Format: Your essay should be 3-4 pages double spaced, in a standard 12pt font with 1 inch margins. Papers must not exceed 4 pages. MLA citation style.
Purpose: The purpose of this assignment is for you to work on the critical thinking skills of analyzing representations, feminist media literacy, making an effective argument, developing your voice.
Please answer the following question through an analysis of an advertisement, and by drawing on Sut Jhally’s “Image-Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture” (M) 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.)
You may choose either a print magazine ad or short (under 1 minute) video advertisement. For the purposes of this paper you must attach the ad to the essay either by embedding the image in your document, or by including a functioning web link. Marks will be deducted if the ad is not attached or accessible.
To begin the assignment, start 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 women? teenage 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 look in the textbook to find articles that can help you analyze the specific representations in the ad. 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 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, consider some of the following interrelated and intersectional issues: Ø What social values are revealed by the images, representations, and voices presented? Ø Who is the intended audience? Who is the “viewer” and who is the “object” of the gaze? Ø What are the general ideas being sold? And how are those meanings represented (through colour? Language? Style? Detail? Action? Gesture? Etc.)? Ø How does this representation sell products? In order to prove your thesis and deepen your analysis of the advertisement, you must make reference to a total of 3 articles: Jhally’s “Image Based Culture” and two other articles from the textbook.
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 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. Ø Analyze: 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: 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 th