Thursday, 30 April 2015

January 2013 - ER extract - Representation of age

G322/3 Key Media Concepts
This was the first series in which non-British TV drama became available to use as an extract in the exam. The choice of extract was ER and the representation was age. Question two focused on media ownership and the impact ownership has on the range of products and services to the audience. The paper achieved differentiation across the whole range of candidates’ abilities and presented candidates with sufficient opportunity to engage with the key media concepts required for this paper. However, this series also saw a number of candidates who failed to engage with the representation of age in question one, and similarly, a number of candidates who were not prepared well enough for the requirements of question two, which resulted in a significant number of responses that were brief, minimal and in some cases no responses. Entry for the exam was similar to the previous January however the majority of candidates were sitting the examination for the first time, with the number of candidates using the January series as a re-sit opportunity much lower than in previous years.

Question 1

On the whole candidates engaged with the set question on the representation of age with answers maturely and sensitively handled. Those candidates that performed to the highest level did so with detailed and sustained analysis of age and with application of a range of examples across the four technical areas. In their responses candidates would frequently refer to oppositional and negotiated readings of the text, in relation to child/adult/elderly representations. The most detailed responses considered a hierarchy of meaning in the text in analysis of the discourse between adult / child and elderly age representations. In a few cases this was quite a sophisticated analysis in which candidates commented on how the extract challenged typical expectations and presentations of children and adults. This was most pertinent in relation to the very ill child at the beginning of the sequence: for example, stronger candidates recognising that there was a role-reversal at this point, with the doctor learning from the younger patient. Indeed many candidates that picked up on the representation of the child as vulnerable also noted that the child was incredibly mature, realistic and intelligent in relation to the discourse with the adult doctor on his medical condition. Weaker performing candidates relied on simplistic binary oppositions, such as elderly patients are all senile, with all children being weak and in need of protection. Many weaker candidates chose to focus on superficial tasks such as looking at age differences, ignoring particular values or ideologies linked with age groups. Some of these candidates also focused on the discussion of gender or the medical profession rather than age.

Technical features
The analysis of camera angle, shot and movement was used by most to varying degrees. Stronger candidates often correctly identified the use of high/low angled shots, the use of steadicam and could in some instances also analyse the framing of shots as key to how meaning is constructed, particularly with the doctor/ child in the private medical room.

A common error for many candidates was to confuse the use of low and high camera angles and on a few occasions candidates referred to bird’s eye and worm’s eye camera shots which were not present in the extract. On the whole terminology was used correctly by candidates. Candidates’ discussion of mise-en-scène included analysis of the medical environment being used as a context for the study of age. The mise-en-scène was referred to in the use of costume to demonstrate the doctor’s age and experience versus the child as a patient and the use of tubes and make up to represent him as weak and fragile. The key prop of the Sudoku book and the child’s technical vocabulary were well discussed to illustrate how typical representations of childhoodwerechallenged. Candidates were also able to analyse the use of location and the characters’ actions in relation to the construction of age representations in this medical drama, for example, the professional adult doctors working under stress in busy waiting rooms were often contrasted to the irresponsible actions of the older women who was simply there to ‘breathe the air’ and also the supposedly drunk older male. There was a lot less colour determinism used in analysis of mise-en-scène this series, whilst aspects like lighting are still under- utilised, except on occasion, for example some candidates analysed the low lighting of the room with the ill child at the start and noted the sombre atmosphere this created around his situation. Lesser performing candidates simply relied upon the dress of characters and the role they had in the extract, leading to quite simplistic analysis.

Candidates engaged with the use of editing and sound. Many candidates could mention editing and continuity, through the use of shot reverse shot or eyeline matches. The most able candidates examined editing in an analytical way. These candidates could clearly link meaning constructed in the extract and state something purposeful about the representation of age, for example they focused their attention on the use of long takes and how the camera followed key characters who dominated the frame and there were also some excellent musings on the use of cross cutting within the sequence. Most candidates could identify transitions used, though a common error was the use of the term jump cut. Lesser achieving candidates simply mentioned the word edit or commented on editing without actually using any examples of discussing how editing through shot sequencing helped create representations of age. At times there was little attempt to understand how editing created particular viewpoints from which the sequence made most sense or how it was used to privilege particular characters and age groups.

Sound proved to be the most problematic technical area for candidates, although through the evaluation of the use of dialogue, particular attention was focused on the first boy’s use of language and the mature way he confronted the illness that was enveloping him. This stoic manner was compared to another young adult doctor’s childish construction, which focused on his immaturity. Many candidates relied on dialogue as a valued aspect of sound and would refer to key dialogue between characters. A few candidates exemplified the use of monitor blips for the ill child or indeed the use of silence to reflect the seriousness of the child’s situation, though many noted how calm the female doctor was in the ER waiting area, making reference to diegetic sounds. There was some common misunderstanding of diegetic and non-diegetic sound and that which is synchronous and asynchronous. At times it was encouraging to see that candidates examined sound and editing alongside each other and in relation to mise-en- scène. This integrated approach should be encouraged more as it often leads to more advanced responses from candidates. 

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