Thursday, 7 May 2015

'Spooks' Extract - Ethnicity Representations


  • The estate = the camera tracks behind white woman with a handheld movement - here the the power of British white people is established, as the white 'X' is marked on the door. The ominous non-diegetic synth music at the beginning creates a threatening feeling - almost hinting at conflict between white and coloured people. As the woman leaves a shot there is a pull focus into the background, where the audience can clearly see children of ethnic minority - although there is one white child, suggesting that not all white people are at conflict with coloured groups. We later see two white men pulling out a coloured woman from her flat and throwing all her possessions out. The children in the background are shown with emotionless expressions - they are used to this violent behaviour. This clearly establishes a division between the two groups. 
  • Samson's speech = we see him reflected in the mirror and practising his speech in the bathroom, the lighting is quite threatening (the shadows on his face and the background in darkness) and only parts of Samson are highlighted - this suggests that he poses a threat to other ethnic groups, and may be a deceptive character as well. In the conference room, the lighting is used again to enhance his threatening nature (coming from below the character and shining upwards to cast shadows). The low angle shots of his present him as a superior, powerful figure. The audience, of which majority are white, in the conference room are drowned in darkness, reinforcing the harshness and dark values that this party and its followers support. We see a over-the-shoulder shot and shots where the camera is directly behind Samson as he gives his speech - he is centred in the middle and in the background is the audience clapping and cheering which shows the large power and influence he holds. 
  • Crosscutting = the crosscutting between Samson's speech and the violent attack on the estate shows the disgusting nature of the 'British Way' party and its brutal influence. The handheld camera movements enhance the chaos of the scene - as the whole extract is shown through handheld movement it suggests that the party's values are flawed and uncontrollable, which undermines the powerful speech Samson gives. The ethnic minority are shown as powerless victims, as a group of white men drag an innocent black woman out of her car and attack her. This is representative of some existing, strong racist views against coloured people in today's society - demonstrating white supremacy and the victimisation of ethnic minorities. The sound-bridging of Samson speaking of ethnic groups being violent and destructive, as some 'hold a dirty bomb in their hand', over the crosscutting that shows only the violent nature of the white ethnicity  challenges stereotypical representations of violence and terrorism of ethnic minorities.  

Thursday, 30 April 2015

'E.R.' Extract - Age Representation

Stereotypical representations of age show the younger and older characters to be quite dis-empowered and helpless, and the middle-aged characters to be important, intelligent and powerful. At times the 'E.R.' extract does adhere to these conventions, but it also challenges them - which is a more appropriate representation of age in contemporary society.

The extract begins with a mid-shot tracking of two senior doctors in their thirties, whose jargon of medical terminology  establishes their high status. The camera tracks the male doctor into a room of a young male patient. At first, the doctor is seen in a shadow, and the light on top of the boy highlights him - focussing the audiences' attention on the boy and his medical condition. The boy is shown through a slight high angle and the doctor through a slight low angle, creating an eyeline match that establishes the difference in power between them as the doctor towers over him. The vulnerability of the boy is enhanced by his messy hair, pale colour and tired expression - the greenish tinge of the room, the use of tubes and the constant ambient sound of the monitor beeping reinforces his medical condition and the fragile state he is in. However, this stereotypical representation of children being weak and helpless is challenged by the boy's character. The language the boy uses when he self-diagnoses, such as 'this disease is highly invariable',  and the prop of a Sudoku book beside him shows a high level of maturity as he presents in himself in a controlled and calm way despite his serious condition. Also, the high/low angle is undermined when the conversation sound bridges as the camera focuses mainly on the boy, presenting him with more importance to the audience. The boy seems to look away as if he is lost in his thoughts, making his character quite reflective which enhances his maturity. Furthermore, through the close-up shot/reverse shot of both characters, there seems to be a role reversal where the doctor is learning from the boy. As the doctor asks why the boy hasn't told his mother yet, the boy explains that he wants to protect her and says 'I'll tell her tonight' which shows he is in control of the situation. This challenges usual representations of younger characters being weak and powerless, with the older characters being in control and wise.

In the waiting room scene, a female doctor (around 20-30yrs old) stops to ask an older woman if she needs any assistance. The doctor towers over her as she is seen through a low angle and the older woman through a high angle, adhering to representations of older people being powerless and weaker than younger people. When the older woman replies 'I'm here for the air', to the audience it seems that her mentality is not as sharp as it should be - again adhering to conventions of older people being crazy or out of place in the situation. The weird qualities of her character are reinforced by the fact she seems to be peaceful and smiling in the chaotic atmosphere of the waiting room. However, the representation of the older age group is slightly challenged. The female doctor's hair seems to be quite messy and, as she rubs her forehead in frustration, she seems to be quite stressed. This contrasts the peaceful state of the older woman and the perfect hair, so it could be argued that the older woman is more put together and in control of the situation she is in.

There is a consistent steadicam movement throughout, adding verisimilitude to the scene and allowing the audience to empathise with the situation more easily. The majority of the staff are seen at eye-level, allowing the audience to sympathise with all the characters of any age. The ambient sounds of beeping and the telephone ringing demonstrate how busy they all are with many responsibilities that are equally important as others. Furthermore, throughout the whole extract, camera tracks the staff (of a varied age range) walking through the hospital as they go on to their next task. This fluid movement through the hospital and to the next scenes demonstrate they all have a common purpose, despite their different ages.  The slow-paced cuts of the long takes suggest to the audience that the staff are very much in control of the situation regardless of their age. However, there is a slight suggestion that control and wiseness comes with age. In the surgery room, the senior doctor seems to be calm despite the hectic and urgent situation; whereas the younger female doctors are shown to be stressed as they impatiently move around the room to help the man. Furthermore, the senior doctor is seen through a close-up shot and is positioned in the centre of the frame; whereas, the younger doctors are seen in a mid-shot three-shot - this places the senior doctor at a higher importance and power than the younger doctors.

To conclude, the 'E.R.' extract presents the scene with characters ranging from young to old. Although the extract adheres to stereotypical representations of the very young and old being powerless than the middle-aged characters, it does challenge these representations as well. The majority of the extract shows positive representations of the younger and older characters, presenting them as wise and in control of the situation. This is more representative of contemporary society, as age hierarchy is beginning to be shown less in modern media.

Friday, 24 April 2015

'Cutting It' Extract - Gender Representations

The stereotypical representations of gender in media show masculinity and femininity as binary opposites - with males being seen strong,  and superior, and females represented as weak, emotional and in a domestic light. The 'Cutting It' extract creates atypical representations of gender, by showing the male and female characters to be on an equal status, which is more representative of modern relationships.

The extract begins with a two-shot mid-shot of a female character, Allie, leaning on a male character, Gavin, establishing that they are in a close relationship. This is then enforced as a romantic relationship in the shot of Gavin kissing her hand. However, a sense of distance between them is created as in many shots they don't look at each other. Particularly in the reaction shots during the dialogue where the sound bridges over so the viewer can see their facial expressions. The dialogue enhances the distance between them as Allie says "I'm sorry I never trusted you", suggesting their relationship is quite complicated. The hints of both of the characters cheating on each other with "Finn" and "Melissa" place the characters at an equal position in the relationship - one character is not seen better than the other by the viewer. This complicated relationship is, also, representative of normal contemporary relationships, as it challenges traditional values of staying with one partner forever. Furthermore, there are many pauses within the dialogue, creating a tension-filled silence between them - this is, also, enhanced by the absence of a non-diegetic soundtrack and the emphasis of ambient sounds, such as vehicles moving. Yet, the insert cutaway close-up of the woman's hand holding the man's hand suggests a sense of forgiveness. Also, the shot draws attention to a wedding ring, showing that they are married - which adheres to hegemonic values of the importance of marriage.

As the characters exit the taxi, the wide-shot of a street with an ambulance passing answers that they are  at a hospital to Gavin's question "Where are we going?". A shot/reverse shot between them is focussed mainly on the woman - particularly the shot where the kiss where the audience can only see the woman. This intimates a switch of gender roles as she seems to be more in control of the relationship - which challenges the stereotypes of women playing the passive roles in the relationship. Furthermore, when she says "don't come with me" and "just wait for me here" represents her as an independent female character - atypical of modern representations of men taking the power stance in the relationship. On the other hand, it can be interpreted as quite protective of her as she wants to spare the man's feelings, reinforcing her femininity and maternal role. Also, the close-up shots of the man show an emotional side of him as his facial expression suggests that he is anxious and worried about his partner. Again, this is quite atypical as male characters are not usually seen to be emotive in modern media, as their masculinity forces them to be strong and rational.

The montage scene compresses time as the woman getting the results from her doctor; however, the male character and the audience do not find out if they are positive or negative. This puts the woman in control of key information that may propel the narrative. This ambiguity is enhanced by the non-diegetic music being played over the dialogue and the woman's ambivalent facial expression, so the audience cannot hear what is being discussed and what the results are. However, there are some hints that she is in a vulnerable, weak state due to the high angle shot of the darkly-lit interior of the doctor's office. This contrasts the bright, naturally lit setting of the man outside waiting for, suggesting that he is in a better situation than she is. Yet, the relationship between the two is not compromised, shown by the insert of the man smiling at and playing with his wedding ring. Moreover, the shots are in slow-motion and the non-diegetic music is quite slow-paced which create a sense that time has slowed down for the characters personally as they wait to be reunited. It, also, helps the audience to be more sympathetic towards the woman due to her vulnerable situation. It seems as if this adheres to stereotypes of females being the weaker, submissive partner in the relationship, but this is only the case of health, not gender.

The extract ends with a slow motion, POV shot of the woman being hit by a vehicle (although this is not visually seen, only heard). The style and pace of the editing becomes more urgent due to the panicked, emotional state of the man. With a slight jump cut, rapid crosscutting, handheld camera movements and canted angles the atmosphere becomes chaotic as we see the woman lying spread-eagled on the ground. The sequence is accompanied by the hyperbolic diegetic sound of the man's heartbeat, creating a sense that time has suspended which positions him in an emotionally vulnerable state - the sudden return of ambient sounds, such as normal street noises, throws the audience back into reality. Then, a sad, orchestral non-diegetic soundtrack begins to enhance the tragedy of the scene. Also, the audience is positioned at the centre of the drama with the use of low-angle and high-angle POV shots of both character, which pushes them to be sympathetic towards the situation. Finally, the woman still seems to assume control as she prompts the final dialogue, asking "was it the perfect day?", and the man falls to pieces stricken in grief. Here, the stereotypical gender roles switch with the woman staying strong in this tragic event and the man emotionally weak.

Ultimately, the 'Cutting It' extract challenges the normal representations of gender in media by switching the gender roles, equalling the power of masculinity and femininity in the relationship between the two characters. The two characters do not seem to show complete power over the other in their complicated relationship, appropriately representing the relationships that occur in contemporary society.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

'Coming Down the Mountain' Extract - Representations of Ability/Disability

In the 'Coming Down the Mountain' extract, there are stereotypical representations of the able - David - and disabled - Ben. Disability is shown to be an issue and a burden on the able characters, which is a conventional representation in media. However, the usual representations of ability are challenged, as the able character, David, can be seen having some negative characteristics as well.

The extract begins with a bird's-eye view shot of the brothers' bedroom. There are clear differences between David and Ben's side of the room. The dark colours of David's side contrast the bright colours on Ben's side of the room - this suggests that they do not live the same lifestyles as one another and that there is a clear division between them. Ben's side is cluttered with colourful childlike toy props, which presents him as vulnerable, innocent and not like other teenagers. On the other side, David, the able character, seems to have conventional teenager elements to his side with a music player and various posters - creating a sense of teen 'angst'. The camera pans slowly around David in mid shot, showing that the voiceover is coming from him. David narrates his experience with having a disabled brother through a voiceover, saying that he 'tried to kill him' - this implies that he wants to keep his extreme anger towards his brother a secret. When he expresses these feelings, sharp electric guitar sounds are added to the non-diegetic sound, enhancing his anger towards his brother.

The scene dissolves into a short montage of the process of evolution. The black & white and grainy effects, and asynchronous sounds of explosions and animal movement, shows that this section is not occurring in the scene, but is merely a visual enhancement of David's thoughts. This montage has been used to demonstrate the biological process of humans, suggesting that there has been a 'mix up of chemicals' in Ben's biology that has made him have a disability. The cut to a close-up of Ben's face, in the kitchen, creates a direct link to him and the montage. The shot of a disgusted look of David's face and the voiceover of David describing him as a 'big potato with eye tentacles' shows that he is not happy about having a disabled brother - this immediately hints to the audience that disability is a burden. David's annoyed behaviours, throughout the kitchen scene, towards Ben furthers the idea that disabled people are a hassle on the abled. The parents seem to favourite and care for Ben more due to his disability - as the mother kisses Ben's head but not David's and David has to 'keep an eye' on Ben when he goes to the toilet. This adheres to the stereotype that the disabled are weak and always need to be looked after. Furthermore, this may position the audience to empathise with David due to him having to be a carer whilst being a teenager. However, there is a sense of maturity coming from Ben which contrasts David's almost childish behaviour - even the mother says to David 'grow up' and stop being 'selfish'. This differs from the initial of Ben being represented as childish and David being represented as a normal teenager.

The camera then tracks David and Ben walking to the bus stop - David is walking in front of Ben, which shows that he has more superiority and power over Ben. There's continuous cuts to various shots  of the brothers waiting at the bus stop across a number of days, which emphasises the burden David had to keep carrying. In all the shots, Ben is playing with child toys which emphasises the vulnerability of his character. Afterwards, there are various shots of David having to support and care for Ben, and the voiceover continues to explain that disabled people 'always need someone with them - adhering to the generic representation of disability being an issue.

There is a cut to the scene at school, where the students are shown to have rowdy behaviour. The behaviours of these able students contrast the quietness and normality of Ben's behaviour, challenging the stereotype that the abled are perfect compared to the disabled. It then tracks to a tracking shot of David talking to his friend about a party where drugs are involved. Ben is seen standing in the background, which again furthers the idea that the abled are more superior than the disabled. There is a cut from David and his friend to Ben and a few younger children. This enhances the division between Ben and David as it shows that David leads a normal teen lifestyle, whereas Ben is stuck in a child lifestyle. The positions the audience to feel sympathetic towards Ben, as cannot be normal like other teenagers. When David gives money for Ben to get home, David is seen through a low angle and Ben is seen through a high angle, which emphasises the idea that abled have a higher lifestyle and power over the disabled. In the reflection of a classroom window, a small science explosion is seen going off - this connotes that danger might occur when Ben is left alone.

The final scene shows Ben by himself on a bus with a few troublesome children in the background. The shaky camera movement suggests that trouble or danger may incur. The close-up shots of Ben's cautious expressions and David's narration explaining that they have 'never been more than half a mile apart' show the unsafe situation Ben is in. Furthermore, Ben is seen on an eye-level which allows the audience to feel even more sympathetic towards him. The extract ends with a slow motion close-up shot of Ben's eyes with asynchronous sounds of childlike laughter, emphasising the vulnerability of Ben's character.

Overall, although the extract shows some challenges towards stereotypical representations of ability and disability - by switching the contrasts between them, the majority of the extract adheres to the generic idea of the disabled being weak and unable to participate in a normal lifestyle in comparison to the abled characters.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

'Fingersmith' Extract - Representations of Sexuality

In this extract of 'Fingersmith', homosexuality is shown to be forbidden in society due to the time period of the Vicorian era. However, an atypical representation is created due to the character, Maude, not having the typical butch, manly characteristics that most representations of lesbians show in modern media. Also, the audience are positioned to feel sympathetic towards Maude, as she has to keep her feelings a secret.

In the beginning of the extract, Maude is shown - through a two shot - to have feelings for the other woman in the scene. This is enhanced by the non-diegetic sounds of violins and piano melodies, which create a romantic atmosphere. She expresses her feelings through a voiceover - 'she looked so beautiful' - which implies that she wants to keep her thoughts a secret. In addition, Maude's expressions seem of a secretive and worried state, suggesting she may not be comfortable with her own sexuality and how others may feel about it.This suggests that homosexuality was forbidden in the Victorian era. Furthermore, as Maude is behind the woman, this suggest that their feelings are not equal and mutual. The characters are then seen through the reflection of a mirror - this connotes that Maude's romantic feelings are only a reflection, and that they cannot be expressed physically in reality. Also, the grimy state of the mirror furthers the idea that homosexuality was not seen as a pure, good thing in society.

The scene than fades into a panning of Maude, where she is seen by herself in a study. The dim lighting in the room and the dark colours of her costume enhance the secretiveness of her sexuality. She stays on eye-level so the audience are positioned to be sympathetic towards her. The scene, again, fades into the next where Maude is seen laying next to the woman she has feelings for. Again, the dim lighting shows the audience that Maude's feelings are still a secret. The woman is shown to be asleep, whilst Maude is awake and looking anxious. There is a slow zoom and tracking of Maude's hand when she reaches out to touch the woman, and the non-diegetic music becomes lower in tone - which adds tension to the scene. This positions the audience to feel sympathetic towards Maude, as she cannot express her romantic feelings out loud. Yet, the white costumes and bed contrast the dark background - as white symbolises purity and innocence, it challenges the traditional idea that homosexuality is forbidden and shameful.

The scene fades into the next, where Maude is painting the woman outside. This natural scenery - enhanced by the ambient sounds of birds - contrasts the closed settings shown previously, suggesting that Maude has become more open and/or comfortable about her feelings. However, a male character has been introduced and is shown to be standing in between Maude and the other woman, implying that he will create conflict for them. The audience soon find out that Maude and the male character are pretending to be in a heterosexual relationship, as he says 'She must think we love one another'. The sharp change in the non-diegetic music and the sharp pull away of the hand demonstrates that Maude is not comfortable with this pretence.

There are cuts to various shots of the womans body and the reaction shot of Maude, emphasising Maude's romantic and intimate feelings of the woman. The man soon realises Maude's feelings towards the woman at the same time red paint drips onto the painting. This suggests a sense of lust between Maude and the woman, as well as implying that there will be danger.  Seconds later the danger is evident, when there is a panning shot of the man grabbing Maude and aggressively pulling her towards a tree. When the man touches her and removes her white glove, it suggests that he is taking away her purity and innocence, making the audience feel sympathetic towards her. Also, the ease of the touch contrasts the anxious touch between Maude and the woman - which adheres to the idea that heterosexuality is the norm; homosexuality is not.

A fade into the final scene, shows a that Maude and the woman are back inside. Maude is seen looking at the woman undressing, demonstrating that her feelings towards her are still there. However, the sad non-diegetic music and the darkness of the room suggest that she has become more closed up about her feelings. The final shot shows Maude and the woman in bed - but, Maude is now facing away with her gloved hand to her face. This connotes that homosexuality is still a pure thing to her, but her feelings are still secretive and possibly even more repressed.

Overall, this extract demonstrates the issue of homosexuality in the Victorian era. It demonstrates that homosexuality was not seen as normal in society, and that it should be hidden from others. However, the challenging perceptions of homoesexuality positions the audience to think differently about it, and therefore sympathise with Maude's character.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

'Hotel Babylon' Extract - Ethnicity

  • There is a smooth tracking of the white characters; whereas, the shots of the other characters of ethnic minority are shaky and handheld. This suggests that people of white ethnicity have more controlled and powerful lifestyles, and those of ethnic minority have chaotic and unstable lifestyles. However, the handheld camera movement makes it seem like a POV shot from the audience's view - which positions them to be empathetic with the ethnic minority characters, rather than the white characters. Also,the non-diegetic music is intense and dramatic, which hints that there will be conflict between the two ethnicities. The fast cuts, shaky camera movements and busy scenes create a sense of panic and chaos.
  • The two receptionists' ethnicity are clearly defined, as the white woman wears completely white clothes and the black woman wears black and red clothes. The colour of the costumes connotes that white people are pure and good; whereas, non-white people are dangerous and live lesser lifestyles. Furthemore, the camera tracks and focuses on the white receptionist, so the black receptionist is out of shot. This suggests to the audience that non-white people are less important and powerful than white people. However, the staff at the hotel - of both ethnicities - seem to be supportive of each other, as the white receptionist stalls the immigrations officers so the immigrant staff can be warned. Furthermore, the message is relayed by a black man seen in a smart suit, which implies to the audience that he has a high level of authority - this challenges the normal stereotypes of ethnic minorites have little to no authority.
  • The directors have adhered to the convention of non-white people and immigrants having menial jobs, as majority of these characters are seen to be cooks, cleaners and maids, and white characters seen having a higher status and power in the hotel.When they are rushed into a small room, they are seen through a grated door, which suggests that they are trapped and confined. Their heavy breathing and shaking shows that they are vulnerable in comparison to the white characters - who are shown having strong composure. This positions the audience to feel sympathetic towards these characters, and positions them to view the white immigration officers as the antagonists due to their unflinching emotion when they arrest a black cleaner. 
  • When a maid faints in the room due to her diabetes, a black character shows his medical knowledge, and when it cuts to a surprised reaction shot of the black receptionist, he responds by saying 'I was not always a cleaner.' This challenges perceptions of immigrants being less educated than normal citizens.
  • When it is discovered that the black cleaner's family have been shot in his country and that if he returns 'he will be killed', the immigration officer disregards it with a inexpressive emotion and instead worries about his job. This positions the audience to feel that the officer is almost barbaric, while the black character is innocent - which challenges stereotypes of white characters being good and black characters being involved in crime.
  • Furthermore, the white receptionist is shown to not care about the arrest and returns to her usual duties - this makes her previous support to be a personal motive; whereas, the black receptionist is seen taking care of the cleaner's things. A shot, using the rule-of-thirds, shows a few of the non-white and immigrant staff in the background - which shows the togetherness and support that they have for each other. Also, the cleaner's locker has pictures of his family and country in the background, which shows that his is proud of his ethnicity. Sad, slow non-diegetic music is played during close-up shots of the black characters looking down - which positions the audience to feel sad and sympathetic towards them.
  • The final scene shows the camera panning around a canteen, showing a range of ethnic groups - asian, european and african. They seem to be sitting with people of the same ethnicity, which adheres to the stereotype that ethnic groups stay in their groups. The final shot shows a black man and woman praying for their friend, and return to their meal as normal. This suggests that these arrests occur all the time.