SKRIPSI Jurusan Sastra Inggris - Fakultas Sastra UM, 2007

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Repressive Society in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Herditya Wahyu Widodo


Contemporary literary studies do not limit its study only on the study of
classic literary text. Literary studies nowadays also study popular culture,
especially the media, by utilizing progresses in the fields of Semiotics and
Cultural Studies. Studying popular culture media is considered to be as important
and rigorous as studying literary Classics, since the analysis  required are no less
demanding and complex, and the cultural  impact of popular  culture is also
  This study, in the tradition of Cultural Studies, analyses popular culture by
concentrating on ideology, also utilizing Marxist notions of it. This study chooses
to analyze a relatively new medium that has not been researched much, which is
video game. Video games are now one of the established popular culture medium,
which has ideologically loaded content. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is chosen
as the object of this study because it is one of the successful video games which
have received much attention from  the general public, academics, and
governments because of its explicit violent and criminal theme. The game focuses
on criminal acts against the repressive law and the State.
  This study analyses the repressive ideology in Grand Theft Auto: San
Andreas, by focusing on the representation of the repressive society, namely the
State and its apparatuses and the oppressed lower class. The scope of this study is
on the analysis of the relevant elements of the game, focusing firstly on the
narrative elements, through the understanding of its semiotic elements. Semiotic is
used as an analytical tool to observe the representations of the elements of the
society in the game. This study is a form of Cultural Studies that uses literary
approach, and the aim of this study is to find the working of the repressive
ideology involved, using the Marxist theories especially those developed by Louis
  From the analysis, the State and its apparatuses are represented in
exaggeratedly negative form of repressiveness, and so are those who are
compliant to the State’s ideology. Repressiveness is seen firstly from the way the
ruling class utilizes the State’s Repressive Apparatus. The repressiveness and
negative theme is also apparent in how the State / ruling class utilizes the
Ideological State Apparatuses to support, justify, and ‘necessitate’ this kind of
repressiveness. The dominant ideology of the society from the workings of these
apparatuses can be found out to be repressive and negative, in the ways of
representation summarized above, especially in the criminal theme and point of
view of main story.
  On the other hand, those who resist the State’s repressiveness: the lower
class, the Gangs, criminals, and Carl Johnson, are criminals and villains. Both the
State and its resistant elements are therefore represented as negative. It can be seen from this perspective that the game creates a negative society where
compliance or resistance to the State is actually compliance to the negative
ideology of the State.
  The State and the resistant elements, however, are in an inter-related
existence. The repressive State exists and becomes a necessity because of the
threat of the resistant elements, and the resistant elements can only exist and
flourish inside a State which has repressive law and which provides conditions
suitable for them to exist. The State creates its Self from the resistant elements
which are its Other. This creates a binary opposition between the State and its
resistant elements in terms of Gun Possession, material appearance, ways of
conduct, and capital ownership. The cultural themes of race and ethnicity, and
also the label ‘minorities,’ are also built on this Self-Other dialectic. 
  This dialectic, supported with cultural ‘otherness’ built by the theme of
ethnic minorities, are used for the purpose of defining the State’s superiority or
‘righteousness’ and the minorities’ inherent inferiority, ‘wickedness,’ or
‘resistant’ attribute.
  There are many more areas that further studies may reveal, such as studies
focusing more on the racist and sexist representations in this game or in other
games. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas can be a very good example of an easily
accessed and interactive media that promotes criminality and deviant behavior,
seeing that player must commit criminal actions to be successful. Further
government regulations on such evil-themed media with dangerous material are
necessary, as they may cause detrimental  effects on its players, especially to

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