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Critical Analysis of the Media


The Critical Media Project: Resources on media representations of identity 


The Critical Media Project: Who Are You?


MOOC: Online Research and Media Skills course


Remix-T: different tools for creating media literacy productions


Media Breaker: Video editing tool for critiquing media messages 


Common Sense Media: Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image



Media Literacy Projects


Frank Baker: Apps for media literacy and video production


Pernisco, N  (2013).  Practical Media Literacy: An everyday guide for teachers, parents, and students of all ages.


Film240 Media & Culture course at Queens University


University of Minnesota Libraries: Integrating Media Concepts and Skills into the Curriculum


Use of popular TV shows to teach about current issues and topics


Issues of and Ways to Address Internet Addiction


Teachers Look to Film to Foster Critical Thinking.  Education Week.


Matcher, L. (2013).  Chick Lit Remixed: The Simple Brilliance of Gender-Flipping. The Atlantic


Free Spirit Media: Chicago teens challenge media representations of adolescents


Media in Action Curriculum: Lots of media literacy resources to download 


History of the development of different media, including television


Video: Lets Talk about Media Literacy


Free book: Why Does Film Matter, Intellect Press


Literary References in The Simpsons


e-books on media literacy


Films portraying issues of social control and power


William Goodman, University of Minnesota: Applying Critical Thinking (ACT) techniques to media 


Brad Hockensen, University of Minnesota: Different processes for engaging in visual/media literacy


CriticalThinking Diigo feeds: Resources on teaching critical analysis of the media


Critical analysis of fast food advertising: hype versus reality


Kit Laybourne, Mediapedia: focus on creative production of digital media


Video: Engaging in creative problem solving at the University of Minnesota 


UCLA Project X: Critical Media Literacies


Rhonda Hammer's UCLA students critical media documentaries (major focus on gender)


Challenges in doing TV criticism of weekly TV shows that build on each other



Video: Garth Jowett: Critical analysis of propaganda


danah boyd: Streams of Content: Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media


Miss Representation: Documentary on misrepresentations of women in the media


The Seventeen Magazine Project: an 18-year-old reflects on following the advise/ads in Seventeen Magazine


Student Journal for Media Literacy Education--student produced journal from Santa Monica College


Disinformation Guide


USC: Introduction to Multimedia Scholarships: Curriculum framework for media/digital literacies


University of Texas: FlowTV: Critical forum


Tools to foster global media awareness


Trailer: Comic Book Literacy documentary


ReadWriteThink lesson: Critical Media Literacy: TV Programs


DVD's about teachers: For use in analyzing portrayals of teachers


Rhonda Hammer's UCLA students critical media documentaries (major focus on gender)


CLAIM: Critical Literacy and Arts-Integrated Media project, University of British Columbia


University of Texas: FlowTV: Critical forum


The News Literacy Project site: Critical analysis of the news 


Youth, Media, and Democracy: Using media for social justice


Critical Media clips


Tim Turner: Guide to Teaching Visual Rhetoric


Assignments/units for teaching visual rhetoric


Assignments: New Media Pedagogy and Visual Rhetoric


Cable in the Classroom: Lots of videos for use in critical analysis in classrooms


Neiman Foundation Reports: Visual Journalism


University of Texas: Viz: Rhetoric-Visual Culture-Pedagogy


Elizabeth Losh: UC, Irvine course: Digital Rhetoric


Maricopa Center for Learning and Teaching: Visual literacy modules


Viz: Blog




Critical Analysis of Wartime Rhetoric - David


For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with the war record of the United States government throughout our nation’s history. The founding fathers of this nation, as well as those presidents who have followed their lead, in a struggle to create and sustain a strong central government, often used rhetoric that appealed to the values of property-owning men – the wealthiest and most politically strong segment of the population – to make the case for war against a laundry list of enemies including England, Native Americans, secessionist movements, anti-Capitalist conflicts, and even pro-democratic conflicts. The purpose of this essay is to examine the wartime rhetoric of the leaders of nations, and how those arguments are often logically flawed, and appealing to irrational hopes of the public.


My struggles are fundamentally rooted in my sense of what is ethical, fair, and just. Too often, I feel, we learn our nation’s history from the texts written by the winners in these conflicts. This one-sided perspective tends to present a pro-war rhetoric that attempts to establish a false dichotomy of the United States central government as strong, right, benevolent, and harbingers of freedom, as opposed to the other side who typically gets labeled as vigilante, terrorist, above the law, radical, etc.


In the following clips, I’ve included footage from several pro-war speeches made in the past 60+ years. Most of these speeches were made by American presidents, but to broaden the perspective I’ve included an example of a speech given by Adolf Hitler, included in Leni Riefenstahl’s pro-Nazi film The Triumph of the Will. The purpose of its inclusion is to recognize the similar appeals that leaders of nations make when attempting to establish a pro-war rhetoric. As you may witness, many of these messages include coded, if not direct, ethnocentric points of view that establish an us/them dichotomy supporting the use of aggressive force to rid the world of the inherent evil perpetuated by the other. Frequently, these speakers attempt to evoke the notion that there is some divine force, or God, that supports their side in this war.


First, I’ve included a well-known speech, familiar to anyone interested in American history. On December 8, 1941, United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to the American public about the way that Pearl Harbor, on the previous day, had been “suddenly and deliberately attacked” by the Japanese military. Roosevelt claims that this day was a “date that will live in infamy”. Making the point that the attack had clearly been deliberately planned, he claims that the “Japanese government [had] deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continual peace.” He provides a laundry list of attacks against other peoples that the Japanese military had also made during the past 48 hours, noting that we were not the only victims against a common enemy. He also states that “the facts of today and yesterday speak for themselves” – this suggests the inevitable, singular interpretation that we are expected to make of this event, that war is the answer. Further, he states, “No matter how long it will take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win.” Clearly, he’s attempting to evoke the religious character of the American public. For some reason, I felt that this speech had been filmed as well as recorded for radio broadcast. But in this YouTube clip, the author presents images that correspond with the content of F.D.R.’s speech. The audience can see anti-Japanese propaganda, as well as advertisements that encourage the buying of war bonds, and to “Avenge December 7th”. This final message certainly evokes my memory of recent attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.



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Next, we see a speech given by Hitler, taken from Riefenstahl’s The Triumph of the Will. The point in this inclusion is to provide a historical comparison to those messages presented by other American presidents. While Hitler’s ethnocentric vision of a “cleansed” Germany has been universally condemned, his rhetoric is remarkably similar to other speeches we hear made by our own president. In particular, this clip focuses on a speech invoking the national character of the German people, and the character that will live on in the youth of the nation. He states, “We want to be one people, and you, my youth, are to be that people. In the future there must be no ranks or classes, and you must not let them begin to grow in you. We want to see one nation and you must educate yourselves for it.” Here, he asserts the need for unity during a time of war, the vision for a future where the German people are free from class definitions, as well as a benevolent sort of fatherly love. Further he claims, “[the German people] must be peaceable and courageous at the same time.” Also, he evokes the symbolism of the Nazi flag being “torn from nothing,” meaning that this government had been established by the hard work of the German people in a spirit of revolutionary initiative. I feel that all of the above messages are present among most speeches given by U.S. presidents. Much of the time, Hitler appeals to the vanity of his people – a surefire way to gain their wholesale approval. Also, throughout this clip, Riefenstahl contrasts pans of the sweeping crowds of people saluting their leader to medium close-ups of Hitler. Certainly this suggests his authority, and the sheer numbers of those saluting him portray a wide-spread approval of his messages.


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Next, in a speech given November 3, 1969, Richard Nixon appeals the “Silent Majority” of the American people. This term was created to distinguish a widespread socially conservative public in the United States from the politically radical, leftist ideas of a minority of vocal irrational students and protestors. Here, we only see a brief segment of his speech in defense of his administration’s efforts to end the war in Vietnam. He stresses the importance of “winning” the peace, as opposed to losing it. While he neglects to provide any details about how he intends to follow through with his promise to end the war, he argues that it is imperative that Americans present a unified show of support for his plan. Without this unity, Nixon implies that those Americans would be responsible for their own defeat and humiliation. Following is a transcript of this clip:


So, tonight, to you the great “Silent Majority” of my fellow Americans I ask for your support. I pledged in my campaign for the presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace. I have initiated a plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge. The more support I can have from the American people, the sooner that pledge can be redeemed. For, the more divided we are at home, the less likely the enemy is to negotiate in Paris. Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States; only Americans can do that.


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In this clip, from a speech given on March 2, 1962, John F. Kennedy deliberates upon the difficult, but carefully measured choice to continue testing of nuclear arms. Appealing to the public capacity to fear the perceived enemy of the Soviet Union, Kennedy states, “Until mankind has banished both war and its instruments of destruction, the United States must maintain an effective quantity and quality of nuclear weapons. . . [and that] only through such strength can [the United States] be certain of deterring a nuclear attack, or an overwhelming ground attack.” Indeed, he suggests that the only way Americans might survive as a people and nation would be through the continued development and production of nuclear weapons. This decision was apparently made while the United States and the United Kingdom were “negotiating in good faith in Geneva, the Soviet Union callously broke the moratorium [by testing nuclear weapons].” He speaks of the Soviets as secretly making preparations for these testings, and that they represented “new threats and new tactics of terror”. And while the Soviets tested these weapons mostly in the atmosphere, the United States had determined to minimize the radioactive fall-out by testing underground, and over the Pacific Ocean under the appropriate weather conditions. This distinguishes the United States’ concern for the environment as opposed to a callous, conniving Soviet Union. Given the historical context of this speech, Kennedy did not need to focus his attention on the evil of the Soviet Union, as that had already been established through a series of events following the aftermath of World War II. 


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Last, we can examine a speech given by President George H. W. Bush on September 11, 1990. Here, Bush argues for why the United States has decided to drive Iraqi military from the nation of Kuwait. He distinguishes Saddam Hussein, the leader of Iraq, as a “dictator” who “systematically raped, pillaged, and plundered a tiny nation. . . [subjecting] the people of Kuwait to unspeakable atrocities, and among those maimed and murdered: innocent children.” Bush contrasts these images with a “small and helpless” Kuwait whose people have been “brutalized”. He appeals to how the decision to go to war against Iraq had been “taken into accord with United Nations resolutions, and with the consent of the United States Congress,” thereby distinguishing these efforts as legitimate and not aggressive. The clip ends with Bush attempting to appeal to the American public’s hope for a peaceful, lawful future – “a New World Order – a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations.” Further, he insists, “Our goal is not the conquest of Iraq, but the liberation of Kuwait,” and that this would not be a repeat of the American war in Vietnam.


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Regardless of my own political opinions, I hope that this essay helps to distinguish how government leaders appeal to our sensibilities when leading us into war. Although war has the potential to be an inherently tragic decision for all those involved, it is typically portrayed as heroic, inevitable, and necessary for the future security and peace of the world’s peoples. Too often, I feel, the media drops the ball when given the opportunity to critically analyze the logical fallacies of these pro-war arguments, leaving the public with too little information to be truly informed on the subject. This suggests the potential for new Web 2.0 technologies to open up forums for sharing factual information, critical analysis, and new ideas when the issue of war arises. These new technologies might be used to support or challenge efforts to lead the public into war. Hopefully, the public will learn to use these technologies to meet their best personal interests.



Critical Analysis of Gender Roles in Television Sitcoms - Genevieve


Either at home or in class, students will watch episodes of (or excerpts from) According to Jim, King of the Hill, Still Standing, King of Queens, The Simpsons, and Everybody Loves Raymond. Students will pay particular attention to the roles and characteristics of the main male character vs. those of the main female character. Students should share their observations with the class and attempt to answer the following questions: What do the men have in common? What do the women have in common? How do their characteristics differ? Which characteristics are most valued in our society? Are these characters realistic? Why or why not? Are the characters funny? If so, what makes them funny? Would these shows succeed if one of the main characters was removed from the program? What, if anything can be noted about the titles of these programs? Students could present their findings in a poster board project highlighting gender roles/sterotypes of in television sitcoms.


Cartoons through the Decades by Angela

This activity will allow students to engage with something most all of them loved at one time or another - cartoons!  By extracting a couple of cartoons from each decade, students will come to understand how society has shaped childrens television and the characters that all of us know and love.  This activity lends itself to studying multiple critical lenses and topics - ranging from family structure (Flinstones, Jetsons, smurfs?) to heros (Captain Caveman, Scooby-Doo, Mighty Mouse) to relationships (Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear, Rocky and Bullwinkle) to more contemporary cartoons (Powerpuff Girls, Pokemon, and whatever other cartoon are out right now).  The could be a group activity or individual.  Being technologically saavy students, I would have them create a powerpoint presentation (or for the super computer oriented kids - iMovie) to present to the class.  It would be interesting to combine this activity with Chris' in order to see if Disney itself has a certain social/political agenda different from Hanna Barbara or some of the other big cartoon makers. 


Critical Analysis of Propaganda--Brianna and Sara


An activity that could fit into a social studies curriculum and/or an English one would be a critical analysis of propaganda.  Propaganda from various eras and in various media forms could be set up as stations around a classroom.  Students would then “gallery walk” around the room and complete a worksheet with questions for each station.  Students would be asked to look at who produced the propaganda, who is the intended audience, how was it used, identify symbols, etc.  As an extension exercise, students could then try to find current examples of propaganda, such as advertisements, the news, perhaps even examples at school.  They would be asked to answer the same type of questions from the gallery walk for the current example they chose. 


--Critical Analysis of Magazine Ads --Elizabeth and Steve M.


This activitiy would involve having kids bring in old magazines and simply look at the ads. There are so many different critical lenses that you could adopt in order to analyze advertising, that this activity could have a plethora of outcomes. First, we would obviously have worked with the different lenses and the kids would have an ample working knowledge of how each critical approach views any given text. Then the kids would be free to select an ad of th-- eir choice and analyze it in terms of their approach. They would do a short, informal write-up describing the ad they chose, the lense they chose, and giving supporting evidence of their findings. In addition, students could identify who the target market of this ad was and what it said about how the marketing agency's perception of that group of people/what it was supposed to make them think as consumers.

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Critical Analysis of Class by Crystal Bieter


As part of my Holocast unit, students analyze class as seen in the 1930's.  I share with them the class definition which best suits this in-class study which is looking at a person's social rank.  We then would discuss as a large group what different classes we have in our communities, our nation, our society, our school.  I then put them in groups of four and then pass out different colored sheets of paper.  I then would state that those with yellow colored paper are the Jews, those with white colored paper are the soldiers, those with green sheets of paper are the high ranking officials such as Adolf Hitler and Henrich Himmler, etc.  They then would be expected to  write a summary of what life would be like for them living in this particular class during the Holocaust.  What would their living conditions be like, what rights would they have as a citizen or as an individual etc.  Students would then have a chance to share their summaries with the class.  Once this was done, I would talk a little bit about the history of genocide looking at Turkey, Cambodia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Rwanda.  Next I would address a follow up question: How did these topics surface during the Holocaust and are they still present in the 21st century? I would then give them a little background on Sudan and then play the video "Working Class Hero," by Green Day.  I would have them really listen to the message and the lyrics.  When it is done I would have them look at who the working class hero is, what the message was in the video, etc.  What do you think about the camera shots chosen?  Did you think that they chose the right format, selection of scenes?  Who was the intended audience and why?  Ultimately following up with an assignmnet of how we can promote change globally.




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Critical Analysis Activity:


I'd like to someday teach a unit or class on post-apocolyptic visions in literature and film.  One activity that I think would be really neat would be to have students find an example of "apocalyptic thinking" from a source in the media.  Examples could be historic or modern;  such could be examples of Cold War and nuclear holocaust depictions, or modern day "Bird Flu Pandemic" representations.  The criteria for this would be that the example needed to come from some news or otherwise "non-fiction" or journalistic sources.  Students would find a counterpart to their example in fiction, film, or myth.  Comparing the two versions of apocalyptic thinking would guide students towards seeing the construction of this thinking as both part of our cultural myths, but also a real and contemporary fear.  It would be valuable to have students attempt to draw conclusions about what role apocalypse plays in our culture and how that has changed, evolved, or stayed static over the years.  There is a wealth of source material out there to draw from, and a wealth of literary/film/mythic examples to draw from as well.  The comparison would be best posted online as film examples and media examples could be easily integrated with student writing.  ---Mr.M.








    • Critical Analysis of the Media Activities


For some critical analysis examples, particularly related to teaching literature: go to the Teaching Literature.org site and Chapter 10: Activities


Media Education Lab: high school media literacy activities


Media Education Lab: Middle school media literacy activities


Kid Nation reality TV show: Creating little capitalists



Government/group's propoganda


Freedoms Watch (pro Iraq War group)


YouTube: Freedom's Watch: pro-Iraq War ads


[http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Freedom's_Watch#_note-10|Congresspedia: analysis of the Freedom's Watch pro-Iraq War ads]


Energy Tomorrow: Energe IQ video: people's knowledge about energy


Energy Tomorrow: position on oil exploration


Secure Our Energy: in favor of off-shore drilling near Florida


City Pages: Al Franken versus Norm Coleman ads


Minnesota: EdWatch: \"Alerts\" on IB implimentation


How the Pentagon will eliminate the war reporter through virtual war:


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Critical Analysis of T.V. Stations by Nathan


This activity will help students critically analyze different T.V. stations. Students will be instructed to pick three different stations, i.e. Fox, MTV, and Discovery Channel. They will then make a short list of programs that each channel broadcasts. They will then assign the appropriate analytical labels to each show: response theory, rhetorical analysis, feminist criticism, semiotics, poststructuralist/postmodern/postcolonial analysis, cultural analysis, etc… Students can then compare the different shows on the different stations, which will lead to a comparison of the different stations. What audience is each station created for? Who is likely to advertise on each station? What new show would you pitch to each station?



Disney, or is it? by Chris 

I don’t know if anyone has posted this already, but I think it would be fascinating to have students watch films that are thought of as the definition of innocuous. Namely, the Disney films. I would teach my students multiple lenses and have them analyze the sacred video tomes of their youth in a new light. Whether it’s class in Aladdin or gender roles in Little Mermaid, students will have a wealth of issues to construct a theoretical critique. I think this will help the students realize the underlying messages that are contained in every text or video and how they influence our world-view.


I think it would be great for students to analyze a single movie through multiple perspectives. Perhaps I would seperate the class into small groups, each with a particluar lens. We would then watch the film and the students would "dig into" the video. Students would then present their findings to the class.



Critical Television by Meaghan


Similar to Annie's activity, this would involve already teaching the basic critical lenses to a film and media class. Students would then view episodes of three current, 30-minute comedies of differing styles. For example, Scrubs, The Office, and Two and a Half Men. As a class, students would first discuss style differences, such as camera usage: Scrubs uses a single camera, The Office a documentary-style handheld, and Two and a Half Men the more traditional 3-camera shooting. Each student will then be required to take notes on an episode of each show by means of a single lens. These may be assigned, randomly passed out, or chosen by students. They must then evaluate each show by that specific lens and present to the class which shows most and least represent the causes of that lens and why. For example, from a race discourse, which show best represents reality, and which is the most biased? Or, which best demonstrates a postmodern view, and what comes up short with the others.

Analyzing Songs<span style="font-family: Verdana;" _mce_style="font-family: Verdana;"> </span>by Annie
This is an activity that could be used to teach critical analysis using
multiple lenses. First, introduce students to a variety of different
lenses, including the semiotic approach, gender/class/race discourses, and
postmodern. Take time to view film clips or TV clips that they are familiar
with and discuss as a class how to analyze them using each view. This could
be done as a unit or as several mini-lessons that occur throughout the
course. After students have had an introduction to each lense, have them
bring in the lyrics to one or two of their favorite songs. Have them read
the lyrics and analyze them using at least two different approaches, and
have them support their analysis with specific lines from the song. Then,
have the students form groups and let them share what they've found about
their songs. As a group, students could decide on one song that had an
especially good analysis, play the song for the whole class, and explain
their analysis.




By eve




Here is a short activity that will help student start to become critically aware of magazines. Gather a wide range of magazines, and remove anything that gives away the title. Have students write down characteristics of the magazine: ads, layout, features, articles, style. Have them analyze all the information and have them guess the title of the magazine or the magazines target audience. What things gave it away? How was “details” different the “better homes and gardens” or even “time.” How does the target audience influence the flavor or style of the magazine. What stereotypes, racism, or sexism can the students find. Now go through each lens of critical analysis (that is appropriate for the age of group, as presented in chapter 4 of teaching media literacy .com) and further develop a critical analysis of the magazine.


Analyzing media perspectives

by Jessie


An activity that students can do is to compare the way that multiple sources present the same story. The students can use online news sources such as the UK's The Guardian, blogs, as well as mainstream news sources. Through looking at the differing sources, the students should seperate the facts of what has happened with the spin that the media source puts on the story. For example, The Jena6 story has been presented very differently across different sources. The students should present their own interpretations. Are news sources inaccurate or biased because of racism or sexism, or are the viewpoints simply different perspectives? This would work well surrounding a story that reflects something in a novel that the students are reading for class. For example, the Jena6 story is very applicable to To Kill a Mockingbird. The students will conclude with presenting the critical lens that they feel works best in this case and justify their viewpoint. After this, the class can discuss.


Analyzing Stereotypes in Billboards

By Maggie


An interesting project might be to leave an open topic to the students regarding the area billboards. The activity would be to pick a billboard they see and discuss some of the stereotypes they use and how it appeals to a certain audience. For example, Teachingmedialiteracy.com uses the example of beer ads to discuss how women and men are portrayed. How are other ads portraying people in a stereotypical manner? For me the one that always stuck out was the Marlboro ad with the cowboy and how he rode his horse into the sunset in an adventure-seeking and noble-man-type way. The students would write a paragraph saying what stereotype the ad uses and three reasons why they think that. The students can then share this in class the next day.



Critical Analysis of Newspaper Articles

Katie Noack


Newspaper articles give us the facts, right?  The purpose of this activity is to analyze what newspaper articles tell us about our society.  Students bring in a current newspaper article and then pick one of the critical approaches to use for analysis.  This can be done individually or in small groups.  After the article is analyzed using one approach, students switch articles and analyze again using the same approach.  Then individuals or groups share the results of their analysis and compare with person or group who analyzed the same article using a different approach.



What's in a theme song?

by Lisa M.


Theme songs and opening sequences in television shows play an important role both in "branding" a show and setting the tone for what's about to happen. Shows that stay on-air for several seasons may change their theme several times, or they may leave it exactly the same. It would be interesting for students to research how changing or not changing a theme song and/or openning sequence affects viewership. Students would probably work in pairs or groups for this project. They could either choose or be assigned to two shows that have remained on-air for two or more seasons. One of the shows should have a theme song that has changed one or more times (such as The Cosby Show), and the other show must have kept the same openning sequence for its entire run (such as Days of our Lives). If data were available about the actual numbers of viewers for each show over the course of its seasons, students could cross-reference that with the theme changes to see if there is a correlation or causation. If such data were not available, students could make hypotheses about what demographics the producers were aiming at with each theme, how those changed (or didn't), and why they might have changed (or not changed) the theme.




Feminist Analysis


Women's Magazines Faking the Feminine


This course blog contains examples of feminist film analysis of popular culture/film gender representations:

Blog, Women’s Studies 3307, Feminist Film Studies


WOST3307: Media representations of women


See also the Feisty Femmes blog



Analysis of Media, Government, and the Iraq War


"The Power of Nightmares" explores the rise of the neocons in the US, and the Muslim fundamentalists in the Middle East

over the past half century.



News Broadcasting and Critical Analysis Jarrett Lundquist and Nate Buck

The way in which we have decided to teach critical analysis would be by having students examine issues of credibility in nightly news broadcasts. Students would be prompted to think about all of the different news broadcasts that they have seen and asked whether or not any of these news broadcasts appeared to be sensational in nature. Then, after defining and discussing sensationalism and identifing those qualities that make up a credible news report the kids would be asked to watch each type of program. For instance, they would watch a program like Dateline and compare this to a program like the Jim Lehrer News Hour. If possible, the kids would watch each show report on the same topic, but this would not be necessary. In the end, the main goal would be to have the kids distinguish credible news from sensational news and demonstrate their new level of critical understanding through a simple activity of their choosing. They could write a compare and contrast paper discussing the two programs, they could rewrite the sensational news story using credible methods, or they could produce their own news broadcast presenting stories to their classmates in credible or sensational ways depending upon the reaction which they wish to evoke from their peers.



Activity for Teaching Critical Analysis of Print-Feminine Analysis by Alma Mendez

I begin by teaching my students definitions and examples of how women are portrayed in print beauty and food advertisments. We break it down by categories, such as focus on body parts, camera angles and positioning of the body and how these aspects have implied messages that dehumanize women into objects for advertising. We then discuss gender roles of women and men, what is expected of each group and how is this protrayed? What is the relationship between the advertisments and gender roles? We then move into TV, and music videos? We view a couple of music videos that I tape from MTV and BET. We discuss how women are portrayed in the music videos. Is this a realistic portrayal of women? What are the messages being portrayed? Did you find it offensive in anyway? Usually I have the girls speak first, in a fishbowl format, to let them have the chance to say what they want, the boys listen. The boys get a chance to respond to the girls comments only. Then we switch, and let the boys speak. The girls respond. Then we talk about changes that both groups feel that need to happen and how that could be done.


Activity for Teaching Critical Analysis of Print Media by Mary Voigt

In a geography class I may have students make a postcolonial analysis of print media about Africa. The simplest way for me to introduce this to them is to ask them to tell me what they think of when they think of Africa. Then Europe. Then after looking at picures of Africa, I would ask a series of questions about what they see in the pictures, like: What do you see in the images? Who is shown? Where do you think these people are from in Africa? What are they doing in these pictures? Then after looking of pictures of Europe, I would ask them to answer the same questions (changing Africa to Europe). Then we would discuss what the differences are. Then we would look to see how what they already believed about Africa and Europed matched what we saw in the pictures, then discuss the connection (is this an accident? why would they match? etc.) Lastly, I would ask them if they like St. Paul. I'd pair them up by their answer. Then I'd ask them to tell me three places they would photograph in St. Paul. We'd discuss their different answers.




Activity for Teaching Critical Analysis of Print Media by Emily Peckskamp and Sarah Thomes

To help students begin to think critically about media, have them look at a text with which they are already very familiar. Many students have grown up with Walt Disney's cartoons and are very familiar with the stories that they tell. If they aren't, they can still get a lot out of this activity by knowing that these movies are designed for children's viewing. It would be eye-opening for them to analyze one of these films through critical lenses. A great movie to show would be Peter Pan to analyze the portrayal of Native Americans or women in the film. Assign groups of students different critical lenses (i.e. feminist, semiotics, postmodernism, etc.) and have them have notes on a viewing of the film from this perspective.


Activity for Teaching Critical Analysis of Print Media by Ligia Hernandez

In order to introduce them to crictical analysis I would explain teh different types of techniques that marketing experts use to create theier ads. I would tell my students to open their minds into believing that not everythingthey see or read is true or real. After we discuss the reasons why some media experts use the techniques and why, I would have them look at a series of pictures of print ads. They would choose two and explain why these two ads caught their attention. Then they would go on and analze the use of techniques. For homework they would go home and look through magazines, newspapers, and billboards and choose an ad that strikes them. They would have to write a paragraph analyzing the ad, to chare with the class. For further activity, I would have them think about a message that they want to share. Then write down: Hwo do they wnat to share it with, why, what techniques would they use...and then they could create their own print ads and share them with the classs.

Here is an example of the PPS I prepared to show them: Look at Files :Critical Analysis Print Ads


Activity for Teaching Critical Analysis of Print Media by Justin Crum and Rebekah Ignatowicz

To teach how to critically analyze specific media text, we would first create a simple outline of the different approaches and discuss it with the students. After the different approaches are clear to the students, we would pick an example topic such as alcohol and adolescents and show the students a slide show of advertisements that might attract adolescents to alcohol. Together as a class, we will discuss how the advertisements do this by using the different critical analysis approaches. After going over this as a class, the students will have time to go to the library and search both online and in magazines for advertisements of the student’s choice. The students will have to write a paragraph analysis using different approaches for three advertisements, demonstrating their understanding of the lesson. The students then can form pairs and create their own advertisement along with a paper in which they critically analyze their own advertisement.


Activity for teaching Critical Analysis of Specific Media Text by Greg Gustafson

I'd show my students different still images and ask them what their first reaction is upon seeing them. The images I'd show would be ones meant to trick them at first, but ultimately get them to start thinking critically. One would be of a bodybuilder whose name escapes me now, but who is gay. After the students said what they thought about the picture, I would reveal to them this information, and it would hopefully open up their eyes to the idea that you can't just take things exactly as they look. You can't be so quick to assume things. I feel that little activities like these are instrumental in teaching students to think critically.



Activity for Teaching Critical Analysis of Specific Media Text

Sarah Staples and Katie Houlihan

Creative Writing using magazine pictures:

In this activity students will gather pictures of people from magazines around their same age and gender. With this picture, they are going to create a story using only the picture to create this person in their story. By using a critical lens these students will attribute characteristics of power, wealth, healthy lifestyle, poverty, disease, unhealthy lifestyle to their character. After writing their short story, students will present their story to the class. After all of the students have presented, students will get into small groups and talk about how these ideas influence their views of people in regards to gender, class, and race. By doing this it is my hope that students will realize that you can't count on the media to present the realities of the world.



Campaign Lenses

S. Speicher & K. Newstrom

Students will break into small groups. Within the group, they will come up with a campaign slogan for student council president (one of the students can play the candidate running for office in case they want to add face to a slogan). They will make posters with pictures and text. Then, they draw “lenses” at random and critically analyze the other groups’ slogans using those lenses. They can either keep the same lens for all of the groups they analyze or they can rotate lenses for different groups. This would be particularly useful and interesting during campaign season when there are a lot of campaign ads on television. You can either let the students know that they will be critically analyzed or not. It could be interesting to see if what they had envisioned as an unbiased, raceless, genderless, etc slogan really is.


TV Comercial Analysis

Nathan Schultz & Dan Richarson

The class starts out by watching selected sections of the film Killing Us Softly about images of women in advertising. Students are then divided into small groups. Each group recieves several magazines. Students are asked to find ads that contain images of men and women and to identify the roles that men and women play within those ads. Each group creates a list of the roles that men play in the ads they found, and a list of the roles that women play in those same ads. Each group presents an ad to the class. The class discusses the following questions: what is the typical male/female relationship portrayed in the ads? What insecurites/fears do the ads encourage?


Core idea from Rethinking Our Classrooms: Teaching for Equity and Justice Volume 1, pg. 82


Teaching Critical Analysis

Theresa Haider & Jennifer Sellers


To teach critical analysis of media, I would first have students watch an episode of Hogan Knows Best, a VH1 reality show chronicling Terry “The Hulk” Hogan’s everyday life with his two kids and wife. After the class watches the show, I’d have a large group discussion about the values shown in the show. Students would probably recognize values like family togetherness and respect for one’s elders, along with values relating to financial success, physical strength, and the acquisition of material things. I would have them determine what the desired responses, beliefs, or practices are that the audience might come away with, according to what the producers of the show chose to portray. Next, I would contrast this show with one like According to Jim, which is a sitcom depicting the life of Jim Belushi and his fictional wife and children who live in Chicago, IL. Students would watch this show and engage in the same discussion as above. Finally, students would write a paragraph or two from the perspective a person who has been influenced by each show and explain the values they have learned or how their attitudes have been changed since viewing the show.


Critical Viewing and Analysis of Documentary

Karen Keller and Abbey Weis


This critical viewing activity may be used with many different documentaries but likely will challenge the students' ability to decipher bias and logic if a documentary that has bias in it is used. A documentary without a discernible position will not assess students' analysis skills as rigorously as there is no position to be supprted with evidence or logic. I have used Outfoxed, a documentary that slams Fox News for its alleged lack of journalistic approaches and balanced reporting. Other possibilities include Super Size Me, a critical look at the effects of fast food on our health, or Bowling for Columbine, a decruntruction of violence in America and its origins, depending on the grade level and teacher's ability to show rated R material. The worksheet attached here requires students to look at a handful of impoartant elements of critical analyses: PURPOSE, AUHTORITY, LOGIC, EVIDENCE, AND GAIN. Ideally student will be able to judge the veracity and value of the documentary's information and position.

An Outline.



Teaching Critical Analysis

Lisa Seppelt and Adam Iverson


Goal: To teach Critical Analysis using small groups


Lesson: Students will break into small groups and each small group will

get a colored copy of the same print advertisement. While in groups,

students will receive their explanation of a specific lens (semiotic,

audience, etc.) Small groups will be responsible for teaching the class

what their respective lens' are and how they apply to the given ad. By

the end of the lesson, students will have been introduced to each lens

and will be able to see how the lens has been applied to the same



Critical Analysis Activity

Andi Larson

Students could watch a variety of music videos making comments while viewing each one . They should note the activities of males and females in the music videos, the clothing, camera angles, colors used, the content or message of the lyrics, the content or message of the video. By comparing and contrasting the analysis of these videos, students will gain insight into the variety of messages that the producers are sending to the viewers.



The Hidden Messages in Advertising: A Critical Analysis Activity**

-Katie Borcherding


Objective: To analyze the hidden symbols in advertisements


Students will first watch Killing Us Softly 3, a video by Jean Kilbourne that illustrates the hidden messages being sent in advertising, especially regarding women.

Then students will go through a single magazine and choose five different advertisements. Students should try to find a variety of ads, some with positive messages, some with possibly negative messages. In each ad, the student must find a hidden symbol or meaning in the picture or text. This will be explained in a one paragraph essay for each ad. The students will explore the reason behind the message, its effect on the buyer, and whether it is culturally negative or positive. They will link the messages to cultural issues such as sexism, anorexia, low self-esteem, rebellion, alcohol, etc. The paragraphs should include a detailed description of the ad as well.

Finally, the students will create a product and design their own ads using images and text. These ads will be based on a positive message such as equality, freedom, health, good decisions, etc. The ads will be showcased throughout the school building.


Killing Us Softly 3 -Jean Kilbourne (clip from YouTube)



Considering Critical Approaches in the Classroom (Lisa Holton)

In considering all of the approaches as described by Beach in chapter 4, I had a difficult time separating them. Theory and analysis by definition are not one sided endeavors. I do not think that any of these approaches or concepts exist without influence from at least one or two of the others simultaneously. For example, one cannot consider a strictly rhetorical approach where images and symbols are responsible for initiating thoughts or action from the watcher/reader without understanding the semiotic concepts that a culture must share an understanding of such codes and our definitions of these codes are created, considered, and acted upon depending on our other lenses and level of cultural understanding.  And so, while I selected postmodern and critical discourse analysis to discuss and ‘mull’ in this post, I will probably, inevitably, be touching on most of the other approaches as well.

In seeking to better understand the concepts behind postmodern theory, I went to the course website and found an excerpt from Postmodern Theory, Critical Interrogations by Steven Best and Douglas Kellner.  (http://www.uta.edu/huma/pomo_theory/ch1.html).  In one section, Best and Kellner distinguish between modern theory and post modern theory: “Modern theory…is criticized for its search for a foundation of knowledge, for its universalizing and totalizing claims, for its hubris to supply apodictic truth, and for its allegedly fallacious rationalism.” While, “postmodern theory provides a critique of representation and the modern belief that theory mirrors reality, taking instead `perspectivist' and `relativist' positions that theories at best provide partial perspectives on their objects, and that all cognitive representations of the world are historically and linguistically mediated.”

In looking at the foundations of these two concepts, the first thing I noticed was this is the center of the ‘to teach media or not to teach media’ debate. If our schools are searching for ‘truth’ and wanting to instruct our students in a skill set of non-changing information, then we are approaching education with a ‘modern’ (relative to the term, not the time) approach.  This is archaic and pointless to my mind. All the “experts” on education inform us that we should be producing THINKERS not walking books of quotes.  I see this all the time in my classroom; some of my brightest students may not have solid skills or memorization of facts, but they are independent and creative thinkers who the system sees as failures and I see as our future because when there isn’t a book about how to live in the future, this group will be able to figure it out!  If, on the other hand, our schools are seeking to teach with a ‘post modern’ approach, we would be focusing on teaching the concept of ‘understanding’ as a relative and evolving concept. Media sits in the crosshairs of modern theory because media doesn’t have a set definition, truth or modality. It is flowing and lives relative to the culture and people who create it. By taking Best and Kellner’s understanding of postmodern concepts, we can see that teaching media and analyzing it, with whatever theory or lens is appropriate, will only be our best understanding at that current moment that is still ‘historically and linguistically mediated’ by our relative understanding and modes available to us. If we continue to push the envelope in schools and understanding that postmodern concepts allow our students to explore and think and create as individuals in the moment and not seeking to attain a prescribed set of skills to be ready to live, we will be creating thinkers and learners for the future.

The approach of our schools can also be seen in a critique of Richard Weaver about rhetoric written in 1963. 1963! It is shocking to know that a trend noticed over 40 years ago is still a part of us today.  In the journal Rhetoric/CompositionBill Bolin considered the piece by Weaver and includes excerpts from his piece. (http://enculturation.gmu.edu/5_1/index51.html)One that struck me was Weaver’s observations on what was ‘important’ to Americans: “as we moved into the twentieth century, society had become less interested in people's abilities to discover truths about themselves and more interested in people's abilities to invent, test, and evaluate.” He goes on to note that “we have become too readily seduced by the idea that everything of consequence can be observed and measured, that everyone, along with the school children of the 1950s, is rushing toward science and math at the expense of the humanities. Consequently, we are comforted by expressions such as "Many scientists believe" or "According to a recent study." We still bow to these phrases today rather than thinking independently—much to our detriment! Those who have broken out of this and challenge these notions are not always welcomed, but they are the pioneers. Some of the most worthwhile concepts to consider cannot be measured or evaluated, but that should not determine their worth.

If I were to teach using a postmodern theoretical approach to media, I would look at censorship, the existence of media courses (as discussed above), and how the acceptance of media has changed.  Media is postmodern in concept, but the bodies responsible for its dissemination are not.  The FCC and other control bodies seek to allow only a set stream of ‘acceptable’ information and formats through to the general public. I would encourage discussion and consideration on how and why the internet has been so wildly successful. What are the advantages and disadvantages of not having a governing body for the internet? Is it fair to apply pencil-paper laws to a cyber world—what rules should/do apply in a cyber world? All of these concepts would be looked at in the context of understanding the strength of a forward movement and that even the ‘old guys’ of news or consumerism who do not like to follow trends have all added websites or e-mail addresses in an effort to reach people but do not fully embrace the abilities of the medium.

Secondly, critical discourse analysis is a fascinating concept to me. Before reading Beach, I would have said that all analysis, by my definition, fits into his definition of ‘critical discourse analysis.’ The concept that everything is relative to your lens or experiences is at the heart of any analytical discussion. We cannot debate or consider something effectively until we put it through our own filters.  That having been said, there are plenty of filters already applied to media that our students need to become aware of.

Without a doubt, I would teach the concept of critical discourse analysis in my classroom. I would hope my students could become skilled at understanding their own positions and learn to NEVER discredit another person’s opinion because thoughts and experiences are relative and can only be understood based on our own lives.  Any commercial for a nonprofit organization (United Way, Feed the Children, etc) would serve as a great jumping off point. We could consider their initial reactions and consider the emotions and thoughts that the scene evokes.  We could then walk through what it is about their OWN experiences that dictate the way they understand the commercial and the likelihood that they would take action. By looking at this, we would begin to see how personal experience plays into decision making when it comes to ‘consumerism.’ We would then consider the lens used to MAKE the video. What were the camera angles like? High shots? Low shots? Soundtrack? All of these things were predetermined to focus the watcher to use a certain lens.  Why do they use a shot of a little child sitting below the camera looking up? They don’t do this to empower the CHILD, do they?  An important concept to challenge with this kind of approach is the idea that video is objective or that photos or film can stand alone and be interpreted in any way. Few things are further from the truth. Specific decisions were made when that film or picture was created. The motivations may not be negative, but there were motivations and filtering decisions made by the artist/creator. Our students need to consider these and learn how their own lens dictates what they seek and how they understand the media (both created and creating) that they encounter.

This chapter was mentally challenging to me because it worked against some predetermined notions I had about analyzing and considering media.  I have a better understanding of how all of these factors work together but that there is worth in considering them individually as well.


Class activity using feminist & racial perspectives:

Miriam Krause, Fall 2009


In my blog analysis, I took racial and feminist approaches to analyzing a clip from the TV show The Mentalist. Here is my suggestion for a class activity that could follow up on that:


Each student should watch at least ten different previews for procedural/legal/mystery TV shows. These could all be for one show, or for multiple different shows; they could be from past and/or current shows. Students should make note of the race, gender, and apparent role (e.g. police officer, attorney, suspect, victim) of each character that appears in the previews. Are there any patterns within or across shows? If the shows are from different time periods, are there any noticable changes across time? Is it possible to draw any conclusions about the portrayal of race or gender in these shows from such short samples? Students should examine features such as clothing, use of language, lighting, music, body language, etc. to discuss how characters are portrayed. This is also an opportunity to discuss how TV previews are created: what choices are involved in putting together a preview, and what do these choices say about the creator, the audience, etc.? This assignment could be done individually or in groups, either during class or as a take-home assignment.


Classroom Activity using Feminist or Poststructuralist Frameworks

Adam Reich-Fall 2009


In my blog, I used these two critical framworks to analyze a scene from The Empire Strikes Back in which Han Solo becomes frozen in carbonite. 


Having students use the deconstruction/poststructuralist lens is an excellent way to have students explore the idea of attaching labels to ideas and objects, both in film and in society in general.  As a classroom activity, a teacher could show a film clip such as this one or any other clip where archetypes are used.  Separating students into pairs, have one student look for all of the “good” qualities/actions of a character and have the other look for all of the evil qualities/actions.  Once the clip is finished and each student has a list, give them some time to prepare an argument.  Have the students debate each other on whether or not a character is purely “good” or purely “evil.” This activity could also be done in groups of four, with two students arguing each side.  Hopefully, the students and the class as a whole will come to the conclusion that no label can be 100% accurate all of the time.




Classroom Activity Involving the Use of Critical Lens Theory

Laura Hammond Fall 2009




I'm a big believer in incorporating student interest into lesson plans. I think that students are more engaged and learn much more when they feel that they have choice in the classroom. After learning about critical lenses, I think it would be more beneficial for students to choose their own media than for me to assign them a particular commercial, film, text, or advertisement. I would encourage them to choose something in which they could apply two critical lenses and bring a copy and their analysis to class. I would provide an example of something (such as the IKEA commercial above) and demonstrate how to successfully critically analyze it. I would also provide examples of magazines, ads, songs, or poetry for which they could complete this exercise. I think reflection is an important part of viewing things through critical lenses. Here, for example, is my reflection on this IKEA commercial after having critically viewed it through both a gender and a social power lens.
Reflection: I really like this commercial. Before critically analyzing it, I praised this commercial for featuring a truly funny female. I think that we don't see enough successful female comics, and this woman nailed the commercial. Before viewing this commercial through a gender lens, I had never noticed her dress. I thought that the heels added to the comedy of the commercial. I didn't think of their impracticality and I certainly didn't think of the gender stereotypes that were being reinforced. I also didn't give a second thought to the power structure in the commercial before viewing it through a social power lens. Although I think it's a stretch to draw a lot of conclusions (specifically concerning social power) in this short commercial, I definitely succeeded in opening my own eyes to several aspects of this commercial to which I figuratively had my eyes closed.
You can see my blog for my full analysis.






Classroom Activity: Individual Perceptions of Society and Race

Jeff Blanchard - Fall 2009


In my opinion, the most effective way to get students interested in activities such as film analysis is to give them a fair amount of freedom.  They will be far more likely to enjoy the activity if they can analyze a movie they enjoy, they will be less likely to become distracted or bored, and would ultimately be more likely to produce quality work.  I know this method work well for me.


For my lesson plan, students would be put into pairs and they would each select a movie of their choice.  They would then perform critical analysis on their respective movies using the Marxist and Critical Race Theory methods, as I did for the film clip on my blog.  Then, they would swap movies with each other and perform the same two methods of critical analysis on their partner's film.  They would then compare their analyses and make a list of the similarities and differences between their perceptions.  Then, they would compare the social racial representations and stereotypes in the films with those of the real world and decide how these might have formed and/or influenced their views.  Last, have all the pairs convene and present their findings to the class, while one student or the teacher records their ideas on the board.  After everyone has gone, compare all the data and find the most commonly noted perceptions and discuss why they might be so prolific.



Lesson Plan for Critical Analysis of Commercials

By Elisabeth C.


I would have my students analyze two different commercials: one beer commercial that fulfills standard objectification of women (such as this Guinness commercial), and another that plays on the idea of gender stereotypes and parodies the typical beer commercial.  An example of this type of commercial is the "Beer Run" commercial by Pop Chips that appeared during the Super Bowl.  By looking at a beer commercial that is aimed at a predominantly male audience versus the Pop Chips commercial that is aimed at a mixed-gender audience, I would have the students create a compare/contrast chart in which they analyze this commercial through a gender/feminist lens as well as an audience analysis lens. I would ask the students to write about which commercial they identified with more and which they felt was more effective for marketing the product. Both of the commercials avoid the "McDonaldization" effect by having an unexpected twist, but the Pop Chips commercial uses the shock factor to challenge male chauvinism while the shock factor in the Guinness commercial serves to reinforce it.



Classroom Activity: Critical Analysis of Commercials

by John Byrnes

The commercial in question is Macintosh's famous <i>1984 </i>commercial. Aired during the 1984 Superbowl game, this commercial was an attempt at branding Macintosh as the computer that was built with rebels in mind. I'd like to experiment with a poststructuralist approach to the ad, taking apart its meaning to question its coherency.</div><div> </div><div>The ad begins with a wide angle shot of a future scene. There is a tube full of people marching overlayed with the sound of an announcer speaking, the scene is set with muted colors and dim light. All of the people in the tube are marching in a line, and dressed in one of three or four drab outfits. All of the people in the initial line appear to be male. They march by banks of identical computer screens that seem to be where the voiceover is coming from. The voice discusses "information purification." There is a quick cut to a woman with bright skin and brightly colored atheletic clothing running with a giant hammer. On her uniform is an artists rendering of a Macintosh computer. The scene cuts back to emotionless male faces, some of which have pipes to breath, marching in line. There is another quick cut to running people in black uniforms carrying truncheons, presumably police. Back to the walkers, back to the runner, finally opening onto a wide shot of people piling into an auditorium with a giant screen showing a face, subtitled and yelling at them. The sound of the voice is muffled as though through old speakers and shot full of repetitive noise like a factory klaxon. The shot cuts back to the woman running and then to the rows of people in the auditorium. As the runner reaches the auditorium and is followed by the supposed police the voice on the screen talks about "unity and resolve of one cause." The runner swings the hammer, and the speaker begins to talk about enemies. The voice on the scream proclaims "We shall prevail" as the hammer is released at the large screen. There is an explosion of white light and white sound. Dust and wind flies through the auditorium, and the people sitting in rows open their mouths as text crawls over the screen and is read by a reassuring british narrator's voice discussing the new Macintosh computer. The stated goal of this new computer is to ensure that 1984 won't be like George Orwell's dystopian novel <i>1984</i>. Finally, the apple logo is presented over a black screen.</div><div> </div><div>At first glance this ad may appear unified, it relies on social construction of many images in order to make its meaning. The director Ridley Scott was selected for his recent success with setting a cinematic standard for dystopic future settings in 1979's film <i>Alien</i>, and 1982's adaptation of <i>Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep</i>, <i>Blade Runner</i>. Without those two films, this advertisement would land on an audience without a shared visual concept for a future where things are not quite right. The color tone, and feel of the set; even the noise contained within the voiceover are all callbacks to Scott's earlier films, and those make the message clear that this future is not a good one. The reference to the novel <i>1984</i> relies on common cultural meanings as well, there's not one common interpretation for the novel, but one big focus during the Cold War was on individual liberties that were not available in Landing Strip One. Apple attempts to link the control of information in the novel to the competing computing companies that dominated the landscape in the 80's. Corporations like IBM had maintained a corporate culture from an earlier age, and were easy to tie to an image of "the man," while Apple had been started by student protesters who vied to maintain their independent image. Using the gendered images of all men against a single woman was one way to create that "rage against the machine" feel. The Apple company wanted to limit the image of their competitors to the image of oppression that Orwell had created so many years before, and while the Ad may not have shown what their product could physically do it set up the product as possessing its own worldview. This strategy is one Apple continues to use in its advertisements, somewhat successfully as I type this on my iMac, listening to iTunes. I wonder if I'm using a product because I prefer the way it works mechanically, or because of the embedded attitude of the product.</div><div> </div><div>To look at this ad another way, a gendered approach might be interesting.</div><div> </div><div>All of the characters in this advertisement appear to be male, unless the faceless police officers are also female, except for the runner. This does create an us vs. them attitude, but it also identifies a disparity in what kind of images are used to represent computers and potentially computer users. It's possible that this is an accurate reflection of computer user gender demographics in the mid-80's, but it serves to reinforce the image that if a woman is associated with computers they will stand out, stand apart, and be unexpected. By associating women with the radical elements of computer use, this advertisement continues to make the idea of women technologists an anomaly in a world full of males. Alternative to this is to view the woman as heroic, just as Ripley in Scott's <i>Aliens</i>, an image that Scott spent a great deal of time establishing. This is problematic because in both cases the female figure is heroic only in situations where she exposed to great physical threat and is left almost naked as if to draw out a voyeuristic thrill from seeing this woman in danger. This over-sexual element of both <i>Alien</i> and the <i>1984</i> advertisement may not be intended, but it makes both heroines objects of observation rather than heroes with which an audience identifies. If the female in the advertisement had been dressed in the same shapeless rags the males were wearing, this imagery would have been avoided, and it might have been possible to view the hero of the ad as just a hero.</div><div> </div><div>I've already talked about applying these lenses to other works by the director, Ridley Scott, but I would also like to see these students do similar critical analysis of contemporary Apple advertisements. Students could also find contemporary advertisements by Microsoft, IBM and other computer competitors from 1984 that they could contrast this Apple ad with and see if some of the criticisms of clarity I leveled against this advertisement were valid or whether those are common to all of the ads being presented. I think this activity is useful in the classroom to show students different ways to view films that go beyond mere enjoyment. I've enjoyed this ad for years, but I've never given it real thought. On giving this ad more thought, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the images and ideas that have fallen out in critical analysis.




Critical Analysis Activity

by Brien Kelly


I would start out my Critical Analysis Activity by giving a short overview of postcolonial criticism and critical discourse analysis.  Then, I would use Deborah Appleman’s idea of having students rephrase the following sentence from a postcolonial perspective: Christopher Columbus discovered America.  This is an excellent way to break the ice and put students in the right frame of mind for more in-depth analysis.


Following the ice-breaker, I would show students a video of Frontierland from Disneyland's opening day in 1955 (the video is posted on my blog) and we would analyze the video, as a class, through both critical lenses.  Then, I would have students break into small groups to find a film clip, tv show, commercial, etc. from the internet to analyze.  I would have them use VideoAnt to annotate their video which we would later share and discuss as a class.




Critical Anlysis Activity

by Meredith McCarthy


I think students could apply critical lenses to commercials that indirectly target their specific audiences with messages they can infer. Students could look at print media in various magazines and perhaps determine what those messages suggest about who the magazines audience is and what things have meaning to them; this could also be used with television commercials on various channels—how do the commercial on Lifetime differ from those on ESPN? This would be an interesting study to do and I think students would be amazed at how much they are targeted by the media and companies. Students could be assigned—or chose different channels/magazines/newspapers or even websites and asked to analyze the commercials or advertisements used within them. After this has been accomplished they could come back to the class and in small groups present their findings and compare their analyses. Then the entire class could discuss what each group came up with and how the media and producers use these lenses to shape how members of our society think. This could be a reflective practice as well in which students question their susceptibility to these advertisements. Overall, I think this would be a neat way to not only teach students how to use these lenses but also to force them to analyze what is presented to them in the media.


Sarah Rose: Critical Analysis Activity


In order to teach my students about Postcolonialism I would start with doing a free association activity using the following phrases:

"In 1492, Columbus___________"

"At Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims and __________ ate dinner together"

"Little boys play cowboys and ________"

What did Lewis and Clark do? (one sentence or less)

“If its not “criss-cross applesauce” its sitting _________ style”

Then I would show them this clip about “Reconsidering Columbus Day” and ask them to do a free writing activity responding to the video.  I would then show them clips from the Disney movie Pocahantas and then assign groups different segments of the movie to annotate on VideoAnt using the Postcolonial lens.  They would then share their annotations with the class and we would have another discussion regarding what they discovered (no pun intended). 


Reconsider Columbus Day


Activities for Classroom (Marxist/Gender) - Peter Ilten


These are two of the easiest lenses for students to use, though it is easy to fall into cliches and regurgitated archetypes (i.e., rich = power = bad). What will be important is to show that it is not necessarily about bad and good, but rather what the author or filmmaker is both intentionally and unintentionally saying with his or her work. I would use this activity with commercials to begin with. They are accessible to students and they have pretty clear audiences. From there, I would want to mix it up a little bit. Perhaps take scenes from a movie or TV show that might have a slightly less clear audience, but still a popular appeal. This kind of scaffolding will eventually lead the students to apply a critical eye not so much in a positive or negative light, but rather in own that allows them to think for themselves on an author’s intent. As I have learned from working with critical lenses, it is important to remove yourself from your own shoes and view things from someone else’s window. It enhances understanding and increases general knowledge about the subject or topic at hand.



Activities for classroom (Dan Thompson)


On social class and the TV show Frasier


On rhetorical/audience response and Nissan's ads for its Maxima





Critical Analysis Activity for Feminist and Psychoanalytical Lenses by Megan Gorvin

In order to teach students about the feminist and psychoanalytical lens, I would show students this Axe commercial and also this clip for Yoplait yogurt

Then, I would have them think critically about and discuss the following questions:
1. Who do you think the audience for each commercial is?
2. How are women portrayed in the Axe commercial? How are men portrayed?
3. How are women portrayed in the Yoplait commercial? How are men portrayed?
4. What desires of its audience does the Axe commercial use to sell its product?
5. What desires of its audience does the Yoplait commercial use to sell its product?
6. How are relationships between men and women portrayed in each commercial?

In this activity, my goal is for my students to look at each clip and see how differently men and women are portrayed: in the Axe commercial, women are sexualized objects for men whereas in the Yoplait commercial, the woman is intelligent and in control (and losing weight!) while the man ends up looking stupid. I feel that in many commercials today, these are the two dominant portrayals of men and women. In commercials aimed at men that sell clothes, food, cars, etc., women are highly sexualized. In commercials aimed at women that sell household products, make-up, etc., women are portrayed as in control and extremely intelligent while their husbands are clueless and bumbling in the background. Both of these portrayals play into the desires of the intended audience in order to sell the product.



Marxist and Feminist Look at Wrangler Jeans Commercial with Brett Favre

Emily Meyer


Using this ad, I would have my students discuss the following questions:


  • Why do you think many companies use celebrities in their ads? Have you ever bought something because of a celebrity endorsement? 



  • What type(s) of people do you see in this ad? What type(s) of people are not shown?
  • What feeling does the background song give you? Why do you think this song was used?
  • What connection do you think the company is making between guys playing football and the jeans? What are they supposed to have in common?
  • What image of men is being projected in this ad?
  • Why do you think Brett Favre was chosen as a spokesperson for Wrangler? Out of all the famous people (and all the NFL players, even), why Favre? [This question may require some prior knowledge about Favre]


Jack Nilles


To get my students thinking about how feminism and race politics work in advertising, I would first pick out several beauty advertisements for the class to screen and have them discuss who the advertisements are made for and the reason why a company would want to make that particular advertisement. In groups of three or four, I would them have them storyboard their own advertisement for a beauty product to have them see how images and concepts are broken down to make meaning. Finally, I would have them shoot the advertisements and screen them to the class alongside a re-screening of the original, real advertisements I had shown earlier. Then, the class could vote on which group had the most convincing advertisement, and have them discuss what made their choice so believable, particularly in terms of feminist and race politics.



Classroom activity for analyzing a media text using the Marxist and Audience Response critical lenses

by Zach Nyhus


     I must admit that I've been having a bit of difficulty devising a classroom activity that can encompass critical analysis of a media text using two different analytical lenses, without it being incredibly dry and boring.  On top of that, I am formally trained as an Art educator, not an English educator, so hopefully my ideas won't seem too pathetically hokey or lame.  :)

     I would want to make sure an understanding exists in my students' minds about what critical analysis really means, so spending some time on that would be essential.  I would play the clip from "Scent of a Woman" (analyzed below), and then have the students break into groups of 4-5 to discuss exactly what class issues are at work in the clip, and how the audience is being led into certain feelings and perceptions.  Then we would watch the clip again, and this time I would pause it occasionally to point out some of the items I mentioned in my analysis.  Afterwards, we would engage in a large group discussion about the class issues raised by the scene, and the methods by which the audience's response has been guided.

     Next the students would receive an assignment which they would be given ample time to complete.  Working in pairs, they would have to select a clip from a different movie or television show, and determine exactly what class issues are relevant and present in the clip.  They would also need to discern if the audience is being guided toward a specific interpretation, and if so, what that response is supposed to be.  Furthermore, they would need to discover what techniques are being used to guide the audience in that way: camera work (composition, lighting, etc.), dialogue, music, or any other techniques.

     The pairs of students would then need to present their clip to the rest of the class, and spend 5-10 minutes explaining their findings and interpretations, followed by a very brief discussion where the rest of the class (or myself) could ask questions.


A link to my Media Representation Activity. - Jean




Critical Analysis of Wife Swap 

Wife Swap is a show that picks a subject and shows two wives on opposite poles of that issue. The wives switch families and everyone gets really mad because they believe their extreme pole is the right pole. For this critical analysis, I will critique this clip of Wife Swapthrough a feminist and semiotic analysis.

Feminist Analysis

What does it mean to be a woman? Or a wife? Or a mother? More importantly, what does it mean to be a good one? Although this clip does not explicitly state a proposed answer to this, viewers can infer an opinion.
The mother (in this clip, only known as Grandma) of the other wife (Paulette) storms into the kitchen and begins moaning about the terrible things the visiting wife, Elizabeth, has done. Her initial critiques are on the cleanliness of the kitchen, the presentation of the cooking dinner and the overall state of the house and family. She makes it known that she and her daughter believe this is the definition of a good woman, wife and mother. Elizabeth disagrees.
The strange thing about this clip is its focus. Yes, it's not hard to understand that a show about two wives who have different ways of defining wife would focus on traditional feminine roles, such as cleaner, cook, and childcare provider. This clip, however, focuses more on these roles than the women themselves. We do not learn about these women beneath the visible surface. We do not see how their definitions of woman have been developed. Instead, we only see the overflowing pots and food-encrusted counters. The grandmother says, "My daughter vacuums everyday!" These women are defined by their roles; the editing of the show, with its emphasis on surface actions, reminds us of this too.

Semiotic Analysis

As I mention in my feminist critique, this show represents the roles of women as a binary. In this clip, we have the clean wife versus the sloppy wife. The show does not have a game show format, but it invites the viewer to choose a side by providing arguments for and rebuttals for each definition of wife.
In this scene, we have the sloppy wife (Elizabeth) meeting the mother of the clean wife (Paulette). To show the binary of the two definitions of wife, the show uses semiotics to visually show the division between the two roles. The show uses two primary locations in this clip: the kitchen and the porch. The grandmother and the Elizabeth have agency in one location and not the other: the grandmother can critique Elizabeth in the kitchen while Elizabeth can critique the grandmother on the porch. Both of these locations are representative to their definitions of the word 'wife.' Additionally, these two locations draw on the cultural code of who belongs where: the sloppy wife outside of her home and the clean wife in her kitchen. Having two different locations also brings the idea of a binary back into play; the two women have polar opposite views and cannot reconcile.

Classroom Approach

I am very interested in how cultural codes and gender are constructed by media; I want my students to think critically about this too. If I were to use this clip and these analyses for instruction, I would begin by asking students to define wife, woman and mother and begin thinking about why their definitions are what they are. My objective is to deconstruct the strong binaries presented in this clip. To do this, I would ask students to first notice all the different binaries in the clip - age, setting, cleanliness, clothing, etc. - and through this, we will have a discussion as to how gender roles are socially constructed. We will explore how this clip constructs gender roles and the danger of polarizing them.



Comments (3)

west0524 said

at 3:31 pm on Oct 3, 2010

In terms of how I would have students approach this:
Technology --- in my annotations I touched on Prometheus, and this can be considered the first technology parable we have on record. The lesson we get from this story is that technology is something to be wary of. No longer are we as a culture wary of new things and seeking to understand them before using them, we now see all technology as the future, a solution to all of our problems. The Terminator deconstructs this idea, making technology not only something to be wary of, but something which will kill us. So I would use this clip as part of a lesson plan examining the use of technology and our views of it in narratives.
I would also love to spend a lot of time on gender/ethnic stereotyping, using this film clip as a sort of illustration of both of these ideas on their heads. Dyson the good man, compared to a lot of other films, tv shows, and novels which showcase minorities as being thugs or worse. Sarah the machine, an active agent seeking to change the world, contrasted with the passive, purely maternal figures in many other films and television shows which place the agents of action in masculine hands.

west0524 said

at 3:32 pm on Oct 3, 2010

JennaS said

at 1:56 pm on Oct 7, 2010

I would have students approach this clip by breaking into groups each looking at a different critical question below. Since it's short Iwould have them watch it several times paying close attention to the ideas of denotation and connotation and considering what the images represent.


I think there is so much that can be done from a semiotic analysis standpoint in this commercial. I would do a critical media analysis with students and take them through the commercial several different times looking at these questions in particular:

1. What do you notice about the way this message is constructed? –Colors? Shapes? Sound effects? Music? Silence? Dialogue? Narration? Clothing? Sets? Movement? Lighting?

2. Where is the camera? What is the viewpoint?

3. How is the story told? What are people doing?

4. Are there visual symbols? Metaphors?

5. What’s the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices?

6. What makes it seem “real”?

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