Art and Meaning

For those of you who read my entertainment blog (, you will know that one of my primary interests within entertainment content is discussing meaning. I love asking what the films and television shows I watch are trying to say; what its themes are. The textbook, Film Artby Bordwell, Thompson, and Smith, makes a distinction between four different types of meaning that can be derived from a film or any piece of art: 1) referential meaning, 2) explicit meaning, 3) implicit meaning, and 4) symptomatic meaning. In the hundreds of posts I’ve written about films, I’ve more or less lumped these all together; however, they differ enormously. Referential meaning relates to the context in which the film was made. The Wizard of Oztook place during the Great Depression, so the film’s messages relate to that specific subject matter. I look at referential meaning as political or historical meaning. Explicit meaning refers to the stated message the film is conveying. In Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy concludes the film by stating “there’s no place like home,” she’s giving the audience the lesson that she’s learned from her story. I look at explicit meaning like psychological meaning-it indicates the truth about humans that the film is getting at. Implicit meaning is the interpretation that the audience makes about the film’s underlying message. In the case of the Wizard of Oz, one could argue the implicit meaning is about accepting the demands of growing up. This is far more philosophical than the previous origins of meaning. Finally, symptomatic meaning is likewise open to interpretation and can be more effectively drawn looking back on the film and observing the ideology that the film represents. One could say The Wizard of Ozis claiming that family is the last refuge of human values. I find this source of meaning to be both philosophical and sociological. Meaning and art have a complex relationship. By considering the different ways that we draw meaning from art, we can more accurately glean meaning from important works of art.

One thought on “Art and Meaning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s