Media Theory Revision Guide

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Huck

Binary oppositions in Huck

Strauss

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Levi-Strauss tells us that stories are universally organised around binary conflicts, partly as a result of evolutionary human thinking structures but also as a means of constructing ideological effects. Huck, certainly, articulates binary themes and characterisation, primarily to construct reader interest via conflict. 

The front page, for example, infers a male versus female binary via it’s inflammatory header suggesting that ‘women are dominated by men’. Indeed, the magazine’s simplistic division of society into victims and oppressors is a recurrent theme in all articles - used principally to nurture a combative tone, but also articulated in a way that positions the reader to align themselves with the marginalised groups who are accorded victim status in the magazine.

This process is perhaps clearest in the Jacob Tobia article when the writer declares that ‘Family teachers and peers’ opposed his gender fluidity - using an emotive application of first person plural narrative voice to include the reader within the author’s binary assessment: a narrative strategy that constructs an easy ‘us/them’ divide that has clear ideological undertones.

Those ideological intentions are to assert a liberal individualist perspective - a perspective that groups intolerance, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny as taboo behaviours, while outlining diversity and acceptance as social ideals. This rhetorical strategy is also signalled in the editor’s letter, where cult literary rebel Holden Caulfield is summoned as a banner bearer for the magazine’s ideological stance.

Without doubt, Huck’s narrative approach reinforces Strauss’ notion that stories naturally coalesce around binary themes and characters. Huck, too, reinforces Strauss’ assertion that binary applications orchestrate ideological effects.

Social taboos

Strauss tells us that myths outline unacceptable or socially taboo behaviours. Media products serve a similar purpose when narratives position audiences to reject some traits as flawed or undesirable

Media terminology used

Binary thinking structures

Strauss argues that humans naturally order the world using binary thinking. This thinking blueprint is expressed in the cultural products of any given society - in myths or television drama for example.

Privileged oppositions

Strauss tells us that stories rarely construct balanced presentations of binaries. One set of characters or events always dominates. These 'privileged oppositions' often construct ideological messaging.

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Media Theory for A Level
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