How does the mainstream media construct, normalize, and commodify identities through representation? (“identities” means intersections of gender, sexuality, class, race, age, ability, bodies, nation, ethnicity, etc.)

Words: 970
Pages: 4

Purpose: The purpose of this assignment is for you to work on the critical thinking skills of analyzing representations, feminist media analysis, making an effective argument, and developing your voice.

Instructions: Answer the following question through an analysis of an advertisement, and by drawing on Sut Jhally’s “Image-Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture” (posted to Moodle) and two other articles from anywhere in the textbook

How does the mainstream media construct, normalize, and commodify identities through representation? (“identities” means intersections of gender, sexuality, class, race, age, ability, bodies, nation, ethnicity, etc.)

Before you start writing, begin with an in-depth “reading” of the advertisement itself. What argument is it making? Who or what do the people or images represent? If there are celebrities in the ad, think about who they are, why were they chosen for this ad, what values and ideals do they bring to the ad and the product? How does this ad sell products? To whom (be specific: middle aged white women? teenaged boys? Young girls? Middle aged professional men? Asian women? Etc.)? What thoughts might go through someone’s mind when they go and purchase the product that the ad is selling (ex. ‘If I buy this car I will appear to be a wealthy man who is in control of his business and his women’ or ‘if I buy this perfume I will have the youthful yet
sophisticated sex appeal of Scarlet Johansson’) In other words, first really really really understand the representations in the ad itself. Then you are ready to analyze these representations using course materials.

Next, do some research. Don’t assume that you already know everything. The best essays are the ones that make an in depth analysis of the advertisement using the insights and arguments made by other authors. In order to write an essay in this way it is crucial that you do your research first before writing the essay. Begin with Jhally’s “Image Based Culture”. Read it several times and then make note of the key points that he makes that are relevant to helping you to make a deeper analysis of the ad you have chosen. Then go and read some essays from the textbook in order to fill in the blanks. If racism is relevant to understanding your ad, then try to
find an article that talks about representations of racialized people. If masculinity is relevant to understanding your ad, find an article that talks about men and the media. Etc.

Next you should be ready to formulate a thesis (argument) that answers the essay question. This thesis will form the basis of the overall structure of your essay. Your thesis should be in the form of an argument, which includes a central claim (the answer to the question), as well as the reasons to support your claim (premises). Your thesis should use the first person (“I”): “I think…” or “I will argue that…” By using the first person, you indicate that these are your ideas on the issue, not the objective “truth

In formulating your thesis, you should answer the essay question above. To do so you may wish to break it down into its component parts:
➢ What identities are being constructed in this ad? Who is being intentionally and unintentionally addressed by the ad and what are their intersections? What qualities, behaviours, interests, actions, life plans, aims, are constructed as “normal” and “ideal” for this kind of man or woman? How does this ad answer the questions: ‘Who am I and what do I want?’
➢ According to this ad how will buying this product fulfil this person’s fantasy of what is
normal and ideal for their life? How does the ad answer the questions: ‘How can I buy this dream life?’

Remember that we are evaluating your interpretation and analysis of the ad, and your ability to support and deepen that analysis by integrating research into your essay

Avoid description or ungrounded opinion. To do well, you must analyze the meanings and ideas associated with images and representations in the specific advertisement you have chosen by drawing on the academic research of other scholars. Responses that do not have an analysis, indicated by a strong thesis statement, will be assessed no higher than a C grade.
➢ Analyze (definition): To ask HOW and WHY. To examine something in detail in order to understand it better – where it comes from and what effects it has in the world; To examine why things are the way they are; To ask ‘who benefits from this reality or norm?’; To speculate on why a phenomenon occurs within a historical, political, economic, or cultural context; And to interpret what alternative meanings or explanations may be made of this reality.

Helpful hint: if you cannot identify your argument, you are likely still working with description and opinion. A strong, clear, well-stated thesis statement is evidence of an argument. Do not confuse a topic sentence (“This essay is about the depiction of women in the media…”) with a good thesis statement (“In this essay I will argue that this advertisement plays upon women’s anxieties about skin lightness, body size, and wealth, promising that through conforming to beauty norms of light skin, a thin body, and heteronormative femininity, a woman will be successful in both business and love.”)

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