There are certain ways a product is created to address an audience. This ensures the product will be appreciated and popular. The selection of content is critical, it is the thing the audience pay money for, the meat.
colours: The colours of a product are important, as it could be the very first thing that draws someone in. A magazine article, front cover, or movie poster must get people to turn their heads and notice it. This however, doesn’t necessarily mean bright colours or oldly used colours. ‘Deep’, ‘depressed’ teens will appreciate dark things, you must know your market.
images: Images tie in with colour, they may well be the thing that draws people in, to take notice and possibly read further. A well placed image can be very helpful. They need to be appropriate to your product, and appeal to your audience.
words: A choice of words must reflect the reading/ intellectual levels of your audience. For titles and tag lines etc. they may need to be powerful or punchy. Words are almost always needed in some shape or form.
The codes and conventions are often what shows exactly who a product is for. Audiences will see things they feel familiar with, possibly without even realising and be drawn in because of it.
technical: Technical codes relate to th construction of media. Sometimes things can be aimed at people with a love for a specific medium. For example, some films are shot very masterfully, and so are technically pleasing. THis would appeal to lovers of film itself, as they understand deeply the language of cinema and the technical wonders that had to be worked to achieve whatever it is. There is always a risk that a product could be so technical it could miss out on some of the mainstream market.
symbolic: Symbolic codes show what is beneath the surface of what we see/ hear/ read. So for example a character’s actions may show what he is feeling or thinking. The symbolic codes are the meaning and messages behind what you create (with technical codes).
The construction of content needs to address the audience. When making content, you are making it for that audience, so they should be kept in mind every step of the way.
anchorage: Anchorage means creating meaning for pictures, text, etc by attaching them to other pictures, text, etc. For example, a picture used for an advert may be interpreted in different ways, but if it anchored with a slogan or a few emotive words producers can control the effect and connotation it will give.
layout: the layout of a media product is key as producers will want to make it appeal to their chosen market. The levels of formality and clarity will depend achordingly.
narrative: narrative means how a sequence of events are put together (forming the plot) to put before an audience. Narrative incorporates a lot, amongst which are things like pacing. THe narrative must be constructed to best suit and entertain your audience. If it is not they won’t be your audience for long.
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is part of the batman reboot trilogy that Christopher Nolan directed. A helpful way to start working out what kind of an audience a film is designed for, is to look at the age rating. The Dark Knight was a 12A, meaning effectively people of any age can watch it. Producers if they can will usually try and keep the age rating down, so as many people can go and see it at the cinema as possible. The fact that it is so action packed could mean that it was aimed more at males, as stereotypically they like action films more (this may no longer be true, times are changing…). I think also that the film was made and marketed to be very dark and more ‘solid’ than say the previous Batman films. This meant more of an appeal to older audiences. There is considerably more ‘talking bits’ than a lot of action films, which in some peoples opinion weighs up the action, and makes the experience more worth-while. So possibly, it won’t only appeal to an older audience but a more intellectual one. THe type of person that may see Die Hard as ‘below’ them. It also appeals to a ‘nerdy’ audience, fans of the comics and superheroes in general. But ultimately, like most things, there attempts to be ‘something in it for everyone’, that way maximum profit ensues.
Empire is a movie magazine, so we can immediately say it will be aimed at ‘movie-buffs’, or at least people who like and watch films. It will be of no use to anyone else. The mag seems to slightly favour action or adventure films, big new and exciting things. It may again be slightly aimed more at males. Looking back through front covers of old editions, you may notice the ones with a female on often have her in a seductive pose of some sort. Each edition is over £4, not particularly cheap, so perhaps aimed more at people with a bit of disposable income. Young people for example. This may be confirmed by their choice of films to do the ‘big stories’ on. They definitely favour big Hollywood blockbusters, so from that we may conclude their audience is going to be ‘mainstreamers’. So putting all this together we come up with a mini profile: 17-30 year old male mainstreamers with some disposable income. Looking at the ads, I think this is a pretty accurate account, they advertise things like gaming PCs and Lynx shower gel.
Audience Effects Theories
passive and active consumption: These two are ways of consuming media. Passive means you simply sit there and take it in. Active means you are thinking about it, evaluating it, being involved or interacting in some way. Whether a person or people consume media passively or actively is never usually black and white and there are debates about it. Many people feel that media is consumed now more actively than ever before, because with technological advancements and changing attitudes we are now more interactive with the media. This could be to do with things like review sites (where anyone can post their own especially), discussions online about media products, fanfiction, fan-theories (see Sherlock), cosplay, the internet (for example choosing which links to click on a news site rather than reading the front age as in the ‘old days’) etc.
hypodermic needle model: This is a theory that the media directly affects us. A message is put out, and we absorb it and accept it. It is kind of like passive consumption at the ultimate level. It is named as it is to suggest media is like being given an injection, people react achordingly to whatever chemical is in the syringe. This theory, if taken seriously, is immensely flawed. It completely ignores interpretation, the subjective way one individual may see something differently to another. In the hypodermic needle model there are no subtleties, no possible diversity of affects any media can have on people. It is almost as if we were robots with the exact same programming within us. However, some say no academic ever actually believed this theory, it was created to quash the research of media effects and audience effects theories. It was created almost for arguments sake.
uses and gratifications theory: This theory centre on the audience rather than the media itself, and breaks down exactly why people consume or need media. It looks at the individual, and shows what someone can use media for. This theory is contradictory to the hypodermic needle model which states that media is consumed passively.
exposure to explicit (sexual or violent) content: This is one of the biggest and longest lasting media debates of them all! You certainly don’t need to be an expert, or even work in media to have opinions on this subject. People are always complaining or arguing about whether (usually kids)are exposed to too much in this day and age. This debate incorporates the ‘watershed’, and what time things should be allowed to be shown on television. It also involves the news, some saying more should be allowed to be shown on the news because it’s real and all people should know what’s happening in the world.
censorship: There are lots of debates about censorship. A lot of it comes down to whether the government or a government body should regulate or have any control over what the media expresses and creates. There are lots of sides to it. Some say the media should be completely free, both artistically and in the sense that it can expose anything it finds out etc. Some people think children need to be protected and thought of (linking to the exposure of explicit content debate) so they say the media should be regulated for harmful or inappropriate content. These debates are quite topical, especially in the recent light of Edward Snowden and all the NSA files he has leaked!
effects of advertising: There are various reasons why certain individuals can be anti-advertising, or just have a problem with a specific part of it. Some psychologists believe we are ‘subliminally stimulated’, that is to be swayed one way or another subconsciously. This seems to some to have a dishonest, sneaky air to it. It could even bring into question whether or not we have free will. So subliminal messages is one possible negative aspect. Another, quite, simply, is that the huge volumes of advertising pumped into us all the time has led, and is further leading, to a consumerist society. A big fat, greedy, unhappy, uncontent, materialistic, capitalist, destructive (to the environment and to every aspect of our health), economically unfair and unstable society, that is totally controlled by corporations that were initially built to serve us. But that’s just one argument. Another is that adverts can create an image (for example, of women) that people feel they need to fit in with. This may not be exclusive to advertising though. Some people say though, that we don’t consume media so passively and that these ‘subliminal messages’ are not a problem as we are more active consumers nowadays.
preferred: this is when an audience member agrees with the message behind a media product. The person/ people ‘decode’ the message the producers have put in their product, and at least broadly, they comply.
negotiated: This is where the audience (using pre-existing views, opinions or information) accepts, rejects, and refines different parts of the message. They may break it down more than someone who has a preferred response. They then, in light of opposition to the message generate a mixed response.
oppositional: This is where, once the message has been deciphered, it is rejected. It does however mean the dominant message has been ‘decoded’ or understood, but for ideological, cultural or political reasons they don’t agree. They oppose the views in question.
Firefly was a Sci-Fi/ Space-Western Drama television series that only ran for one season from 2002-03. The show follows a small renegade crew aboard a small space shuttle (Serenity, firefly class), as the journey across the galaxy, making money anyway possible, and generally finding themselves in dangerous or precarious situations, that tended to end it a show-down of some kind.
Firefly’s genre is interesting to look at, as it is a hybrid of two. The technical term is ‘space-western’. It combines elements from both the sci-fi and western genre. As I have said, it is set in a galaxy of planets inhabited (sometimes terraformed) by people. Though there are no aliens, there is lots of space travel, and various high-tech, futuristic gadgetry (for example, their guns shoot lasers). The sci-fi elements are more immediately apparent than the Western ones. It’s set in space, so people know right from the word go to expect sci-fi conventions. What is clever about this series, is that in Firefly’s ‘universe’, the central planets are all posh and high-tech, but the outer planets are often deprived and use a lot of basic things that would be considered low-tech (or obsolete) even by todays standards. This is what allows the western elements to come into play. Many of these outer planets use things like horses (or horse and cart), and some people live in cabins and the buildings generally look like the ones you would find in a western. The landscapes all have that familiar empty light-brownish surface that tends to immediately give you the ‘wild west’ vibe. There are stables, and barns, and despite the fact that peoples guns shoot lasers, they still look like old revolvers that traditional cowboys would have used.
It is also key to point out that the culture of the people in the Firefly universe is not just a combination of modern day technological materialism and wild-western deprivation, but also takes influence from oriental and Eastern places. Things like drinking green tea, and you notice quickly that everyone swears in Chinese. In the back-story of Firefly, this is because towards the end of life on planet Earth (before we used up all the non-renewable resources) China and the USA became the world powers, even more than they already are today. They are the ones that led the people off of the Earth and into space. That is why the main cultures to go forth were Americanism and Oriental.
So there are lots of visual elements to both the sci-fi and western sides of Firefly. The western elements may go even deeper, however, than just iconography. The Captain of the ship, and what is probably thought of as the main character, Malcolm Reynolds, could be said to be quite a typical mysterious cowboy outlaw. It was even revealed he was brought up on a ranch! Firefly has been called a ‘deliberate echo’ of post-Civil War America. Just before when Firefly is set, there was a great war in the Firefly universe, between the central ‘allegiance’ and the ‘independent army’ (or the ‘Brown-coats’). Mal fought on the side of the brown-coats, the losing side. This is another typical convention of Westerns, only it would be that the cowboy fought on the losing side in the Civil War. What the crew get up to is certainly western-themed. There is a train heist at one point, which involves someone being lowered down onto the train by the space-ship. This scene perfectly demonstrated the marriage between the two genres, there is nothing more sci-fi than a spaceship, and nothing that screams western quite like a train heist. Finally there are many ‘showdowns’ (also called duels, or mexican stand-offs). One of the biggest Western conventions, they come with particular over the shoulder and low-down shots, making them hit the nail exactly on the head.
Firefly is certainly episodic, meaning every episode is a complete story in itself. This means that the pace is consistently quite fast, as so that a full story can be told in each episode. There are some ongoing and overarching storylines, but these are usually specific to a character. The character exposition, and progression are things I think the show did fantastically well on. The first (and only) series was lengthy enough to reveal the surprising depth and the personal journey each character was on, in a bold and exquisitely detailed way. If only a follow up series were to have been made we may have seen just how much depth there truly was to these characters. Thankfully, a film was made to conclude the story.
Representation in firefly is interesting to look at as there are a fair number of ‘main characters’, that is the crew that boards Serenity. If we look at the representation of men and women, we can see initially the chief role, the Captain is a man. Mal is heroic and strong, a fairly traditional role for men in the media (and something some have complained about). However, the rest of the crew may not be so in keeping with such outdated personas. Zoe is second in command, and Mals most loyal and trusted member of the crew. She is fierce and e an excellent shot,Mal often bringing just her along for missions, negotiations etc. She is sharp minded and remains calm in situations more than any other crew member. She seems practically fearless. The other gun nut is called Jayne,and despite his cold, trigger happy nature he is a lot less sure of himself than Zoe. This is a slight role reversal. It applies again when looking at Zoe’s husband ‘Wash’. He is the ship’s pilot, and some-what of a coward. This is humorous because of the contrast with his own wife. The ships mechanic is Kaylee. This may traditionally be seen as a mans job. Summer was smuggled onto the ship, and is fleeing the allegiance. Se is some-what a child prodigy and psychic, with a mass intellect far surpassing any normal human abilities. Inara is a legal prostitute, known as a ‘companion’ in the universe. The remaining crew members are Book the shepherd (pastor), and Simon a doctor.
To sum up, the mechanic, the most highly intelligent, and the most efficient combatist (and strategist) are all female. The only conventional role based on gender is Mal, the Captain. So clearly the conventions have been (possibly deliberately) broken down and left behind.
The representation of the ‘Allegiance’, that is the authority, the officials, the government, is on the whole a negative one. It was a government body, the Blue Sun organisation who had River held captive, performing twisted experiments on her brain. Joss Whedon has compared Blue Sun to companies today like Coca-Cola or microsoft. The alliance seems to be authoritarian, ruling with an iron fist. However Whedon has said it may seem that way because it is following the perspective of people who both oppose the alliance, and are constantly breaking the law. The Serenity crew is made up of course, of Anti-Heroes. But no matter what they do (even stealing supplies from a hospital at one point), they are so lovely and awesome that we will cherish and adore them forever! The alliance seem to show great bias towards the central planets, and fail to send proper aid or supplies or help of any real kind to the outer planets. Whedon also say. According to Whedon’s vision, “nothing will change in the future: technology will advance, but we will still have the same political, moral, and ethical problems as today”. So maybe the things going on in the Firefly universe do represent the same things that go on today.