For this assignment you will be asked to analyze the representations of various social statuses in a television show or film. Watch a film or TV show of your choice, paying attention to the representation of any two of the following social status: 1) gender, 2) sexual orientation, 3) race/ethnicity, or 4) class. For example, you could choose sexual orientation as one of the social statuses you analyze, and class as the other.
For each of the two statuses you choose, please respond to the prompt below. Unlike previous assignments, I am requesting that you construct your analysis in paragraph form. However, it’s not an essay, and I am not asking you to create one cohesive argument from your discussions of the two statuses. Instead, please keep your discussions of each status separate, and label them section 1) and 2) or A) and B) or something like that. Please do NOT include an introduction or conclusion. Again, it’s not an essay. Your total page count should be between 2 and 4 pages double-spaced. Word count at least 700.
For each of your two selected social statuses, please address the following. (Note that since you will select 2 social statuses, you’ll essentially be responding to this entire prompt twice, once for each of the social statuses that you chose.)
- The quantitative (numerical) representation of that status: this is the “How many” question that we should consider when analyzing representations in media.
- Data from the film/show (2 points) (Note: You do not need to answer all of these questions; they are just to give you ideas of what to look for. However, you should answer some of them.)
- Look at the main characters. How many of them are members of the various categories of the social status you chose? Examples: If the social status that you are analyzing is class, how many of the main characters are from poor, working class, middle-upper class, or wealthy classes? (You might infer this based on occupation or aesthetic tastes or living environment.) Another example: If the social status you’re analyzing is race, what is the racial/ethnic distribution of the main characters? What we’re interested in here is the numbers (or estimated numbers).
- Same questions, but what about the secondary actors who aren’t main characters but who have a speaking role – what is their distribution according to your selected social status? (Estimate or give a rough percentage if too numerous to count.) How about the “extras” or people in the background?
- Discussion (connection to the textbook) (2 points) How does the numeric representation of diversity in the film/show compare to the patterns identified in the corresponding section of Ch. 7 in Croteau & Hoynes? In your response include a discussion of both the overall trends described in the textbook as well as several more detailed points made by the authors that are related to your findings. Indicate page numbers to cite where you found the arguments from the textbook.
- How members of different groups within that status are represented. This should comprise the bulk of your analysis.
- Data from the film/show (2 points) In terms of your selected social status (race or gender or class or sexual orientation), what roles are people who are members of different groups playing in the film/show? (For example, if the status you’re analyzing is class, what roles are being played by characters who are poor, working class, upper-middle class, and wealthy?) For this you will mostly likely be focusing on the main characters and supporting/secondary characters. (Note: You do not need to answer all of the following questions in this section; they are just to give you ideas of what to look for.)
- Are there “token” characters – single members of a certain group that serve to “check the box” of inclusion? Are certain characters used to represent an entire class or gender or race/ethnicity or sexual orientation? Do certain characters exhibit stereotypical traits/characteristics? (Stereotypes can be positive or negative.) Are certain traits/characteristics or behaviors exaggerated?
- Discussion (connection to dominant ideologies) (2 points) Based on your observations, identify at least one dominant ideology that is being promoted/portrayed (or refuted/resisted) in the film/show. (Choose from the list provided at the end of this prompt.) Give a definition or explanation of the dominant ideology and support your assertion that this ideology is either being portrayed or resisted with examples from the film/show.
- Hint: Croteau & Hoynes mention on p. 241 and 239-240 that overt, blatant portrayals of traditional form of racism are decreasing in media (though still can certainly be found) in media. Yet other forms of “color-blind racism” or “modern racism” are in many ways taking their place. Similarly, patterns of representation of gender are changing and generally (though not always) are less overtly sexist than in the past, but other, often more subtle forms of sexism are taking their place (Croteau & Hoynes p. 246).
- Discussion (connection to the textbook) (2 points) Discuss how the patterns of representation in roles correspond or do not correspond to the patterns of representation described in the corresponding section of Ch. 7 in Croteau & Hoynes. In your response, include a discussion of both the overall trends and any relevant details the authors discuss. Indicate page numbers to cite where you found the arguments from the textbook.
Tip: When drawing from the textbook, you should be capturing both the broad patterns discussed in the relevant section of the chapter, and also utilizing detailed points that were made in the textbook to help interpret and contextualize what you observe in your selected film/show.
Note: If you would like, you can include an intersectional analysis, but this will only count as one of your two statuses. For example, you could have your first section be an intersectional discussion of race and class as represented in your selected film, and then your second section could be about representation of gender in your film.
- Classism – the notion that being a member of the upper class, or being wealthier, is desirable, and that being of a lower socioeconomic status is deplorable.
- Racism – the ascription of certain stereotypical traits or behaviors to a person, or discrimination against a person, based on their race/ethnicity (this could be outright racism, but more likely it would be “color-blind” racism)
- Color-blind racism – the notion that racism and race privilege no longer exists, that we can be a “color-blind” society, and thus refusal to acknowledge the persistence of racist social structures
- Modern racism – the rejection of overt racism, but the continued presence of more subtle stereotypical representation, often done subconsciously
- Sexism – the ascription of certain stereotypical traits or behaviors to a person, or discrimination against a person, based on their sex (often, though not always, implicit/subtle nowadays)
- Patriarchy – a social system in which males have greater authority and power in a society than females, and the notion that this both natural and good
- Hegemonic masculinity – a sexist set of socially-constructed expected behaviors and attitudes that men, according to the ideology, “should” have/portray; often associated with physical strength, stoicism, machismo, etc.
- Heteronormativity – the assumption that heterosexuality is “natural,” normal, and preferred to other sexualities
- Ageism the valuing and privileging of individuals of certain ages in a society – often in our society this is referred to in the privileging/valuing of youth, but not always
- Ableism – the valuing and privileging of individuals without disabilities (however they are defined) in a society, and discrimination against those with disabilities