Hi again! Last week I took you through a revision of our codes and conventions, which are really the building blocks in terms of terminology for the Narrative and Ideology section of your studies. Over the next two posts, I wanted to move further into that unit of study by revising the ideological and institutional contexts in which media narratives are produced. The most comprehensive way to do this is to look at these contexts with reference to the Media Narrative Production Process, which looks a bit like this:
We can track the ways that ideological and institutional contexts shape each step in this process. Let’s jump right in!
I think the most important thing to remember here is that narratives are the products of the time and place they were created. In saying this, there are a few factors we need to consider:
● Time and Location of Production
● Dominant Ideology Present in Text
● Values and Beliefs (Ideology) of the Time
● Evidence (things that happened in society at the time/location that show these values and beliefs were present)
So when we mention that an ideology exists in a certain narrative text we studied, we need evidence to back this up. One example I like to use comes from the 1984 classic film The Terminator. We could argue that this film conveys the ideology present in America in 1984 that ‘technology could be dangerous to society in the future.’ We would need some real-world evidence to back up this claim. One great piece of evidence I’ve found comes from this article, which used Google’s software to search how many times the word ‘computerphobia’ was used in books and newspapers in recent history. Here’s the results:
Looking at this evidence, we can ask ourselves: did movies like The Terminator cause people to become scared of computers, or did their existing ideology around computers lead to that fear showing up in popular films? I would argue that the latter is true.
Ideologies can also definitely impact the distribution of a narrative text - this is most commonly seen in examples of censorship. One example of this comes from 2017, when the film Wonder Woman was released globally in cinemas - well, not quite. The film was banned in Lebanon. This is because the lead actress Gal Gadot had undertaken compulsory military service in Israel when she was younger. Since Lebanon and Israel were in conflict, the Lebanese government did not think it was appropriate for their citizens to see Gadot on screen, and therefore banned the film. We can also see examples of government censorship in places like China, where Western films and social media platforms are often heavily restricted or banned. One interesting reversal of this idea is the way Chinese markets influence Hollywood production and distribution - producers of Western media have grown increasingly conscious of what they include in their films, because of the money they can earn in China. This has led to scenes involving homosexuality in films such as Bohemian Rhapsody being removed in Chinese theaters - ideology has affected how this film was distributed in different situations.
The ideologies we hold as a society can also affect how and why we choose to consume media narratives. Returning to the example of Wonder Woman, one interesting thing to note is that the film became the highest-grossing DC superhero film of its time. Why is this the case? Well, one argument is that it was due to its progressive and well-received ideology of feminism. The film is written and shot spectacularly, but what made it special was that it involved a lot of exposure and empowerment for women in the superhero genre for the first time. Gal Gadot stepped out into a world led by male superheroes, and was backed up by female director Patty Jenkins. This may explain why it was consumed so widely and successfully. This also leads us to talk about:
The fact that so many people loved the film Wonder Woman might be explained for the same reason. Because feminism is a dominant ideology across the world, this barrier-breaking film would have appealed to and satisfied many people who chose to watch it. Of course, people who held opposing views or beliefs may not have enjoyed the film. In both cases, ideology has guided the way we respond to and draw meaning from the narrative.
That’s all for ideological contexts - I’ll return to talk about institutional contexts next week. In the meantime, I really hope you’ve all had a chance to relax and focus your studies during school holidays. I’m also really happy to hear that Year 12s will be heading back into face-to-face learning ahead of schedule, which will be invaluable to you all in the lead up to November! Good luck again to anyone who hasn’t yet had their Agency and Control SAC - if you need some pointers on that, you can check out my earlier posts. See you next week!
Have a question?
In the final weeks before exams Stefan will be hosting 2 Live Q&A sessions to help everyone get fully prepared for exams. If you have a question on how to best get prepared, have been stuck on an exam question or want to clarify an area of content send it through here, and Stefan might answer it live!