Sorry for the delay. Please find our class example answers below – a bit rough and ready in terms of grammar but they’ll get the marks.
- Representations in media content are created by language features such as images, sound, words and so on.
- Describe two representations in media content you have studied. 2
- Explain in detail how language features have been used to create each of these representations. 10
In Psycho (1960 dir. Hitchcock) there are many different representations, for example Marion and Norman. Marion is a young woman, office worker who lives in an American city (Phoenix, Arizona.) Norman is a young, peculiar man who lives with his mother in a backwater town and owns a rundown motel.
When we first meet Marion she is portrayed as an innocent young woman. She’s wearing white underwear in the first scene while she’s in a seedy hotel with her lover, Sam. White is usually symbolic for purity. This cultural code encourages us to feel sympathetic towards her. Marion is also portrayed as an attractive character who is representative of a stereotypical woman who works in an office who dreams of getting married. In one scene we see Marion at her job and another older character – a rich older man – is clearly being flirtatious towards her. In this scene the older man perches himself on the edge of her desk and is flashing money in her face. He brags about buying his daughter, who is getting married, a house – this dialogue highlights what Marion ultimately wants in life – marriage; we already know that Marion wishes to be with her boyfriend Sam through the dialogue in the scene in the seedy hotel. The fact this older man is so flirtatious shows she is attractive as there is another character in the scene who he totally ignores.
The other character that is established is Norman a rather odd young man. In one scene Norman talks about his hobby which is taxidermy (stuffing dead animals) and this is culturally seen as quite unusual – some audience members might also make the link between this macabre hobby and the crimes of Ed Gein – leading them to be suspicious of Norman. The selection of the actor to play Norman also plays a part as he is youthful looking – also when we first meet this character he is shown to be preparing supper; a sandwich and some milk; cultural code of quite an immature and boyish thing to have to eat. He is also portrayed as a man that hasn’t quite grown up and away from the influence of his mother. In one scene we can hear Norman arguing with his mother and she is seen as very controlling and cruel in what she says – she is adamant that Norman can’t have Marion in the house for a bite to eat.
- Media content reflects ideas from the time/place in which it was made and/or set.
(a) Describe relevant ideas from the time and/or place of the media content you have studied. 4
(b) Explain in detail how this content reflects these ideas. 6
The text was made and set in the late 1950s, early 60s in America – a time with quite conservative views about the sanctity of marriage however the influence of religion and conservative values was under threat by more liberal views. There was also the recent arrest and trial of Ed Gein who had committed atrocious crimes that people were struggling to understand. There were also teenagers who had grown up with unrealistic horrors about aliens and so on who now desired more realistic thrills.
(b) It is clear from the text that the way Marion and Sam are forced to meet is a clear reflection of society’s values – they would not be able to have their relationship out in the open. Hitchcock shows that this conservative value is being challenged in society as Marion does want to get married and we are sympathetic towards her – her white underwear also portrays her sympathetically as even though she is having sex outwith marriage she is shown as innocent. Another conservative value that is challenged is shown in the fact that Marion steals the money and yet despite this she is still shown in quite a sympathetic way – however her black underwear shows that she is sullied and may suggest how society would view her crime. At the time Ed Gein was huge news and his crimes of body mutilation and so on is reflected in Norman’s odd hobby – taxidermy – this is further emphasised in the fact that Norman preserves the corpse of his mother and pretends to be her – almost like wearing her skin.
- Internal and external controls affect the making of media content.
(a) Describe at least two internal and/or external controls relevant to media content you have studied. 4
(b) Explain in detail how these controls have affected the media content. 6
External controls in terms of the ‘Hays Code’ had an influence on the content of the text in terms of what can or can’t be shown. Internally the budget and the director had an influence on the text, in terms of what they could afford to do and how they had to do it.
One guideline of the Hays Code was that criminal actions must be seen to be punished. Marion in the film steals a sum of money and is punished through her brutal murder. Another guideline of the Hays Code was that no nudity would be shown on screen. Initially the shower scene was rejected but Hitchcock said he would re-edit it. He made no changes to it but because of the multiple camera angles and the quick editing it was unclear as to whether any changes had been made or whether there was any nudity in the scene and so it was approved. Hitchcock wanted the film to have a much smaller budget and therefore he ended up using Black and White film instead of the much more costly colour film stock. The lower budget also meant that there were no huge stars in the film and it was lesser known actors that were used. The film was also made on a film lot and a set was constructed rather than a location shoot – this kept costs down. The set is still on the film lot in America.
5. Successful media content meets the needs of its audience(s).
(a) Describe two needs of the audience(s) for media content you have studied. 2
(b) Explain in detail how media content was used to meet each need. 10
Uses and Gratification Theory (MacQuail, Blumler and Brown) suggests the audience has four main needs. The most relevant to this text are Diversion – an escape from the audience’s ordinary life – and Personal Relationships – forming a connection with the characters in a text and discussing the text with others.
(b) In ‘Psycho’ Marion steals a large sum of money and this is not a usual thing for someone to do, they would feel a thrill doing it and it would cause them to feel guilty afterwards – this provides a vicarious thrill for the audience – this provides diversion for them from their ordinary lives. Another element of diversion would be the insight we are given to Norman’s life, it is unlikely that audience members would encounter a cold-blooded killer in their ordinary lives so therefore seeing how Norman cleans up the crime scene is looking voyeuristically into the life of a killer – we can see how he does this calmly and methodically giving us an insight we wouldn’t normally have – this is providing diversion from our everyday lives.
In ‘Psycho’ the audience is encouraged to form a personal connection with the character of Marion. In the opening the camera slowly zooms in and under the blinds of an open window – we encounter in this room Marion and her lover Sam – Hitchcock by showing us Marion’s private life is inviting us to form a personal relationship with the character. We also learn during this scene that Marion doesn’t want to keep sneaking around and wants to marry Sam – this lets us into the aims/desires of Marion and this helps us to root for her and form a personal connection – her goal is the goal we want to see achieved. When Marion steals the money and ends up staying at an isolated motel – our personal relationship with the character causes us to worry about her.
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