CMU 200 Winter 200

Media Analysis Assignment

In this assignment, you will take a closer look at some of the differences between television reality and the your own experiences for ONE of the following areas:

gender sexual orientation

race/ethnicity class

The assignment has three components: a research component, a critical viewing and analysis component, and a creative design component. Each of these sections is worth a maximum of 50 points. An additional 30 points will be awarded on the basis of spelling, grammar, and format considerations.

We also want you to turn in a 1-page outline for your paper at the end of Week 4. This is worth a maximum of 20 points, bringing the total to 200 points.

Part 1 (Research component)

Find four articles that examine representations of your focus area in the media (i.e., gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, or class). At least three of the articles should come from scholarly journals (scholarly journals available on-line are fine). The fourth article can be either another journal article or a non-academic Web site. Drawing on these articles, write a 2-3 page overview of what is known about media representations of your focal area. Help with searching for suitable articles can be obtained from your TA, or from any of the staff in the Research Mentor Center, Room 222, Communications Building.

Part 2 (Critical viewing of popular television shows)

Next, we want you to watch and critically analyze one current episode of a popular TV program. You may choose from the following shows:

Friends Ally McBeal Dawson's Creek

Shasta McNasty Seinfeld (reruns) Drew Carey

For the purposes of this assignment, the episode you analyze should be shown on TV sometime in January or February 2000. A small number of tapes of these shows will be placed on reserve at OUGL for those without a television/cable.

What is the nature of representation of your focus group in this show? For example, is the show all-white? Are all the women young and thin?

For your chosen focal area, you should analyze and discuss differences in the ways that characters are represented with respect to any three of the following categories:

You should also discuss how your observations relate to the research that you talked about in the first part of the paper. (Part 2 should also be around 2 -3 pages long.)

Part 3 (Designing a "better" show)

In Part 2, most of you will conclude that TV "reality" is not a very good match with your own experiences of the world. So we want you to design a more true-to-your-own-life show. The show must also be interesting: it must be something that you would want to watch.

You don't have to write an entire script, but we do want a cast list, with descriptions of the characters (major characters should be described in more detail than minor characters), and also an outline for the plot of one episode. Part 3 should also be about 2-3 pages long. We suggest that you allocate approximately page to a general description of the show, about 1 page to character descriptions, and about 1 page to the plot outline.

Introduction and conclusion.

Your essay should also have a short introductory paragraph and a conclusion that help to bring the three components together into a coherent whole.

Style requirements for this assignment

Papers must be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point type, with 1 inch margins. Papers should be 7 to 9 pages in length. The three components must be presented in order (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), with a sub-heading for each section. At the top of the paper, please put your name, student ID number, and section. Essays should be spell-checked and proof read carefully to catch mistakes that the computer misses.

Late Assignments

Except in the case of emergencies, there is a late penalty of 10 points for every day the assignment is late (not including weekend days). If you are having trouble with the assignment or some other things in your life are getting in the way, come and talk to one of the TAs before the assignment is due.

Backup copies

It is your obligation to make 2 copies of your paper -- one to hand in, another to keep in case the submitted paper is lost.


A one-page outline is due in Week 4 (on Friday, January 28, in section)

The 7-9 page paper is due in Week 7 (on Friday, February 18, in section)

A sheet containing more detailed grading criteria will be handed out later in the quarter.