Erin Brockovich (born June 22, 1960) is an American legal clerk and environmental activist, who, despite her lack of formal education in the law, was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California in 1993.
Character & Story Arcs
A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story. If a story has a character arc, the character begins as one sort of person and gradually transforms into a different sort of person in response to changing developments in the story.
Character & Story Arcs – Questions
1. How did Julia Roberts character transform throughout the narrative?
2. What media conventions allowed the audience to understand this transformation?
Exam & SAC response
Erin Brockovich, was a film text distributed in the year 2000. The narrative was centred around the true story of an inspiring women who brought a small town to its feet, winning the biggest payout of any law injustice. Erin played by Julia Roberts was an American legal clerk and environmental activist, who, despite her lack of formal education in law, was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California in 1993. Given the text was representing the American society in the time period 1993, particular code and conventions were employed by the director to convey the characters and story arcs.
In the opening sequence of the narrative the audience is presented with Erin’s character and understand her as a poor, single mum who is struggling to make a better life for her and her three young children. The dialogue of her character implies her defeated life and the costume reflects her sexual, tacky style. However, what she lacks in style and sophistication she makes up for in confidence and attitude. The audience instantly admire her and follow the point of view of this narrative. Her costume and acting barely shifts throughout the development and closure of the narrative. Using this convention as a technique to have the audience fight for her character throughout the duration of the film. In America in the 90’s women’s rights were a topic of discussion and women were represented and known in the media for their appearance and sexual attitudes. The success of this film text is based off this ideology. The director encourages the audience to engage with the explicit ideology of feminism and asks the audience to root for her character.
Cause & Effect questions –
1. What motivates each character?
2. What events do the characters’ motivations cause?
3. Give examples of cause and effect chain within the narrative.
Character questions –
1. Consider the fictional film narrative and list the decisions and actions that reveal the character of the main protagonist.
2. Choose two characters from the text and explain what changes occur and their character development.
This refers to the arrangement of props, objects, actors, lighting, space, costume and make-up within a specific scene. Or put simply – the composition and layout of everything within the frame.
Careful and well-planned arrangement of mise-en-scene elements can determine the nature of the media product and create a purposeful impact on the audience.
Using the images below from the film text, Erin Brockovich, list all the mise-en-scene elements employed and explain the impact they have on the audience. How do these conventions impact the narrative?
Revision questions –
1. Define how codes and conventions have been used in the construction of Erin Brockovich.
2. Define how a challenge to ideology was made explicit within the character of Erin.
3. Now explain how this ideology was supported by other scenes within the text.
4. Explain how the producers of this text utilized the ideology of ‘gender’ to create an empowering narrative for women in the year 2000.
(Source: Text Media Reframed, Cambridge 2018)