 1950's. In previous times, 'children' turned into 'adults' at around the age of 14. At this stage, young people left scholl and started work. As wages rose after the Second World War, young people began to earn money which could be spent on a range of new products, including records and clothes. Two markers of the 'birth of the teenager' and thus youth fashion- in the UK the so-called 'teddy-boy' (and girl) look in the early 1950s- and rock 'n roll, from 1955 onwards. The film industry responded to this change by both creating films around teenage life and akso injecting popular music into ohterwise straight dramatic films. There was also a conscious attempt to create new young stars at this time- including attempts to lure rock 'n roll singers into the movies such as Elvisd Presley etc.

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  • Authority must be challenged
  • The outward display of defiance is expressed thorugh music/ fashion/ etc.
  • The central character is likely to be rebelious in some way and to be treated as the romantic figure
  • The timescale is usually quite compressed
  • Many youth pictures will include 'adults' as lead characters
  • They may see characters 'grow' and mature
  • Questions of narrative 'closure' will be important. Closure will mean that youth has been 'socialised' -brought into the adult world
  • Classic plots will include: high school conflicts/ putting on a show/ rise to stardom/ delinquency
  • Crosses with other genres will be common
  • They will appear directly to the target audience by means of these highly marketable features: young stars/ music/ fashion/ sex/ violence/ comedy
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The tale will probably be more complicated than this but we can immediately recognise Propp's six groups of narrative functions:

1. PREPARATION: various actions which make it more likely that trouble will break out

2. COMPLICATION: actions which lead to a loss or lack that must be put right

3. TRANSFERENCE: the hero begins the quest

4. STRUGGLE: hero and villain fight

5. RETURN: hero has to get back unscathed

6. RECOGNITION: hero is rewarded, villain is punished

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Many people's 'common sense' definition of narratives is that they have a beginning, middle and an end. Tzvetan Todorov showed that, basically, narrative is a casual transformation and that this transformation follows a common pattern:

1. a state of equilibrium at the outset- PREPARATION

2. a disruption of the equilibrium by some action- COMPLICATION

3. a recognition that there has been a disruption- TRANSFERENCE

4. an attempt to repair the disruption- STRUGGLE

5. a reinstatement of the equilibrium- RETURN AND RECOGNITION

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Levi-Strauss' idea suggests that the function of narratives is to resolve irreconcilable contradictions. For instance, one can't be both a child and adult; so what happens in the transition between childhood and adult life? This is one of the dilemmas that is articulated in youth pictures.

Suggested narrative oppositions in youth pictures:

  • youth v authority (-parents/law/teachers)
  • children v adult (- sexual/responsibility)
  • sub-culture v old culture (- bikers/mods & rockers/gangs/drugs)
  • innocence v cynicism
  • immaturity v maturity
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