Claude Levi Strauss was born in 1908 and died on the 30th October 2009, aged 100. He was a french anthropologist who believed that the way we understand certain words was in relation to that particular word’s opposite; leading to the development of the “Binary Opposition” theory. Also his work was key to the production of structural anthropology and structuralism.
He believed that the way in which all societies, despite their differences, have the same culture of a system with underlying structures.
But what is narrative?
According to Bordwell and Thompson, film art 1980- narrative is a “chain of events in a cause-effect relationship occurring in time.”
Therefore, narrative refers to the structure of events through which a story occurs and Levi Strauss claims that the stories reflect beliefs, values and myths of a culture; all presented through binary opposition.
Here are a few binary opposites that are explored in films:
- Strong vs weak
- Black vs white
- Girl vs boy
- Protagonist vs antagonist
- Independent vs dependent
- Sane vs insane
- Rich vs poor
- Able vs disabled
- Big vs small
- Young vs old
Which binary opposites are the central climax to a narrative structure of a film because it informs and highlights to the viewer the difference between two characters.
For example: in the fantasy/sci-fi film “Independence day: resurgence”the trailer reveals how the film is centred around the binary opposite of technology vs humanity. As evident in the trailer, I can see how the different characters, including actor Liam Hemsworth took action against what appears to be extra-terrestrial (aliens) and technical devices that were invading Earth. The film also explores the binary opposites of:
- Good vs evil- the humans are seen as the good people who are fighting against the villains which are the aliens/technology.
- Human vs alien- this is what the film centres around; allowing us to associate the film in the sci fi genre, as these types of characters resemble the themes and conventions of this particular genre.
- Strong vs weak- at one stage of the film we feel as if the aliens are going to defeat the humans because the Mothership lands on the Atlantic Ocean, and begins to drill into the Earth’s core in order to gain fuel. This will then destroy the Earth’s magnetic field and therefore kill all life on the planet; humans appear to be weak whilst the ship is strong.
The film trailer below for “Independence day: resurgence” reveals how we automatically assume that the film is in the sci-fi genre because of the setting, it being taken place in the future of Earth, and the mise-en-scene of the type of characters involved like aliens. Furthermore, making us believe that the film is about the battle between humans and aliens, in which the aliens are the evil/bad ones attacking the innocent and weaker humans. This is just a learnt resemblance because of our ideological perceptions of the world as we see a large amount of ships invading Earth, making us think that they are disrupting human society. Here is the trailer below for the film…
Also, I think that YinYang is a great example of displaying binary opposites because the meaning behind the symbol of two opposing forces, reveals that when the two colours are combined it creates perfect balance. The image below, demonstrates the binary opposites associated with each part of the symbol.
This then relates to Levi Strauss’ theory of Binary opposition, that films containing these elements which are related concepts or terms, reinforce the structure of the plot/story. As the two characters are constructed in a way they are the stereotypical portrayal we expect to see. For instance the binary opposition of good vs evil, is evident through the villain wearing black and typically a male character, in comparison to the good character who is known for them being the complete opposite to the villain.