A quick catch up on Todorov, Barthes etc…

Posted: July 12, 2010 in Media

We were told to research and remind ourselves of the following people and their theories in film:


Todorov came up with a  theory that all narratives of film followed a basic outline, which was this:

The equilibrium: In this beginning section the settings of the film are established and as well as this the characters and storyline is also introduced.

The Disruption: The story takes a particular direction and this is usually caused by oppositional characters.

The Recognition of the disruption: Lives of the characters and events are interwoven. This is usually the longest section and where the most tension is built.

The Attempt to repair the disruption: The highest point of tension in the story itself. Change in dynamic.

The reinstatement of the new equilibrium: Previous problems are solved/questions are answered etc. But it is good to note that things may be at peace, but are different to the first, initial equilibrium we were introduced to (because of change in characters etc).


Barthes came up with the following concepts: denotation and connotation.

Denotation: What an image shows and what is immediately apparent rather than just an assumption.

Connotation: The meaning of a sign that is arrived through the cultural experiences a reader brings to it (so how we personally interpret it rather than what it is generally meant to mean).

Barthes also came up with the action code…

The action code: A narrative device by which a resolution is produced through action (such as a shoot out).


There are two types of audiences, Passive audiences and Active audiences…

Passive Audiences: Known to use the ‘hypodermic syringe theory’ which simply ‘injects’ ideas into the audience. So this means if they watch something negative this will equal a negative effect and vice versa. Marxists link this to their theories of the media being powerful and evil- having control over their audiences. 

Active Audiences: An active audience member will take active use of what the media has to offer, such as for…

-Diversion: Escape from everyday life.

-Personal relationships: Identifying with characters, social use through discussion about the media product with others.

-Surrverillance: Media gives us information on the world.


This is basically the process in which how we understand/interpret signs changes with cultures. So we would usually a sign of mourning as a character looking at a photo of the person that has died (but this may differ with different cultural backgrounds…)


Propp argued that whatever differences the film has we can always group characters and storylines together loosely…

He said that in stories/narrative there is always a certain character type we can find (and characters can sometimes carry more than one role) such as:

Hero: The central protagonist of the film. He must go on some kind of quest/journey and restore the equilibrium.

Princess: Usually put in some danger, which is conveyed by the threat of the villain, who usually wants the princess for themselves. they normally act as a kind of ‘prize’ for the hero succeeding in his quest.

Villain: A character out to stop the character succeeding in completing his quest. Usually the cause for the disruption(s) in the equilibrium. By the end of the narrative they are usually overpowered and defeated.

Helper: They help the hero on their quest by giving them things that will help them, such as objects, information, advice, etc

And there are plenty more…

Propp also had a basis of narrative structure, like Todorov, which was (in this order)…

The preparation,

The Complication,

The Transference,

The Struggle,

The Return,

The Recognition.


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