Walter Fisher was the founder of the narrative paradigm. (1984) He stated that through the narrative paradigm, men would have an alternative approach to understand how human beings acted. In the narrative worldview, humans were considered as “storytellers” and human communications were regarded as “stories”. According to Fisher, stories that were made of good reasons were the “communication expression of social reality” (1984). Furthermore, Fisher explained that men decoded the truthfulness of a story or human discourse based on its narrative probability and narrative fidelity.
Narrative coherence gauged the story structure whether it went well together or not. Moreover, individuals evaluated the coherence of a story based on what he thought the structure of the story should be. Its plotline was consistent, the characters’ role and action coincided, indispensable details were not left out, and no unrealistic events or unexplained surprises were expressed (Griffin, 2011). On the other hand, individuals looked into a story’s narrative fidelity through the soundness and truthfulness of a story. People determined the values rooted in the story and evaluated whether the morals were apt to the story or not.
They also compared the values with their own and discerned the impact it had on their selves and on others. Furthermore, the audience also studied if the values embedded in the story were transcendent. (Fisher, 1985) For this study, the researcher used content (textual) analysis of a film text called, Grease. Using Walter Fisher’s narrative paradigm, the researcher evaluated the movie based on its narrative coherence and fidelity. To further validate the coherence of the movie, the researcher looked into the consistency of the plot, the characters and their behavior, the completeness of details and the flow of events.
The researchers also drew out the values that were embedded in the movie and observed if it was at par with the audience’s values. Grease is the word Grease was originally a musical in Broadway back in 1972 and was adapted into a film in 1978. During its time, it was one of the most popular movies and had the most popular icons such as Danny Zuko (played by John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John). Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, writers of Grease, were inspired by the late 1950s-60s youth, music and ideologies. They wanted to veer away from the typical musical Broadway shows of their time and succeeded.
Many people saw Grease as countercultural, since it was inspired by the late 1950s and 1960s where countercultural movement started. Moreover, Grease presented the youth with values and lifestyles that opposed to the established culture. The storyline revolved around a group of teenagers back in 1959 that lived in California, with Danny and Sandy as the main characters. Danny and Sandy met during summer, had a fling and thought they would never see each other again. What both of them did not know was that they are now studying at the same school.
Danny was a “greaser” and the leader of the gang called the “T-Birds”. Sandy, on the other hand, was a newcomer from Australia. She did not have a hard time making friends because she was accepted immediately by the “Pink Ladies”. When Sandy and Danny first met in Rydell High (their school), Sandy started to see a change in Danny’s attitude. However, as the film comes to an end, Danny changes back into the loving and sweet Danny that Sandy met during the summer. Also, all throughout the film there would be song and dance numbers that greatly represented the late 1950-60s and its youth.
Basically, Grease was the inspiration of movies such as High School Musical, because it captured different cliques or stereotypes that are still applicable today. Grease was a musical written and adapted into a film in the 1970s. However, what the film wanted to represent was the fabulous late 1950s. Grease was presented as a fun, energetic, liberated, coming of age movie. The movie, in general, was colorful. It was colorful because of the costumes, songs and the play of words. On the other hand, the youth of the 1950s was expressed as wild and sexually liberated.
Sexual innuendos were evident in the way the characters talked and acted around each other and even in the songs they sang. Moreover, the movie and the characters were also heavily influenced by the 50s Rock ‘n’ roll. Like the genre of the music the youth was listening to, the teenagers were often seen as odd, wild and notorious. As for the narrative coherence of Grease, the whole storyline had flow. Flow in a sense that it did not have contradictions. The movie started out with the scene wherein the two main characters, Danny and Sally, were hanging out and running around the beach.
Afterwards, they bid their farewells because summer was about to end and Sally was supposed to go back to Australia and Danny would start another school year. All throughout the movie, there were no scenes or happenings that were not logically connected. All the scenes and the songs coincided and matched the plot or the whole storyline. Just like the narrative coherence, the movie’s narrative fidelity was very strong. The movie barely presented good morals or values, since it was trying to represent the teenagers back in the late 1950s, which were going through liberation.
It was reasonable enough to see that the teenagers back then were openly engaging in sexual activities, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, because the late 1950s was the start of Sexual Revolution in the United States. Moreover, the late 1950s was considered prosperous, because of the country’s economic stability, optimism and rise of consumerism. (History, n. d. ) The 1950s was also the era of James Dean, wherein men wore leather jackets, all-black outfits, super skinny jeans and heavily “greased” hair, which were heavily imitated by the characters.
Also, 1950s was the start of rock ‘n’ roll, wherein teenagers twist, thrust, bump and grind to the beat. (U. S. History, 2008) The “T-Birds” and the “Pink Ladies” were usually seen as energetic and liberated. Smoking, “talking dirty”, engaging in sexual activities, hanging out with friends and going against the norm were their usual activities. The cool boys were portrayed as “greasers”, they were not only greased because of the cars they fixed, but they also literally greased their hair.
Both men and women from the movie barely stayed at home because there was nothing to do, rather they went to diners to hang out or to school to meet with their friends. With that being said, it was logical that most of the settings of this film was either in their school, the garage, diner or somewhere outside. There was only one instance wherein they filmed in the house of Frenchy (member of the Pink Ladies), because the Pink Ladies had a sleepover. The male characters often talked about women and cars, while the women talked about men.
Danny Zuko, one of the main characters, always wore an all-black outfit with a leather jacket, which symbolized rebellion or his going-against-the-norm-attitude. He always had a cigarette in his mouth and was constantly combing his hair. He was a head-turner and was known by everyone in his school like a James Dean/Elvis imitation. However, even though he was perceived as someone tough and cool, he was really a “lovey-dovey” when he first met Sandy at the beach. Yet, when he saw Sandy again at the bonfire, he acted as though what happened at the beach was nothing.
He did that because his friends saw him as “The ladies’ man” – the kind of man that would not settle down with one girl. Also, since Danny was the leader of the T-Birds, his friends imitated whatever he did. On the other hand, the other main character, Sandy was not really as open to the idea of the whole sexual acts and was very conservative, since she was from Australia. And the role of women was more traditional and conservative. Women from Australia, at that time, were expected to fulfill their domestic duties. Thus, the character of Sandy was very conservative compared to the others.
Sandy was always found wearing long pastel skirts and talked wholesomely. However, at the end of the movie, Sandy decided to change her image and became more liberated. At the end, she was wearing skin-tight clothing, heels and her hair was curled and teased like the American women. Lastly, another thing that the researcher saw was the absence of African-Americans. There were no African-Americans in this movie because during the 50s, there was still a fear of racial intermingling.
To further strengthen the theory, the researcher chose to use Herbert Blumer’s Symbolic Interactionism. The researcher found that the narrative paradigm was more focused on the communicator, while Symbolic Interactionism was more audience-centered. Also, narrative paradigm was focused solely on the “stories” as a way of communicating social reality. With Symbolic Interactionism, the understanding of the stories told would be more insightful, because the audience would start giving importance and meanings to the symbols. Symbols were used to represent unseen phenomena. (Baran & Davis, 2010) Through symbols, the audience of the “storyteller” would have a deeper understanding of what was being told, even if it was not explicitly said.
Using Walter Fisher’s narrative paradigm the researcher was able to analyze the narrative coherence and fidelity of the movie Grease. The researcher found out that there was consistency in the plot, the characters and their behavior. Also, there were no important details left out and the flow of events was logical. The researcher also found out that the lack of values and morals on the movie was reasonable, since it coincided with what was happening to the generation that was represented.