Media Theory Revision Guide

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All A level theorists covered alongside revision summaries and exam practise exercises.





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Stranger Things



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The transition of the asexual Eleven from rootless outsider in episode one to the feminised Elle at the end of season one of Stranger Things reinforces Butler’s work regarding gender performance.


The Eleven of episode 1 is born into the narrative without any identity, her lack of contact with mainstream society resulting in the creation of a genderless persona. It is only through performance - through learning the feminising rituals of the real world - that Elle's female persona is constructed. 


‘Pretty good ’ mouths Elle in response to her pink dress transformation in episode 4 before she is allowed to fall in love with Mike. Female identity is accordingly presented to the show’s audience as a performative struggle - a struggle in which  heteronormative ideals must be adopted if you are to be socially accepted or to gain romantic love.

Feminising rituals

Butler suggests that female identity is constructed through ritualised behaviours - by the daily application of makeup for instance or by styling of our hair in a way that signals to others that we are male or female.

Media terminology used

Performative struggle

Butler tells us that it is enormously difficult to adopt an alternative gender based identity. Being gay or transgender for instance requires someone to engage in a daily struggle to perform an identity that society openly rejects.

Gender performance

A term used by Butler to describe the way that we construct our gendered identities. Those identities - Butler tells us - are reinforced through micro rituals that we perform everyday: wearing gendered clothing - styling our hair in a ways that are seen as being distinctly male or female or by using male or female body language.

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Media Theory for A Level
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