Ted's teaching tips

26th January 2001 at 00:00
(Photograph) - The figure abseiling down this enormous film poster shows the sheer scale of modern techniques of persuasion, on hoardings, in newspapers and magazines, on television. Advertisers and image-makers are very sophisticated, and this picture makes us look critically at what they do.

Film stars Think of faces from film and television that we recognise instantly. Who are they (Madonna, Tony Blair)? What do you know about the history of Hollywood (ideal climate for outdoor filming, little rain, plenty of sun; became home of studios like Universal and MGM, and producers including Sam Goldwyn and Cecil B de Mille from around 1911; famous stars such as Charlie Chaplin known the world over)? Eddie Murphy is recognisable through films, so why and how are celebrities used in advertising (high-status people, instantly recognisable, their endorsement gives credibility)?

Persuasion Why is this picture eye-catching (unusual, funny, huge)? How do politicians, journalists, advertisers, image-makers persuade people (use of pictures and powerful words, emotional appeal, fear, humour)? Think of examples of persuasion ("Funniest film ever madeI"; "If you don't vote for us, the other party willI"; "Spare a penny for the guy"). Are you easily persuaded, or are you sceptical (be honest, most people deny they are gullible, but then follow fashion or buy things they don't really need)?

Advertising What techniques of persuasion are used in advertising? Which adverts use fear (toothpaste, deodorant, suggesting you will be isolated); humour (breakfast cerels, beer); suggestion of health (people playing sport, dancing, laughing together); snobbery (images showing wealth or high status)? What are the words and phrases that appeal ("cool", "luxury", "you" and "yourself", "rich", "strong", "favourite", "nourishing", "happy", "care", "child" and "children")? How do advertisers use children to sell to adults (baked beans)? Look at some adverts and pick out key features: the words and images that appeal to the emotions. Is the truth being distorted, if so, how?

Writing Devise an advert that tackles a difficult topic - making a boring film sound exciting, getting people to give to charity or to stop smoking. Take an existing advert for tobacco or alcohol and write a text with the opposite message ("These people may look happy, but it will all end in tears")

TALKING POINTS

Are Hollywood films a major art form, or just visual candyfloss for the masses?

For

Hollywood has had a huge impact throughout the world. People of all ages and tastes have had hours of enjoyment. The finest actors, film-makers, artists and musicians are employed, so only snobs dismiss the quality. Film was the most widespread art form of the 20th century.

Against

Hollywood is called "Tinseltown" because it is all image and no substance. A few films can be described as "art", but most are shallow, corny, often distorting history, or trivialising serious matters. The emphasis is on box-office appeal and spin-offs, rather than quality.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter


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