Roland Gérard Barthes born 12
November 1915, and died 26 March
1980 was a French literary theorist,
essayist, philosopher, critic, and
semiotician. His work engaged in the
analysis of a variety of sign systems,
mainly derived from Western popular
culture. His ideas explored a diverse
range of fields and influenced the
development of many schools of
theory, including structuralism,
anthropology, literary theory, and post-
Barthes main theory argued that
seemingly innocent objects and
images carry a literal – denotative –
meaning, and a non-literal –
connotative – meaning. By
deconstructing the connotative
meaning one can then expose the
ideological structures on which
consumer society is built and
According to Barthes, anything in
culture can be a sign and send a
specific message. In his Mythologies
Barthes describes some methods of
“deciphering” these messages.
4. Symbolic Codes
Symbolic codes are cultural symbols
embedded in the mise-en-scène.
The mise-en-scène is all the
elements that constitute the visual
representation of the media, such as
settings, costumes, lighting. All
these elements are used to convey
meaning to the audience.
For example, a green cross can be
symbolic of health or medicine. Red
hearts can also be symbolic of love.
5. Semantic Codes
The semantic code refers to any
element in a text that suggests a
particular or additional meaning by
way of connotation which the story
For example, horror movies will
often have red or black undertones
as red can connote to blood and
black connotes to darkness or evil.
6. Proairetic Code
The proairetic code refers to mere
actions—those plot events that
simply lead to yet other actions.
For example, a gunslinger draws his
gun on an adversary and we
wonder what the resolution of this
action will be. We wait to see if he
kills his opponent or is wounded
7. Enigma/Hermeneutic Code
This is a narrative technique that is
used by mystery writers who want
the reader to keep on guessing who
committed the crime until the final
reveal at the end of the story.
8. Cultural or Referential Code
Cultural codes refer to parts of
media products that will only be
understood if the viewers is a part
of that particular culture.
For example, Beyonce’s formation
will only be understood if the
viewer has knowledge of black-
American history or culture.