Week 9 Individual Task

This week’s Key Concept is focusing on the representation of genders in the media. Being a product of society, the media has changed alot (albeit very slowly) since the early 20th century. In films women were almost exclusively objects of affection and protection for the main characters. It was a cliché for women to fall over whilst running from somesort of predator before a character saves her (if she is saved at all).

Harry Enfield parodied these old fashioned views in the media and wider society with his ‘Women, Know Your Limits’ comedy sketches in the form of 1950s public service broadcasts. These sketches showed a woman in the company of other men or male-owned objects, where a narrator portrays how a woman should and shouldn’t act in the scenarios. At first the woman will attempt to act equal to the male characters, before making a mistake and the narrator then showing how she should have acted. For example, the men will be talking about important things like politics and the economy, before the woman decides to talk too, with the narrator point out “Oh dear, what’s this? One of the women is about to embarrass us all; the lady as foolishly decided to joint he convocation with a wild and dangerous opinion of her own, what half-baked dribble! See how the men look at her with utter contempt”. After some 1950’s style diagrams explaining how further&higher education in women causes them to be unattractive. The woman is then instructed to state her love of fluffy kittens, with the woman whole-heartedly taken on this advice as it “shows her natural sweetness shine through” with the ideological message being that attracting admiration from suitable men is her primary goal in life, with intelligent thought being dangerous and unnatural.

Female characters have become increasingly more equal to their male counterparts, although there are still traces of old ideologies. Though having said that, there is also the ‘breadwinning idiot’ stereotype where the man of the household lacks the charisma and intellect of his wife or another equivalent female character despite him being the ‘breadwinning’ provider with a job. This is most notable in sitcoms such as The Simpsons and many advertisements. It’s all to prevalent in advertisements where the wife or girlfriend will scoff at her male partner’s inability at working the female-aimed product or some other bonding of ‘sisterhood’. For example, an advert for a laxative brand in the UK involved a group of women sitting around a café table whilst discussing the sensitive subject of constipation problems. At the end of the advert, one of the women says to her friends “I recently had an embarrassing problem, until I dumped him”, upon which all her friends laugh. Although this doesn’t fit exactly to the Homer Simpson ‘breadwinning idiot’ stereotype, it does show how advertisements use gender identity as a form of bonding with the consumer and creating a more believable social setting by adding a social anecdote that has absolutely nothing to do with the advertised product, as if they’re just chatting instead of being paid to promote the product.

The ‘lads magazine’ Nuts done a male reversal of this style of advertising with their “Women, don’t expect any help on a Thursday” series of adverts. These involved blatantly sexist scenes in which a woman struggles to complete stereotypically male jobs such as fixing a car engine or using DIY tools, while the man sits back and reads his weekly issue of Nuts. The joke being that men find Nuts so good to read that there are no men available on Thursdays to complete the ‘manly’ tasks.


Week 8 Individual Task

The media text I have chosen to base my Week 8 Indivdual task on is the film ‘Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society’ (2006). In my Cabinet of Curiosities I described how the Ghost in the Shell series has been a highly original and inspirational part of the animated film industry. During this Week 8 task I will be assessing it in terms of its narrative structure and ideological message.

While Ghost in the shell is in many ways original, it also conforms to the narrative conventions and character archetypes of Tzvetan Todorov and Vladimir Propp. Much like the start of a James Bond film, this film starts with an introductory action sequence where the main characters complete a hostage rescue mission in an airport all within just five minutes of the film starting. This sequence represents the initial ‘equilibrium’ of the narrative, as the lack of an established plot or the risk of a main character in dire peril creates a representation of ‘everything is ok, business as usual’ for the high-tec police team, as well as giving a hint to the later plot.

This plot then thickens as it is apparent that a powerful hacker known as “the Puppeteer” is behind a string of child kidnappings and suspicious suicides, making up the ‘Disruption’ part of the narrative. The ‘Hero’ in the narrative is played by Batou and the rest of the main characters of the Section 9 team as they go about their investigation in combating the Puppeteer, being the ‘Villan’. Chief Aramaki plays the Dispatcher and Donor roles as usual, being the commander and in some ways a fatherly figure as he sets Section 9 on their mission and supplies them with various equipment.

The Major and her Tachikoma robots play the role of the Helper, as she is no longer part of Section 9 but is almost always listening-in on their actions and giving them help in desperate situations, being a kind of ‘deus ex machina’. The Major plays a very similar role in the second Ghost in the Shell film (this being the third), yet in the two 26 episode series’ she is undoubtedly the main character or ‘Hero’. From the very start of the film it is apparent that the Major is close to Section 9 and the wider plot, as she is seen on top of a shipping crane as she listens in to Section 9’s radio convocations, commenting to herself on the significance of the Puppeteer. The Major can even at times appear to be a false villain or ‘red herring’ as she spies on the team, steals Batou’s car and is rumoured to be the Puppeteer. She is then ‘unmasked’ as the Helper, with the appearance of Batou’s car being a hint of her return.

The ‘Princess’ in this narrative would be the kidnapped children, later including the kidnapping of Togusa’s (a main Section 9 member) daughter and then Togusa himself. Like many other police dramas, the attempt to repair the disruption takes the form of various obstacles which give the team more information once defeated; in this case being a mercenary sniper, the kidnapping of Togusa’s daughter and the organisation responsible for the Puppeteer. The Major reaffirms her role of the Helper and former Section 9 member as she and her re-embodied robots join Section 9 in the fight to stop the organisation responsible for the Puppeteer. The end result being a restoration to the equilibrium or a where the Major and other Section 9 members assess the aftermath and continue in a similar career path.

With the government minister and one of his colleagues being revealed as the ones responsible behind the programming of the health service’s malicious computer system which the Puppeteer was a part of, a narrative ideological message would be that power corrupts and the police force in the form of Section 9 upholds the law with impartiality. As the Puppeteer was a computer program that designated children to be talk.

Week 7 Individual Task

For this task, the range of media texts I have chosen to compare are from the gangster-crime genre of films. The ‘Gangster’ genre epitomises the urge to be rebellious yet also rich and part of a group, escaping the law and/or establishment on one’s way to infamy and fortune.

Over the years Hollywood has created a romanticised view of organised crime. Today’s Italian Mafia in Naples use the falsely glamorous Hollywood image as a recruiting sergeant for their violent trade, so much so that one mafia boss designed his mansion to be a near-perfect replica of the mansion in the move ‘Scarface’. This mansion was later seized by the local authorities and converted into a physiotherapy clinic.

The three gangster-crime films I have chosen to compare are ‘Hitman’, ‘Lord of War’ and ‘The Shinjuku Incident’.

1. what elements of each of the objects seem to be the same?

‘Hitman’ and ‘Lord of War’ both contain a central male anti-hero, a female supporting actor playing as his love interest, with the anti-hero trying to continue with their business whilst being hunted down by an international INTERPOL agent. The odd thing being that both films failed to realise that there is no such thing as an individual INTERPOL agent with international jurisdiction. Though it’s more likely that the producers did know this fact, but decided to have a character as an international agent so that the plots kept with a single antagonist, rather than a different INTERPOL agent appearing in each national location. Indeed these two movies do show a lot of countries, with the anti-heroes globe-trotting throughout the films. ‘The Shinjuku Incident’ shares many elements of the ‘gangster/crime’ genre with the other two with its guns and violence, characters vying for the attention of the girl and making the typical ‘rags to riches’ American dream come true.

2. What elements mark each object out as being different from the
rest that you have chosen?

The most significant difference between the three films is their plot. Hitman is about an orphan trained from birth to be a super-assassin (though in the PC games he is a genetically engineered clone), Lord of War is about a someone sells weapons all around the world yet never fires a single one, and The Shinjuku Incident is about an illegal Chinese immigrant in Japan on a rags-to-riches journey to become a crime boss.

This makes the style of the films very different. ‘Hitman’, like other films based on games, does not do well as a stand-alone product. Not only does it deviate a lot from the game that it’s based on, it also isn’t very original or inspiring on its own.

‘Lord of War’ on the other hand, is a much more serious film which is loosely based on the real-life career of Victor Bout, the most infamous arms dealer in the world. The human rights charity ‘Amnesty International’ even supports the film as it “illustrates the deadly impact of the uncontrolled global arms trade.” The aspects which make this film so different from the many other crime films in the genre is that the anti-hero is not a gangster, but a businessman. This anti-hero’s evil lies not with violence directly, but in his shrewd commercial exploitation of global conflicts, particularly the civil wars of west Africa in the 1990’s.

Week 6 Individual Task

[See 72 Hour Project page]

Week 5 Individual Task

In this week we were asked “In what ways could your media object ‘influence’ the minds of a vulnerable audience?” and the further question “What possible negative ‘effect’ does this media object have on the audience and society?”

The object which I have chosen from my Cabinet of Curiosities is ‘Waltz with Bashir’, and being a documentary, it was designed to influence people from the start. Director Air Folman said that many films have had an anti-war message, but teenage boys still admire the main character as an action hero, they’ll want to be that action hero. He goes on to say that in his film, the audience are be made to feel that they do not wish to be there at all, as the lead character or anyone else.

Folman achieves this by interviewing several people who were involved in the Lebannon War of 1982, along with Folman himself trying to regain his lost memories of the conflict. The film draws the audience in with the appearance of a war movie, and yet it leaves the audience very sobered as it reveals its documental message of a real war told by real people. Instead of the traditional narrative showing a heroic figure battling though a tough warzone, this film is a patchwork of personal experiences told by various Isreali soldiers and journalists as Folman steadily regains the memories of his own involvement. It touches on some very sensitive issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the ‘Sabra and Shatila’ massacre.

In one scene, Folman interviews post-trauma expert Prof. Zahava Solomon as she describes over an animated sequence an example of one of her patients. The Isreali soldier in question progressed through his military service in Lebannon with an imaginary journalistic ‘camera’ behind is eyes, which he would use to mentally distance himself from the dramatic scenes of war happening around him as if he’s just watching a news broadcast. But one day his mental camera “broke” as he was entering some recently bombed horse stables. To represent the soldier’s sudden mental breakdown from the horrors of war, the animated sequence shows the metaphorical film tape faltering and then working again but this time as a moving image instead of the censored still camera shots, illustrating that he cannot escape the environment he’s in as the many horses slowly die around him. Scenes like this and others may have the negative effect on audiences which are less ‘numb’ to violence. Like how many people we shocked when seeing the palestinian’s leg shot off in the separate movie.

Week 4 Individual Task

Class can be a very controversial and political issue, with contradicting views of a “classless Britain” and the “class war”. Yet despite the debates over it, the media as an industry has long had a ‘socio-economic class table’ which categorises the classes for the purpose of market research, categorising the target audience for a given product. The words ‘Socio-economic’ represent that this represents your social and financial standing. Though with the mentioning of job positions, the focus is clearly on finance.

A. Upper Class – ,Senior Management
B. Middle Class – Middle management, senior technicians
C1. Lower Middle Class – Junior management,
C2. Skilled Working Class – Electricians, builders
D. Working Class – Manual labour, factory workers.
E. Unemployed

This table is not universal, as there are other forums of it which include labels such as ‘A1’, which is applied to the super rich.

I think that Ghost in the Shell is focused on E and C1, being students and young professionals. Its material value is only about £10-£20, though the series costs considerably more as it is in several instalments, groups of 3. It is targeted at an 18 to 35 year old audience who is also interested in animated foreign cinema. Being a niche market which has never been on British terrestrial television, it can be presumed that it is not the mainstream TV watching audience. However, it can be hard to put a price-tag on taste.

Nintendo is ever broadening its market horizons, so its Wii console could be harder to pin-down on the table. However, there is still the traditional teenage audience, which is E under a roof with C2-C1 parents looking for mid-cost entertainment. There is also the increasingly wider market of people who do brain training, Wii Fitness and other games which appeal to wide, non-teenage audience.

Waltz with Bashir, like Ghost in the Shell is foreign language animated cinema. Being a hard-hitting documentary, one my expect that it is aimed at the older C1-B Markets who lived though the early 1980s which the documentry is based in. But the director purposely aimed this at the teenage/student market, giving this documentary elements of a dramatic war film, enticing the E market.

Week 2/3 Individual Tasks

The media object that I have chosen to work on is the online drama ‘Tempting Fates’. It is Produced by Eye Film and TV, which is named after the Director’s home village of Eye in Suffolk. However, the production company itself has always been based in Norwich, Norfolk. Eye Film and TV is an independent production company owned by Frank Prendergast, who founded it 34 years ago.

As part of Tempting Fates’ production, Red Eye Pictures was set up and is owned by Eye Film and TV, which often focuses on drama and documentaries. Some of these Documentaries produced by Eye Film and TV have been League of Monkeys for Animal Planet, Beechings Tracks for BBC4 and Country Lives for ITV. With their dramas being The Secret of Eel Island for Five and Talk to be for BBC3.