Narrative research task new
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Narrative research task new
Sam is bullied by George so to get revenge Sam’s older brother and
his two friends lead George into the woods for a “boat ride”. Their
initial plan was to just embarrass the bully but things go wrong when
George starts to bring up the past about the others present. George
ends up getting pushed out of the boat and drowns. The friends then
bury the body. Eventually the guilt gets too much for them so they
come clean to George’s parents and the police and go out to get the
body. George’s video camera is discovered and reveals the whole
A narrative is a story or plot line.
A story is a basic succession of events arranged in a chronological
A plot is a sequence in which the events are shown to the
spectator. Often different to a story.
A story must include a goal orientated protagonist that the audience
will love and follow. There must also be a set reason for the
characters action (character motivation). The whole story must have
a continuous theme or idea which is shown throughout the whole
tale and put at an end. There must be a resolution at the end to make
the story seem finished as the situation is resolved. Everything must
have a causality and reason for it happening.
Toderov’s theory states that there are stages of a films narrative.
Initial equilibrium – normal life
Disequilibrium – where normal life is disrupted
Taking Action – restoring the balance
Different equilibrium – a new normal life
All of Toderov’s stages of narrative are evident in the film Mean
Initial equilibrium is shown when the setting is a normal school
with the idea of a weaker kid (Sam) being bullied by a stronger one
Disequilibrium is shown through the “revenge” arranged by Sam’s
older brother where it goes wrong and George ends up drowning.
Taking Action is shown where those involved decide to come clean
to George’s parents and the police, taking them to the site where
they left George’s body.
Different equilibrium isn’t so much as shown but suggested as
those involved in the incident have to live with the guilt of what
they have done.
Propp’s theory states that there are several common characters that
have to present for a narrative and there are specific stages the
characters have to go through. These characters are:
The Hero- Overcome barriers to reach resolution at the end of the
The Princess – The reward for the hero at the resolution.
The Villain –Tries to prevent the hero from restoring equilibrium.
The Donor – Give the hero information or an object to help him on
The Sidekick – The hero’s ally and companion.
The False Hero - perceived as good character in beginning but
emerges as evil.
The dispatcher - character who makes the quest known and sends
the hero off
There are only a few of Propp’s characters in the film and these are
still only vague showings:
The Hero – Even though he is the one to plan the “revenge” Sam’s
older brother is the one to dive in after George to try and save him
and is also the one who decides to come clean. These are vague
hero qualities as he is overcoming barriers to reach a new way of
The Villain – Even though George could be classed as a villain the
character of Marty is the main villain, even after the others wanted
to call of the plan he still wanted to go along, he was also the only
one that didn’t come clean as he ran away, this is a villains quality
because he tries to convince the others to keep the secret –
preventing the reach of new equilibrium.
Other characters would not come under any of the titles designed by
Levi-Strauss’s theory stated that the way we understand
certain words and ideas doesn’t depend on any meaning they
directly contain, but by our understanding of the difference
between the word and its 'opposite' or, as he called it 'binary
He believed that binary oppositions are vital to the
development of the story as the battle between the opposites
is what drives the story forward.
The Binary Opposite present throughout the film is Right vs Wrong.
This is shown in different situations such as:
The bullying situation between George and Sam.
The hiding of George’s body.
Coming out about the situation to the police.
This is quite a conventional binary opposite in Thrillers as this is the
main argument in most situations.
Barthes’s theory states that there are several combinations of
narrative codes that will create an impression of reality.
Hermeneutic/Enigma code – all things which express a question,
it’s response and a variety of chance events which can either form
the question or delay its answer.
Semic code – the way that characters, objects and settings take on
a particular meaning.
Symbolic code – codes which signify Levi-Strauss’s binary
Proairetic/Action code – the codes of behaviour that we
understand from other narratives. Often used to advance the
Cultural/Referential code – refer to “a common stock of culture”
There are a couple of Barthes’s codes that are obviously present in
the film Mean Creek:
Proairetic/Action code – The game of truth or dare is a commonly
used idea in narratives of Thriller/Horror films and something
almost always goes wrong so the audience already anticipate a
problem occurring when the game is mentioned.
Symbolic code – The bullying situation between Sam and George
is the way to express the binary opposite of right vs wrong.
The theories of Toderov, Propp, Levi-Strauss and Barthes are quite
useful as they give you the basic ideas of what is successful for the
narratives of films: the situations, characters, themes and realism.
These are the most important aspects of the film as they make the
story both interesting and believable.
However they give you the idea that each stage and character MUST
be present during every story otherwise it wouldn’t flow as it should
do, which isn’t the case as some successful films don’t contain all the
characters that “should” be present.
I think that Levi-Strauss’s theory of Binary Oppositions is the most
useful because most if not all films of any genre (especially Thrillers)
have an argument between two factors whether it be Right vs Wrong
or Sanity vs Insanity. There are many Binary Opposites that can be
present in a film and I believe without them the story wouldn’t be
interesting and wouldn’t have a complete narrative.
I think that Propp’s theory is the least useful because not every film
has an obvious Hero and Villain and some barely include the other
characters that “should” be included. Also it gives false ideas about
the situations that each character must go through as the main
target for the hero could just be to survive instead of restoring the
equilibrium. I think the theory is misleading and wouldn’t be much
use in this type of genre.
The theories have given me certain ideas that I could possibly use for
my Thriller opening sequence such as:
The Binary Opposition of Right vs Wrong or Sanity vs Insanity
The idea of foreshadow of a disequilibrium
A hero and Villain
Semic code, Symbolic code and Proairetic/Action code
I will however be challenging some of the some of the characters
stated by Propp because I don’t want the female to seem like a prize
but to be her own person.
Narrative and Genre: Key Concepts in Media Studies – Nick Lacey