Class Goal: To begin getting students to think about the relationship between text and culture. To illustrate what kinds of directions cultural analyses might take.
Connection to Course Goals: To highlight the contextual nature of texts and how they respond to particular audiences and cultural contexts. CSOW with current paper - how these ways of thinking and developing might be applied to the context of their paper; emphasis on critical thinking about texts and contexts.
- Collect Academic Responses: Remind students to put all work in their folders, including drafts and peer responses. (5 min.)
- Transition to Media Analysis: Remind students that the paper they just wrote focused on responding to an academic context. Highlight how texts must respond to their contexts or else risk miscommunication and/or not being listened to. Emphasize how texts can't be only what the author wants in order to work. Then, explain that our next paper is going to take up this issue of context again, not only in how you write your paper in response to an academic context but also by analyzing the effect of culture on already written texts.
- Discussion of the Cultural Function of T.V. (15 min.)
Write-to-learn: Ask students to list all the reasons they watch television, thinking specifically about which shows they like the most and why they might like them more than others.
Board Work: List all these reasons on the board. Try to prompt them to think about reasons for watching t.v. which go beyond "entertainment." For example:
- Ask them to think about why other people might like the shows they watch as well. How does a show appeal to a wide group of people?
- What do people "learn" from watching television?
- Why is it we're drawn to certain kinds of shows depending on our moods or time of day? What function is watching the show serving us?
- Why do certain characters appeal to us more than others?
- Why do most shows feature all white characters? Middle-class characters?
Summary: Summarize discussion by telling students how their list demonstrates that television serves a particular cultural function for its viewers that, while entertaining, usually has an effect beyond entertainment: it appeals to us because it typically reinforces certain aspects of culture we find appealing and/or believe in. In sum, it sends a message and is watched for a reason that can be examined culturally.
- Mini-Lecture on T.V. and culture: (Expand on the following notes with your own understanding of the definitions and own examples. Testing studentsí knowledge by asking for their own examples works well here.)
In this paper, we'll be looking at three possible ways of analyzing t.v.: reinforcement, resistance, and function. (5 min.)
Reinforcement: assumes that media, like television, appeals to people because it is reinforcing cultural myths and messages of the dominant culture. It is, in a sense, "teaching" us what to value and how to see ourselves in ways the culture deems acceptable. (Example: Brady Bunch and family values)
Resistance: assumes that media, while reinforcing, also has the potential to change culture by offering up alternative visions of what the world can be like, or asking us to think more critically about our own assumptions. (Example: Golden Girls and questioning assumptions about women over 60)
Function: assumes that viewers watch particular kinds of shows because they fulfill a certain need in society, something particular to this moment in history that people are anxious about or a cultural tension. This way of analyzing looks at the content to understand not whatís being reproduced or resisted (i.e. hidden meaning) but why people want this type of show at this moment in time (Example: "real" cop shows as a way of making people feel safer in a time of high crime rates; why cops almost always "get their man" in this supposedly "true and accurate" reproduction)
- Introduce assignment: (5 min.) Emphasize the following points:
- Even if they don't believe it, have to start with assumption that show is more than entertainment and has a relationship to culture.
- Focus will be key here: must focus not only a particular show but a particular aspect of the show
- Topic choice: encourage them to choose a show they're able to review multiple episodes of, ones in syndication are great choices.
Warning: it's sometimes harder to analyze a show they, personally, like a great deal because they don't have enough distance.
Transition to #6: In the two essays you read for today, they are performing the same kind of analysis that you will be doing in your papers.
- Group work: Divide the class into 4 groups and assign them the task below. Tell them to use their homeworks as a beginning. (If you want to check their understanding, collect these homeworks at the end of class.) Reproduce the questions on either a handout (one for each group) or overhead. If you use a handout, make an overhead of each one so you can show the rest of the class the questions while the group is speaking. Give them 15 minutes for activity.
Group 1 and 2
According to Katz, what specific cultural norms are being reflected by advertising? (i.e. cultural reproduction) List all of them with a corresponding page # for where each is brought up.
What reasons does Katz offer for the portrayals of masculinity in advertising? What does he think the cause is behind such portrayals? Why is it, in other words, that men in our culture need or like such images? (i.e. cultural function)
What effect does seeing masculinity portrayed in this way have on men reading these ads according to Katz? What effect do these ads have on our culture's overall view of masculinity?
Draw a picture of the relationship Katz seems to be assuming among advertising, culture, and readers of ads. What affects each?
Group 3 and 4
According to Douglas, what specific cultural values or beliefs are reflected in the advertising which appears during the X-files? What are we being "told" by these ads? (i.e. cultural reproduction)
- Why does Douglas see the ads as so important to interpreting the message of the X-files? What does she assume about the relationship between the ads and the show?
- What effect does watching both the ads and the show together have on the viewer? What is the combination of the two "teaching" us?
- Draw a picture of the relationship Katz seems to be assuming among advertising/television shows, culture, and viewers of both. What affects each?
Discussion of Group Work (25 min.)
Cultural Discussion: Begin with groups 1 and 2, asking questions and summarizing after each presentation. Try and highlight in this discussion both how culture works (its effect on viewers, its relationship to cultural norms) and the function of cultural analysis for the reader (i.e. to highlight the "unseen" so the influence might be changed). Some possible follow-up questions for the whole class after each presentation are below.
[Warning: donít try to do them all; the best questions will focus on the goals above but emerge from what the students present. Remember your goal here isnít necessarily to summarize the essay and/or to get it "Right" but to explore the topics with the students. The accuracy of their reading of the essay is not the main point in this unit-instead, the readings serve to get their thinking started and to demonstrate how analysis might work]:
Katz - Group 1
- Why might such ads be effective advertising? Why do they keep showing up so often?
- Do men realize the effect advertising might be having on them? Does it matter if we are conscious of it?
- Are the ads an accurate reflection of culture or are they creating our concept of masculinity? Can it be both at the same time?
- Whatís the goal of Katzís essay? ie. why write it? Does it help the viewer to be conscious of these things?
- Is there any sense of "resistance" in the ads? Can they think of any which Katz doesn't use?
- Do you agree/disagree with Katz? Can you disagree with specific analyses and still be convinced about his cultural thesis?
Douglas - Group 2
Why is Douglas assuming that the ads and subversiveness of the X-files are actually working together? Why is it no "accident" for her that this kind of advertising appears with this particular show?
How important are ads as you view a show? What can looking at them tell you about viewers and assumptions of viewers?
Would most viewers even think consciously about the ads? Would X-filers assume that they are actually receiving messages which support dominant culture?
Is it fair to say the subversiveness of the X-files is undercut by its ads? Is this a fair way to analyze a show?
Do you agree/disagree with Douglas?
Summary of Discussion of Cultural Issues:
Write-to-learn: Have each student draw a "picture" of the relationship between t.v., culture, and viewers that they personally believe in and write a few sentences to themselves explaining why.
- Do not share these; simply tell students to keep this relationship in mind as they work on their own analyses. This relationship will be key to explaining what the effect of their own analyses might be on their readers. That is, their "exigency" (reasons for writing) is similar to Katz and Douglasí-to expose the unseen in order to explain/inform viewers with a particular intended effect.
(8) Homework: Remind students of next assignment: hooks (RA 483-90) and Blue and Naden (RA 314-30) and to write a response to question number four at the end of hooks.