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Unit Two, Day 12 - Thursday, September 28

What we'll do today in class:

Connection to course goals: The first activity gets students thinking about television shows as texts that people read. Our goal here is to expand our notions of text and to show students how writing can be used to gain a voice in culture. The discussion of cultural studies provides the students with some background they'll need to respond effectively to the context for Essay 3. The discussion of Essay 3 again emphasizes the importance of context in the writing process by encouraging students to consider the different audiences and purposes possible for this assignment. The final activity begins to look at cultural analysis and how we can apply writing skills and critical thinking beyond just classroom settings.


  1. Transition to Essay 3. We've just completed the first unit. The second unit will focus again on academic contexts for writing, but now we'll begin to expand our notions of "texts" and "reading" to the larger culture in the form of television programs. (2-3 min)
  2. WTL: Activity showing possible cultural roles for TV shows. This activity is designed to get students thinking about the relationship between culture and Television. Certainly we've seen the very circumstance described below in real-life, so this isn't unrealistic. The main point is to have them think about the fact that these groups are assuming that television does "teach" us things and it also affects our beliefs and actions. Put the following instructions on the board:

(10 min)

  1. Discuss WTL. In this discussion, try to get them to see the assumptions these groups are making about TV, and also beyond the idea that television is "just entertainment." This will likely be offered as a way to argue in favor of keeping a show in the WTL, but emphasize that this reasoning probably won't work because of the assumptions the group they're writing to is already making. That is, the whole reason this group is protesting is because they believe the show is more than entertainment, so trying to convince them they're wrong in that belief is probably pointless.
  2. - Divide the board into three columns - TV SHOW GROUPVALUES PROTESTED

    - Get three or four people to offer their show, group, and objectionable material.

    NOTE: Make sure you get at least two examples that talk about how these groups object to the values or messages portrayed in the show. In the past, some students have chosen The Superman Cartoon, named the protesting group "People for Realistic TV," and said they were protesting the fact that Superman could fly and was so strong, which was so clearly unrealistic. This is not what we're after. If someone gives something like this, go ahead and list it on the board, chuckle along with them, and then ask if anyone focused more on the values of the TV show they chose.

    Once you've listed a few on the board, ask these people how they would defend their show. Again, they may start with the entertainment defense, so be prepared to push them further. One helpful hint might be to role-play the group they've identified and make them argue against the entertainment idea. Some possible discussion questions:

    Once you've discussed these, explain to students that the next essay will ask them to make these same assumptions about television and culture. This means they will approach a television program from a specific theoretical position that will guide their analysis.

    (10-15 min)

    Transition: In order to better understand the assumptions you'll be asked to make in writing Essay 3, let's take a brief look at the theory - cultural studies -- behind this approach to analyzing media.

  3. Brief overview of main premises of Cultural Studies. Your goal with this overview is simply to explain to students the main premises behind the theoretical background for the type of analysis they'll be doing in Unit Two.
  4. - (NOTE: You might also design a handout/overhead to which you can refer in explaining this theory. Also keep in mind the essays you read in 684 as possible ways of adding to/revising this list.)

    Important Points to Cover in the Overview...

    (5 min)

    Transition: To see how this takes place, let's take a look at what types of messages we're given about gender.

  5. Generate Gender stereotypes on board.
  6. After you've generated these stereotypes, ask students the following questions to see how we interact with these messages and show the complexity of the relationship.

    (10-15 min)

  7. Sum-up the perspective Cultural Studies takes on how we interact with texts. Connect the points below to the discussion you just had.

    If they need it, here's another example that might help emphasize the type of influence we're talking about…

    - An example that might help them understand some of the above points. Refer to cases where people have blamed suicides on violent music, or music with "objectionable" lyrics. While often people reject this as a completely impossible cause of suicide, and Cultural Studies would agree that listening to that music didn't directly cause the suicide, Cultural Studies would argue that such music does influence the thoughts of the listener, and could thus indirectly influence the actions as well. It's not the cause of the suicide, but could have had some influence. It certainly didn't help.

    - Since students might still reject the above example, ask them the following.

    - If you're on a date, and you want to "set the mood," what type of music would you put on?

    - They'll likely answer mellow, or romantic, or possibly with some artists (Marvin Gaye)

    - Why would you put that music on if you didn't think it could influence the environment or people's thoughts?

    (10 min)

    Transition: Cultural Studies, then, assumes a complex relationship between cultural messages and individuals within that culture. This is the theoretical background that produces the specific modes of analysis you'll be choosing from in Essay 3. Now that we know the background, let's start looking specifically at that essay.

  8. Introduce Essay 3.
  9. Also, highlight these issues:

    (10 min)


  10. Brief lecture on types of cultural analysis. It will probably be helpful to just put the following information on an Overhead, and let students know that it's also on the assignment sheet for essay 3, though it never hurts to take notes!
  11. Function for Culture: This perspective looks at the show to see what sorts ofcultural messages or myths are being reinforced or challenged in the show that theviewer might not immediately notice. This type of analysis, then, describes how theshow either tries to keep the larger culture intact, or to change parts of the largerculture. The focus of such analyses is to prove, with textual evidence from the show,what particular cultural myth you think is being reinforced, challenged, or somecombination of both. (The Brady Bunch would reinforce cultural messages aboutfamily)

    Function for the Viewer: This perspective tries to explain why a viewer, at this time given what else is going on in society, might find a show appealing. The focus of such analyses is to prove, with textual evidence, that the show is appealing to or fulfilling some sort of cultural "need" or "anxiety" within the audience. (ER might reassure a viewer's anxiety about the state of health-care in America)

    (HINT: Here is some extra explanation on these types of analysis: Both approaches attempt to explain the relationship between the larger Culture, Television, and a viewer.

    (5-10 min)



    Reserve Reading, Katz, "Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity", 458-466

    PHG, Lewis, "Some Don't Like Their Blues at All", 159-161

    RC, Kilbourne, "Beauty…and the Beast of Advertising" 178-181

    (NOTE: The Katz essay is included in the appendix, and can be placed on reserve at the library. Copying the essay for the whole class would violate copyright laws.)