I recently stumbled across an old media studies essay I wrote when I was 16. It’s a bit cringeworthy to read it back now I’m 31 but I have decided to preserve it on my blog so you can read the essay in full below, if you so wish. I haven’t edited it or corrected any mistakes. Although I am slightly annoyed with my 16 year old self for the quality of the essay, it was my first steps into discussing the media and I was reminded that it has been 15 years since I began writing about colour, language, icons and other associated elements.
I would like to add that I had 17/20 for the essay which was a grade A. My teacher noted on it … what a pleasure it is to read your work Robert. I wonder if she would feel the same all these years later.
Here we go …
Star Wars is a fairy tale in science-fiction form. Discuss.
Once upon a time a story was created and called a fairy tale. They revolve around handsome heroes rescuing dazzling damsels from the vicious villains in splendid surroundings.
There are usually three main characters in fairy tales, the Hero, Princess and Villain, though sometimes there is another like a country bumpkin or sidekick for the hero. These characters can be seen throughout the world of the media and are instantly recognisable.
The hero is renowned for his clean and simple clothes (usually light colours), but he never fails to look the part. He is also associated with living in a castle where his father is king and is extremely wealthy, more often than not the hero is a young prince and always has a horse which becomes important in any fairy tale plot.
No matter where the princes’ castle is there is always a villain lurking on the outskirts of that town and he is usually the opposite to the hero as he wears dark clothes, has a dark horse and is always from a tragic background where he wasn’t respected by his parents – which is why he is the bad figure of the story.
The villain never has money so is usually scheming some sinister plan to get his hands on wealth. The villain is older than the hero in most cases and doesn’t always have a sidekick but if he does, you bet he will be a bit daft and cause all the plans to go wrong.
The Princess (heroine) is always elegant, does what she is told and is a real damsel in distress. She usually lives in a simple house with both her parents and hates her life as she always has to work around the house, so she secretly yearns for adventure and desperately needs a man – you guess it, a prince.
Minor characters in fairy tales include the hero’s father who usually advises the prince not to go off on an adventure like a ‘wild stallion’ but is always proud when he returns victorious. There is also the hero’s sidekick who is usually reluctant to fight but always gets involved. It is a male who either looks upon the hero as an icon or is a bit dim and doesn’t quite understand what’a happening but he joins in because the hero tells him to and he must always obey the hero.
Every fairy tale follows a specific plot, maybe not exactly but it will always contain certain elements. The princess is either at home on a bright summers day, sweeping outside the house when she gets kidnapped by the villain or she is walking through the woods nearby watching squirrels chew nuts and flowers blossom, when all of a sudden a sack is popped over her head and the next thing she knows she is in a tiny, cold stone room with the villains watching her come around. Then he tells her that she will only be released when he receives a cash sum for her life. Meanwhile, back in the castle the prince has just heard about this terrible ordeal and immediately decides to rescue the princess as they already know each other via their families. At first the king tells him not to go but realises his son has made up his mind and just tells him to be careful.
The prince then runs outside, jumps on his horse and rides off into the distance leaving his father behind worried.
At the castle on the other side of town the princess becomes worried and prays that her knight in shining armour will rescue her before she is killed. No sooner has the princess finished hoping, her prince has just arrived at the castle after riding over miles of countryside and he still hasn’t a hair out of place. He fights back the baddies at the entrance to the villains home and runs up a huge flight of stairs and at the top is greeted by the villain, they have a big duel with swords and surprisingly the prince wins. He dashes to the princess’ cell and rescues her.
They run outside together and mount his horse then ride off into the sunset together. When they reach the prince’s home they have a big feast and live happily ever after, but in some cases the villain comes back and they meet again in a gripping sequel.
Science-fiction films and in particular, Star Wars, all include certain characteristics:
The music is always synthesises with a lot of sound effects and deep booming music. There is a mysterious element to the music that is there to create and build up tension.
The setting of science-fiction films is in a very large city like New York (never a small city), in the country where there is one house and a shed across the field or in the most futuristic setting – space.
Colour is extremely important in science-fiction films and gloomy colours like black and grey are most dominant, silver also features regularly, however the colours are toned down in the city.
You can guarantee there will be a group of people in most science-fiction films with tight costumes on and each one will be a different colour, either that or everyday suits like Men In Black. In a way it depends on the setting of the film.
Technology is the feature in films that include space. It is always futuristic, computerised and more importantly complicated. it takes real experts to use it and they are always the ones to die first.
Language is formal, frank and again complicated due to computer terminology and scientific terms.
The lighting used in science-fiction films is dramatic and either really dull or bright. A lot of flashes are used particularly in battle scenes and spotlights are effective as well. The graphics in science-fiction films are always futuristic and computerised.
There are three typical plots in science-fiction films the first being a problem with the space ship, the second is that aliens are going to invade the world and the third is that someone has been abducted.
Science-fiction icons are whizzing stars, shadows over Earth, space ships, clothes and technology.
Star Wars is the ultimate in cinematic entertainment. Writer/director George Lucas’ unrivalled passion for space fantasy, adventure and romance is captured on screen with the groundbreaking special effects and extraordinary space creatures.
Princess Leia is held hostage by the Imperial forces in their effort to quell the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Luke Skywalker and Captain Han Solo team together with the loveable droid duo, R2-D2 and C-3PO, to rescue the beautiful princess and restore justice in the galaxy.
Star Wars is a fairy tale in science-fiction form as it contains stereotypical characters. For example Princess Leia may not wait in towers for her prince and she may take charge and fight the battles herself but that’s because she is a modern space princess, in the end she still needs rescuing.
The hero, in this case Luke Skywalker, doesn’t ride a horse but he is still the hero, and he is also left without the girl at the end which is unusual. He is a hero with a different character but the main elements of a hero are still there.
The sidekick, or for Star Wars the anti-hero, never gets the girl as always comes out looking stupid, not in this case. Han Solo is the anti-hero and we know this because he is sarcastic, witty, only works for money, more street wise, reckless and arrogant. But deep down we all know he has a heart of gold and he helps Luke in the final battle sequence.
Darth Vader is the villain in Star Wars, and is like a fairy tale villain because he is responsible for the kidnapping of Princess Leia and takes Luke on at the end, but he doesn’t die which left the possibility of a sequel.
So although Star Wars contains all the characters in a fairy tale they are very different, though the storyline does follow a similar pattern in the end.
Camera work is important in every film as it can create atmosphere and show how big a place is.
Many special scenes in Star Wars contain special camera work, in particular the scene involving R2-D2 and C-3PO when they were in the desert. A long shot was used to create the effect if the characters being in the middle of nowhere.
When scenes on board Darth Vader’s ship take place a lot of panning occurs to make it look big.
One of the best camera scenes in the film was near the end when the force were going out in their X-Wings to defeat Darth Vader, the camera kept cutting from one person to another, which is very effective as it creates tension.
Star Wars is also linked to fairy tales because although it was touch and go for a while, they all lived happily ever after!