Narrative observation lesson new
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Narrative observation lesson new
Applying Narrative theories
to music video
To consolidate your knowledge of
conventional narrative theories.
To gain knowledge and
understanding of postmodern
To apply narrative theories to the
analysis of a music video.
Definitions of Narrative
Narrative is ‘a way of organising spatial and
temporal events into a cause-effect chain of
events with a beginning, a middle, and end
that embodies a judgement about the nature
of events’ (Branigan).
Narrative theory analyses the way in which media
texts communicate meaning about events.
– a range of
or view points are
– one character’s
story or viewpoint is
Approaches to studying
Claude Levi-Strauss = Binary Oppositions
Vladimir Propp = Stock character types
Tzvetan Todorov =5 conventional stages of
Todorov’s approach to narrative
Todorov suggests that all narratives begin with
equilibrium or an initial situation (where
everything is balanced).
This is followed by some form of disruption,
which is later resolved.
With the resolution at the end of the
narrative a new equilibrium is usually
Propp’s approach to narrative
Propp believed that there are seven roles which any character may
assume in the story:
Villain - struggles with hero
Donor - prepares and/or provides hero with magical agent
Helper - assists, rescues, solves and/or transfigures the hero
Princess - a sought-for person who exists as goal and often recognises
and marries hero and/or punishes villain
Dispatcher - sends hero off
Hero - departs on a search (seeker-hero), reacts to donor and weds at end
False Hero - claims to be the hero, often seeking and reacting like a real
Claude Levi-Strauss’s approach
to narrative 9
He observed that all narratives are organised
around the conflict between binary opposites.
Examples of binary opposites
Good vs evil
Black vs white
Boy vs girl
Peace vs war
Civilised vs savage
First world vs third
Articulate vs inarticulate
Young vs old
Protagonist vs antagonist
Action vs inaction
Motivator vs observer
Empowered vs victim
Man vs woman
Good-looking vs ugly
Strong vs weak
Decisive vs indecisive
East vs west
Humanity vs technology
Ignorance vs wisdom
Starter Activity: Narrative
In pairs apply the narrative theory you have
been given to the Taylor Swift music video.
How useful was the approach?
Applying Todorov Theory
Equilibrium – the geeky girl is in
love with the boy next door who
only sees her as a friend.
Disequilibrium – the boy’s
girlfriend cheats on him?
Resolution – the geeky girl is
transformed into a beautiful girl
and gets together with the boy.
What sort of values
are reinforced by
Propp – character types
Hero – character who seeks something – Taylor
Villain – character who the hero must overcome –
Princess – the boy – he is the reward for the hero.
What effect does the use of these character types
Why might the hero and villain be female?
What values are reinforced by this?
Levi-strauss – binary oppositions
The video involves a number of pairs of opposites
reflecting (and resolving) the narrative conflicts.
There are different sets of oppositions between
the jock/the geek, and the cheerleader/the geek.
These oppositions identify the central ideological
messages of the video.
What are the key conflicts?
How are the conflicts resolved?
What messages are conveyed through this
Barthes identifies narrative codes which readers
use to decode (understand) texts.
He emphasises the active role of audiences in
creating meaning, and their ‘culturally formed
The narrative codes are:
Roland Barthes' narrative theory claims that a narrative can be broken down
into codes or sets of rules. These are:
Applies to any action that implies
a further narrative action. Viewers
are expected to connect different
pieces of narrative.
Any element in a narrative that is
dependant on audience prior
Refers to any element in a story
that raises questions and
demands an explanation.
Any element in a text that
suggests an additional meaning
by connotations. For example a
skull has connotations of death.
Barthes – Narrative Codes
(Taylor Swift Video)
Action – Viewers are expected to connect different
pieces of narrative (e.g. The boy is shown arguing
on his phone – viewer assumes it is with his
Enigma – Will the jock and the geek get together?
Semic – glasses, book, notepads, red car,
uniforms, white dress/red dress
Cultural – the video draws on stereotypes/cliches
of teen movies – jock, cheerleader, geek, girl next
door, prom, etc.
Some theorists suggest that postmodern narratives are
different from previous narrative structures.
Characteristics of postmodern narratives include:
Temporal distortion (fragmented narratives)
Hyperreality (representations that are exaggerated)
Postmodern approach -
Frederic Jameson states that postmodern texts are
simply characterised by pastiche.
A pastiche is an imitation of another genre or text.
Linda Hutcheon argues that
postmodern narratives can
critique contemporary society
by calling attention to the
constructed nature of the
Linda Hutcheon develops this view and argues
that postmodern texts use pastiche in a
knowing way acknowledging the constructed
nature of representation.
Does the cliched nature of the Taylor Swift
Video act as a critique of the values it
Modular Narratives “articulate a sense of time as divisible and subject to
Allan Cameron has identified different types of modular narrative:
• Forking Paths
• Split Screens
Analysing Narrative in Music
Use the worksheet provided to analyse one of
following music videos
Jason Derulo- What If
Britney Spears Everytime
Katy Perry- Last Friday Night
Joe Cole- Crooked Smile
Lana Del Ray – National Anthem
Avril Lavigne- Alice in Wonderland