backReturn to Unit 2: MWF

Unit 2, Day 18:  Friday, September 28


What you’ll do today in class:


-         Connect “reading culture” to Unit 2 goals

-         Overview of cultural studies

-         Define analytical terms (shared cultural belief, reproduction, challenge) that students need to understand for developing their analyses in Unit 2


Connection to course goals:  Examining how “reading culture” relates to analyzing and writing about TV is crucial for students’ understanding of what they’re being asked to do in this unit.  The discussion of cultural studies and key analytical terms provides the students with some background they’ll need to respond effectively to the context for Essay 3. 


1.      Assign WTL on “Reading Culture” (5 minutes): 


·        According to the reading from RC for today, what does it mean to “read culture”?  What is “culture,” or what does it involve?  Why “read” culture?


2.      Discuss WTL and connect “reading culture” to Unit 2/Essay 3 goals (5-7 minutes):


-         Collect responses on board.

-         Define “cultural texts” and talk about why it’s important to “read” them (in relation to writing and being active participants in culture).

-         Discuss why people analyze and write about cultural texts and the relationship they have to culture.


To lead this discussion, review RC and make some notes about the main points you want to emphasize in helping set up this unit and paper.  It will be useful, for instance, to discuss the distinctions in “high” and “low” culture the reading addresses, and how media becomes a part of that culture. Some reasons you might offer for analyzing and writing about television as a cultural text include the following:


·        “Reading culture” is not only about reading and analyzing traditional “print” texts; it also involves reading and analyzing other types of more visual “texts” that are pervasive in popular culture.  

·        Media texts have cultural significance because they influence viewers/culture and “respond” to current social issues and concerns.

·        “Reading” these cultural texts critically and writing about the relationship they have to culture (and the implications of what messages they communicate) is a valuable way to gain a public voice about an issue that affects our society.



Transition: Explain to students that Essay 3 will ask them to make (and work from) similar assumptions about the relationship between TV as a cultural text that can be “read” and culture.  In sum, they will be asked to approach a television program from a specific theoretical position that will guide their analysis. This position is most often referred to as Cultural Studies.


3.      Brief overview of Cultural Studies (5-10 minutes): Your goal with this overview is simply to have students develop a foundational understanding of this theory so they can begin to see how a cultural studies analysis will help them respond to the context for Essay 3.  Your goal is not to create cultural studies converts.


Talking points to use with students:


·        Culture influences our thoughts and actions, primarily through the kinds of “texts” it offers for our “consumption” (such as television, news, books, movies, clothing and other media).

·        Culture sends messages about what is and isn’t “normal” and “acceptable.”

·        People internalize these messages, though they can also recognize them and try to alter them (and can choose how they react to the messages).

·        We are all participants in culture, so we’re all susceptible to its influence.  It’s not just for kids and suckers.

·        But this susceptibility is not always a bad thing.  It’s how culture teaches its young what is acceptable and creates similar values and ideas that the majority of the culture holds.  The problem comes, though, when the messages don’t equally benefit or fairly represent all, or when we don’t recognize the potential power they have—when these messages affect our thinking in ways we would not, more consciously, even agree with or accept.

·        The main goal of “reading” culture is to become more aware of these influences in order to exercise more control over our choices and actions.  As the introduction to Reading Culture suggests, the goal of critically “reading” media is to give us more power over its influence upon us, and to open us up to other choices, rather than more passively accepting its influence.


4.      Provide an example to demonstrate principles (10 minutes):


-         Generate a list of gendered stereotypes on the board:  Try to get at least 10 characteristics for each gender.  Have students copy them as well since they will be useful in their upcoming homework assignment.

·        List off the top of your head what we’re told a “woman” should be or do, and then what we’re told a “man” should be or do.

·        What qualities or characteristics are associated with being a man?

·        A woman?


-         Discuss the potential influence of these stereotypes:  In this discussion, explore how preconceived notions about gender might influence our thoughts to varying degrees, but how even stereotypes (recognized as false) can point to larger shared cultural beliefs about gender.  Highlight how we need not all act as automatons in reaction to such messages for the messages to influence our thoughts and actions.

·        To what extent are these stereotypes accurate?

·        Are we entirely defined by these messages?  In what situations do they influence us?

·        Do these qualities or characteristics represent all men and women?  Are there times when we act as if they do?

·        If stereotypes are inaccurate, can/do they point us to cultural beliefs about gender?  In what way?




5.      Define and Model Key Terms for Analysis (20 minutes):


A.     Define/discuss terms:  When possible, connect these definitions to the gendered discussion above, particularly to distinguish between stereotypes and shared cultural beliefs.


-         Shared cultural belief refers to a notion or view that is shared because it is dominant.  Everyone may not agree with this view, but there is some level of consensus, and it is widely accepted in mainstream culture.  Here we’re referring to a belief that’s already “out there” but one that many of us may not have considered critically. Often these beliefs have a strong influence over our actions and thoughts because we may not even recognize them as “beliefs.”  Instead, they typically appear as “truth” or “just the way things are.” 

-     Reproduction of a cultural belief indicates how a text/show perpetuates or reinforces a particular belief or view. 

-         Challenge to a cultural belief refers to how a text/show subverts or redefines a particular belief or view.

-         Cultural message is the vehicle by which a belief is reproduced or challenged in textual and/or visual form.  In other words, it highlights what a show/text explicitly or more implicitly suggests to viewers about culture.  Often TV shows communicate mixed or conflicting messages.


B.     Model analytical terms by discussing the Will & Grace example from the assignment sheet:


-         What shared cultural belief could a writer focus on with Will & Grace?  What evidence can you think of to prove that this is indeed a shared cultural belief?  For example, what other “cultural texts” (other TV shows, ads or films) also address this belief?

-         How does the show reproduce and challenge that particular belief about gender identity?

-         What messages does the show communicate through its characters, their interactions, etc.?


C.     Model analytical terms with an example of your own: 


-         Choose another television show that you’re familiar with and have students think about shared cultural beliefs that may be addressed in that show.  Initially, just have them brainstorm to come up with some beliefs.

-         Then ask them to focus on one particular belief from the list and think about what the show “does” with that belief—how it might reproduce and challenge that belief.  (Or, if you feel comfortable doing so, you might have your students generate a show they have in mind to use in practicing these terms.)



Optional Activity (if time)—Supporting a cultural belief:


-         Explain to students that in their paper they’ll also need to be able to prove that the shared cultural belief they choose actually exists.  Ask students to generate some examples (from any form of media) to show that the cultural belief you’ve identified in C above is valid—that it is a dominant cultural belief in mainstream culture.





Assignment for Day 19:


-         Read Lewis’ “Some Don’t Like Their Blues at All” in PHG (159-61); review Kilbourne’s “Beauty . . . and the Beast of Advertising” and the “Visual Essay:  It’s a Woman Thing” section in RC (193-202); and read “Pumped Up” in RC (261-265).

-         Write a list of cultural beliefs that you think the ads Kilbourne and Lewis are addressing “respond” to and provide evidence that each cultural belief you identify exists.