MEDIA AS A MIRROR:
Mirror Theory (or Media as a Mirror Theory) focuses on the way media, especially mass media like film, reflects the society and culture which created it. Its premise is that a film cannot escape the time and place of its creation -- regardless of the time and place of its diegetic setting. Specifically, there are four things which will, theoretically, always find themselves represented or reflected in the films that a given time period and culture produce. Besides being reflected in the film, those four things create and support the film's Institutional Mode of Representation (IMR) -- the core mode or method films use to communicate meaning. Because they support that institutional mode like pillars support a roof, they are often referred to as the "four pillars:"
- Technology -- the available technology at the time the film was produced (both the technology involved in film production and the general level of technology in society).
- Economics -- the value of money and goods as well as the general economic conditions of the society that created the film.
- Sociology -- the contemporary social attitudes, religious beliefs, political climate, ethics, and morals of the period and culture.
- Aesthetics -- the artistic tastes of the people in that time and place including what they consider beautiful, distasteful, appropriate, shocking, etc.
Mirror Theory analyses require, often, historical research in order to clearly see the connections between the time period/culture and the film (and that research should be cited within the paper). The analysis consists either of an explanation of how those four pillars are reflected in the film, or what can be learned about the film's time period/culture directly from the film. For example, a science fiction film from 1955 (even if it is set in the distant future) can actually teach a modern audience quite a lot about the social attitudes and technology of the early 1950s through its characterization of the "aliens" as foreigners or its lack-luster (by today's standards) special effects, production design, and photography.