To value something is essentially to place importance on it. Within all contemporary societies, people value certain things over others, which therefore means they regard some aspects of life as more valuable than others.
Values may also in a sense, be ideas of good and bad, right and wrong. These are often referred to as moral values.
The values of a text are often conveyed through the characters and storylines. In many narratives these elements are arranged into binary oppositions – that is, patterns of contrasting features or ideas such as city/country, high/low, good/bad, or lawful/unlawful. In a traditional western movie, for example, the hero might represent the values of courage, strength, justice and service to the community. The outlaws might be shown as cowardly, brutal, lawless and selfish. Conflicts between the hero and the outlaws can be read as conflicts between the two sets of values.
When we read texts in this way, we interpret the fights as symbolic clashes between values.
The way a narrative ends is especially powerful in shaping the values of a text. At the end of a story some characters are ‘rewarded’ while others are ‘punished’. A character who survives an ordeal, defeats an enemy, finds true love, or achieves some other goal is generally seen as ‘rewarded’ by the narrative.
Many countries use rating systems to classify film and television shows according to the ideas and values they contain. Films that promote ‘family values’ are generally approved for viewing by everyone, while those that depict controversial ideas or acts are restricted to adult viewers.
These rules helped to shape the style, tone and structure of classic Hollywood movies.