Media Theory Revision Guide

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





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Life on Mars

Transformation and ideology


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Sam’s desire to return to his year 2000 life is ideologically significant. The show's disequilibrium is constructed through Sam's decent into the racist, homophobic and sexist world of his 1970's past - a world that is symbolically represented by Gene Hunt’s (potentially) villainous leadership.

In true Todorovian style, Sam’s quest to defeat Gene positions the audience to agree, ideologically speaking, with the hero’s more accepting worldview. What is truly interesting about the Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes overarching story arc is the way that Gene comes to supplant Sam as the hero of the story. 

Todorov might suggest this offers the true new equilibrium of the show in that DCI Hunt effects an attitudinal transformation - transitioning from the shows's hyper-masculine antagonist to become more aligned to the 'new man' stereotype prevalent in 1990's drama. His acceptance of this new set of ideologies, moreoever, provides the audience with a transformation template that they can similarly deploy.

Attitudinal transformation

Todorov suggests that some narratives require their heroes to undergo a transformation of attitude at the end of the story so that they can successfully complete their story quest. This transformation suggests outlooks or ideologies that audiences ought also to copy.

Media terminology used

New equilibrium

The third act of Todorov's narrative ideal - the stage where the hero is transformed and their narrative quest is completed.


Refers to the unwritten rules or attitudes that individuals internalise. Those rules might govern how we behave or what we find acceptable. The media plays a significant role in shaping the ideologies that dominate within any given society.

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Media Theory for A Level
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