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What is Levi Strauss' Theory of Binary Opposites?

Levi Strauss, a French anthropologist in the 1900s, proposed a theory of 'binary opposites' which entails that the majority of narratives in media forms such as books and film contain opposing main characters.These binary opposites help to thicken the plot and further the narrative; and introduce contrast. For example, in a superhero film this could be good vs. evil, in a horror film this could be human vs. supernatural, and in a comedy this could be young vs. old. A problem with binary opposites is that they may oftentime perpetuate negative stereotypes. For example, if the binary opposite was man vs. woman, according to gender stereotypes, the man may be portrayed to be 'strong' whereas the woman is the 'damsel in distress'. It is important to see how these stereotyes have changed in media forms over time. Also, in more recent years, binary opposites are not so clear cut - they can be complex and there may be multiple binary opposites between two characters. For example in Harry Potter, Harry Potter vs. Voldemort may be seen as good vs. evil, also young vs. old, but also innocent vs. corrupt or normal vs. deformed. Therefore, it is important to note as many binary opposites as possible when analysing media forms to give your analyses depth and broadness. 

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Degree: Media and Cultural Studies with Marketing and Advertising (Bachelors) - Lancaster University

Subjects offered:Media Studies, Sociology+ 1 more

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“Hello all! My name is Ruwaida Khandker and I am a second year Media and Cultural Studies with Marketing student at Lancaster University. I am extremely passionate about the study of media and would therefore love to pass on my experti...”

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