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Race, Class And Ethnicity: A Critical Analysis of Film, Television, Radio Music and Advertising


Course Overview:

What is the relationship between the mass media and our cultural understanding of race, ethnicity and gender? Race, Class and Ethnicity: A critical analysis of film, television, radio, music and advertising explores this ques- tion, asking how the media has interpreted and explained our stratified society. The online course will - over its 4 weeks - focus on motion pictures, television, radio and advertising through a combination of readings, screenings, live lectures and threaded discussions.


The class will utilize a wide variety of writings that are part of a cultural studies approach to examining the media’s influence on society. Cultural studies first developed within the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham in the 1960’s. It became widely accepted under the guidance of it second director, Stuart Hall, combining the insight of social sciences with the critical lens coming from humanities. Cultural studies is

interdisciplinary in its makeup, embracing a wide variety of social science and humanity-oriented fields, including feminist theory, classical Marxism, social theory, political theory, history, philosophy, film/video studies, communi- cation studies, literary theory and political economy. Cultural Studies seeks to understand how meaning is creat- ed, disseminated, and produced through beliefs, institutions, and political, economic, or social structures.


Using the wide body of readings available through the text and course reader, the class will explore the meaning and history behind the concepts of ‘race,’ ‘ethnicity,’ ‘class’ and how they have affected the media industry as well as how they have been affected by the media.


  1. Understand the broad history of the mass-media industry.

  2. Be able to critically analyze the content and context of media messages, both from an artistic perspective and how they have reflected cultural norms when produced.

  3. Evaluate how media content produced in the past may contain different cultural meanings compared to contem- porary interpretations.

  4. Understand which racial, ethnic and gender-identified groups in America have had difficulty being represented in the media. In what context where these groups ex- cluded?

  5. Be aware how the racial, ethnic and gender-identified groups are stereotyped today in media. Understand how and why these may be different than past stereotyping.

  6. Research and write about a selected topic covered dur- ing the course, exploring the various elements that con- tributed to how the media has portrayed a select racial, ethnic or gender-identified group.



Elvis: The Early Years

Examines the rise of the king of  Rock  and Roll thru the writings and interviews with his personal assistants, Trude Forsher and Byron Raphael.  The class looks at the the first  two years when he signed with Colonel Parker and went from regional performances, signing with RCA, national TV shows and concert tours as well as the feature films he did between 1956 and 1958. It is a story that few know and that give the class members a first hand account of what Elvis's life and career were really like.

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