This assignment asks you to become a cultural critic by applying some of the concepts of cultural analysis to contemporary mass media. Your sampling of mass media will be a short portion of prime time commercial television. To complete this assignment you will select at least a half hour of television to analyze carefully. Take notes while watching with the prompts below in mind. Your analysis will focus on the representations of women in these cultural artifacts.
Your analysis will emerge out of your reflections about and responses to the prompts below. You will submit your work as a series of numbered responses to the prompts below in the discussion board (accompanying a speech video). While this assignment does not require you to write a formal essay, your responses should be carefully and thoughtfully written. Remember to incorporate specific examples from the TV program you watched to illustrate your analysis.
- Who is the probable intended audience(s) for the television show you are analyzing? What factors contribute to your awareness of audience? Consider not only gender but also age, race/ethnicity, geographic location, etc.
- Is there a relationship between the plot/action/narrative of the television show and the commercials that accompany it? To the target audience(s)? Explain. 1) Do the women who appear differ from one another, and if so, how? What is the relative frequency of women by age? By race/ethnicity? Are women (or anyone else) represented who are differently abled? According to dominant cultural ideals of beauty, how many women portrayed fall into the categories of ‘beautiful,’ ‘average,’ or ‘unattractive’? What range of weight is represented between the women and the men and among the women themselves? 2) In what roles do women appear (or not appear)? Do they play multiple roles (e.g. wife, mother, lover, worker?) What types of jobs do they hold? How much time to they appear to devote to their different roles? What kinds of work do they do? Can you see any difference in the roles assigned to women or to men?
- What level of education do the men and women seem to hold? Do you find women represented who appear to be of working-class backgrounds or to be poor? Are they major or minor characters? Are they portrayed sympathetically or used in ways that perpetuate stereotypes about race or class?
- What is the relationship of women in the show to the products being advertised in commercials? Does it vary from program to program, from channel to channel? Is there any evidence of a famous assertion that in public representations of gender, men do the looking and women are there to be looked at? What influence, if any, can you see in the three decades plus of feminism’s attempts to influence the representation of women in the media?
Once you have reviewed your television show, formulate your response and create a 2-3 minute video detailing your experience and thoughts. Your written prompts should be provided in when posting your video as well.
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