Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Communication media have an enormous impact on our perceptions of the world; therefore, I believe it is crucial to examine these media as a cultural text in order to gain an understanding of how producers of the text create meaning through critical elements found in the text. More closely, it is important to understand how these texts can represent things, such as gender and culture. Specifically, this thesis explores the dominate themes of a fairy tale narrative in contemporary film. It deconstructs the character and plot structure of five films from different genres. It then goes on to look at gender representation in each film, revealing a fairy tale narrative. Finally, it uses a semiotic approach to the cultural text of film and analyzes the themes from a semantic foundation.

Logistically, this thesis is constructed of six major chapters. First, it contains an introduction to the issues related to cultural texts such as film. It also explores the possibilities of creating meaning through the text. Moreover, it lays the foundation for the rest of the paper. Three chapters go on to explore a literature review, w hich provides an in-depth discussion of past scholars work in areas relevant to the research. The review looks at three aspects: first, the fairy tale narrative, second, feminist film theory, and third, a semiotic approach as a method of study. Through the fairy tale narrative it is easy to see how this foundation in story-telling has become a foundation for gender representation in contemporary film. Feminist film theory develops an understanding for the reader as a basis of the positioning of gender in the male dominated structure. And a semiotic approach to film helps us realize how signs become symbols unquestioned in our culture, as well as how meaning can be formed through the action in the narrative s, icture. The fifth chapter details the methodology used in this study, specifically a qualitative approach to cultural texts using textual analysis. It then lays out how each film is analyzed in order to uncover the fairy tale narrative. Chapter six details my analysis of each film. I deconstruct the character and plot structure, gender representation in the narrative, and a semiotic analysis of important features found in each film. Finding the fairy tale narrative embedded in four of the five films, I close this thesis with my final thoughts about this project as a whole as well as implications for future research.

My findings are conclusive and specific to this study. The fairy tale narrative is present and abundant in each film, except the horror film. I conclude the fairy tale theme to be among many themes used in the horror film, but this isn't the prevailing theme. Through my study, I find that it is necessary to further explore this genre in order to gain a better understanding of the other themes present. Through the plot and character structure it is clear the fairy tale structure is apparent in other popular films. Furthermore, gender representation in the selected films is always formed through the male gaze as detailed through the specific characters in these films. Overall, this study has proven successful because I was able to extrapolate a clear understanding of the fairy tale theme throughout four of the five films, but also because the foundations for future research were formed and can be built upon.