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Unit 2, Day 12:  Thursday, September 27


What you’ll do today in class:


-         Have students write Essay 2 Postscript responses and hand in their papers

-         Introduce Unit 2 goals and purposes:  cultural studies, media analysis and writing

-         Discuss television shows and advertisements as “cultural texts” (TV show challenge activity)

-         Introduce Essay 3

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


Connection to course goals:  The transitional activities are designed to get students thinking about television shows as texts that people read.  Our goal here is to expand students’ notions of text and to show students how writing can be used to gain a voice in culture.  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.      Write Postscript responses for Essay 2 and hand in folders with all process work (5 minutes):  See the appendix for sample Postscript questions.


Transition to Unit 2:  Introduce Unit 2 to students by connecting this new unit to the goals of Unit 1.  (e.g. “We’ve just completed the first unit in which we learned to write to an academic rhetorical situation.  The second unit will again focus on academic strategies and approaches for writing, but within a cultural context.  To begin defining the context for this unit and Essay 3, we’ll begin to expand our notions of ‘texts’ and ‘reading’ to the larger culture in the form of television programs. “)


2.  Brainstorm activity—exploring the relationship between TV and culture (5 minutes):


-         Have students write for about 4-5 minutes in response to the following related questions:


·        Why do we watch TV?

·        What do we as viewers/society get out of it?  What does TV tell us?

·        What effects does TV have on us/society?

·        Why might it be useful to analyze TV (or other forms of media)?


3.      Discuss responses as a class (5 minutes):  Try to get students to articulate social reasons for watching TV, and some possible effects or influences television may have on viewers/culture. You’ll no doubt get some responses along the lines of “we watch TV for entertainment.” Try to challenge such responses quickly and move beyond this initial response. 


Transition: Prepare a transition that connects the more abstract discussion above to the “real life” scenario in the next activity.


4.      Small group activity on challenge to TV show (15 minutes):  This activity is designed to get students thinking about how arguments concerning the value of television recur in culture and demonstrate how different groups assume that television does affect our beliefs and actions. 


-         Put the following instructions on the board for small groups of 3-4 students:


·        Imagine that one of your favorite TV shows is being challenged by a politically-motivated group who wants it removed from television because it denigrates their values.  Write for about 5-7 minutes in response to the following questions.


-         What is the name of the group trying to censor your show?

-         What is the group protesting?  What messages from this show would the group find objectionable? (What topics does the show tend to address or take on?)

-         What specific values does this group see perhaps being compromised by the show?


·        How would you argue in favor of keeping your show on television?  (Think of the audience, here.  What reasons would the challengers consider convincing?)  What assumptions are they making about the TV show that you’ll have to consider?


5.      Discuss group findings (10 minutes): In this discussion, try to get students to see how challenges to television programs already assume that TV is more than “just entertainment.” Make sure you get at least two examples that talk about how these public groups object to the values or messages portrayed in the show.


-         Divide the board into three columns:  TV SHOW/GROUP/VALUES PROTESTED.

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

-         Discuss possible defenses for each example show offered. Some possible discussion questions:

·        How would you defend this show?  How might this show have value, and for whom?

·        What assumptions does the protesting group make about what TV does for its viewers, and for culture as a whole?


Transition:  Explain to students that the next essay assignment will ask them to make (and work from) similar assumptions about television 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. 


6.      Brief overview of Cultural Studies (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.




7.      Introduce Essay 3 assignment (5-7 minutes):


-         Have students read through the assignment sheet and note/mark any places they feel are especially important or want to ask about.

-         Highlight key points, including main goals, strategies, and important distinctions between the context for this assignment and Essay 2.  Emphasize how this assignment asks student to define a purpose in relationship to the exigence they see themselves responding to. 


8.      Define Key Terms for Analysis (20 minutes):


A.     Define/discuss terms:


-         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.)





Assignment for Day 13:


1)      Re-read the “Introduction” to Reading Culture (1-4).  Also 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 “Pumped Up” in RC (261-265).

2)      Find (and bring to class on Tuesday) 2 advertisements: one that you see “supporting” Kilbourne’s argument about how women are represented in advertisements, and one that you see challenging her argument.

3)      Write a detailed response to the following:  In her article Kilbourne asks, “But what does society, and especially teenagers, learn from the advertising messages that proliferate in the mass media?” (195).  Write a 2-3 paragraph response in which you address this key question Kilbourne raises.  First, how would Kilbourne and Lewis “answer” this question?  Then, based on your own experience and/or observation (think about recent print or TV ads that you could use as evidence, including the ones you’ll bring to class on Tuesday), how would you “answer” this question?