On this page you will find guidance and samples of the A2 coursework completed by former students.
Media Investigation, Production
A2 Research Investigation
The ‘Research Investigation’ should be approx 1800 words.
Essay Structure and Content:
• Outline the aims and approach to researching your topic – indicate what ‘texts’ (2 or 3 specific progs/films/artists) are to be analysed and what theory is going to be applied (2 or 3 approaches at least). (1 paragraph)
• A development of the main issues and brief discussion of where the investigation is likely to lead – applying more theoretical perspectives and expanding the issues to develop the argument. (2 paragraphs)
• Analysis/evidence (research) and detailed discussion of the ‘texts’ including their content/issues etc. More application of theory and development of other arguments gathered from research. (1 -2 pages)
• Conclusions found – return to initial question and give overview of approach and results of research. Offer some form of viewpoint that shows how your views have been developed through research. (1 paragraph)
• Referencing all information is important throughout – your ideas have not been formed without some form of social interaction or mediation (this needs to be clearly evidenced throughout).
The supporting written work for this assignment should be detailed, concise and show a good grasp of ‘Media’ terminology whilst utilising appropriate theory throughout. Your ability to apply theory, undertake research and develop strong arguments is essential to produce a good investigation.
(Examples can be viewed below)
The 'Evaluation' should be approx 750 words
It should include/discuss:
• How your 'Research Investigation' has informed your production: conventions, audience, images, style and mode of address. Why certain aspects need to be included.
• How well you utilised certain styles, techniques and methods of production in your work. What was successful, less successful and/or unsuccessful in your intended aims (be critical of your own work).
• How successful the work was produced in terms of appealing to its intended target audience. Themes, issues, style and production methods informed by the ‘Research Investigation’ need to be clearly addressed.
• Give a critical account of exactly what your role was in the process and discuss; difficulties encountered in production (technical or group dynamics). Assess your own abilities; strengths/weaknesses.
• A discussion of what you have learnt about the production of media texts by undertaking a practical exercise and a critical reflection of the whole process.
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A2 Media Coursework Production – Evaluation
For my A2 coursework production, I decided to create an R’n’B/Dance music video to Rihanna and David Guetta’s hit tune; ‘Who’s That Chick?’. I chose to produce this video with another student as a joint project, sharing the typical roles needed in order to make a successful music video. I relied on my research project involving the Sexualisation of young women in the music industry, focusing on Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, to give me a better idea of how to make our video more realistic and something current you would be likely to see in today’s charts.
I would say that the target audience of our video are young adults, although college/university students would take a preferred reading as the majority would easily be able to relate to the alcohol influenced behaviour, partying and sexual scenes. However, the video is definitely more glamorous than an episode of Channel4’s Skins, therefore some sexual innuendos are masked, helping to attract a more widely aged audience. I learnt from my research that even female artists with a young fan base in this genre, e.g Miley Cyrus, allow themselves to be filmed in provocative ways. My most significant role was actually filming the video, from zoom to filming at ground level, I was in control of the camera. I learned from my research that the camera tends to linger on certain parts of the female body for example, legs, chest, bum, eyes and also lips. The lips are the most sensual part of the body and on screen if filmed the right way, can look incredibly sexual. I decided that filming someone miming the lyrics in the video would be off putting and look less professional as everyone regularly hears Rihanna’s iconic voice. Having an ordinary girl sing the words of such a well-known, currently charting song, would make the video look like karaoke! Therefore, I thought that using just the lips to mime parts of the lyrics looked much more authentic and by never seeing the whole face, the mystery links in well with the narrative of the title. To add that extra sparkle, we used vibrant blue diamonds on the lips, close up and tight shots, to make sure these important shots are remembered through iconography.
I also used a variety of shots depending on the scene and location. I used long shots for the motorway scenes to allow for maximum light effects, moreover I would use the camera to skim up or down female bodies in the nightclub scene aswell as wild, jumpy, fast circular panning shots, a variety of angles, zooms and also ground level footage. I knew that using the camera in many different ways possible would show rowdy, drunken behaviour, wild dancing, young adults letting their hair down, having a laugh, also giving the illusion that the partying went on all through the night, whereas realistically I only had to film for an hour that night. I also took advantage of getting people to dance in front of the smoke machine and lights as it produced a great silhouette effect. The only weakness I found with this was that there were limitations on locations where we were allowed to film, which affected my weekly filming plan because I had to film these scenes on a different date than scheduled.
From my research, I was also able to identify the typical conventions of a music video of this genre. Nearly all music videos show a rectangular box at the start of the video containing the title, artist name and also a number to show where the song is in the current charts. Therefore, I created a title box in Photoshop to try to make our video as real as possible. In addition, the length of the song we chose did not fill the 4minute minimum duration, so I came up with the idea of creating a short clip of all names of people featuring in the video and also a Blooper Reel. However, the only problem with the Reel was that the clips I had selected were funny to the people involved, but may have not amused the whole audience. As a result, I chose to produce a ‘Making The Video’ sequence, which would sometimes see on large production music videos, the artists personal website, which Miley Cyrus did show for the video I analysed for my research, but also on Youtube.
A2 Media Evaluation
For my production piece I decided to create three television sitcom posters in order to represent American women in an idealistic way. I drew influence from my research project surrounding the popular sitcoms Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City. From my project I found that women are viewed merely for sexual gratification even in today’s apparent modern society. I wanted to illustrate this within my production work.
I viewed existing sitcom posters from the same genre and noted conventional themes and styles that I would later adopt in my own work. I found that I had to work closely with the mise en scene of each poster as the preferred reading of each visual text was to suggest ‘glamour’ and ‘perfection.’
For my first piece entitled ‘even juicier’ I decided to create an enigma through the image. Only until the audience read the website credentials at the bottom do they know what sitcom the poster is promoting. This would mean that people who were not familiar with the programme or the genre may take an oppositional or negotiated view to the poster, however because of the bold iconography of the image it would immediately make the viewer look, even if they do not appreciate the genre. This I feel this was a successful decision and has been done deliberately to engage the viewer and focus the eye on the image so that the reader decides to look further. The iconography is strong, the red strawberry and lips give connotations of lust and sex, which a female audience will aspire to primarily because the passive male audience appreciates the image. I did this to highlight a point from Laura Mulvey’s theory of the Male Gaze that the camera in film, advertising and in fact any media is male. I worked closely with this theory within my research project and found that to engage my female target audience one also has to target the male audience because the camera has taken on the male perspective.
Again on my second poster the image was designed to match the title of the sitcom ‘Sex in the Suburbs’ which was subsequently layered on top of the image. The mise en scene was very important, as the image was to speak for itself, my model was dressed in 50’s clothing and her hair and make-up was immaculately done. I wanted to highlight this dated 50’s ideology in a modern society; therefore I chose to shoot my image within a kitchen. This was used in an ironic way to highlight another part of Mulvey’s theory to demonstrate the inequality in women and that these images similar to my own are not shocking but seem almost natural. Implemented within my work I also learnt how to use fragmenting within a shot. By focusing on her face and torso and slightly blurring out the rest of her body, this section of the body was emphasised in a sexual way helping re-enforce the message. Nevertheless I had to edit lighting into my shot because I did not have the means for natural or focused sunlight. I felt this was a negative aspect of my work and would have looked more natural if I was able to use lighting more effectively.
On my third piece I used four females to represent each character of the sitcom. I chose to create a mask on each of my characters, edit them to black and white and highlight each object they were holding in red. This is called equating women with objects, taken from the Male Gaze, and is mirrored in sitcoms such as Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City, where the central characters are placed with objects such as apples and knives to create the lustful, dangerous look. I did this to aim to attract my target audience of 18+ females, and therefore the male audience because of the sexual way it was shot. I had a positive response and successfully created a poster that attracted this demographic, as the audience were able to identify with the women in the poster.
All the characters in the posters are young attractive white females, and the text on each poster is seductive and risky, I feel that somebody from an ethnic background or an older audience may take an oppositional reading due to the narrative representations.
Another downfall to my production work would be that the characters used are not models or actresses therefore my posters may seem a little unrealistic especially when all the actresses are in the 18+ demographic range, therefore portraying the meaning successfully may be lost slightly as housewives, generally speaking, are older. One could argue however that the lack of real models and a lower age demographic could highlight the brutal reality of society’s ideals today, to re-enforce Mulvey’s theory that women have not overcome this patriarchal society but have simply conformed to it at an earlier age.
Nevertheless I felt my strengths shone through within my work, my ability to edit each photo through Photoshop using the spot healing brush to create a flawless look proved very successful. This was common to each piece to heighten the theme of ‘glamour’ and to appeal to the audiences so that they aspired to look like the characters.
I feel that during the process of creating my production pieces, my original idea of using a laundrette as a background was too ambitious as to create these images successfully it had to look believable, and often poster sets are made to suit the occasion. If I was to create this effectively or to enhance my original posters I would need a better camera as posters like these are enlarged for billboards. I would also need a bigger budget in order to create sets and maximise lighting effects. Therefore by simplifying my ideas I feel I have created three unique posters that look professional, and give cohesion to my research project.
"To what extent do television transformation programmes influence their audience?"
I will be analysing the representation of women’s body image and the ideologies of what is seen to be “beautiful”, using research and my investigation, in particular reference to the two channel 4 programmes “How To Look Good Naked” and “10 Years Younger” to establish; to what extent these programmes have an impact on our society and how influential they are within their audiences.
Psychological research has shown that ‘body image’ ultimately does play a part in the lives of women yet there is an increasing trend of this effect in teenagers also. This viewpoint has been supported in a number of studies are suggests that: Teen-age girls who viewed commercials depicting women who modeled the unrealistically thin-ideal type of beauty caused adolescent girls to feel less confident, angrier, and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance (Hargreaves, 2002). (1) Undoubtedly, this type of media has an effect on a women’s body image, it is an everyday occurrence and taken for granted, yet sadly today it is worrying as women have become more obsessed, unhappy and increasingly more depressed about their body hang ups.
The Channel 4 programme “How To Look Good Naked” usually consists of a woman who has hit rock bottom in terms of her body image and self esteem then, with the assistance of Gok, she experiences a series of events which result in a new contented and confident woman “Gok Wan presents the inspirational fashion series that shows women how to look fantastic with their clothes on or clothes off no matter what their body shape - and all without a surgeon's scalpel in sight...” (2) This reinforces a positive representation of women and an acceptable message being portrayed, in effect encouraging a passive response to self-awareness. It inverts the stereotypical viewpoint that thin constitutes beauty, as the show illuminates every aspect of the natural woman, they way they really are, bumps and lumps and all, and embraces it rather than dictating the way they should be, or the way they could change something to look better, it focuses on making the most of what you’ve got and being thankful for it. In this respect it a good example of TV programming that does not make it’s passive audience feel inferior or inadequate.
I looked closely at the episode of season 3 episode 15 featuring a woman called Kelly; she had been through breast cancer and as a result of treatment was left with only one breast. She has been planning to get married but is so low in terms of self esteem she can’t bring herself even try on a wedding dress. The presenter is Gok Wan stylist to the stars, Takes Kelly to a wedding fare and uses language like“I’ve got to prove to Kelly she will be a Babylicious bride “(3) By just using the word “prove” this directly suggests that she already is beautiful she just needs help seeing it, which ideally is the whole message of the show. He is kind and encouraging and never judgmental, preferring to apply more positive manipulation of a passive audience rather than a negative. Focusing on every good aspects of the woman whether it be their killer legs or fantastic breasts boosting their self believe in the hope of erasing the idealization that seems to have been mediated into their minds. People with a preferred reading of the show would really identify with it on a personal level and may be even try to incorporate these qualities into their lives and from this personal level they get a gratification from it like a companionship from Gok. Also this may encourage a comparable reaction within peer groups who pass the information from friend to friend. Similarly I take a hegemonic approach but rather than passively and excepting its codes I can actively see the deeper message the programme is trying to portray.
By using statements like; “she is going to be the most gorgeous blushing bride!”(4) and going through little things like a line up of women that also had breast cancer, reinforces a positive attitude to self empowerment. Kelly gradually builds her self esteem bit by bit changing , from using statements like “I look horrible” (5) to “she said I had a beautiful face, how does that feel ?, that feels lovely… I look nice don’t I, really girly and sexy” (6) inevitably there is a transformation, not physically yet mentally, because she was fine the way she was. Active audiences may also see that even though there is manipulation it is not at a superficial level but more psychological and therefore more likely to last.
Research Investigation 2
To what extent do the texts ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ and ‘Alien’ alter the stereotypical representation of women as simply helpless victims in action films?
The first genre conventions that come to mind when discussing action films are men with guns, expensive cars, explosives and a damsel in distress. Many action films follow stereotypical and somewhat predictable narratives where men save the day and women are simply seen as a victim, a good example of this would be ‘Transformers’ which follows the story of a male protagonist (Shia LaBeouf) and a group of male alien robots. There is also your typical ‘token’ female who is incredibly beautiful and simply screams on cue played by Megan Fox. In this investigation I am going to look at films that strive to alter this stereotype of women as victims, ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ (1) and ‘Alien’ (2) who have a woman as the main protagonist of the film. Despite the fact that the ‘Tomb Raider’ (1) have used a female protagonist there has been wide spread criticism of the Lara Croft character due to the character being objectified as a sex symbol. “The sexual objectification of female superheroes sends the unfortunate message that women are defined by their sexuality.” (3)
It has been suggested: “Characters such as Ripley (Alien), Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) and Alice (Resident Evil) suggest a shift toward empowered women capable of all the unreasoned aggression and violence that men are so stereotypically capable of.“(4) By applying the theories of the ‘Male Gaze’ (5), Propp (6) and ‘Uses and Gratifications’ Theory (7) I intend to investigate how the representation of women in action films as simply being victims has been altered by the films ‘Alien’ (2) and ‘Tomb Raider’ (1).
In Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ (2) the main protagonist is Ellen Ripley who is seen as the number one female action hero even today. Ripley is key to the representation of women because it has been said ‘she was the first female movie characters “who isn’t defined by the men around her, or by her relationship to them”.’ (8) Ripley didn’t need the help of the men around her she was the only survivor on the space ship after the alien attack. ‘Ripley is pretty revolutionary," insists David McIntee, author of the Alien study Beautiful Monsters. "All of a sudden you have a horror film that has a younger female character who is a survivor and a heroine as opposed to a victim."’ (9) By creating a woman as the heroine Scott is going against the grain and altering the typical representation of women in action films. In Molly Haskell, a feminist film critic’s book ‘From Reverence to Rape’ (10) that there are three types of women’s film characters “The Extraordinary woman, the Ordinary woman and the Ordinary woman who becomes extraordinary.” (10) The representation of Ripley is that of the extraordinary woman, she is strong, powerful and brave. Ripley may be seen to alter stereotype as “she was a character written as a man, written in a very straight forward way, she didn’t have these scenes where she was suddenly vulnerable and didn’t throw her hands up and wait for someone else to save her.”(11) As a character Ripley may be a role model to women, as she broke the boundaries of what was expected from her, she was not simply a victim and didn’t need the help of others. Ripley’s strength and dominance is exemplified when she hides the fact she is a female in the final scenes of ‘Alien’ (2). Ripley is in her underwear but puts on the spacesuit to fight the alien, thus hiding her feminine figure and creating a masculine air.
Although within ‘Alien’ (2) the main protagonist is a woman, it is still very much male dominated, the crew consists of 5 men and 2 women (Appendix 1). This is evident in the opening scenes of the film, when the crew leaves the pods in their underwear, plainly showing the difference between the men and women. (Appendix 2) Due to this moments of sexism and male orientated scenes are created. However Sigourney Weaver goes on to explain how Ripley dealt with these issues: “She didn’t react to a lot of the sexism, she kept her cool and I think that was something that was good for women to see. You know that she didn’t depend on anyone else, she didn’t whine, she didn’t complain, she just did her job and in doing so tried to save other people.”(11)
Despite the fact that ‘Alien’ (2) does appear to have a male dominated cast, it breaks many of the moulds that happen in films today, even in today’s modern society women are underrepresented in films. A way of testing whether women are represented fairly in a film, is a test known as ‘The Bechdel Test’ (12) which suggests that for women to be represented correctly the film must past three simple questions “The first, are there two or more women in it that have names? The second do they talk to each other? And the third do they talk to each other about something other than a man?” (12) ‘Alien’ (2) fits these criteria with Ripley and Lambert- the ship’s navigator and what they discuss. Majority of action films do not pass this test, examples are: Transformers, GI Joe and Wanted but there are many more. The more mainstream a film is, the less feminist the characters will be, as they need to appeal to wider audience in particular the male audience of the industry. At the time of ‘Alien’s’ (2) release in 1979, Science Fiction was just becoming a popular new genre following the success of the release of Star Wars, so although Ripley is not directly a feminist, she does represent the feminist ideology. ‘Alien’ (2) conflicts with Propp’s narrative theory (6) that suggests in a film there should be ‘the princess’ and ‘the hero’ that usually marry at the end of the text. Transformers your typical modern day action film fits this mould with Megan Fox’s character as ‘the princess’ who is the award for’ the hero’ played by Shia LaBeouf. However by Ripley being the hero ‘Alien’ (3) breaks this mould, she is not a princess and has no interest in men or marriage. Laura Mulvey states, “In herself the woman has not the slightest importance.” (18) Ripley strives to alter this ideology and is clearly the most significant character.
In ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ (1) directed by Simon West, there is a strong female protagonist; the film is based on the adventures of an archaeologist originally depicted in a series of video games, which gave teenage boys the power to control a beautiful woman and alter camera shots which depicted her. Croft’s character is described as “a beautiful, intelligent and athletic archaeologist-adventurer” (13). There is a clear differentiation from ‘Alien’ (2) here, as Ripley’s character was originally written as a man, the character of Lara Croft is most definitely a woman and this is clearly demonstrated throughout the film; in particular the fact that Croft is supposed to be seen as a powerful but sexualised woman is demonstrated through the use of camera angles. “Lara is super strong, invincibly strong. But also stunningly beautiful, unbelievably beautiful. This combination has characterised film heroines since the 1990s.” (14) Within ‘Tomb Raider’ (1) a large number of camera shots focus on Croft’s chest and thighs- this is where her guns are strapped so every time she uses them the camera focuses here. An example would be in the opening scenes of the film in which Croft fights a robot in a training scene, there is a five second close-up shot of Croft’s thighs. This objectifying of the character is clearly shown on advertising for the film. (Appendix 2) Laura Mulvey’s Theory of the Male Gaze, suggests some “films objectify women in relation to ‘the controlling male gaze’, presenting ‘woman as image’ (or ‘spectacle’) and man as ‘bearer of the look’. Men do the looking; women are there to be looked at.” (5) This would suggest that the character of Croft is simply there for male pleasure rather than alter gender stereotypes; demonstrated in the opening fight scene in which the camera focuses on her breasts, legs and bottom, Croft is noticeably portrayed as a sex symbol. Furthermore in the original films the character of Croft is played by Angelina Jolie however a new Tomb Raider has been commissioned without her, suggesting that clearly another attractive female can easily replace her role. This is observably a common issue within the film industry as for the third Transformers film Megan Fox has been replaced by British model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, It is clear that the action film industry is very much a man’s world; ‘“Mike [Michael Bay- director of Transformers] films women in a way that appeals to a 16-year-old sexuality… And I think [Fox] never got comfortable with it” Shia LaBeouf’ (15). Clearly signifying that men watch films for entertainment in particular sexual arousal, in relation to ‘Uses and Gratifications’ (7). Furthermore to make Transformers as mainstream as possible and maximise the audience, they create ‘a movie that is essential aimed at young kids with such a leery quality to it in the way it looks at the female characters.’ (20) Explains Mark Kermode, a film critic, thus ruining the quality of the film and objectifying women in a very negative way as simply sex objects, in an attempt to make as much money as possible. Although Croft’s clearly objectified, she can still be seen as role model to women as she fights against the stereotype of women as victims. She is strong and independent and an audience may watch her for personal identity so they can find a model of behaviour (7). Nevertheless there is a suggestion that characters such as Croft could be bad for women as a role model, as these films promote the “‘superwoman ideal’ — the idea that women should excel in traditional feminine roles, as well as traditional male areas.” (16) This idea creates a lot of pressure for women to live up to, and a researcher in a recent study suggests that this pressure could lead to “excelling at home and at work, various studies have found it can lead to eating disorders, as well as bad self-esteem and low confidence.” (16) Women are associating themselves with those characters that dominate and excel in multiple roles, something that cannot necessarily be achievable in real life. Unlike Ripley the character of Croft does need a man to help her, at the start of the film there is Bryce, her assistant who helps her with the gadgets she needs. However Bryce could be seen in relation to Propp’s theory as The Donor (6) providing Croft with the objects she needs, suggesting that Croft’s character has its basis in fantasy, and no real woman could be like this.
A recent study which looked at both the films ‘Alien’ (2) and ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ (1) has suggested that “The debate continues as to whether the few action heroines that we are familiar with, such as Lt. Ripley or Lara Croft, have broken down gender barriers in action films.”(17) The research also goes on to imply that female action heroes are not seen as empowering images and the women do not use their femininity as a source of power they must take on male characteristics and roles to success. This would link directly to the character of Ripley who was first written as a man, meaning the character has clear male characteristics and connotations. Overall this suggests that although Ripley and Croft have shown women are not simply victims, the characters are in themselves flawed, either needing to act like men to be dominant or portrayed as an object for male pleasure, showing women to still be defined by the stereotype.
In conclusion, by analysing both texts, I have found that the two texts have altered the representation of women as being helpless victims in action films. As both Ripley and Croft are strong, independent protagonists within their texts. As characters they both have their flaws, nonetheless this makes them more appealing to women as they can directly relate to the characters. Ripley shows that women do not need to be defined by the men around them and can override sexism to become dominate and a survivor. “In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact.” (18) Ripley defies Laura Mulvey’s ideas, she is not there as a sex symbol, she is there as a character in her own right. Croft creates the image that women cannot only be powerful and intelligent but they can also be beautiful and sexually appealing in the process. This is clearly demonstrated through the costumes and the positioning of the characters guns throughout the film. It has been suggested that for a mainstream audience to tolerate a female protagonist they must be beautiful and well as clever and independent. ‘Tomb Raider’ (1) based on a video game and was a mainstream film that appealed to teenage boys. Thus meaning that the character of Croft conformed to what the audience wanted, a character that was “young and Caucasian, with beautiful, angular and symmetrical facial features.” (19) Alien (2) however was not a mainstream film that enabled director Ridley Scott to have more control over his choice of actor for the role. Overall the texts ‘Alien’ (2) and ‘Tomb Raider’ (1) have shown that women do not simply need to be the helpless victim in an action film; there are other character roles in which they can undertake, however in the case of mainstream films they must fit the characteristics expected by the mainstream audience. Whereas films that appeal to a niche audiences such as ‘Alien’ (2) can alter these conventions significantly.
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