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Unit 2, Day 13:  Tuesday, October 2


What you’ll do today in class:


-         Connect “reading culture” to Unit 2 goals

-         Practice analysis with ads from visual essays

-         Discuss readings (Kilbourne, Lewis) in relation to analytical terms


Connection to course goals:  The first activity builds on the introduction to larger concepts of cultural studies and analyzing television from the last meeting.  The assigned readings for today serve as a springboard for considering why writers analyze and make meaning of cultural texts (here, ads specifically).  The practice analysis activity with ads from the visual essays connects to students’ own writing by asking them to go through the type of critical process they’ll need to apply to their own papers in this unit. 




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.




3.      Gender stereotype activity (10 minutes):  This activity is designed to highlight how cultural messages influence our thinking even when we may recognize them as “stereotypical.”  Emphasize that even though most of us disagree with such images, such perceptions are prevalent in mainstream culture and, as a result, exert an influence. Whether we exemplify all or most of these qualities or not, we have—to some extent—internalized these as messages and act upon them in our interpretation of culture. 


A.     Generate gender stereotypes on board:  Ask students to simply list off the top of their heads 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?  Try to get 10-15 characteristics for each gender and list them on the board.


B.      Discuss potential influence of these stereotypes:  In this discussion, explore how preconceived notions about gender might influence our thoughts to varying degrees.  Highlight how we need not all act as automatons in reaction to such messages for these messages to influence our perceptions and actions.  Possible discussion questions:

·        To what extent are these stereotypes accurate? 

·        Are we entirely defined by these messages?  Do these qualities or characteristics represent all women and men?




4.      Small group activity with ads from visual essays, “It’s a Woman Thing” and “Pumped Up” (30 minutes):  The purpose of this activity is give students some immediate practice in “reading” specifically for reinforcement and challenge of a cultural belief in print ads.  Try to get students to move beyond obvious messages to more complicated views of how the same ad might be sending competing and contrasting messages.  Although we haven’t yet discussed specific strategies for using textual evidence, you should also ask students to explain how they can defend their interpretation of the ad with specific reference to the text.


A.     Group Instructions:  Divide the class into 4 groups.  Have 2 groups analyze 2 ads from “It’s a Woman Thing” and the other 2 groups  analyze 2 ads from “Pumped Up.”  Each group should discuss each of the following questions and also be ready to explain their responses with some type of support.  Be sure to have each group appoint a recorder and speaker.  Give each group an OH and pen to record their responses so they can present them to the class. Each group should respond to the following on their OH:


For each ad your group has been assigned, answer the following questions: 

1)      What particular shared cultural belief is the ad addressing?  How do you know that this is a shared/dominant belief?  Can you think of any other “cultural texts” (TV shows, movies, ads, songs, etc.) that also show or address this belief?

2)      What are the more obvious messages put forth in the ad about that shared cultural belief?

3)      How might the ad be both reinforcing and challenging a particular cultural belief relating to gender?  (This is the more difficult part of the activity, so be prepared to wander and help these groups get beyond the obvious messages.  Some examples of more conflicting messages that might help the discussion are the following:

§         The “Feel It” ad for Haagen-Dazs can be useful for this activity.  While it obviously suggests a cultural message about how woman should look (skinny and sexy) and act (sensual), it is also an ad for ice cream, which seems to challenge the notion of how a woman should look because Haagen-Dazs is not exactly a health food.  So we could say that the ad reproduces a shared cultural belief about what a beautiful woman should look like but at the same time challenges that belief by having her “consume” a product that seems to be inconsistent with that identity. 

§         The Valentino ad on page 265 shows a body-builder whose physique is “hard” in contrast to the woman’s “soft” body.  However, this ad’s image could also be seen as showing the male in a submissive position to the woman.  In addition, he is naked while she is clothed.  So we could say that the ad reproduces and challenges this cultural belief relating to gender.)


B.     Whole class discussion—share groups findings:


1)      Have one group from each visual essay (e.g. 1 or 2; 3 or 4) share their findings on their OH and give some explanation for how/why they see a particular ad perhaps reinforcing and challenging a particular cultural belief about gender. 

2)      Engage the class in discussion to ensure that groups are able to “see” contradictions.  Have other groups help a group that has really only shown either reproduction or challenge.  Remind students that in order to respond to the context for Essay 3 they will have to address both. 

3)      Ask students to defend their invocation of cultural messages.  Be sure to talk about EVIDENCE for WHY these are SHARED CULTURAL BELIEFS—What other “cultural texts” (other ads, TV shows, films, songs, etc.) communicate similar messages? 


5.      Discussion of Kilbourne and Lewis (20-25 minutes):  The goal of this discussion is to highlight how Kilbourne and Lewis are “reading” advertising and to explore why (in a cultural sense) they think it’s important to share their interpretations with others (i.e., their exigence).  The essay discussion also serves to demonstrate the variety of meanings we might find in a given “genre” of popular texts and offer a starting point for students to consider how any popular text typically both reproduces AND challenges cultural beliefs.


A.  Kilbourne Discussion:  


-         Begin by having students define Kilbourne’s position: 



·        What does she argue about the way women are represented in advertising? What cultural belief is she addressing in particular?

·        What does she say the messages are about this belief?

·        What’s her theory about the overall influence of these ads on culture (in relation to reproduction and challenge of beliefs)?

·        Why did she publish this?

·        Why did she think readers needed this information?


-    Have students respond to Kilbourne’s argument using their homeworks:


·        Did you find what she argues to be accurate or valid?  (Get 2-3 students to show ads they brought that agree with the messages about gender roles that Kilbourne is picking up on in the ads.)

·        Did you find ads that contrast or disprove the messages about women she suggests are present in ads?  (Get students to show contrasting ads they brought.)

·        If you were going to write an analysis of these ads in your Essay 3, what would you have to do differently (with those ads that contrast to Kilbourne’s argument)? 


-         Contrast Kilbourne to the students’ assignment here.  Kilbourne focuses only on a reproduction argument; their assignment asks them to analyze both reproduction and challenge in the same message.


B.     Lewis Discussion:  Follow the same discussion sequence as Kilbourne, highlighting how Lewis begins to find contradictions in cultural messages that are potentially both reproductive and challenging of cultural beliefs.



CONCLUSION:  Remind students how today’s activities tie back to their essay assignment.

Emphasize that Kilbourne and Lewis both suggest advertising—in a cumulative sense—is a system of education, a way in which we “learn” about who we should be and what’s “normal,” a point that should have been reinforced in their own analyses of gender ads. Try to connect this back to our reasons for critically “reading” these cultural texts.  Although we may not all accept or live by these dominant beliefs and underlying assumptions, being more aware of them will help us make more informed choices—and give us the power to share that awareness with others, if we choose. 


Assignment for Day 14: 

·                    Read “The Case for Daytime Talk TV” (1-5).  Also read Bennett’s “Announcing a Public Campaign” (23-5), Gaines’ “How Jenny Jones Saved My Life” (29-33), and Willis’ “Bring in the Noise” (34-7) in RC.