Dept News: Media Studies

Posted on: 04/02/2019

In the fraught context of media representation with art of story as a foundation for both Media & Film, it is worth discussing why these two disciplines are crucial areas of study at GCSE and A Level. These are frequently perceived as maligned ‘doss’ subjects to those who have yet to embark on a journey through multiple texts and mediums. This is an understandable perspective but pupils who have taken Media or Film more often than not explain how the process involved is a real culture shock.

Who knew that this entertainment lark could be so scholarly?

Whether grappling with Chomsky’s Five Filters of Mass Media as defined in ‘Manufactured Consent’ dealing with subjectivities and platforms of representation, Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory with reference to tabloids like ‘The Sun’ and ‘Daily Mail’ or broadsheets like ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Times’, applying Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation when tackling music videos such as Vance Joy’s ‘Riptide’, reflecting on the Bazin’s Auteur Theory in relation to contentious male directors like Alfred Hitchcock’s work in contrast with more progressive female visionaries such as Lynne Ramsay and Andrea Arnold, evaluating the public service broadcasting institutional context and upmarket demographics of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’ and even the emergence of augmented reality mobile video games by Niantic, the subsidiary of Nintendo’s ‘Pokemon GO’, there is always too much to discuss rather than not enough!

Media is more charged than ever. The impasse over Brexit and the grand narratives of Socialism, Liberalism and Conservatism dominate discourse. At the same time as this tussle for power and platforms of representation, and with Shakespearean and Ancient Greek tragedian levels of escalation, the reality of the ‘here and now’ is often forgotten. Suddenly, the content of newspapers, magazines, advertising, broadcasting (TV, radio), films and even video games becomes highly influential and potentially transformative.

Stuart McPhail Hall once declared that the lowly, despised places of knowledge (gossip mags, soap operas and music videos) are important areas of study for students, because this is where epiphanies on culture, class, race, gender and ideology thrive. Reception to these texts (preferred, negotiated, and oppositional) creates robust dialectics (that is, the academic study of opinion). Media encroaches on all aspects society, so it is more important than ever that active critique rather than passive spectatorship is encouraged.

However, the theory studied in Media & Film must be enlightened by practice and technical application. Opportunities like this are always available in a school like Hatch End. These subjects offer pupils the opportunity to make short films and music videos, publish magazines and newspaper columns, create shows, write scripts and specialise in specific areas in order to make an impact for a career in the industry. Additionally, subjects such as English, Drama, Art, History, IT, Politics, Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, Business, and Ethics are inextricably linked.

What underpins all of these mediums is the art of story. The beauty of storytelling, or shall we say narrative, is that there is no absolute right or wrong answer, there is just a diversity of stories to tell. From the pupil with the gift of the gab and anecdotal charisma, to the shy genius writing a masterpiece in the corner, each has a method to the madness. All of these creations have become cultural artefacts that enrich society. The reason to study Media and Film is to master the craft; to learn techniques which can be applied with one’s own distinctive stylistic signature. Every creative work has a singularity which cannot be denied, everyone has a story to tell, and the open playing field is a vibrant map which society should foster in order to illuminate the ineffable, particularly during times of such uncertainty.

Mr Cole-Savidge Hatch End Film & Media Co-ordinator