Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Narrative Codes

In this lesson ( 5.10.10 ) we learnt that Roland Barthes was a semiologist, he looked at texts and basically that was his job.

There are two types of narrative, open and closed.
Open narrative is when the tv/film could be interpreted in any way, there isn't a set ending, e.g soaps and films that have no specific ending.
Closed narrative is where there is no other way the audience could interperet an ending , it has to be very specifically scripted so the audience get what the director is putting across. Detective drama's and childrens programmes are usually closed narrative. Childrens shows are closed narrative because a child doesn't normally have interest in a running series, the programme is just there for watching at that specific moment in time.

There are five narrative codes;

#1 Action code
applies to any action that implies further narrative. e.g a gunslinger draws his gun on an opponent and we wonder what the result will be. This picture of Will Ferrell and John Reiley in Stepbrothers has two obvious action codes in it, the fact 'Brennan' is holding a knife and looking pretty angry, and that Dale looks like he is about to let go of the dog. Basically the signals imply anything action related could happen.

#2 Enigma Code
Refers to any element in a story that isn't explained and therefore exists as an enigma for the audience, raising questions that demand expectations. This draws the audience. The Harry Potter series has many layers to its 'enigma code', the question of whether he kills voldemort is obvious right from the first book/film. It makes the audience want to carry on watching as they don't know the answer to the question and want to find out in order to enjoy the film.

#3 Semantic code
Any element in a text that suggests a particular or an additional meaning by the way of connotation. So basically something that has multiple meanings and it gets it across to you.

#4 Cultural Code
Any element in a narrative that refers 'to a science or a body of knowledge'. Basically, the cultural codes tend to point to our shared knowledge about the way the world works. Santa Claus is a good example of this, in the western world an old large man with a white beard, red clothes and a red hat with white fur around it is automatically associated with santa. Whereas in China or somewhere in the far east, it would typically be an old man wearing red.

#5 Symbolic Code
Its very difficult to understand and explain, but, it is a symbol that represents something that the viewer will recognize. It could also reflect a type of non verbal communication that we use in everyday life. Symbolic codes are mainly linked to different cultures.


  1. Izzy. Well done on getting this up. Look again at your action code, it starts off as an action code but then you turn it into an enigma.

    With regards how difficult the symbolic code is, try and at least have a go at it.

  2. okay, thanks sir.
    I've got rid of the last bit of the action code.
    Is that basically what a symbolic code is?

  3. It's more that by using binary opposites you can create a third 'meaning'. This picture of David Cameron and a young man creates a third meaning about society