Narrative media theory case study
the a team ed sheeran
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Narrative media theory case study
Ed Sheeran’s song is a narrative music video and is an example of a circular narrative.
It starts with the dead girl being found and uses a non linear structure to explain how
she die and why.
The main, linear part of the narrative shows her waking up on a park bench and
spending most of the day on the street selling magazines (like the Big Issue foundation
which helps homeless/ unemployed people earn money by selling the magazine). By
the night she acts as a prostitute to earn more money to pay for her drug abuse.
Goodwins Theory Relating to Lyrics
The title of the song is “A team” and is a direct reference to the A class drugs (crack
cocaine) the woman is using in the music video.
The lyrics are very straightforward explaining her situation:
“the worst things in life come free to us” suggests that the reason she is where she is in
her life is not because she is buying drugs, but because she is homeless. The worst thing
in her life is not being able to go home and sleep in a bed. This music video shows how
“She don’t want to go outside tonight” This lyric suggests that she doesn’t want to go out
and be a prostitute, but to survive and feed her habit. It represents women as isolated
and desperate to change their lives.
In relation to Claude Levis Strauss
Strauss described narrative that “Constant creation of conflict/opposition drives
narrative”. It relies on the idea of binary oppositions such as light/dark, love/hate, life and
death.In the A Team, the same oppositions are created to explain the her life situation:
There is a love and hate opposition from the love she gets with taking drugs and the
feeling she gets, but the hate from being addicted and having to solely survive on being
able to get more drugs. In addition there is the love/hate conflict with the idea of living.
She is stuck in a vicious circle that is impossible to break which makes her hate her life,
but on the other-hand there is always the hope that something could break the circle,
such as Ed giving her the money which she could use for food, or her the person who
finds her dead. There are people in her life that care which is the hope that conflicts the
I’m not using this conflict in racial tone, but the fact that the music video is shot in black
and white not only makes the film aesthetically pleasing, but creates a character type for the
main protagonist. Film noir was invented in early Hollywood and was the style that dramas
and crime-thriller films conventionally looked like. They used harsh black and white
contrast in some shots to create this strong outline of the tree, almost a chiaroscuro effect.
While on the theme of film noir, the character type of the main character is similar to a
femme fatale in a traditional gangster film. She lives roughly and uses the money she earns
from prostitution on drugs which consequently kills her. She is doomed from the start.
Although her outfit isn’t a perfect example of a femme fatale, but she does wear heavy
make-up and fishnet tights. In addition, she also shows traits of being promiscuous,
dangerous and reckless.
In relation to Barthes
Barthes described text as “a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifiers; it has no
beginning; it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can
be declared to be the main one; the codes it mobilizes extend as far as the eye can read,
they are interminable.” It means that text is like a ball of thread: all wound up. By
unwinding the threads we can understand the meaning of the text. If we keep
unwinding we may find another way of understanding the text; from a different
He stated that texts were either ‘open’ or ‘closed’
The 5 Codes
He also came up with 5 codes which are in any narrative:
(HER) The Hermeneutic Code: a story which avoids telling the truth, to be able to
drop clues and create a mystery.
(ACT) The Action Code: How tension is built up to leave the audience guessing.
(SEM) The Semantic Code: When the narrative relates to other parts of the text that
have additional meanings
(SYM) The Symbolic Code: Looks at the wider picture externally, either historically,
scientifically or culturally.
(REF) The Cultural Code: Looks at the audience’s cultural knowledge and how the
In relation to The A team, the Hermeneutic code is used in relation to the audience
finding out what happened to the protagonist. It keeps the audience guessing which
also relates to Barthe’s Action code. In addition, the music video also relates to the
Semantic code where other meanings are expressed such as the idea of homelessness
and the vulnerability of women. The Symbolic code is used to show not only the story
of one individual but the story of drug addiction and the western society and how we
deal with these problems. Finally it represents the Cultural code through showing the
viewer how the world really works and how people actually live in our society.
Vladimir Propp’s character theory
Propp, a russian film critic, came up with a theory which has 7 stereotypical characters
which relates to most narratives. The characters included: The Hero, The Villain, The
Donor, The Dispatcher, The False Hero, The Helper and finally The Princess.
An example of a conceptual music video
“The A Team” is a conceptual music video as it shows a performance of an actress
playing a character. Ed Sheeran only appears as an extra character in the music video
as someone who buys a magazine off the main protagonist. It suggests that Ed wanted
himself to be displayed as a hero type figure, through giving her the money that might
be able to change her life around.