For this week I am researching into Todorov and Propp’s theroies of narrational structure. Here is a brief description of what each theroist believes every story should have:
Todorov- Each story should start with an equilibrium where everything is fine, something must then happen to disrupt this, there must then be an attempt to correct this disruption and the story can then only be concluded when the equillibrium is restored or ‘enhanced’ (for example on enhanced the main character may have learnt something important about himself along the way)
Propp – ‘Morphology of the Folk Tale’
accoridng to Propp each story must have characters with these characteristics:
Hero – Answers call/Claims princess
Villian – Main goal is to stop the hero reaching his goal
Donor – Provides hero with mission and gives them a new skill
Helper – Provides support to hero along the way
Princess/Damsel In Distress – Innocent girl in danger/reward for hero’s completion of tasks
Father Figure – usually the father of the damsel in distress or the replacement for the fatherly role
Dispatcher – Sets hero on their way
False Hero – Takes credit for the hero’s actions to get near the princess
I will now compare some fairly modern pieces to see if these theroies are valid and if so why?
Piece 1 – Star Wars – A New Hope
My first piece is a piece that supports both Todorov and Propp’s theories’ In terms of an equilibrium in the film this is Luke skywalker’s simple, lovely life that he is able to live with however a disruption has taken place elsewhere which will involve him later on. Focusing on Luke’s character His disequilibrium is caused by his ambition to join the rebel alliance and the murders of his Aunty and Uncle, his recognition is interlinked between the two as the recognition of the reasons his droids are on the planet is the reason the disruption (that directly affects him) takes place. His attempt to right the wrongs is to save the ‘princess’ (I’ll get back to that soon) and destroy the empire as revenge, the ‘enhanced’ equilibrium occurs when Luke skywalker destroys the death star and the alliance celebrates victory. In terms of Propp’s theory here is the list of characteristics followed by the character which fits the role Hero- Luke Skywalker
Villain – Darth Vader
Donor – Obi Won Kenobi (Provides magical use of the force)
Helper(s) C3P0 & R2D2, Han Solo & Chewbacca
Princess – Leia
Father Figure – Kenobi (again)
Dispatcher – Han Solo (provides ship for Luke to use and also service at a cost)
The False Hero – (although not revealed in this film) a false hero could be bestowed on Anakin Skywalker as his legend is of a Jedi that died in the field of battle, rather than the one that became Darth Vader which is revealed in the 2nd/5th film (depending on way you view the film series)
Although George Lucas himself may disagree with me in saying that Star Wars follows the theories’ exactly (particularly when viewing the series as a whole) I conclude that all the elements that Todorov and Propp concluded from their studies are present in this motion picture.
Piece 2 – Coca Cola advertisement
This piece does loosely follow Todorov’s Narrative structure but the changes in situation are almost instantaneous for example, the equilibrium is disrupted in under a second, the car being driven is being controlled dangerously creating a state of disruption and also at this time the recognition takes place as the other ‘characters’ move out of the way or are cautious or fearing the protagonist. The attempt to right the wrongs is brought forward by the protagonist himself when instead of doing what is implied (stealing a car and beating a man up) he hands him a bottle of coca-cola thus in one movement skipping straight past the attempt in a second and going into the new ‘enhanced equilibrium’ where everybody is happy and the man is righting the wrongs of the city (putting out fires, etc…) whilst handing out bottles of coke. Although it is an advert lasting just over a minute, it follows all of Todorov’s narrative structure guidelines. However apart from a hero character I don’t see any evidence to support Propp’s folk tale theory for this piece Piece that does not follow either structure.
Piece 3 – ‘Berklays Bank’ Article in the sun newspaper 24/11/2009
(online version available here http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2743002/Barclays-Bank-staff-leave-front-door-wide-open-at-weekend.html)
This piece I found was easy to find a narrartional structure despite being only a few paragraphs long. The equillibrium is that staff are leaving the bank as normal, however the disruption to this is that they have left the door leading to behind the tills unlocked, the recognition of this is the student discovering this error, the attempt is the student calling the police and waiting at the bank until they arrived and the enhanced equilibrium is the bank fixing the door and adding new security measures
Metal Gear Awesome
This is an interesting piece to use against Todorov and Propp’s theories as it is both a web based piece and also requires prior knowledge and experience for the viewer to understand the story and humour (In this case playing the first few missions in the original metal gear solid video game)
In the case of an initial equilibrium this does exist but is not shown in the story it is suggested (admittedly again from the game rather than this parody) that things were ok but something has come along to disrupt that equilibrium (In this case the discovery of the existence of the weapon ‘Metal Gear’ and the recognition and attempt to change this (I.E: make sure the weapon is not activated) is where the story starts, this never changes in the whole story (in the animation) although progress is shown in character achievement and understanding, The hero is no closer to the goal at the end of the story, (due to the player ‘quitting’ the game) In essence this story only ever contains the ‘attempt’ to change the disequilibrium state.
Of course when Todorov wrote his theories, the internet and video games were not even close to existent, let alone parodies of the two beings, a lot of current media I feel can get away with ignoring a narrative structure or at the very least miss out a few steps. A great example of a medium that doesn’t always follow Todorov’s guidelines is that of music videos. Yes! There is a basic plot there (band playing a song usually) but there is a lot of occasion where the is little narration progression (as in nothing really changes) Here is an example from the band ‘Pulled Apart by Horses’
…maybe if you don’t like the band the silence at the start could be the equilibrium and the silence at the end is the ‘enhanced’ equilibrium, but that is obviously not the point of the video. The ‘story’ in this and most other music videos is irrelevant when compared to the style and attention grabbing visuals I also tried to see if Propp’s theories’ could be applied to ‘Metal Gear Awesome’. The characteristics are as follows and if a character meets that characteristic they shall appear beside it.
Hero- Solid Snake
Villain – Liquid Snake
Donor – N/A
Helper(s) Colonel, Mei Ling and Jesus
Princess (although never shown the princess/reward for completion is Meryl’s number, but the abrupt ending means the character never reaches this reward; unless you watch the sequel)
Father Figure – N/A
Dispatcher – Colonel could also count as a dispatcher as he sets Snake on his quest.
The False Hero – N/A
Interestingly most of the characteristics are apparent in ‘MGA’ however as mentioned previously most of the roles are defined by viewers expectations before watching the video based on their prior specialist knowledge. (For example McDonald Miller is really Liquid Snake in disguise) In conclusion I feel that a lot of modern media can avoid the theories’ of todorov and prop to an extent, stories don’t necessarily need a conclusion, things don’t need to return to normal, things don’t even need to make complete sense to be successful in getting a message across. However a lot of stories do still follow these structures and they will be used forever. A full movie would be very difficult to make sense of without either Todorov’s and/or Propp’s theories’ being used one way or another.
“This is it.”
No, not the Michael Jackson film; this is the most important week of my course (so far) I awoke on Monday morning without a clue what I would be doing this week…all I knew was that it was the ’72 hour challenge’ and that I would be working with my 100mc group. I arrived to my lecture and sat with that group expecting the usual lecture followed by a definition of the task; instead it was straight to business with the explanation of the task. The challenge was to create a media item considering the things we’ve learnt from the last few weeks within 72 hours to be presented for Thursday’s lecture, the confiding brief was’ The project we have always wanted to make’.
I was fairly relieved, to be honest as it didn’t seem too difficult to achieve technically, the major problem would be the brief, because we could do almost ‘anything’ I knew there would be divisions within our group over what to do. When you have people with such different lifestyles and ambitions put in one group, there’s bound to be some sort of disagreement right? Good job I was prepared for it then. We met up as a group straight after the lecture to discuss what the project would be…This wasn’t easy. We all decided we wanted to do a video, but beyond that there was little common ground on which we could build up a decent idea. Some were cast aside straight away, others were progressed further but later altered almost completely. We eventually decided to go with an advertisement (although this later turned into a short stop-frame animation) which in Rares words was advertising ‘nothing’ I disagreed with this approach particularly at the early stages as I felt it would be a difficult concept to promote in a short advertisement (it was hard enough to understand in an hour and a half discussion) we eventually decided to promote the idea that it is the public that makes a brand rather than the other way around. We eventually came up with the idea which we would end up filming the next day.
That day we met up to get a tripod for the filming, the items we were using for this project were: A digital camera, A Tripod, A laptop to edit, and a lot of advertisements from print magazines for props. The location was Charlotte J’s kitchen. At this early stage of collecting the tripod we already encountered a problem…THERE WERE NO TRIPOD’S LEFT!!!! I was panicking at this stage, i didn’t feel it’d be possible to film this shoot effectively without a tripod, I was having visions of a very disorientated video, which would make no sense (for a project that’s already seemingly difficult to explain in the first place) We came into a bit of luck and managed to get a desktop tripod (which proved to be enough) The construction of the set went really well. I’m very proud of the work we put in to make it, as i felt it looked professional; it felt really bad to take it down in the end. Charlotte J prepared for her starring role whilst me and Charlotte V were searching for copyright free sounds and effects we could use in the editing stage (I continued this for a while even during the photo taking)
We encountered a few problems in the production stage…One of these was actually deciding what shots to take, for example i suggested a scene in which we shown the items moving towards Charlotte. This was not used in the final production as it seemed to difficult to portray effectively with the little equipment we had, another major problem was the conditions of the shoot, despite the fact the footage we achieved is only about 20 seconds long, it took about an hour and a half in full ‘costume’ for us to achieve this, during this time Charlotte had to stay completely still and in hot conditions because of the paper she was covered in, unfortunately it became a bit much for her and we had to call an end to the production sooner than we would have liked. Despite this we were able to improvise the ending, using my suggestion of video for the final seconds rather than pictures to create a more shocking effect.
When it came to editing we felt restricted, we only had access to basic windows movie maker and the options we had were a lot less than I, at least was used to. Despite this we managed to achieve a decent edit but we ended up having huge discussions over details such as font type and frame length. At the end of this I uploaded it to my YouTube account. www.youtube.com/user/jarv1990 and awaited the premier on Thursday morning.
Nerves settled in on Thursday morning, the video had been up for a day and there had been absolutely no feedback, I kept thinking “Did people like it?” “What’s everyone else’s going to be like?” I sat down with my group for the premiers and anxiously awaited ours. I was impressed by most of the other groups work particularly the other stop-frame piece. When ours loaded up on the projector I struggled to watch, I just expected the whole audience to not have a clue what we were on about, fortunately we seemed to get good responses the people I spoke to afterwards thought we portrayed our idea very well, which was the main thing I personally was worried about.
That’s the gist of what happened during the ’72 hour challenge’ I now await the results of the scores given to each media item, I couldn’t care less if our group wins to be honest, because (despite a few moans) I really enjoyed creating this project and would like to be able to do it again.
There have been a number examples where politicians or/and the print media have made allegations that music, film or video games have been responsible for injecting ideas into the heads of a vulnerable audience i.e. children and teenagers. Let us propose that this theory is true…
I will now collect one item from my cabinet and try to determine the negative ‘influences’ and ‘effects’ that the media item can have on the passive audience.
My example from my cabinet is a CD by the Metal band ‘Slipknot’ This is a good example as there is already a case where two young killers blamed their horrific crime on the Slipknot song ‘Disasterpiece’ particually the lyrics “I wanna slit your throat and fuck the wound” (http://www.chartattack.com/news/34166/young-killers-try-to-blame-slipknot-for-murder)
This isn’t the only example of a metal band being blamed for a murder or suicide, other examples include; Marylin Manson,Cannibal Corpse and Judas Priest and of course their are various examples in other genres including Rap music.
My question is does Metal music influence a vunerable audience? I believe the answer to this is YES. Some of the lyrics are quite vile. while this adds to the appeal to a lot of people (myself included) It can be a negative for a lot of people and some of those people may not be able to control the mental imagery the receive when listening to a certain song. In that case Is Slipknot responsible for those murders? NO. because the music is censored to an extent, every copy of the album will have had an explicit content warning on the cover to warn the purchasers, of course this won’t ever stop people who want to listen to it enough from buying it, but it helps give people an idea of what to expect from it. A better question would be to ask would these killers have committed their crime without the influence of slipknot? I believe maybe not at that time, but if they weren’t easily influenced by music they would have been elsewhere.
I think this shows that ‘slipknot’s’ music can have a negative influence and effect on society and i do believe it should be censored from the vulnerable audiences (E.G Children) as it can lead to negative reactions. However this is in the very small minority of cases (The slipknot CD was a gift for me at the age of Eleven) I believe that any piece of medium has the potential to cause a negative impact. and of course we can’t go censoring everything that ‘could’ negatively somebody. Can we?
From my media diary which i conducted last week i chose one piece of media and researched into who made it and why? I focused on the film ‘Shaun of the Dead’ which was produced by Studio Canal
Film: Shaun Of The Dead
Production Company: Studio Canal
Major or Independant?: Major comapny based in france
Owned by: Vivendi SA
Who also owns: Canal+ TV group and Universial Music also has a controlling stake in Activision Blizzard (Games production comapny)
Revenue for 2008: Vivendi SA’s revenue was €25,392m a 17.2% increase on the year before
Net Income for 2008: Vivendi SA’s net income was €2,735m up 8.4% from the year previous
The film shaun of the dead was made as an entertainment product.
At our group meeting which was conducted on Wednesday the 14th of October we compared what we had found out about the people who had produced each other’s chosen media. These varied from Sports news broadcasters (Sky Sports News) to soaps (Eastenders) and also major american comedy (Family Guy) all of the mediums we chose however were produced by major companies. (Could this be a sign of reluctance to look at independant media?) we were also surprised how much money was involved in running these major companies particually my example Vivendi SA.