It’s What I Keep On Sayin’ (like a stuck record).

English and Media and Film peepoles!

Professor David Buckingham is a really useful person to know about. He is an expert in the business of media study in education. Here is a great article about why we study so little of it in in the U.K.


The Mr G. Request Spot. Tomb Raider, Metroid and Gender Representation.

Yeah. It totally turns out that I’m doing requests now.

My postbag (it’s a metaphor, bear with me) usually only contains offers for unbelievable financial opportunities (with spelling mistakes) and several shades of spam but yesterday I received this from Sarah.

Hello, I just found your blog this after and I love it! Could you write about gender representation in Metroid in comparison to Tomb Raider? It would be really helpful as I have my end of year exam on Tuesday.

Firstly Sarah after what? I initially assumed that you found my blog “this afternoon” but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps the “this” is a typo? Perhaps it should have read, “I just found your blog after I discovered that I am taking a subject called Media Studies when I have been attending Agricultural Studies lessons” or “I just found your blog after taking horrific, and bloody, revenge on the last Media Studies blogger who displeased me?”

With that in mind here are my thunks on the matter.

If you are being asked about gender representation in anything by AQA you want to immediately see which theorists you can weasel into your answer (yes weasel is a real verb). You have a choice of several:

  • bell hooks: Especially interested in race gender and power intersectionality and self-representation.  Not so useful in this scenario.
  • Lizbet Van Zoonen: Discourse and power. Yup. Useful (we’ll look at this some more).
  • Ariel Levy: She’s not one of the big named people but if you have studied raunch culture then you should have met this journalist’s name. Ariel Levey could be useful here.
  • Stuart Hall: If in doubt, whenever you see the word representation, go to Hall. His stuff on audience response is also useful here.

Now I assume that you have looked at my notes on Tomb Raider and Gender Representation and my notes on all three video games.

So what to write about in a couple of pages of exam stressy essay?

1: Van Zoonen and discourse. Both Metroid: Prime 2 Echoes and Tomb Raider Anniversary are shaped by the discourse concerning gender that surrounds them.

In Metroid the makers have exploited the fact that in the discourse on gender the default gender for the action genre (even in a metal suit) is male.


Even robots from Cybertron are male!


So then this comes as a bit of a surprise at the end of the game.


We’ll talk more about negotiated audience response at the end.

But you will want to stress that Samus Aran’s gender is actually completely irrelevant in most of the game. Check out the packaging imagery:

A suit is a suit is a suit! In many ways the suited Samus is almost as alien in design as the aliens.

That said a woman in a suit fighting aliens is not without precedent in even Hollywood culture.


The game sidesteps discussions about gender until the very end. In many ways this is down to Metroid’s Japanese roots. Robots (and robot-y suits) are big in Japanese pop-culture (check out the brilliant Netflix episode of “The Toys That Made Us” on Transformers to understand more).


I don’t think AQA has any expectation that you will have a grasp of this but Samus is linked to big Japanese mecha-suit narratives that often feature beautiful women in power-suits (or even robot women). Japanese discourse concerning gender is often very different to western discourse so you will want to make your points quickly and move on.

Tomb Raider (as you will see in my notes) is far more of a western cultural animal and so engages with western discourse on gender. See my notes on Lara’s original character design and concepts. Lara is a product of the discourse as it was occurring in 1996 and shaped the discourse itself over the next decade and a bit.


Lara is presented as capable, rational and the equal of any man.

game 7

However Van Zoonen might lead you to consider that her capabilities are also bound up with her femininity and attractiveness. If she was presented as less feminine and conventionally attractive would she be presented as being as capable? There’s plenty of evidence that Vasquez always dies.

Also Van Zoonen might be interested in the way that gamers play(ed) Lara differently from a male character (they tended to let her die less casually) and the way the final boss, Natla, is also female. Both point to conflicting elements in the prevailing discourse concerning gender,

2: Ariel Levy and Raunch Culture. In her book “Female Chauvanist Pigs” Levy argued that during the 90s there emerged a way for women to succeed in a patriarchal system by playing along with it. By presenting themselves as attractive to men and engaging in sexualised behaviour (visiting strip-clubs, dancing sexually, drinking as much as men) they could become “one of the boys” and so gain power within the system.

You could argue that the packaging artwork for Tomb Raider Anniversary is a representation of raunch culture with its T and A shot, direct eye-contact, leather straps and hyper-feminized pony-tail.


Metroid? Well unless you have a thing for upgrade-able fighting suits – less so.

3: Stuart Hall. Firstly his ideas about representation were that:

  • In popular culture there was a primacy for the visua.
  • The powerful tended to control representations (a point also noted by Dyer in his theories concerning stereotyping).

As a result both games tend to represent the women in them in particular ways because they are the result of a male dominated industry.

Remember the artwork for the games is not produced by the game producer so there are odd divergences between the Lara in the artwork and the Lara in the game for example (more sexualised).

As I have said earlier there is a long history of female manga and anime characters (as robots, in suits or in big mecha) and Metroid fits with this. It is interesting that she is presented in similar ways to Sayla Massone of the first female Mobile Suit Gundam pilots in the long running anime series).


Blonde, Caucasian, feminine, youthful and without make-up. Both representations are the result of a particular aesthetic created by male media-producers (in Japan).

There is also a representation element that you might want to mention with Hall in that his audience response theory gives the audience the ability to read the representations any way they desire. One, negotiated, reading of Samus is that the character is transgender.

The important thing here is not whether or not Samus is (or is not) trans. It is whether the producers have allowed enough free space in the representation for the audience to read it the way that they want to.

So Sarah. Enough for ya?

I’m off to play in the sunshine now. Happy revising!

Like, comment or subscribe. Let me know what you would like me to write about. I am, after all, taking requests.

AQA A Level Media: Telly stuff.

So it turns out I’m taking requests now.

Perhaps you feel like this as we barrel down towards paper 2?


And perhaps it’s the telly CSPs that are freaking you out?

Remember that you can be asked about the telly CSPs for question 2, 3 or 4. Each one is a 25 mark question which just gives you slightly more than 30 minutes to answer it. You only have time for three pages max.

BTW my claims for the paper are based on what AQA have given us. They could ask you something completely different but I did call paper 1 right (I’m really chuffed with myself for that) so here goes . . .

Question 2 will ask you to evaluate the claims of a theory area (or specific bit of a theory area) like:

Steve Neale declares that “genres are instances of repetition and difference and difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre.”

How valid do you find the claims of genre theory about genre rules and pleasures? You should refer to your television drama products.

[25 marks]

Question 3 will ask you about a couple of the contexts of the CSP like:

Media products reflect the economic and political contexts of their production.

To what extent does an analysis of your television drama products support this view?

25 marks

Question 4 is a synoptic question. It will ask you a big media issue type question like:

Should national governments support and protect their nation’s media producers to safeguard diversity of representation?

Refer to your television drama products to support your answer.

25 marks

Now to tackle these questions you MUST write an introduction where you unpick what the question is asking you to do and you need a conclusion where you actually answer the question otherwise you’ll write bollocks.

That leaves you with about two pages (700 words) to refer to details from the programmes to make your point.

Now you must be specific when you write about the CSPs. For example for question 4:

National governments should support media producers otherwise other countries will stereotype their citizens. Capital is very diverse with black and white people in the show.

There is no evidence you have studied the CSP here. Skinnier than a 1990’s catwalk model. BAD.

National governments should support media producers otherwise cultural imperialist forces (American) will, as Dyer contends, stereotype the less powerful. Capital avoids the stereotypes of British identity; for example the character of Quentina (played by Wunmi Mosaku) is a black African woman who works as a Traffic Warden, an unpleasant and low status job, and is struggling with her legal status. The shot of her being placed in a cell is not the image Americans have of London.


Make sure you know details. Not only about the content of the show but also about the production companies, the time periods and locations they are set in and the channels that broadcast them (otherwise how can you answer context questions).

All of these points also work for the videogames, the print magazines and for the online mags.

Just. Make. Sure. You. Answer. The. Question.



AQA Media Studies A Level. What might it look like?

So the A level Media Studies exam is coming up and the board have been kinda cagey about what it looks like.

Preparing for this has been like getting ready to catch Slenderman. If you aren’t sure what it looks like you don’t know what you need.


We’ve had different versions of the papers with differently focused questions and marks.

They have settled onto some form of pattern with the last released (escapes). So here is my prediction (of sorts).
Paper 1:
Q1: 8 Marks. Unseen image. Analyse how media language constructs an aspect of audience response/understanding.
Q2: 12 Marks. Links unseen image to a studied CSP. Possibly links representation area to context.
Q3: 9 marks. Maybelline, Score, Letter to the Free or Billie Jean. Language or representation.
Q4: 20 marks: Maybelline, Score, Letter to the Free or Billie Jean. Language or representation. Longer response.
Q5.1: 2 marks. Tick box terminology question.
Q5.2: 4 Marks: Industry strategy question. Film, Radio or Print.
Q6: 9 Marks. Radio or Newspaper. Context or audience question.
Q7: 20 Marks. Newspaper or Radio. Industry or audience.

Paper 2:
Q1: 9 marks. Analyse an image demonstrating understanding of two theory areas.
Q2: 25 marks. Evaluate the validity of a theory question.
Q3: 25 marks. How does CSP reflect two out of the four context areas (social, political, cultural, economic)?
Q4: 25 marks. Synoptic question. Issue or debate. Use one, prescribed, CSP area for evidence (it’ll be in the question).

There could be some wierdo changes on the day. All I can say is . . .

be ready to think on your feet.

Spend time thinking about what the question is actually asking you to do.


Good luck!