||A brief overview of the assignment:
This essay is to get you thinking more deeply about how our popular culture impacts us. Are we affected by advertisers, marketers, news media, popular movies, television shows, music, or spectator sports? Narrow down your focus to one or two of these forms of mass media or popular culture, do some research in your ARC Library Databases, and write a 4 page minimum to 6 page maximum essay with a Works Cited. Your thesis will to be support the claim that there is either something helpful or harmful–or, as the prompt title suggests, cool or questionable–about a particular form of media.
For example, if you wanted to explore the impact of popular music, you might focus on a particular genre like rap or hip hop (I already thought of a title for you: “Rap Gets a Bad Rap” You’re welcome). You might argue that hip hop has the power to inspire political awareness and activism. To support that claim, you’d need primary examples of such socially-minded artists as Kendrick Lamar, one of the most influential artists of his generation, and a Pulitzer Prize winner. That’s cool, right?
Conversely, you might choose the opposing view that rap and hip hop music often perpetuates gender and racial stereotypes. A primary example to support your opinion could be Niki Minaj’s song and music video, “Anaconda,” which I overheard two African American mothers fretting over as they worried how to protect their 14 year old daughters’ innocence with such content so easily accessible. Of course I immediately checked out the song on YouTube and my jaw dropped. I find this song questionable as it rather demeans women and girls, suggesting that they are objects to be leered at rather than subjects to be communicated with.
Once you have your topic in mind, you will want to research into your library databases and find secondary (opinion based) sources to help you support your claims and sharpen your analysis. The most valuable kind of secondary sources are scholarly, or academic journals, as these periodicals publish works by experts in a field (say, sociology, for example), and then are peer reviewed by other experts in the same field before getting published. There will be a 25 point Works Cited assignment for you to post your sources to, so look for that in next week’s assignments, or in Module 6.
What to Write About:
So you need primary examples of some form of popular culture, and you need scholarly secondary sources to add to your expertise and credibility. Please choose a topic from the following suggested approaches:
1. In “What Makes Things Cool,” Derek Thompson writes, “A common complaint about modern pop culture is that it has devolved into an orgy of familiarity,” which explains why movie producers “relied heavily on films with characters and plots that audiences already know,” such as the Star Wars franchise and the Marvel comic universe. Do you agree with Thompson’s claim? Brainstorm a list of your favorite songs, movies, and TV shows and ask how they are derivative, or built on previous versions of the same productions. What do they have in common? What makes them distinct? What makes them special to you?
From your journal or brainstorming list, write an essay response to Thompson’s article. Do you agree that “what makes things cool” is a mixture of newness and familiarity, or can you think of a better explanation? How well do Thompson’s claims hold up against your own experiences? What advice would you offer to artists and producers who wish to appeal to as wide an audience as possible?
2. In “Where Our Monsters Come From,” Leo Braudy observes that our enduring fascination with monster tales reveals volumes about modern civilization’s fears and anxieties. Godzilla, for example, sprang from the fears of the atomic bomb and how it might mess with nature. What are we afraid of in the world today? Some cultural analysts have suggested that the resurgence of vampire stories in the last three decades can be attributed to the AIDS epidemic that emerged in the 1980s. In your library’s database of scholarly journals, conduct a keyword search with “vampires and AIDS” and read one or two of the articles in favor of this theory. (If you prefer, you may search for other academic analyses of monster lore, like Frankenstein’s monster, or zombies, or werewolves, etc.). Does your research support Braudy’s claims, that we can learn a lot about our society’s anxieties by the kind of monster stories in popular entertainment? Or have you found other perspectives that explain this fascination?
3. In, “Football Matters,” Paul Theroux writes about how college sports is a business and it relies on the appeal of fandom to gain national attention. How do you respond? What do you think of the astronomical figures offered to college coaches and professional athletes? Are individual contracts worth millions of dollars a year fair or outrageous? And should college athletes be paid? Why, or why not? Write an essay that argues for or against putting significant sums of money into college sports, using specific examples to support your claims. Using your library database, research scholarly journal articles to support your claim.
4. In Killing Us Softly: The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women, and in a TedTalk by the same title, Jean Killbourne claims that the impact of advertising featuring girls and women normalizes violence against women and can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders, and can negatively-influence how boys and men view girls and women, among other harmful impacts. Using your Library databases, find articles that discuss the impact of advertising. Do you agree with Killbourne that some advertising can send negative or harmful messages? Or could you argue that there are progressive and positive trends in advertising? For example, Many ads today now feature diverse representation of all body types, races, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientation, and ability (have you seen the laundry detergent commercial featuring a man doing laundry–wow!–who uses a wheelchair? It’s nice to see disability normalized this way). In addition to your library research (also called secondary, or opinion-based sources), you will want to provide primary examples of print ads and commercials to support your claims.
5. Create your own topic that revolves around some aspect of our current culture. Some suggestions are social networking, where you can discuss the impact of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and more. Lots of scholarly research has been published in journals, documentaries, and books about the impact of the internet and how it has changed the culture and the way people interact.
The essay must be 4 pages minimum to 6 pages maximum in length
You must include at least 4 American River College Library sources (scholarly journal articles, other periodical articles, ebooks, documentaries).
You must have a proper MLA style Works Cited page listing all sources discussed in the paper.
Draft Due Monday, October 5, before midnight: Peer Reviews and Final Revision due Monday, October 12, before midnight.