Discuss the huge rise in popularity of superhero narratives in recent times

For many of us, superheroes were our first sign that somebody saved the world for a job. Cool right? The increase in superhero narratives has provided people with tons of entertainment and laughter. Obviously this industry is still a massive success and keeps growing. I mean look at all the superhero films coming out in the next three years! Woohoo! Now we are able to enjoy the likes of Marvel, AC Comics and DC Comics in our homes or on the big screen. Today I will look at why superheroes have risen in popularity over the years and why people like them so much.

Let’s start with everyone’s favourite geeky, good guy, Superman, Clark Kent. He is still really popular today with kids and adults. Better CGI is created so the effects look loads more realistic. As Superman can’t reveal his true identity, it means that it functions as an expression of a divided personality. Of course, once Clark Kent removes his glasses and puts on his superhero outfit he removes the geeky persona and becomes the confident hero.

Next! Batman! Some people say he was an escapism for the audience as he was created in 1939. But once the war was over, he became increasingly unpopular.  Batman is still popular today because of his changing costume designs and re-designs of the Batmobile. But let’s not forget Batman’s sidekick, Robin. He appealed to the younger audience as they could relate to him. In some of the remakes that were done, they wore 3D outfits!

Next, is everyone’s female superhero, Wonder Woman! She is often described as the World War 2 veteran and male sex fantasy (weird I know). Wonder Woman is still popular today because she is the only woman that is a member in the Justics League of America. In many of Wonder Woman’s costumes, she wears an adaptation of the American flag maybe she provided morale for the troops? Some theories also show that she could have been a lesbian.

Spidey time! Spider Man quickly became Marvel’s best selling character, she is still massively popular today as younger audiences can relate to him. Like Clark Kent, Peter Parker is seen as the typical ‘geek’ wears glasses, clumsy and awarded with the science prize at school. Peter is also bullied by his classmates. Once Peter is bitten by the spider he rejects the ‘geek’ persona and becomes socially accepted amongst his peers.

It can be suggested that kids like superheroes because they like the thought of flying through the air (I HATE heights so no thanks). Looking at teenagers they may like the superheroes because they take an interest in the gadgets and game consoles they are wearing. Spider Man and Batman use their animal characteristics to fly around the city they are trying to save.

Recently Suicide Squad (such a good film) hit the cinemas it was popular with all ages while at the cinema and has stayed popular today. The villains are remodelled to suit a 21st century audience, we are now in an age of divorce, corruption and meltdowns so we realise from a young age that no one is perfect. We as an audience are appealed to watching someone who has flaws because as humans we do not always make the right decision, tell me about it…

Heroes (which ended in 2010) focused on the characters and their reactions in gaining their superpowers and abilities. There were several narrative strands running alongside one another. After a solar eclipse they realise they have superpowers and eventually their lives intertwine to prevent another catastrophic event from happening.

So, the rise in popularity of superhero narratives in recent times maybe because of the advancement in technology and effects tat have been developed by the superhero publishers. Marvel, AC Comics and DC Comics have provided their audience with a wealth of entertainment over the past century displaying new ideas, concepts and characters to suit different audiences. More advanced ideas have been explored allowed superheroes to be redeveloped and changed to suit a new generation of audiences. This increased interest in superheroes has stayed the same but, renewed interests have allowed for a new generation of audiences.  This ever growing interest in superheroes has allowed a new series, films and remakes to be produced which stretches the human’s imagination.

Offer a Proppian analysis of two folk / fairy or other fantasy narratives.

Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) was a Russian scholar who analysed a wide number of Russian folk tales. He published these findings in A Morphology of the Folktale 1928 (translated in English in 1968). His work has inspired a large number of hugely influential people to apply his methods and findings to all manner of stories and story types. Propp theorised that many, if not all folktales have thirty-one functions where the main character experiences a variety of emotions, including ‘absentation, interdiction, delivery, villainy, mediation and receipt of a magical agent’ (Propp, 1968, p24). The functions that Propp theorised play a key role in any story to lead to a ‘new equilibrium’ (Branston and Stafford, 2010, p48). He also theorised that characters take on different roles including a hero, princess, a villain, a false hero, a despatcher, a helper and a donor. During his research, Propp chose to look at a very small selection of folktales to illustrate his ideas of character roles and the sequencing of the thirty-one functions, many of the folktales would have been similar to Grimm’s fairy tales. His narrative theory can be applied to many different films, TV shows and books, key characters each have a role to play within the storyline. This essay will analyse the character and narrative function of Cinderella (dir. Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wilfred Jackson) and Star Wars (dir. George Lucas).

Looking at the variety of remakes that Cinderella has undergone over the years since the Grimm brother’s version and Perrault’s there have been many adjustments to the narrative. The first difference being that the Grimm version is far more graphically gothic and gory in description. For example, the final scene where Anatasia and Drizella try on the glass slipper. Their mother says to them ‘slice off that toe. Once you’re Queen, you won’t need to bother with walking […] carve a good slice off your heel. You won’t be walking anywhere when you’re Queen’ (Duffy, 1999, p43-4). Due to the horrific nature of the Grimm fairy tales, it is suggested that these stories were intended for adults; however re-makes and new editions have been watered down or ‘sanitised’ to suit a younger audience.

Analysing the character and narrative functions in the Grimm folktale of ‘Ashputtel’ the false hero is her evil stepmother as she tricks her into thinking that she is allowed to go to the wedding-feast. ‘If you can sort out two bowlfuls of lentils from the ashes in one hour you can come with us […] If you can pick out all the lentils again in two hours, then you can come with us to the dance’ (Duffy, 1999, p35-7). It can be implied that Propp’s narrative function here is ‘delivery’ or ‘complicity’ (1968, p28-30) as the villain has succeeded in acquiring something valuable and the victim has been fooled. In the folktale there is no Fairy Godmother. Instead, the large tree in the garden where her mother’s grave is serves as the magical helper that gives Cinderella her dress. Exploring the 1957 version of Cinderella, the mice are the donors as they upscale Cinderella’s mothers dress for the ball. Analysing Propp’s narrative functions it can be suggested that the ‘guidance’ function (1968, p50) is occurring as Cinderella is given the dress to get to the ball. However, this is destroyed by the step sisters who are the villains in the narrative, they also treat her as a servant. Cinderella and Prince Charming play the prince and princess roles as they marry each other completing Propp’s narrative function of the ‘wedding’ (1968, p63) and Todorov’s theory where stories begin with an ‘equilibrium’ (Branston and Stafford, 2010, p46) and end with a new balance to the narrative.

In the original narratives the key figures fit into Propp’s plan of the character roles, however the Disney version removes some of the darker elements whilst introducing the mice as helpers. Berger cited Propp (1992, p20) stating that:

Heroes have helpers of one sort or another-people, animals, magic weapons and these helpers support the hero in his fight with the villain and enable the hero to triumph.

Analysing the different cultures that have interpreted Cinderella, the Armenian version is of interest. Written in 1989 none of the characters are given names, but referred to as ‘youngest sister,’ ‘sister’ or ‘King’. In the narrative, the family become so poor they are unable to buy food so the two elder sisters kill and eat their mother. Before the sisters do this however, she calls her youngest daughter and says to her (Philip, 1989, p47):

Let them eat as much as they want, but don’t you eat. After they have finished, take my bones and bury them behind the house. Whenever you need anything-whether it be food, clothes, money-just come to my grave and ask for it.

Analysing the mothers dialogue and that the death occurred at the start of the narrative, the Proppian function that can be applied is ‘absentation’ (1968, p26). Once their mother is dead, the elder sisters begin to feast on her; they ask their younger sibling to join them but she refuses. The character roles in this narrative have shifted dramatically, the elder sisters become the villains while the mother becomes the donor and magical helper once she has passed away. The narrative provides sympathy for the mother, changing her role within the Proppian analysis. The role of the sisters has intensified as they assault their younger sibling three times, each one becoming more graphic in description.

The Armenian version and ‘Ashputtel’ are similar in narrative in that they both have a wedding-feast. When the elder sisters beat their younger sibling, it can be suggested that ‘reconnaissance’ (1968, p28) is taking place as the villains have managed to seek out the hero to gauge their strengths. Assessing Propp’s narrative functions, this could be known as the ‘victory’ part of the narrative (1968, p53) because the youngest sibling has defeated her sisters and the King decides to marry the her. Investigating Propp’s narrative theory and the plotline of this fairy tale, this part of the narrative can be known as the ‘exposure’ function (1968, p62). The king’s character function has climaxed, it can be suggested that the audience witness a darker, crueller side to him, a trait that the audience would not expect due to the stereotype he holds in other versions. Cinderella’s role stays the same and the King is the hero as he marries her. This part of the narrative is known as the ‘wedding’ (1968, p63) function as theorised by Propp. There is a vast difference in narrative and characters functions in the Armenian version of this popular tale. The roles of the princess and step sisters stay the same. It is the role of the mother that can be seen as atypical compared to the other books and modern day versions.

In modern day versions of ‘Cinderella’ stories, one narrative that emphasises Propp’s character theory is A Cinderella Story (dir. Mark Rosman). Sam lives in Los Angeles with her step mum, Fiona and step sisters Brianna and Gabriella. Her father dies in an earthquake and leaves no will meaning that Fiona receives everything, including the diner he ran. This is an example of ‘absentation’(Propp, 1968, p26) in the narrative as the main character experiences loss in the film, this has injected the initial tension into the narrative. Sometime later, Sam is working as a waitress at the diner whilst attending school and hoping to go to university. Sam is told she must learn her keep and becomes a servant, in her own home and at the workplace. From analysing Propp’s narrative functions, the ‘delivery’ (1968, p28) is the next event in the narrative as the villain succeeds in controlling Sam. She starts text messaging a boy named ‘Nomad’; they agree to meet at the homecoming dance and begin an online relationship. The despatcher in the film is the mobile phone as it allows Sam and ‘Nomad’ to communicate with one another, allowing them to meet at the dance. Sam’s work colleague, Rhonda provides her with a dress and mask for the homecoming dance, here the audience see the first function of the donor. In Propp’s functions this could be known as the ‘departure’ (1968, p39) as she sets off to the dance with a sense of purpose. Sam arrives at the dance, it can be suggested that Propp’s narrative function addressed here is ‘guidance’ (1968, p50) as the hero is delivered to a vital location. While there, Sam discovers that ‘Nomad’ is Austin Ames, the most popular boy in school. Later she receives a letter from her chosen university stating that her application has been rejected, so she resigns to working in the diner, but she chooses to stand up to Fiona and quits working there. From Propp’s functions this could be the ‘victory’ (1968, p53) function as Sam stands up to her stepmother. Sam finds her dad’s will, stating all of his money belongs to her and finds her real letter for university, this could be known as the ‘punishment’ (1968, p63) function as Fiona, the villain, has suffered directly at the hands of her step daughter. Sam and Austin go to university together, therefore this is the ‘wedding’ (1968, p63) function as theorised by Propp. In this version, Sam is the princess, Austin is the prince, and the villains are Sam’s stepfamily for taking all of her father’s possessions after he died.

Looking at the vast narrative functions of the Star Wars films the character and narrative functions appear to be more advanced than others. Analysing Star Wars: A New Hope (dir. George Lucas) the different purposes are seen very distinctly by the audience. A New Hope was the first of the Star Wars films to be made in 1977. At the beginning of the film, Luke’s guardians are murdered, he is then taken away by a slave ship. Analysing Propp’s narrative function, it is clear to see that ‘absentation’ has taken place as the main character experiences loss, Luke also leaves the home environment. Studying the film, the audience know that the hero is Luke Skywalker as he fights Darth Vader and the storm troopers. Darth’s constant goal is to impose fear wherever he goes and to use the anger and hatred, this fear stirs up to control those around him. The binary opposition (Branston and Stafford, 2010, p19-20) between Luke and Darth Vader is clear to the audience that they have opposing views about the Empire, which serves as the main conflict for the narrative. During A New Hope (dir. George Lucas) Princess Leia is captured by the villains. Leia takes on the role of the princess as she serves as the plot driver and is in need of rescuing when stolen away by Darth Vader. This can be seen as the ‘liquidation’ (1968, p53) function in the film as Princess Leia is rescued. Berger states that ‘one of the traditional tasks of the hero is to help heroines who are in trouble or rescue them from villains’ (1992, p20). Luke conforms to this stereotype and completes his quest by saving Princess Leia, ‘a figure such as Princess Leia in Star Wars is a case in point’ (Berger, 1992, p20). It can be suggested that he is trying to explain that Leia subverts the stereotype of the princess than those in other narratives as she helps Luke and Han Solo in fighting the Death Star and defeating Darth Vader. Luke and Leia’s roles in the narrative do not shift as they are the two main characters and their function in the narrative is crucial. The indication that Luke has some feelings for her is shown through C3PO’s video representation of Princess Leia, Luke exclaims ‘she’s beautiful’. Leia also indicates this at the end of the narrative when Han Solo and Luke are awarded with their medals, she gives him a warm smile which he returns. Han Solo’s role in the film is the helper as he aids Luke, Leia and Obi Wan to destroy the Death Star with the help of Chewbacca. It can be implied that the despatcher is R2D2 as he shows Luke the video of Princess Leia when she is captured by Darth Vader, Leia says ‘Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope’ and makes Princess Leia known to Luke.

To conclude, the Proppian analysis of Cinderella (dir. Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wilfred Jackson, 1957) and Star Wars: A New Hope (dir. George Lucas) can be interpreted in many ways. The variety of Cinderella stories that have stemmed from the first one written by the Grimm brothers has provided many people with different interpretations of the popular tale. Some of the character functions have stayed the same, thanks to the role, the nature of the character and the narratives goal at the end of the story, Cinderella being the princess, Prince Charming being her prince and her stepfamily being the villains. The role of the mother, fairy godmother and her step mother in more recent versions has shifted. The character functions in Star Wars: A New Hope (dir. George Lucas) are also interesting to analyse. The character roles that have grown throughout the Star Wars franchise because of this first film have roughly stayed the same, with the exception of Obi Wan. The narrative functions in Cinderella and Star Wars have to an extent stayed the same. The theories by Propp of ‘absentation,’ (1968, p25) ‘victory’ (1968, p53) and ‘wedding’ (1968, p63) are common in both films. However, the other theories are sometimes mixed up as not all narratives follow Propp’s particular structure nor do they all contain the theories by Propp. Investigating other mystical and fantasy narratives in a potential futuristic setting such as Game of Thrones (dir. Alan Taylor) is critical yet marvellous in its character and narrative functions as the roles and plotline are overly complex and requires a high level of understanding. Ed and Arya Stark are the heroes because they are full of courage and try to do what is right by their country, he is the Lord of Winterfell and new Hand of the King. Arya, Ed’s daughter is wild and wilful in nature but also an intelligent child; she is also a good swordfighter. From series one onwards, Arya is a ‘classic action girl or Amazon with far less nuance’ (Frankel, 2014, p37). Her elder sister, Sansa is a more naïve character; she chooses to ignore the cruelties happening around her concerning herself with only marrying Joffrey Baratheon. The binary opposition between (Branston and Stafford, 2010, p19-20) Arya and Sansa Stark is critical in understanding the character roles). Sansa is a passive character while Arya is active in that she is often seen killing a potential threat. A villain in the programme is Jamie Lannister, he is arrogant in his nature, short-tempered and makes rash decisions but is a gifted swordsman. There are a variety of character roles throughout folk or fairy narratives that display a Proppian analysis. Some of the narrative and character functions have changed according to different cultures, others have remained the same to suit particular values and interpretations.

References

DVDs

A Cinderella Story (2004) [DVD] Directed by Mark Rosman. California, Warner Brothers.

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) [DVD] Directed by George Lucas. Elstree Studios, 20th Century Fox.

Cinderella (1957) [DVD] Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wilfred Jackson. England, Pinewood Studios.

Game of Thrones Series One (2011) Directed by Alan Taylor. Belfast, HBO.

e-Books

Frankel, V E. (2014) Women in Game of Thrones. [Internet]. North Carolina, McFarland and Company Inc, Available from https://www.dawsonera.com/readonline/9781476615547 [Accessed 14th October 2016].

Branston, G. and Stafford, R. (2010) The Media Students Book. [Internet]. London, Routledge. Available from https://www.dawsonera.com/readonline/9780203850640 [Accessed 24th October 2016].

 

Books

Duffy, C.A. (1999) Rumpelstiltskin and other Grimm Tales. London, Faber.

Philip, N. (1989) The Cinderella Story. Harmondsworth, Penguin.

Berger, A. (1992) Popular Culture Genres: Theories and Texts. Volume 2. London, Sage Publications.

Propp, V. (1968) Morphology of the Folktale. 2nd ed. USA, University of Texas Press.

Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) was a Russian scholar who analysed a wide number of Russian folk tales. He published these findings in A Morphology of the Folktale 1928 (translated in English in 1968). His work has inspired a large number of hugely influential people to apply his methods and findings to all manner of stories and story types. Propp theorised that many, if not all folktales have thirty-one functions where the main character experiences a variety of emotions, including ‘absentation, interdiction, delivery, villainy, mediation and receipt of a magical agent’ (Propp, 1968, p24). The functions that Propp theorised play a key role in any story to lead to a ‘new equilibrium’ (Branston and Stafford, 2010, p48). He also theorised that characters take on different roles including a hero, princess, a villain, a false hero, a despatcher, a helper and a donor. During his research, Propp chose to look at a very small selection of folktales to illustrate his ideas of character roles and the sequencing of the thirty-one functions, many of the folktales would have been similar to Grimm’s fairy tales. His narrative theory can be applied to many different films, TV shows and books, key characters each have a role to play within the storyline. This essay will analyse the character and narrative function of Cinderella (dir. Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wilfred Jackson) and Star Wars (dir. George Lucas).

Looking at the variety of remakes that Cinderella has undergone over the years since the Grimm brother’s version and Perrault’s there have been many adjustments to the narrative. The first difference being that the Grimm version is far more graphically gothic and gory in description. For example, the final scene where Anatasia and Drizella try on the glass slipper. Their mother says to them ‘slice off that toe. Once you’re Queen, you won’t need to bother with walking […] carve a good slice off your heel. You won’t be walking anywhere when you’re Queen’ (Duffy, 1999, p43-4). Due to the horrific nature of the Grimm fairy tales, it is suggested that these stories were intended for adults; however re-makes and new editions have been watered down or ‘sanitised’ to suit a younger audience.

Analysing the character and narrative functions in the Grimm folktale of ‘Ashputtel’ the false hero is her evil stepmother as she tricks her into thinking that she is allowed to go to the wedding-feast. ‘If you can sort out two bowlfuls of lentils from the ashes in one hour you can come with us […] If you can pick out all the lentils again in two hours, then you can come with us to the dance’ (Duffy, 1999, p35-7). It can be implied that Propp’s narrative function here is ‘delivery’ or ‘complicity’ (1968, p28-30) as the villain has succeeded in acquiring something valuable and the victim has been fooled. In the folktale there is no Fairy Godmother. Instead, the large tree in the garden where her mother’s grave is serves as the magical helper that gives Cinderella her dress. Exploring the 1957 version of Cinderella, the mice are the donors as they upscale Cinderella’s mothers dress for the ball. Analysing Propp’s narrative functions it can be suggested that the ‘guidance’ function (1968, p50) is occurring as Cinderella is given the dress to get to the ball. However, this is destroyed by the step sisters who are the villains in the narrative, they also treat her as a servant. Cinderella and Prince Charming play the prince and princess roles as they marry each other completing Propp’s narrative function of the ‘wedding’ (1968, p63) and Todorov’s theory where stories begin with an ‘equilibrium’ (Branston and Stafford, 2010, p46) and end with a new balance to the narrative.

In the original narratives the key figures fit into Propp’s plan of the character roles, however the Disney version removes some of the darker elements whilst introducing the mice as helpers. Berger cited Propp (1992, p20) stating that:

Heroes have helpers of one sort or another-people, animals, magic weapons and these helpers support the hero in his fight with the villain and enable the hero to triumph.

Analysing the different cultures that have interpreted Cinderella, the Armenian version is of interest. Written in 1989 none of the characters are given names, but referred to as ‘youngest sister,’ ‘sister’ or ‘King’. In the narrative, the family become so poor they are unable to buy food so the two elder sisters kill and eat their mother. Before the sisters do this however, she calls her youngest daughter and says to her (Philip, 1989, p47):

Let them eat as much as they want, but don’t you eat. After they have finished, take my bones and bury them behind the house. Whenever you need anything-whether it be food, clothes, money-just come to my grave and ask for it.

Analysing the mothers dialogue and that the death occurred at the start of the narrative, the Proppian function that can be applied is ‘absentation’ (1968, p26). Once their mother is dead, the elder sisters begin to feast on her; they ask their younger sibling to join them but she refuses. The character roles in this narrative have shifted dramatically, the elder sisters become the villains while the mother becomes the donor and magical helper once she has passed away. The narrative provides sympathy for the mother, changing her role within the Proppian analysis. The role of the sisters has intensified as they assault their younger sibling three times, each one becoming more graphic in description.

The Armenian version and ‘Ashputtel’ are similar in narrative in that they both have a wedding-feast. When the elder sisters beat their younger sibling, it can be suggested that ‘reconnaissance’ (1968, p28) is taking place as the villains have managed to seek out the hero to gauge their strengths. Assessing Propp’s narrative functions, this could be known as the ‘victory’ part of the narrative (1968, p53) because the youngest sibling has defeated her sisters and the King decides to marry the her. Investigating Propp’s narrative theory and the plotline of this fairy tale, this part of the narrative can be known as the ‘exposure’ function (1968, p62). The king’s character function has climaxed, it can be suggested that the audience witness a darker, crueller side to him, a trait that the audience would not expect due to the stereotype he holds in other versions. Cinderella’s role stays the same and the King is the hero as he marries her. This part of the narrative is known as the ‘wedding’ (1968, p63) function as theorised by Propp. There is a vast difference in narrative and characters functions in the Armenian version of this popular tale. The roles of the princess and step sisters stay the same. It is the role of the mother that can be seen as atypical compared to the other books and modern day versions.

In modern day versions of ‘Cinderella’ stories, one narrative that emphasises Propp’s character theory is A Cinderella Story (dir. Mark Rosman). Sam lives in Los Angeles with her step mum, Fiona and step sisters Brianna and Gabriella. Her father dies in an earthquake and leaves no will meaning that Fiona receives everything, including the diner he ran. This is an example of ‘absentation’(Propp, 1968, p26) in the narrative as the main character experiences loss in the film, this has injected the initial tension into the narrative. Sometime later, Sam is working as a waitress at the diner whilst attending school and hoping to go to university. Sam is told she must learn her keep and becomes a servant, in her own home and at the workplace. From analysing Propp’s narrative functions, the ‘delivery’ (1968, p28) is the next event in the narrative as the villain succeeds in controlling Sam. She starts text messaging a boy named ‘Nomad’; they agree to meet at the homecoming dance and begin an online relationship. The despatcher in the film is the mobile phone as it allows Sam and ‘Nomad’ to communicate with one another, allowing them to meet at the dance. Sam’s work colleague, Rhonda provides her with a dress and mask for the homecoming dance, here the audience see the first function of the donor. In Propp’s functions this could be known as the ‘departure’ (1968, p39) as she sets off to the dance with a sense of purpose. Sam arrives at the dance, it can be suggested that Propp’s narrative function addressed here is ‘guidance’ (1968, p50) as the hero is delivered to a vital location. While there, Sam discovers that ‘Nomad’ is Austin Ames, the most popular boy in school. Later she receives a letter from her chosen university stating that her application has been rejected, so she resigns to working in the diner, but she chooses to stand up to Fiona and quits working there. From Propp’s functions this could be the ‘victory’ (1968, p53) function as Sam stands up to her stepmother. Sam finds her dad’s will, stating all of his money belongs to her and finds her real letter for university, this could be known as the ‘punishment’ (1968, p63) function as Fiona, the villain, has suffered directly at the hands of her step daughter. Sam and Austin go to university together, therefore this is the ‘wedding’ (1968, p63) function as theorised by Propp. In this version, Sam is the princess, Austin is the prince, and the villains are Sam’s stepfamily for taking all of her father’s possessions after he died.

Looking at the vast narrative functions of the Star Wars films the character and narrative functions appear to be more advanced than others. Analysing Star Wars: A New Hope (dir. George Lucas) the different purposes are seen very distinctly by the audience. A New Hope was the first of the Star Wars films to be made in 1977. At the beginning of the film, Luke’s guardians are murdered, he is then taken away by a slave ship. Analysing Propp’s narrative function, it is clear to see that ‘absentation’ has taken place as the main character experiences loss, Luke also leaves the home environment. Studying the film, the audience know that the hero is Luke Skywalker as he fights Darth Vader and the storm troopers. Darth’s constant goal is to impose fear wherever he goes and to use the anger and hatred, this fear stirs up to control those around him. The binary opposition (Branston and Stafford, 2010, p19-20) between Luke and Darth Vader is clear to the audience that they have opposing views about the Empire, which serves as the main conflict for the narrative. During A New Hope (dir. George Lucas) Princess Leia is captured by the villains. Leia takes on the role of the princess as she serves as the plot driver and is in need of rescuing when stolen away by Darth Vader. This can be seen as the ‘liquidation’ (1968, p53) function in the film as Princess Leia is rescued. Berger states that ‘one of the traditional tasks of the hero is to help heroines who are in trouble or rescue them from villains’ (1992, p20). Luke conforms to this stereotype and completes his quest by saving Princess Leia, ‘a figure such as Princess Leia in Star Wars is a case in point’ (Berger, 1992, p20). It can be suggested that he is trying to explain that Leia subverts the stereotype of the princess than those in other narratives as she helps Luke and Han Solo in fighting the Death Star and defeating Darth Vader. Luke and Leia’s roles in the narrative do not shift as they are the two main characters and their function in the narrative is crucial. The indication that Luke has some feelings for her is shown through C3PO’s video representation of Princess Leia, Luke exclaims ‘she’s beautiful’. Leia also indicates this at the end of the narrative when Han Solo and Luke are awarded with their medals, she gives him a warm smile which he returns. Han Solo’s role in the film is the helper as he aids Luke, Leia and Obi Wan to destroy the Death Star with the help of Chewbacca. It can be implied that the despatcher is R2D2 as he shows Luke the video of Princess Leia when she is captured by Darth Vader, Leia says ‘Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope’ and makes Princess Leia known to Luke.

To conclude, the Proppian analysis of Cinderella (dir. Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wilfred Jackson, 1957) and Star Wars: A New Hope (dir. George Lucas) can be interpreted in many ways. The variety of Cinderella stories that have stemmed from the first one written by the Grimm brothers has provided many people with different interpretations of the popular tale. Some of the character functions have stayed the same, thanks to the role, the nature of the character and the narratives goal at the end of the story, Cinderella being the princess, Prince Charming being her prince and her stepfamily being the villains. The role of the mother, fairy godmother and her step mother in more recent versions has shifted. The character functions in Star Wars: A New Hope (dir. George Lucas) are also interesting to analyse. The character roles that have grown throughout the Star Wars franchise because of this first film have roughly stayed the same, with the exception of Obi Wan. The narrative functions in Cinderella and Star Wars have to an extent stayed the same. The theories by Propp of ‘absentation,’ (1968, p25) ‘victory’ (1968, p53) and ‘wedding’ (1968, p63) are common in both films. However, the other theories are sometimes mixed up as not all narratives follow Propp’s particular structure nor do they all contain the theories by Propp. Investigating other mystical and fantasy narratives in a potential futuristic setting such as Game of Thrones (dir. Alan Taylor) is critical yet marvellous in its character and narrative functions as the roles and plotline are overly complex and requires a high level of understanding. Ed and Arya Stark are the heroes because they are full of courage and try to do what is right by their country, he is the Lord of Winterfell and new Hand of the King. Arya, Ed’s daughter is wild and wilful in nature but also an intelligent child; she is also a good swordfighter. From series one onwards, Arya is a ‘classic action girl or Amazon with far less nuance’ (Frankel, 2014, p37). Her elder sister, Sansa is a more naïve character; she chooses to ignore the cruelties happening around her concerning herself with only marrying Joffrey Baratheon. The binary opposition between (Branston and Stafford, 2010, p19-20) Arya and Sansa Stark is critical in understanding the character roles). Sansa is a passive character while Arya is active in that she is often seen killing a potential threat. A villain in the programme is Jamie Lannister, he is arrogant in his nature, short-tempered and makes rash decisions but is a gifted swordsman. There are a variety of character roles throughout folk or fairy narratives that display a Proppian analysis. Some of the narrative and character functions have changed according to different cultures, others have remained the same to suit particular values and interpretations.

References

DVDs

A Cinderella Story (2004) [DVD] Directed by Mark Rosman. California, Warner Brothers.

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) [DVD] Directed by George Lucas. Elstree Studios, 20th Century Fox.

Cinderella (1957) [DVD] Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wilfred Jackson. England, Pinewood Studios.

Game of Thrones Series One (2011) Directed by Alan Taylor. Belfast, HBO.

e-Books

Frankel, V E. (2014) Women in Game of Thrones. [Internet]. North Carolina, McFarland and Company Inc, Available from https://www.dawsonera.com/readonline/9781476615547 [Accessed 14th October 2016].

Branston, G. and Stafford, R. (2010) The Media Students Book. [Internet]. London, Routledge. Available from https://www.dawsonera.com/readonline/9780203850640 [Accessed 24th October 2016].

Books

Duffy, C.A. (1999) Rumpelstiltskin and other Grimm Tales. London, Faber.

Philip, N. (1989) The Cinderella Story. Harmondsworth, Penguin.

Berger, A. (1992) Popular Culture Genres: Theories and Texts. Volume 2. London, Sage Publications.

Propp, V. (1968) Morphology of the Folktale. 2nd ed. USA, University of Texas Press.

Restaurant review: The Alchemist, Leeds

pic of alchemist .jpg

When choosing a suitable restaurant in Leeds city centre for an Easter catch up with a friend from school, we chose The Alchemist in Trinity, Leeds seemed like the perfect place. We walked up to the impressive double doors without a queue in sight. We had pre-booked the table, as the restaurant is known for getting busy at lunchtimes. We were taken to a table with floor to ceiling windows showing amazing views of the city. The interior furniture was of the highest standard and carried a sense of elegance around the room. The restaurant was a long rectangular shape, the bar was near to the door and the food preparation area towards the back in the second half of the restaurant.

My companion and I were taken to a high table for four people with an A* view of the city of Leeds. While we waited for our third lunch time guest to arrive our waiter asked if we would like any drinks. We replied with two Diet Cokes, one with ice for my friend and mine without- as it makes the drink watery and I dislike the taste.

Our third lunchtime guest arrived and sat down on a chair next to me facing towards the back of the restaurant and the panoramic view across the city. The waiter returned with the two Diet Cokes that we ordered and also went to get a drink for the final companion. Even without the ice in my drink, it still tasted like Chlorine that was associated with pools and being on holiday. I ignored the taste as I wasn’t going to order another one.

We scanned the menu to see if any of the available dishes jumped out at us from the menu, for me it was the duck and hoisin wrap. The friend to arrive later also ordered this, however my other friend chose the chicken nuggets and chips. The waiter rushed off with our orders while my lunch companions  and I were able to catch up on some much needed gossip of what had been happening over the past two months- a lot had happened.


This was helped by the ever expanding views of Leeds city centre with the Corn Exchange building sitting as a back drop.


Soon our lunches arrived, mine and the companion sitting next to me had ordered that duck hoisin wrap which was delicately placed on top of each other on a paper white square plate with green leaves and cucumber poking out of the duck wraps. The companion who ordered the chicken nuggets had received quite a comical dish where a silver metal outline of a chicken was placed on top of the white plate. Chicken nuggets and the thin crispy chips had been put into the chicken metal shell. My companion asked for some tomato sauce which she was given in a small white side dish bowl. The contrast between the paper white colour of the bowl and the dark blood red of the tomato sauce was incredible to witness. We ate through our lunches, savouring every last bite, pure delight. My duck and hoisin wrap was not too heavy nor too chewy from the duck meat, the cucumber provided the right amount of water to make the sandwich not too dry or too starchy on the digestive system. The hoisin sauce with the duck meat was also very tasty and provided the right amount of moisture on my taste buds.

We finished our main courses and then paid for the bill, the total came to £38.25. I think that this is extremely good value for a lunchtime meal in Leeds city centre at the top of the Trinity shopping centre. I would highly recommend The Alchemist, especially in Leeds, the staff are wonderful and organised, the food is delicious and the views across Leeds are breath taking.  

The Obsession of Fandom

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A definition of ‘fandom’ is ‘a group of people who collectively enjoy and are dedicated to a particular text, genre, or performer’ (Annett, 2014, p13). There are many variations to the word ‘fandom,’ including ‘fan’ ‘admirer’ ‘enthusiast’ and ‘fanatic’. Often, fandoms are thought of as being part of a certain type of culture, Duffett cited Hills (2013, p37):

A cultural identity based on one’s commitment to something unimportant and ‘trivial’ as a film or TV series. [..] Where the claiming of a fan identity may seem to be unproblematically secure-within fan cultures.

Fans can be stereotyped into a variety of different categories depending on the subculture. For example, someone who is a fan of Little Mix, are known as ‘Mixers’ may act in a different way to someone who is a fan of Game of Thrones (dir. Jeremy Podeswa). Little Mix has a primary audience of teenage and young girls. Whereas Games of Thrones appeals to a wide audience of people, both men and women. However the enthusiasts will respond in different ways to both of the media texts.

When looking at a brief history of ‘fandom’, Duffett (2013, p5) cited Abercrombie and Longhurst (1998, p122) stating that:

The term ‘fan’ first appeared in the late seventeenth century England, […] This term became significant around one century later where it was used by journalists to describe the passion of baseball spectators. However, it was later used to describe dedicated audiences for film and recorded music.

Some contemporary media texts such as Doctor Who (dir. Douglas McKinnon) came to an end in 1989. This was rebooted in 2005 thanks to Russell T Davies, special episodes and ‘spin-offs’ have been created including K-9 and Company (1981), Torchwood (2006-2011), The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011), Doctor Who Confidential (2005-) and Totally Doctor Who (2006-2007). After a television show has finished a fandom often feel so strongly about something that the ‘bubble’ is kept alive on the internet for many years. Unfortunately this could not have been done for Doctor Who (dir. Douglas McKinnon) in 1989. Gilmore Girls (dir. Amy Sherman-Palladino) is due to be revived by global provider Netflix later in 2016 because of the ongoing internet presence it still has with its original viewers. As Williams stated fandoms allow ‘cancelled shows to continue their afterlives and, in some cases, return to life’ (2015, p166).

Summarising Duffett, during the Victorian era it had become fashionable for visitors scratch their names on the window panes or scrawl them on the inner walls of Shakespeare’s cottage, Charles Dickens is known to have done this. Duffett cited Braudy (1987) stating that (2010, p5):

Fame is an ancient mechanism, a point that seems obvious when one thinks about institutions like royal, religious or political office and the circulation of human face on coinage.

It can be proposed that Brady is suggesting that fame is a device when one thinks about the monarch, sacred or political office of a country. According to Duffett, ‘portrait painting was a longstanding way to keep a record of personal likeness’ (2013, p5). This can be compared to the photographs and ‘memory collecting’ that takes place in the 21st century. For example posting pictures on social networking sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, iPhone app Timehop allows users to log into the program using their social media username and password. Users are then notified of a picture, status, tweet or video that they posted one, two, three or any number of years ago on the relevant social networking site.

Science fiction television programme Doctor Who (dir. Douglas Mckinnon, 1963-1989, 2005- ) provides viewers with evening entertainment from a variety of different narratives and characters. It was revived eleven years ago with Christopher Eccleston was cast as the new Doctor and Billie Piper as his companion. It is often said that David Tennant was the most popular Doctor to have played the lead role. As with any popular television programme or film, the cosplay and dressing up part of the culture is crucial to many genres. Enthusiasts of a particular fandom often dress up as a character from their favourite book, film, television show or game. A lot of time, money and effort are put into the outfits worn by the enthusiasts to the particular media text.

Stereotypically, science fiction fans have been represented as geeks or nerds. For example Big Bang Theory (2007- ) follows the lives of seven stereotypical ‘geeks’ or ‘nerds’. For example Sheldon who has a PhD. Within the rock and indie music scenes there has been a “reappropriation” of the ‘geek cool’ which displays and valorizes being “introspective, insecure and self-deprecating” (Williams, 2011, p173).

Fans of various music artists have said to be of different age ranges depending on the music or genre. Both of these ‘groups’ may often feel that they are part of a cult or religion. According to Tulloch and Jenkins, (1995, p15) they stated:

Negative representations of fandom offered ‘mundane’ or non-fan readers extreme versions of the ‘Trekkie’ stereotype as reassurance of the normality of their own media consumption habits. […] Such assurances became necessary precisely at the moment when Star Trek moved from a cult phenomenon into a national pastime.

Programmes such as 24 (2001-2010) was cancelled but has found a new audience. This show is not being resurrected by the original sources but has been ‘facilitated by the newer forms of production and broadcast that on-demand services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video can offer’ (Williams, 2015, p167).

The various Harry Potter (dir. Alfonso Cuaron) films and books have had a massive influence on people’s lives from 1997 onwards. Since then, the books and films alike have often been at the top of the film and book charts in supermarkets. There has also been a large internet presence of the Harry Potter (dir. Alfonso Cuaron) books and films. Narratives or fan fictions written by Harry Potter fans include a ‘Hogwarts inter-house exchange,’ ‘The Harry Potter Prequels’ and ‘A More Ambitious Boy’.

Within the music industry there are many bands that have multiple ‘fans’ and admirers who follow them on social networking sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and the internet as a whole. According to Baym (2008, p1):

The internet has transformed what it means to be a music fan. Fans can and do build communities more rapidly and successfully now than ever before, with consequences not just for their own experience of music, but for everyone involved in the creation, distribution and promotion of music in any capacity. 

For example, when One Direction member, Zayn Malik chose to leave the band, fans took to Twitter expressing their sadness at his departure.

Different fans of music genres interpret the artist’s music in a variety of ways, some feel the emotional connection or social experience to a song or specific lyric being sung and others immediately buy-into the preferred or dominant reading. According to Baym (2008, p11):

Music is a social experience, and dedicated fans are often driven to connect with other fans. From its very origins thousands of years ago, music has been social. It’s original and arguably core nature is to connect people. In connecting around music, fans today are continuing to foster the connection between music and sociability by talking about and sharing music.

Here Baym could be referencing to the feeling or atmosphere at a music or concert festival. Baym noticed four similarities that music fans do when they talk about music online. The first is ‘share feeling,’ ‘share identity,’ ‘collective intelligence’ and ‘collective interpretation’ (2008, p12). This is because they buy the magazines, read the interviews, buy the posters in music shops, purchase the CDs and extended editions; they also buy tickets to their latest tour and the merchandise on sale at the concerts and online.

Thanks to the internet and social networking, many fans have been able to communicate and build friendships from overseas with other music fans. Baym also stated (2008, p16):

The internet also lets fans connect instantaneously across distance. This means they can build relationships across geographic boundaries and become centres of scenes regardless of their location.

Whether it is film, music or television, there has been various fan fiction narratives posted on the internet about actors who star on a television programme, film, artists or band members. There are also sometimes crossovers between two loosely related stories that are possibly of the same genre. Looking at Harry Potter and the Twilight saga there are over three thousand fan fiction ‘crossover’ narratives.

Also looking at the gaming culture within fandom that has arisen since the 1980s has resulted in a worldwide gaming community. Game consoles such as PlayStation Two, Three and Four and the XBOX1 and XBOX360 have allowed a variety of age ranges to play and interact with people online from across the world. The games that have been created by the various companies are from a variety of different genres, for example historical, futuristic and warfare. The social side to playing online with other players has allowed users to become sociable online but not in real life (IRL). Therefore creating the term ‘socially unsociable’. According to Kilpatrick (2015, p6):

Games have been brought to us by the historical past and their aesthetic and technical properties exist in the form that we encounter today because they have been shaped by that past. It follows that adequate understanding of computer games cannot stop at an analysis of their aesthetic or technical aspects without attention to the matter of cultural and social mediation.

Kilpatrick cited Shaw stating ‘we must understand games and gaming as culturally constituted, that is, through a problematic derived from cultural studies’ (2010, p404). Kilpatrick’s research states that (2015, p7):

The first computer games for public consumption were arcade games manufactured in the US in the early 1970s. […] In the US gaming was quickly transformed into a domestic entertainment medium by the first generation of home gaming consoles, the most famous of which were Atari machines.

The very first gaming ‘experience’ was through the computer, once this had developed and grown over the years there was more attention focused on the culture behind the computer and the game. According to Kilpatrick’s research (2015):

The period covered in this study is roughly that between the launch of computers in the UK for home use […] and the arrival of the World Wide Web […] Because the focus is on the formation of gaming culture, there is rather more emphasis on the 1980s […] Ownership of a computer only reached one million between 1987–9, out of a population then estimated to be around 56 million.

According to Ansett (2014, p13) Western fan Scholars in the late 1980s and early 1990s include Camille Bacon-Smith, John Fiske, Henry Jenkins, and Janice Radway. Their works are mainly concerned with contesting popular and the origin of words and the way they have changed their meanings throughout history. Associations of “fans” with “fanatics,” devotees overcome by an “excessive and mistaken enthusiasm” (Jenkins 1992, p12). In 2012, One Direction’s management had no option but to call New York Police Department as the safety of the boy band and the committed fans became a risk. Harmsworth stated ‘Security has been beefed up while they stay in the city, as the frenzy surrounding the boy band threatened to spiral out of control’.

Ansett also stated that fans can often be dangerously obsessed with a particular person or item associated with their idol. Therefore, there can often be negative conceptions of a fan member, as they are stereotyped as a ‘passive solitary fan who is an isolated loser […] collectively active fans are hysterical mobs’ (2014, p13).

Ansett cited Jenkins, stating that a fan is a ‘creative actor within consumer culture’ (2010, p14). Also summarising Ansett, many fans feel that they need to express their own opinions and views of an object or topic from their fandom ‘group’.

Ansett cited Galbraith and Lamarre (2010, p363) stating that ‘okatu’ it has a similar definition to fan but it is not identical, the literal meaning of ‘otaku’ is ‘your residence’. This Japanese word was first used to characterise anime and magna enthusiasts as awkward “social rejects”. Since this time it has come to denote an obsession with anything from trains to military paraphernalia. However, it does retain a special connection to anime subculture. Annett cited Kinsella stating (1998, p310-11):

‘Okatu’ is a sort of word play, as it refers to some who is not accustomed to close friendships and therefore tries to communicate with their peers using a distant and overly formal address, and also to some who spends most of his or her time alone.

As Kinsella describes, the image of the ‘otaku’ was discussed in subcultural groups and elevated to the level of a mass media panic by the 1988-1989 case of the serial child-murderer Miyazaki Tsutomu. He dismembered four young female victims; he also ate some of their body parts and kept them as trophies. His obsession with anime and pornography was supposedly the reason behind the murders. It is increasingly interesting to note that the Japanese press chose to focus on not only Miyazaki but on okatu as an entire generation of anti-social, infantile and isolated youths named ‘new type people’.

To conclude, the term ‘fan’ previously had other meanings before the eighteenth century where it was used by journalists to describe baseball spectators, ‘fans’ and ‘fandoms’ have a large internet presence and power or control over the internet that once a television programme has been stopped, the social networking coverage heightens and becomes larger than before. Fan fiction pieces that are written and posted on the internet also hold a large presence over the internet and what people see online. Fan fiction narratives have also dominated the internet culture, for example, ‘Hogwarts inter-house exchange’. The presence of music fans on the internet has also increased. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have changed ‘what it means to be a music fan’ (Baym, 2008, p1) as they are able to follow, like, retweet or favourite their idols post. The existence of online gaming has also increased as Kilpatrick stated ‘we must understand games and gaming is culturally constituted’ (2010, p404). The obsession that fandoms have over their idol/s has increased through the use of social networking and the way enthusiasts can connect and establish relationships with their idols and fans from other countries, despite their geographical boundaries.

 

 

“Teenage culture is a contradictory mixture of the authentic and manufactured; it is an area of self-expression for the young and a lush grazing pasture for the commercial providers.’’ Hall and Whannel. Using contemporary examples, discuss the relationship between commerce and youth subcultures.

The definition of ‘youth subcultures’ can be interpreted in a variety of ways through the use of distinctive styles, behaviours and interests. Members of the same subculture often signal their membership or loyalty by making distinctive symbolic choices; this can include a person’s hair style or choice of clothing. Other factors include dialect or slang, music genres, class, ethnicity and gender. Youth subcultures are able to offer a personal identity outside social institutions such as family or home, work, and school. Some of the teenage attributes can be judged as being manufactured by stereotypical references of how young people are expected to behave or the fashions they follow.

The word ‘authenticity’ has a variety of meanings. Music made by singer Taylor Swift began as an authentic country music artist, producing a mixture of pop rock, country rock or pop. However, she then started to produce solely pop music, targeting a wider younger audience. When looking at the definition of commerce, Akrani cited Johnson stating ‘commerce is an organized system for the exchange of goods between the members of the industrial world’ (2011). The pop industry generates millions in commerce through the sale of music and related merchandise which will be explored further.

According to a YouTube video posted by NAMvideo, the workers from different industry’s stated what manufacture means to them. Words include ‘security’, ‘teamwork’ and ‘progress’ (2014). From the video it is clear to see that the different companies produce products on a large scale, so the definition of ‘manufacture’ in the context of business and the purchasing and selling products, is the making, retailing and obtaining of products made by hand.

In music media there has been criticism from influential people such as Sir Elton John claiming that pop bands or groups are seen as ‘average and mediocre’ (Mail Online) and ‘processed performers’ (2013). This essay will explore the teenage audience through the commercial constructs of printed and social media, television, music and fashion. The range of cultures and sub-cultures in teenage culture will also be explored within the authentic and manufactured fields.

In 2014, Simon Cowell was interviewed by The Independent where he claimed that:

I’d rather find something much more raw – like we had with One Direction […] We never once said ‘wear this, say this, do this’ – they had that relationship. That’s my most annoying thing – I loathe those people.

From what Simon Cowell is referring to, it can be suggested that he and his colleagues had to ‘make’ the band One Direction by hand. Looking closely at the success One Direction had in the Top 40 charts, Guinness Book of World Records and social networking it can be implied that their image and the use of social media is the piece of machinery Simon Cowell and his associates used to make the boy band so popular.

Music festivals such as Leeds-Reading, V Fest, Glastonbury and BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend gather together thousands of people every year, teenagers are one large area of the target audience. It can be suggested that festival goers attend these events to be with members of the same culture. A reason for this may be because they enjoy music and the feeling it gives them when in the company of other like-minded people. Summarising Till (2010, p1) music has a great power and influence on the mind and body, even more so when people are in groups. For many people, music plays an important part in their lives for various reasons.  The uses and gratification model can be applied here as listeners not only choose a particular music genre for a certain mood but to also show empowerment and other socially conscience motives. Due to the scope and genre of music that is in the industry, listeners may choose that genre to fulfil a need.

Many music labels and suppliers to companies choose to create merchandise using photos and images of the pop artist or group. Pop group Little Mix sell merchandise with their image on the clothing and accessories. They use lyrics from their songs including ‘Salute,’ ‘Mixer’ and 2015 tour name ‘Let’s get Weird’ on the clothes. Items from the official website are available, these include mugs, clothing, accessories, albums in deluxe edition and MP3 albums for different mediums, prices for the merchandise range from ninety-nine pence to fifty-four pounds ninety-nine pence. Other music artists who have a popular fan base include Eminem and Justin Bieber. Merchandise from the Eminem website include t-shirts, hoodies and accessories ranging from five pounds to forty-five pounds. Teen heart-throb Justin Bieber also sells merchandise through his American website where ‘Beliebers’ can buy t-shirts, jumpers, LP’s and bundles priced from thirty-five dollars for a t-shirt to seventy dollars for a sweatshirt. This is an extremely large market for single artists and pop groups as some private buyers are known to pay into the thousands for a piece of signed memorabilia. From the merchandise alone, record companies are able to make massive amounts of profit from buyers of the concert tickets and purchasing merchandise. For example, to purchase one ticket for the One Direction stadium tour ‘On the Road Again’, it cost seventy-five pounds, not including booking fee.

Within the culture of music and fandom, ‘cults’ are often associated with this medium. It can be described by Till (2010, p2) as a:

Dedication to a single person. They are often thought of as having a charismatic individual human leader who claims to be divine, God-like or have some special link.

In some respects, this rings true, as a ‘cult’ is thought of as being a group of people who buy-into a determined set of ideologies. For thousands of years, people have always travelled in groups, whether it is religion, family occasions, socialising or working. Therefore, it is clear to see why teenagers join a particular culture or subculture that have the same make up. Hogg and Vaughan cited Johnson and Johnson, stating that there are many definitions of a social group, there are seven major emphases:

Individuals […] interacting with one another, a social unit of two or more individuals who […] belong to a group, individuals who are independent, […] individuals who join together to achieve a goal, […] individuals who are trying to satisfy a need through their joint association, […] individuals whose interactions are structured by a set of roles and norms, […] individuals who influence each other.

Also according to Hogg and Vaughan, there are twelve ‘groups’ that people are allowed to be members of, if they wish. These differ in all sorts of aspects, some are more general such as gender; others are more specific such as religion or university course.

Another area that has a huge impact on a teenager’s life is reality television. Summarising Hill in 2015, reality television makes a live event, programme or style have economic and emotional value as knowledge rooted into people’s lives. The specific audiences for reality television are able to understand media in a very specific way that they are able to participate in the process itself as consumers, performers, participants and producers.

The entertainment value of reality TV can be described as ‘an escapism after a hard day at work…’ (Mills, 2009, p2). Teenage audiences who watch programmes such as 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom on the MTV channel, may feel empathy for the teenagers as they face possible family and friendship issues when being filmed. Some viewers may also be able to relate to the people on the television show. Also produced by MTV is popular British reality TV series, Geordie Shore (2011). As there is strong language, sex scenes and references used by the television stars the implied teenage age range is from sixteen to nineteen. The cast of the reality TV show are ‘required to talk about the events happening in the house […] structured reality programme’ (The Guardian, 2012).

Teenage programme Awkward (2011- ) on E4, can be seen as a ‘sitcom’ because of the various plot lines, genre conventions and narrative shown to the audience. These include going to prom, attending college and teen issues such as pregnancy and a suicide. Mills (2009, p76) defines ‘sitcom’ as:

A televisual context within which jokes are placed. Each of these elements which make up sitcom and which may be isolated by analysing programmes are therefore less important than the ways in which these elements interact.

Many teenagers watch a television show because they are able to identify with a situation that a character is in. However, another audience of the same age range may watch the show for entertainment value or as a way of ‘escapism’.

The advancement of gaming and technology in the 21st century has also had a massive impact on teenage culture. Game consoles such as PlayStation4 and XBOX1 provides its teenage audience with escapism, as they can play the game, enabling them to be transported into a parallel world. An article stated that games such as FiFa and Call of Duty are found to help teenagers in some subjects at school, including maths, science, reading and problem solving. The article also found that video game consoles are ‘doing well in teen minds’ (Matyszczyk, 2015).

For many teenagers, designer clothes are crucial to his or her image when socialising with friends and being in public. It can be suggested that teenagers do this to promote their status by the use of fashionable and or designer clothing. Advertisers such as Ford and BMW market to teenagers, through advertising in teen magazines and often during the breaks on teenage television shows. Companies including Delta Airlines also have advertisements in teen magazine publications, even though they are not the primary audience. As a teenager’s brand loyalty is constantly changing during their youth, they are willing to try many different products until they find one most suitable. To capture a teenager’s attention, the company may use celebrity endorsement to persuade the viewer. For example, Vanessa Hudgens promoting the Neutrogena Wave cream in 2008. Retailer Topshop posts images of Cara Delavigne and other models to Instagram promoting an outfit or event, thus appealing to the target market of women. Lingerie and beauty products retailer Victoria’s Secret and sister shop PINK upload images to their Facebook and Instagram site of models including Rosie Huntington Whiteley with Taylor Swift and Kendall Jenner as guests. When discussing teenage culture, it is crucial to think about the different mediums that target a teenager’s audience. This can include fashion magazines and YouTube videos, for example teen magazine Teen Vogue, publishes pages about fashion, fashion make-overs and clothing trends to appeal to its pre-adolescent audience.

Teenage YouTube stars who are well known on the media network but not as much in the real world include beauty vloggers Meredith Foster, Aspen Ovard and Allie-Marie Evans. Foster has over three million subscribers to her YouTube channel. The videos feature subjects about beauty, fashion, re-styling, how-to-do life hacks, DIY room organiser and easy outfits when you are running late for school. It can be suggested that the personal nature of these videos, is what appeals to teenage girls. This could be because many teenagers look up to women in their early twenties as people to go to for advice about relationships or friendships. By providing this service, the vloggers are boosting the teenager’s self-esteem and confidence. Also on YouTube are male vloggers, including Marcus Butler, Alfie Deyes, The Kloons, Zack King and Kurt Hugo Schneider. Many of them post about everyday life or do humorous impressions of celebrities. Other vloggers produce and create music videos and then post them to their channel.

In recent years, the impact of smartphone technology on teenage culture has been immense. It allows them to access social media, the internet and media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Yik Yak. It can be suggested that teenagers have become extremely materialistic in their body language, the way that they dress and the items that they own. It can also be suggested that phones are considered as a fashion accessory. Noticeably phone cases for the smartphones are a huge market, with the average one costing ‘£13.40 each for an iPhone case it is a £67m business in the UK alone’ (Arthur, 2014).

When an advertising company is advertising their product with a target market of children they often associate a cartoon character with the product they are promoting such as Kinder chocolate bars. In the Merchants of Cool (2001) documentary, it mentions that parents give their children ‘guilt money’ as a way to apologise for not spending time with them. Also stated in the documentary is the challenge and difficulty that companies and brands have marketing to teenagers. As they have money that their parents have likely given to them, it can be suggested that they are the controllers of certain markets and trends.

In the last six or seven years, it can be suggested that ‘hipsters’ have altered the way in which they dress and the lifestyle choices they make, where they choose to live and the interior make-up of their home. According to the Guardian, (Pfeiffer, 2015) the term ‘hipster’ made its first appearance in the 1940s in the jazz age of music. As the generations progressed, the way hipsters dressed changed to ‘keep up’ with what is the current fashion trend. It can be suggested that the hipster culture became very popular in the past decade, thanks to the never ending cycle that happens with fashion and interiors.  An article from The Guardian stated ‘hipster culture has become a global commercial and social phenomenon […] yet they seem more ubiquitous than ever’ (Pfeiffer, 2015). Many businesses that are owned by hipsters have found a market with well-known celebrities such as Sting, Jennifer Aniston and Marc Jacobs. The New York borough of Brooklyn is said to be populating with the likes of young American hipsters. Actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Lena Dunham are now able to call Brooklyn home with ‘luxury apartments to suit their status’ (Pfeiffer, 2015). Condensing Hebdige’s work he emphasises that the link between white and black culture in relation to hipsters has long been recognised by critics within the American pop music scene ‘the beat’ and the ‘hipster’ began to improvise their own exclusive styles…’ (1979, p47). Summarising Hebdige, he cited Goldman (1979, p48) stating that the hipster was from a working class background and fashion obsessed with a neutral tone of voice to separate him from the other people surrounding him in the place where he lived or worked.

The definitions of ‘youth subcultures’ ‘authentic’ and ‘manufactured’ can all be interpreted in a variety of ways. This includes styles, interests, moods, fashion sense, authenticity and the rawness of something. There has been much controversy in the media about particular pop artists such as One Direction and Taylor Swift and their authenticity within the media and the music that they produce. The point at which teenagers become interested in a culture or sub-culture can depend on a variety of factors. These include ethnicity, class, slang or dialect, music and gender. For many teenagers, music is an important part of their life, so when they want to celebrate this passion they often go to music festivals to be among people who share the same interest. Another culture that many teenagers are interested in is reality television, not only does the arrangement have an economic value but also an emotional value as an experience which is solely embedded into people’s lives. It can be seen as an escapism and/or entertainment for them to be with members of their own culture or sub-culture. The television genre of sit-coms provides a visual context for the target audience in which humour is written into the script. Another area of teenage culture that has a massive impact on their lives as they grow into adult hood is fashion and technology. Teen magazines and YouTube have also had a significant influence on young people including Teen Vogue and YouTube sensation Meredith Foster. The ‘hipster’ revolution can now be seen as a fashion trend and a social phenomenon among many journalists in the UK, America and worldwide. Therefore, increasing online media platforms will continue to have a massive impact on the way we access videos, images, the latest fashion trends, game consoles and pop artists or groups.


 

Idyllic Italian meal in the north of England

martino's logo

As an area my partner and I had never visited before County Durham seemed like the perfect place to go to. 


Italian restaurant, Martino’s on York Road certainly satisfied our tantalising taste buds.

We parked the car in the tarmacked area beside the restaurant and walked in through the front door. On entry there was a real buzz of atmosphere and life all around the restaurant. We chose to have a drink at the bar first as our table wasn’t quite ready. I ordered a rose wine and my male partner a bottle of Budweiser. We managed to find a table to sit down and enjoy our drink while we ‘people watched’ at the bar as families, couples and friends laughed about their week.

My rose was a pinky colour in a medium sized wine glass that was soft and smooth on the tongue and down my throat. My partners Budweiser came in a brown beer bottle with the red logo on the front of the bottle. I opted not to taste the lager as I am not a fan of beer. At around 8pm we were taken to our table by a tall male waiter with an Italian accent. There were no other couples in this part of the restaurant which provided my male partner and I with the privacy and calmness that we needed. The tall and emotionless male waiter handed us our menus and strutted away to the bar area. We scanned our eyes down the food menu as we chose what we would like for our dinners.

We sipped through our first round of drinks and ordered the same again when the waiter came to our table. We ordered our starters, mine was the prawn cocktail, with a side salad. My companion chose the fried potato skins with a mayonnaise dip. For main course I chose a chicken pancetta with chips. My companion chose the steak cooked medium with a side of chips and a peppercorn sauce.

The waiter returned to see if we needed our glasses refilling. We declined as our glasses were still full. We talked about what we had done throughout the day and the atmosphere in the restaurant. People in dresses, suits and blazers came in and out of the restaurant and through to the bar area, past our table. The atmosphere had a real buzz and people going to other bars and nightclubs were evident throughout.

Our starters soon arrived, my prawn cocktail came in a large, paper white plate with a light pink Marie Rose sauce and large prawns within it. A leafy green side salad to accompany it and a large lemon slice. The colours on the plate contrasted magnificently with each other. My companions had a plate full of potato skins that looked really crispy, and a large pot of garlic mayonnaise.

We began to dig in to our starters and enjoyed them thoroughly, trying some of each others as we ate. Soon enough we finished our starter and wished we co have more. We sipped some more of our drinks as the waiter took away our plates.

Not even five minutes later, our main courses had arrived and looked delicious. My chicken pancetta with a leek and bacon sauce  which looked incredible. The chicken was nestled beneath the sauce which was an extremely large piece. This particular dish was the restaurants most popular dish to date. My male partners steak also look delicious with the peppercorn sauce and the dark colour of the steak was a pink-red colour in the middle. Perfect. The side of chips for both of our meals, also looked delicious. They were in the style of potato chips, similar to the starter, but a different way of cutting. I cut into my chicken and balanced a small selection of the sauce on top of the bacon with a piece of chunky bacon. I opened my mouth as my tantalising taste buds tingled on my tongue. The chicken was soft and tender, while the chunky pieces of bacon were crispy, my only complaint would be that there isn’t enough of it. The leek sauce was also delicious, a light green liquid with herbs in the sauce. Due to the overly large chicken there were no vegetables with the chicken dish, however they were not missed.

We ate through our dinner, enjoying every bite. When we finished our  meals, we drained our glasses and the waiter took our dishes away. We asked for a drink, half a glass of beer for my partner and a glass of wine for myself. The waiter then asked if we would like desert, where I answered a strong ‘yes please’. The waiter listed off four deserts, chocolate fudge cake, lemon cheesecake and ice cream in strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. I chose the chocolate cake and my companion chose the cheesecake. The waiter wrote down our orders and then left. The restaurant was still fairly full with people walking back and forth from the bar and the entrance.

Our drinks arrived, mine in a tall wine glass and my companions in a half glass with a golden liquid inside and froth bubbling on top of the liquid. Soon after, our deserts arrived, my fudge cake was a large slice of fudge cake and incredible. The chocolate fudge cake wasn’t too dry or under cooked. The icing was also delicious, placed in the middle and on top of the cake. My partners lemon cheesecake also looked delicious, the excellent sized piece of cake was plated on the plate in a most artistic and sophisticated fashion. The paper white plate contrasted with the desert amazingly, accompanied with a large slice of lemon it completed the dish. 


We each picked up our forks and began to dig into our deserts. Pure delight. My partners desert of a lemon cheesecake, was delicious, according to my companion.


My desert was, as expected was also delicious.


We excitedly ate through our deserts, enjoying every bite and thankful for another. Until that is, we finished our deserts having eaten all of it. We asked for the bill from a tall, young waiter wearing a white shirt and tie. Our waiter came over and took our plates away. We finished our drinks as the waiter returned with our bill which was a good £40. I believe is a very good price for a three course meal in County Durham.


I would highly recommend Martino’s County Durham to anyone wanting a family meal, a romantic evening or a couple of drinks before a big night out. The atmosphere was buzzed, considering it was a Saturday night. The service was quick, the drink and food was delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Martino’s with my male partner.


 

Book review: A Detail of History Arek Hersh

Arek Hersh was born in 1929 in Sieradz, Poland. He had a mum, dad, two older sisters, an older brother and a younger sister who died at the age of three. At eleven years old he was sent to a Kloister church where he was selected to join a work group, he would never see his family again.

He named the book ‘A Detail in History’ because French politician Jean Marie Le Penn described the Holocaust as a ‘minor detail of history’.

A Detail of History gives the reader an insightful and educational account of what life was like in Nazi occupied Poland during World War Two. The book describes the harrowing and life changing experiences of the Holocaust, giving an insight into life in Sieradz, where Arek lived before the Nazis sent him and his family to the concentration camps. Arek’s account of his life between the ages of 11-16 is far beyond anything one could imagine. As a young boy, he had to witness life changing events, the screams from the gas chambers, young children crying, and the cold, unsanitary conditions in the barracks. Having met Arek it is hard to comprehend what he went through and how he survived.

Arek is able to tell his story in a simple manner that allows readers to see directly into his memory, Arek survived through luck and the choices he made. When he was being moved from the Lodz orphanage to Auschwitz he saw that the children were being sorted into two lines, presumably to go to another orphanage or camp. However, Arek did not believe this, so he paid specific attention to the sorting process when on the platform awaiting his fate standing in the correct line by lying about his age. He was sent to Auschwitz where he worked long hours and received little food, but he survived.

When Arek arrived in the concentration camp he explains that he was ordered to take all of his clothes off and put his belongings in front of him. An SS guard took away the only photo he had left of his family. Arek and the others were told to shower and given thin pyjama suits and shoes. His hair shaved off by the SS guards. Arek was marched to ‘Cygainer Lager’ in Birkenau which means ‘gypsy camp’ with one thousand other prisoners. While Arek was walking around the camp he could smell the burning flesh from the gas chambers and see smoke billowing from the chimneys, allowing the reader to imagine the horrors experienced by a young man. Later on, Arek had a number tattooed on his arm ‘B7608’ which is how the SS guards identified him while he was in the camp, he describes this number as his ‘passport’ which he still has today.  Whilst in the camp Arek met Natek, who was from Lodz he, Natek and Arek’s friend Krol stuck together, this gives the reader hope for him.

Early the next morning, Arek’s barrack was called for a ‘roll call’ so that the prisoners could be sent away for work. Arek saw the sign ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ ‘Work Makes Freedom’. Arek knew all too well he had arrived in Auschwitz. He was then taken near to the infamous ‘Block Eleven’ where prisoners were tortured and sometimes executed for minor wrongdoings of camp rules. Having been inside ‘Block Eleven,’ I cannot imagine the horror and fear Arek and his friends felt at the time. The dominating chimney and presence it had over the prisoners at the time and visitors of the museum today filled the air with fear and a subdued atmosphere.

In chapter eight of Arek’s book he describes a visit from the camp commandant Richard Baer and Maria Mandl who was in charge of the woman’s camp. She was rumoured to have extremely brutal behaviour. Arek goes on to say that ‘It was very uncommon for two high ranking officers to be seen outside without other SS officers’ but changes in the camp were happening daily as the Russians were not far away. Just a day after this strange event, Arek and his barrack were ordered to walk out of Auschwitz in the bitterly cold month of January. This builds suspense as the author starts to describe the Nazi defeat. Arek had Dutch clogs and thin stripped pyjamas to shield him from the cold. He goes on to describe the SS guards pushing the group on and both the prisoners and guards becoming more and more frightened as the Russian armies advanced, increasing the tension for the reader and encouraging them to read further. For many days, Arek and his friend Natek survived on a bag of semolina. Arek’s barrack were ordered onto wagons where they travelled for several more days where he arrived at his destination, Buchenwald a camp in central Germany. They were taken to a large building where bunks were filled with straw. Even though Arek felt crowded he was grateful that he was clean and sheltered. Simple comforts pleased him and fills the reader with emotion.

A little while later, Arek was walking back to his barracks where he heard excited groups of people saying that the Germans were to evacuate Buchenwald. This was terrible news for Arek and all of the prisoners. They had hoped that the American tanks were on the horizon and that they would be free, for some of them wanted to one day, reach Palestine, the promised land. It was April 1945 and no tanks were seen.

Arek and his barrack walked to Weimar where they were loaded onto wagons, one hundred and twenty people per carriage, so that no one could sit down. In total, there were four thousand five hundred people, Arek’s barrack had an unknown fate. Arek was fifteen years old, still young and yet he had seen some of the most horrifying things that a man should never have to see. After travelling for over a month through Germany and eventually ending up in Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia the Russian army liberated the camp on the 8th May 1945. However, many people don’t often consider the end of the camps and what happened to the Auschwitz survivors. After the camps were liberated they were all wake up knocked down and destroyed.

When I met Arek I asked him how many times he tried to escape. He replied ‘never as it would mean he and everyone in his barracks would be hung’. This book illustrates there was a sense of personal survival but also care for his friends.

Having been to Poland myself in 2013 it was really hard to comprehend what all of those people went through during World War Two. The walk around Auschwitz and Birkenau was just a glimpse of what Arek and the other prisoners experienced. The horror and fear that the victims witnessed was for me, a life changing event. When looking around Auschwitz, the individual belongings of the men, women and children were all collected and placed in glass cabinets for people to view. In some of the cabinets, there were so many items that I could not see over the top of them, personal belongings of the victims included crockery, cutlery, suitcases, dolls, clothing and shoes.

Arek’s book gives a great insight into what life was like in World War Two, once I started reading this book I was captivated by his level of description. The in-depth detail of Arek’s home town, the concentration camps, the SS guards and the higher ranking officers whom he briefly met was extraordinary. He describes what he saw in great detail and gives a non-expert audience invaluable information to his life in Auschwitz. Having read this book and been to Auschwitz and Birkenau, I can clearly imagine the smells, sights and sounds which he witnessed whilst being a prisoner in the camps. At the tender age of eleven Arek was sent away from his home in Poland. His camp was liberated in Czechoslovakia in 1945 where he was sent to live with three hundred other children who had gone through the camps. Arek was bought to Windermere, Cumbria where he learnt to speak English, played games and began to eat proper food again. He was then sent to Liverpool where he stayed for eight months and then onto Manchester in 1947. Arek found one elder sister and three cousins in different parts of Europe. He chose to volunteer for the Israeli Defence Forces in 1948. He then returned to England, married and has three children. I think it is important for the next generation to learn what happened to those six million Jews and other victims in World War Two as for many people across the world it is and was a life changing event. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in history or would like to know more about life in the concentration camps. I think that the book leaves the reader with more questions about the Holocaust and what happened to the victims in the concentration camps. This may be because people nowadays want to know more and more about the events that took place, survivors stories and opinions.

Today Arek visits local schools in Leeds and Windermere to talk to young people about his experience in Auschwitz and surviving the Holocaust. Even today, Arek doesn’t talk to Germans of his generation as he still classes them as evil. He does speak to and lecture young Germans and still visits Auschwitz acting as a guide to visitors.