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MEDIA STUDIES 3.4. Explain the relationship between media genre and society. Credit value: 4 Genre groups texts by identifying common codes and conventions. Includes: horror, western, film noir, thriller, Science Fiction, documentary …

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Media studies 3 4

Explain the relationship between media genre and society. Credit value: 4

Genre groups texts by identifying common codes and conventions. Includes: horror, western, film noir, thriller, Science Fiction, documentary …

Relationship refers to the influence of the genre on society and the influence of society on the genre, and may include developments over time.

Influences on genre include: political & economic climate, idealogical, mora, spiritual & social values, technological changes, audience demand…

Media studies 3 41

Influence on society may include “copycatting” (imitation of stylesor tends in genre by individuals in society), changes in societal expectations and beliefs, influence on other media forms…..

Developments could be technological and or stylistic changes to the genre made over a period of time.

A range of texts should be studied to develop an understanding of the relationship/s. You are to discuss, explain and analyse the genre as a whole in a perceptive manner. This means you need to be alert to the issues raised by a society and be able to comment on how they are reflected in the film genre and vice versa.

Genre study

Genre Study

Science Fiction

as a reflection of society.

The films of andrew niccol
The films of Andrew Niccol

  • A study of ouvere film-making

  • A study of three science fiction films dealing with social, ethical and economic concerns scripted and/or directed by Andrew Niccol.

  • Filmography:

  • 1997 – Gattaca

  • 1998 – The Truman Show

  • 2002 – Simone

  • 2004 – The Terminal (author – Screenwriter)

  • 2005 – Lord of War


  • Born Auckland. New Zealand 1964.

  • TV Commercial maker in U.K. until located in USA to make movies.

  • Wrote screenplay for The Truman Show before Gattaca. Reputation from the themes and direction of Gattaca (1997). Simone (2002)

  • Films have had mixed reviews but share common thematic structures and focus – i.e. Science Fiction exploration of the effects of scientific advance coupled with the impact of technology on an individual’s life.

Niccol as a film maker
Niccol as a film-maker

  • Andrew Niccol has said that he never set out to specialise in “social science fiction film.” His projects just end up that way.

  • Consciously or not Niccol’s career has made him one of the Great Bright Hopes of fantasy movie-making. His films go beyond the FX laden space cartoons (Star Wars) to approach something more thought provoking and less formulac than your average adventure-comedy or intergalatic epic.”

    Kathi Maio - “Lost in the Land of Fake Fakes”

    Fantasy & Science Fiction; Jan 2003. Vol 104. Issue 1. Pp 130-136.

Niccol as a film maker1
Niccol as a film-maker

  • Niccol loves writing characters that have to scheme.

  • In GATTACA Ethan Hawke must go to great lengths not to be detected as "not genetically perfect.”

  • Truman, in THE TRUMAN SHOW, must scheme to escape Sahaven and enter the world of reality.

  • In RIVER ROAD Myler Kline risks his life again and again to cross the river to what he hopes is freedom.

  • Viktor, in SIMONE, is just like these men, only his battle is one of trivia, not of life or death.

Gattaca 1997
Gattaca - 1997

  • Genre. Science Fiction – Social commentary.

  • Gattaca (1997): A tale of the near future and the reach of science – especially the influence of genetic engineering and selection on society.

Gattaca 19971
Gattaca - 1997

  • Genetically inferior Vincent wants to be an astronaut in a society that favours those who are classified as “genetically valid”. Against all odds he succeeds in overcoming the prejudices of the genetically valid, the constraints of the society and the controls on his “invalid” existence to launch into space.

  • .

Gattaca 19972
Gattaca - 1997

  • Social commentary:

  • Genetic engineering,

  • social control and conditioning on the basis of DNA analysis.

  • Scientists playng ‘god” on individuals’ lives

The truman show 1998 andrew niccol scriptwriter peter weir director
The Truman Show - 1998 Andrew Niccol - scriptwriter. Peter Weir- Director

  • Truman Burbank exists in an intricate lie – the sealed community of Seahaven which is in reality a huge stage set complete with total environmental control and 5000 cameras that track his every move. Truman is unaware that his life is being manipulated until a series of accidents occur that cause him to seek answers to the questions that have been troubling him for sometime.

The truman show 1998
The Truman Show - 1998

  • Eventually Truman overcomes the constructed fears that have served as controls on his behaviour and escapes into the real world to seek out the woman of his dreams – his adolescent love who was removed from the programme as the relationship did not fit into the Director’s vision of Truman’s future.

The truman show 19981
The Truman Show - 1998

  • Social Commentary:

  • The influence of T.V. reality shows,

  • abuse of power by the T.V. director / producer,

  • the pervading of Advertising placement in programmes.

  • The T.V. director playing “god” within the program.

Simone 2002
Simone - 2002

  • Viktor Taransky, a film director whose career is rapidly entering its twilight finds himself short of a leading lady when his star quits his latest project. Fired by the studio he sets about creating his own superstar using a computer program – Simulation One.

Simone 20021
Simone - 2002

  • Simone is the ultimate actress – able to perform her own stunts, willing to do nude scenes, doesn’t throw tantrums and perfectly capable of following direction regardless of the director’s demands. As an added bonus she is maintenance free.

Simone 20022
Simone - 2002

  • The ploy is successful and makes Taransky an international success. The publicity eventually becomes over whelming and Taransky attempts to destroy his creation only to find that the media are baying for his blood.

Simone 20023
Simone - 2002

  • Simone is resurrected and declares that she will consider entering politics – a move welcomed by the media who still believe in her reality.

Simone 20024
Simone - 2002

  • Social Commentary:

  • The possibilities in a virtual reality,

  • the cynicism of the film business,

  • the influence of the media on society,

  • the director as “god”.


  • United States, 1997

  • U.S. Release Date: 10/24/97 (wide)

  • Running Length: 1:52

  • MPAA Classification: PG-13 (Violence, mature themes, profanity)

  • Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

  • Cast: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, Jude Law, Loren Dean, Gore Vidal, Ernest Borgnine

  • Director: Andrew Niccol

  • Producers: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher

  • Screenplay: Andrew Niccol

  • Cinematography: Slawomir IdziakMusic: Michael Nyman

  • U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures


Vincent Freeman, a genetically “invalid”, seeks to fulfil his dream - to enter the world of the “valids” and become an astronaut.

He succeeds but is almost discovered before the launch.


  • Welcome to the 21st Century, an era when things aren't that much different, but people are. No longer is standard procreation the accepted way to reproduce.

  • Consider all of the birth defects that such an approach can bring about. And, while it would be unreasonable to outlaw sex for the purpose of producing offspring, be aware than any children so conceived are almost certain to be "in-valids" -- genetically imperfect and ill-suited to be productive members of society. There is a better, more rational way -- a method that will guarantee health, stamina, and physical attractiveness.

  • Let science do a little tinkering with the DNA. Everyone does it. Or at least everyone who wants their child to have a shot at a normal, well-adjusted life.


  • This is the chillingly feasible premise of Gattaca. While in 1997, science has not yet perfected the genetic engineering techniques used in this film to routinely develop babies, every day brings the medical profession closer.

  • As a result, Gattaca doesn't just function as a science fiction thriller, but as both a cautionary tale about the dangers of letting scientific ability outstrip ethics and as a morality play about the irrationality of bigotry.


  • Andrew Niccol's oppressive future, which contains more than an element of Orwell's "Big Brother is watching" mentality, isn't just a clever backdrop against which to set a thriller. Instead, it's an integral part of the story. While it's true that there is a murder mystery, that's just a subplot.

  • The main focus of Gattaca is the struggle of a genetically inferior man, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), to survive and prosper in a world where his kind is routinely discriminated against.

The truman show8
The Truman Show

The Truman Show is repeating a story that dozens of other works of popular fiction have used for decades. It is a story that reveals an essential truth about what is happening to society in the 20th Century.

What is that truth? In part, it is about how the media and corporations have begun to surround us with a universe of illusions. From their high-tech control centers, they increasingly script and stage-manage events, creating the danger that we will find ourselves living inside seamless works of theater that we mistake for the world.

The truman show9
The Truman Show

In the last few years, America has undergone a significant cultural change. Previously, almost no criticism of the media reached the public, except for some of the complaints of business interests and conservatives.

The media controlled the "means of communication" and it used that power to censor virtually all discussion of its own role in shaping events


The truman show10
The Truman Show


The Truman Show, it shows us a character who also challenges -- and ultimately escapes from -- a contrived world that is an invention of media.

The movie’s message: we will have to stand up to the manipulators of television and news if we want to protect ourselves from the absurdity and falsehood that now surrounds us at every turn.

The truman show11
The Truman Show

Thus does the movie offer us a metaphor for our own situation. The fake landscape Truman lives in is our own media landscape in which news, politics, advertising and public affairs are increasingly made up of theatrical illusions.

Like our media landscape, it is convincing in its realism, with lifelike simulations and story lines, from the high-tech facsimile of a sun that benevolently beams down on Truman to the mock sincerity of the actor he mistakenly believes is his best friend.

It is also rewarding and masquerades as something benevolent. And it is seamless -- there are almost no flaws that give away the illusion -- at least until things start to go wrong.


The truman show12
The Truman Show

The movie depicts two attitudes we routinely take toward media. In one, we are absorbed by it; we accept its rendition of reality because it occupies our view.

We are like children whose parents define their world. The lifelikeness and seamlessness of media fabrications and the fact that they are entertaining, help induce this attitude in us. We frequently experience it while reading news stories and watching television and movies.

In the second attitude, we distance ourselves from media. We examine its meaning and try to understand the intentions of its authors. This second attitude is what makes criticism -- and freedom -- possible.


The truman show13
The Truman Show

First, Truman is absorbed by his stage-set world. He is convinced it is real and it occupies his view.

Then, as a result of flaws in the seamlessness of the illusion, he begins to question it. He develops a healthy paranoia -- are they watching him; can he know what is authentic?

As he makes his escape, and the producer of the show blocks him at every turn, that is the creators of the movie telling us that we too have to take a journey -- of mind -- and distance ourselves from this media landscape, if we want to secure our freedom.


The truman show14
The Truman Show

The movie wants to play the role of a social critic for us. It tells us to look around and break the spell that keeps us believing in the media-fabricated illusions of popular culture.

Of course, the movie is also a form of media. As it conveys these ideas to us in dramatic form, we are absorbed by its own take on the meaning of things. Like Truman, we are manipulated and entertained by its lifelike simulations and story line.

We identify with Truman and psychologically become a part of his world. So the movie uses the manipulations of media in order to manipulate us into seeing through the manipulations of media.


The truman show15
The Truman Show

The movie isn't only a satire of television and other forms of media. It aims many of its most pointed barbs at us, the audience. After all, as we watch the characters hanging on Truman's every expression so they can feel something, that is us we see depicted on the screen. We are the one's who make this system possible, the movie tells us.

The willingness of the audience to exploit Truman so it can enjoy his life as entertainment is our own willingness to exploit an endless parade of human victims of news and reality programming because they have the misfortune to be part of some "newsworthy" event.


The truman show16
The Truman Show

And both the audience and Truman portray our willingness to experience an easier and more exciting substitute for life, which is what fuels the media machine.

So Truman and the audience depict us. We're the villains and victims and hero of The Truman Show. And, ultimately, the only illusions we have to escape are the ones we create ourselves.


The truman show17
The Truman Show

Like other depictions in the movie, this one is based on a disturbing characteristic of contemporary society.

Everywhere we look, today, we see powerful shapers of media -- including entertainment companies, news organizations, corporations and political groups -- offering us a benevolent face, with promises of enjoyment and an easy life. But, behind the mask, we increasingly find surveillance, manipulation and social control.

Many works of fiction show this same combination -- phony idyllic settings that mask a system of surveillance and social control. This theme can be found in written stories such as "The Machine Stops", by E. M Forster, The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem, and The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke; in movies such as Logan's Run, and in television programs such as "The Cage", which was the pilot episode for the original Star Trek.


Simone 20025
Simone - (2002)

  • The film "Simone” is a satire of the Hollywood obsession with celebrity.

  • Viktor is a two-time Oscar-nominated director, a veteran of the New York independent-film scene of the '70s, who's feuding with a bitchy actress (an overplayed cameo for Winona Ryder) over, you guessed it, the size of her on-set trailer. His ex-wife Elaine (Catherine Keener), who also happens to be the studio head, then fires him while they're standing on a Hollywood set that replicates a New York street scene and he's bellowing about the spirit of John Cassavetes.

Simone 20026
Simone - (2002)

  • As Viktor is packing up his gear at the studio, he's accosted by a one-eyed computer geek (an uncredited cameo by Elias Koteas) who insists he's invented the antidote to self-centered celeb actors who put their candy-dish requests ahead of Art.

  • Viktor shoos him away, but some time later -- "Simone" is told as a series of disconnected vignettes, and you can never tell how much time has elapsed or how we've gotten from one thing to the next -- the geek conveniently dies, leaving Viktor a Zip drive containing the program he needs to create Simone.

  • .

Simone 20027
Simone - (2002)

  • "I have re-created the infinite nuances of the human soul," Viktor muses to himself while admiring his creation. (A lot of "Simone" involves Viktor sitting around talking to himself, or talking to Simone, which amounts to the same thing and makes us feel ever queasier about his character.).

Simone 20028
Simone - (2002)

  • Simone wins two Oscars in the same year (her acceptance speech, done by videophone from her "Third World goodwill tour," replete with garbage-eating dogs and background gunfire, is one of Niccol's better moments), is romantically linked to both Viktor and Mick Jagger, becomes a singing star, appears drunk on daytime TV and "directs" her own unwatchable art movie, "I Am Pig.”

  • These last two arise from Viktor's Dr. Frankenstein efforts to destroy his creation, which backfire completely and only lead to his own downfall.

Simone 20029
Simone - (2002)

  • Ironcally, Vicktor’s plans to destroy Simone fail. He is forced to resurrect her - she literally comes back from the hard drive dead!

  • In keeping with the celebrity obsessed society that sees actors aspiring to political office - e.g. Reagan, Schwarzenegger… Simone announces her virtual campaign to run for office.

  • The audience is left to ponder the ramifications if “she” was to succeed.


  • Taransky can create and totally manipulate digital characters, from the nuance of their accents to the size of their tears. Taransky creates a CGI surrogate leading lady named Simone. The word Simone is also a double entendre, which plays upon the software acronym "S1m One" or "Simulation One


Simone, like all that she symbolizes, provides a world of advantages over her human counterparts. "she" is inexpensive. She never argues, tires, or negotiates contracts. She can be programmed to say or do anything; and she is eternally young, malleable, and available.


  • What seems significant when watching the film is that we the audience become conscious of questioning whether we actually can know truth via the media. What if the "Simone" we are seeing is a composite - sometimes Rachel Roberts ( who provided the “body” image) sometimes her body double, and at other times Niccol's digitized images?


  • Which of these is "Simone"? Moreover, even when a "real" actress is billed as authentic, at what point does a person who may have dyed hair, silicone implants, a tummy tuck, liposuc- tion, surgically removed ribs, a face lift, e-tanned skin, elaborate cosmetic enhancement, digital beauty marks, and acting lessons qualify as "real?" Is anyone authentic? In Simone, "Simone" says " I'm no more artificial than anyone in Hollywood.”


The predecessor technology to CGI such as rotoscoping (tracing the outlines of projected moving characters and then animating them), optical printing, and pixillation of mannequins, it is the next-of-kin status of Final Fantasy images which engages audiences.

We note both how the shadows, the textures, and the colors resemble but do not precisely duplicate human beings and their environments.


However, when watching Simone, as when watching a good magician, we are never certain which image is an illusion, and which image records the image of a live actress. And since the film is reflexive, that is, it calls attention to the character generation process in both senses of the word character, we are constantly invited to think about the line of demarcation between reality and verisimilitude.


When cinema was introduced, after seeing his first close-up shot, the famous playwright Bernard Shaw said "they'll never pay to see just part of an actor." Those who now say "they'll never pay to see a facsimile actor" may soon seem as short-sighted as Shaw. Such objections fade quickly.


One question which arises between the frames of Simone is "Where will we draw the line?"

As a society we have accepted astroturf as a substitute for grass despite the injuries caused to athletes. We think nothing of eating and drinking artificial sweeteners, colors, and chemicals.

We hardly expect the politicians we meet via the media to act the same when they are off camera.

Our standards about authenticity have eroded so much that Andrew Niccol can tease us for two hours about it -- and the satire stings.



To be sure in the age of cloning, virtual reality, public relations and artificial intelligence, a wave of books and films -- Algeny (1983), AI (2001), Being There (1979), Bicentennial Man (1999), Primary Colors (1998) , Virtuosity (1995), et al -have already raised questions about what is authentic. Long before this century philosophers have struggled with questions as deep as whether truth exists and, if so, is it knowable? Subjective? Sensory? Universal?

And contemporary thinkers - Barthes, Baudriard, Jameson, among others - are at home with developing this line of thought. By the 1960's McLuhan was already calling movies "dreams that money can buy". The concept of "moving pictures" is an oxymoron in any event. So there is nothing new about questioning the authenticity or mediated "reality".


The websites associated with Simone are a case in point. Anyone happening across the realistic websites about Victor Taransky, Amalgamated Films, and Simone's"movies" will not know that these characters and entities are fabrications. So, in an age when fake is fashionable, how do audiences know which websites, characters, actors, politicians, images and sounds are genuine? Indeed one implication of the film-within-a-film is that we no longer are as concerned with "is this true?" as "does this satisfy?" And if we are satisfied, we will permit all manner of pseudo-reality and surrogacy


The issues raised by Simone point toward a mountain of ethical questions. Everyone from amateur actors to mainstream unions is concerned about replacing flesh and blood actors with digital facsimiles not only in entertainment, but also in news, advertising, and beyond. The issues of fraud and deception also loom large..

What is the ethical if not the legal limit? In Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Space Jam (1996), Babe (1995), and Cool World (1992) it is obvious which characters are human and which are manufactured. And in Final Fantasy (2001) and its genre it is obvious that all characters are man-made. But such is not the case with Simone (2002), nor was it in such controversial media hoaxes as Orson Welles' famed radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds (1938).


In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) Neil Postman points to an important distinction separating the science fiction classics 1984 (1948) by George Orwell and Brave New World (1931) by Aldous Huxley. In 1984 non-conforming individuals are controlled by being punished in "room 101" where their greatest fear, such as of spiders, heights, or rats, awaits them. However, in Huxley's Brave New World of test tube castes, individuals are controlled through pleasure, not pain. Huxley's characters use an all purpose drug soma and enjoy the feelies, a multi-sensory arousing version of the talkies, to avoid and numb their pain or discomfort, whether emotional or physical.


In WHAT IS CALLED THINKING (1976) the great twentieth century philosopher Martin Heidegger described thinking as "that which is slipping away."

If original thinking is indeed receding into a mirage of illusion, it is valuable to have an illusion like Simone to provoke fresh thought.

Sample question 2005 examination
Sample question 2005 Examination

You have 60 minutes to respond to the question.

Identify the media genre you have studied in terms of its relationship with society.

Analyse and evaluate how this media genre has influenced society and been influenced by society.

Refer to at least THREE texts to support your argument.