Narrative and ideology AOS 1 – Unit 3

Narrative and ideology

Unit 3 – Area of study 1

In this area of study we focus on learning the following dot points:

• The relationship between narratives and audiences and how they frame the nature, form and development of discourses in society.
• How the construction, distribution, reception and consumption of narratives influence ideologies in society.
• The framing of the nature, form and structure of narratives by ideologies in society.
• Characteristics of audience from different time periods.
• Creative and institutional practices that represent ideas and the use of media codes and conventions.
• Social, cultural, ideological and institutional contexts relating to periods of time and locations of production.
• Purpose, genre, style, content, distribution, consumption and reception of media narratives.

By the end of this area of study you should be able to Explain, analyse and discuss these dot points.


Media codes:
Technical, written and symbolic tools used to construct or suggest meaning in media forms and products. Media
codes include the use of camera, acting, setting, mise en scene, editing, lighting, sound, special effects, typography,
colour, visual composition, text and graphics.

Media conventions:
Rules or generally accepted ways of constructing form and informing meaning in media products including story
principles, form and structure, generic structures, character and story arcs, cause and effect, point of view, the
structuring of time, elements of page layout, paper stock for print, titles and credits sequences, hyperlinking and
mounting and framing of images.

Ideology: Gender – Femininity & Masculinity

What are gender roles?

Gender roles in society means how we’re expected to act, speak, dress, groom, and conduct ourselves based upon our assigned sex. For example, girls and women are generally expected to dress in typically feminine ways and be polite, accommodating, and nurturing. Men are generally expected to be strong, aggressive, and bold.

Every society, ethnic group, and culture has gender role expectations, but they can be very different from group to group. They can also change in the same society over time.




There have long been concerns about the way the media portrays gender, particularly with regard to gender roles and how the media portrays women.

Social and cultural theorists argue that the role and status of women in society has been continually evolving, yet this is not always accurately reflected in many media representations.
The media in general (and advertising in particular) has often been accused of perpetuating stereotypical gender roles. There is a general agreement that many media representations of women fall into two categories – women as defined by their relationship with the home, their family and males, or women as defined by their bodies and sexuality.

Men tend to be defined by their jobs, occupations, sports and hobbies, as independent or as authority figures. They are usually portrayed as active. On the other hand women tend to be defined by their relationships to men, they are portrayed as wife, girlfriend, lover, mother, daughter or carer. The women are usually seen as passive. The male domain is the outside world, and work, while the female domain is the home and the domestic.

The representation of a women as a ‘body’ defined by her sexuality is criticised on a number of levels for ignoring women’s intellect, abilities and achievements and reducing her to a bundle of physical attributes. This view of women has been criticised for creating an idealised notion of beauty that is unrealistic or not attainable.

An audience’s reading of gender and roles can be influenced by the use of technical codes and used to construct a representation. Point of view plays a large role in the way people read a text. Viewers tend to see women in media products from the male point of view. In a narrative, this occurs because the main character is usually male. The audience is being told the story through his eyes and it is through them that the audience assesses the other character.

Ref: Heinemann Media 3rd edition 2017


The context in which a narrative is viewed can affect the way the audience understand, experience and respond to a film.

Audience expectation: Audience members’ respond to a film in terms of enjoyment or disappointment is often dependent on their expectations of it. If a text is marked as a romantic comedy, it will satisfy the audience if they find the narrative funny and touch their heart, however if the audience do not laugh then they walk out disappointed as their expectations were not met.

An example of this was in the trailer for the animation – Frozen. The trailer consisted of a comedic snowman and a cute reindeer. The trailer implied this narrative was going to be funny for children and parents alike. However, when people went to see the text the young boys walked out feeling disappointed because it was a text predominately made for young girls and the text was a musical. This was not highlighted in the trailer.

Audience shared experiences: Audiences sometimes respond to the text on a personal level because of who they are and the experiences they have had. Often the audience will identify strongly to a character or situation if they have experienced the situation themselves or can relate heavily to the plot unfolding in front of them. Sometimes audiences will see a text based on the notion of wanting the same experience to happen to them. This is classic ‘love story’ involvement.

Audience and viewing formats: Another factor affecting audience response is the medium through which the film is experienced. The physical experience of viewing may affect the way in which an audience member receives a film. For example if you view something on your phone this will differ significantly to experiencing something in the cinema. The sound quality is different and the viewing platform is different. Also if you watch a text in the classroom this may evoke notions of study, homework rather than you enjoying the same text on your friends couch in their living room.

Thelma & Louise 1991

Erin Brockovich 2000

Mona Lisa Smile 2003

Devil Wears Prada 2006

The Intern 2015

The male characters in Friends

The male characters in Modern Family

Male Characters In Movies Character Traits

Negative Character attributes:
Aggressive/violent: Performs acts of aggression, confrontation, or violence as a common practice.
Sociopathic: Has low regard for human life, property, humanity, and shows little emotion.
Dull-witted/stupid/easily led: Is distinguished by his poor decisions, immaturity, shortsightedness, or dependence on others
Scoundrel: Is primarily dishonest, steals, cheats, and looks out for himself first.
Is isolated: Does not have and/or friends and stays to himself throughout the film

Positive Character Attributes:
Values friendships: Displays loyalty and places importance on friendships and important relationships.
Chivalry: A strong character trait toward the defense of women/children.
Wise: Primary characteristic are thoughtfulness, displays and demonstrates strong ethics.
Has integrity: Believes in doing what is right, even at great personal risk.
Noteworthy intelligence: Is well versed, well read, highly educated, and places importance on intellection.

The Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test, if you’re not familiar with it, is a benchmark for movies developed by Alison Bechdel in 1985. For a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, it must contain just one thing – a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation (that is, back and forth dialogue) about anything at all besides men. Anything, even if it’s something stereotypically feminine, like shopping or shoes. It could be about dog poo. It doesn’t matter.

Sounds simple, right? Then it might be kinda shocking to find out that out of 2,500 movies, only about half pass the test. And to be clear, passing doesn’t mean the movie’s good or bad. Failing the test doesn’t mean the movie’s evil or anti-woman, or that passing makes it some sort of strongly feminist movie. It’s just to get people thinking about gender and how it’s presented in film.

Friends 1994 - Pilot Episode Rachel Green's Character

Friends 2004 - Rachel Green goes back to work

Working 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton 1980

Most Girls - Hailee Steinfeld 2017

Sorry, Ladies: Study on Women in Film and Television Confirms The Worst

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film has released its report on 2014, titled “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World,” and the news isn’t good.
The study examines on-screen representations of female characters in the top 100 grossing films every year. In addition to revealing some pretty dismal numbers when it comes to women in film and television, such as chronic underrepresentation, the prevalence of gender stereotypes and behind-the-scenes opportunities, the study also reported on the lack of ethnic diversity among the same media.
Dr. Martha Lauzen, Executive Director for the Center of the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, wrote the report.

“The chronic under-representation of girls and women reveals a kind of arrested development in the mainstream film industry,” Lauzen said in a statement. “Women are not a niche audience and they are no more ‘risky’ as filmmakers than men. It is unfortunate that these beliefs continue to limit the industry’s relevance in today’s marketplace.”

Here are the findings revealed in today’s release:
Findings in Demographics/Characteristics
-Only 12% of all clearly identifiable protagonists were female in 2014. This represents a decrease of 3 percentage points from 2013 and a decrease of 4 percentage points from 2002. In 2014, 75% of protagonists were male, and 13% were male/female ensembles. For the purposes of this study, protagonists are the characters from whose perspective the story is told.
-Females comprised 29% of major characters. This represents no change from 2013, but is an increase of two percentage points from 2002. For the purposes of this study, major characters tend to appear in more than one scene and are instrumental to the action of the story.

-Females accounted for 30% of all speaking characters (includes major and minor characters) in 2014, even with the figure from 2013, but up 2 percentage points from 2002.
-Female characters remain younger than their male counterparts. The majority of female characters were in their 20s (23%) and 30s (30%).

The majority of male characters were in their 30s (27%) and 40s (28%).
-Males 40 and over accounted for 53% of all male characters. Females 40 and over comprised 30% of all female characters.
-Whereas the percentage of female characters declined dramatically from their 30s to their 40s (30% to 17%), the percentage of male characters increased slightly, from 27% in their 30s to 28% in their 40s.
-The percentage of male characters in their 50s (18%) is twice that of female characters in their 50s (9%).
-74% of all female characters were White, 11% were Black, 4% were Latina, 4% were Asian, 3% were other worldly, and 4% were other. Moviegoers were almost as likely to see an other-worldly female as they were to see a Latina or Asian female character.
-11% of all female characters were Black in 2014, down 3 percentage points from 2013 and down 4 percentage points from 2002.
-4% of all female characters were Latina in 2014, down 1 percentage point from 2013, and even with the figure from 2002.
-4% of all female characters were Asian in 2014, up 1 percentage point from 2013 and 2002.

-Male characters were more likely than female characters to have an unknown marital status. 59% of male characters but 46% of female characters had an unknown marital status.

-A higher proportion of male than female characters had an identifiable occupational status. 85% of male characters but only 75% of female characters had an identifiable job/occupation. A substantially larger portion of male than female characters were seen in their work setting actually working.

-Male characters were more likely than females to be identified only by a work-related role, such as doctor or business executive (61% of males vs. 34% of females). In contrast, female characters were more likely than males to be identified only by a personal life-related role such as wife or mother (58% of females vs. 31% of males). Male and female characters were equally likely to be identified in dual work-related and personal life-related roles (8% of females and males).

Friends 2003 - The one with the male nanny

Friends 2003 - The one with the male nanny