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Media Matters: Stereotypes and Social Change in Popular Media 

Department: Sociology

Instructors: Sarah Stembridge & Camila Gonzales Paz Paredes
Instructors' Emails: & 
Prerequisites: none 
Dates: July 11 - July 29, 2022
Schedule: 9am - 4pm (Lunch from 11:30am - 1:30pm)
Location: UC San Diego Extended Studies, 9600 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037
Room: 104

Course Description

We all consume popular media, yet we can often overlook how they depict a biased view of social reality. This course will introduce students to how popular media portray particular social groups. The course will familiarize students with these issues while providing the analytical tools to critically interpret media representations. We will investigate how television, films, music videos, and magazines depict and recreate stereotypes based on socioeconomic class, race, and gender. We will discuss why the media sells these kinds of representations, the effect these representations have on us, the role of the media in reinforcing inequality, and how the media can be used for positive social change. The course is designed for young learners with little to no experience in sociology or media studies.

Course Goals / Learning Objective

Overall, there are two overarching goals for this course. The first is to demonstrate how popular media project a biased representation of social reality. The second is to give students the ability and confidence to critically analyze and engage with media in their own lives. These skills are especially crucial for young students, who are coming of age in a social environment saturated by media. The class will also provide an introduction into the sociological perspectives on race, class, and gender as well as familiarize students with methods for critical media analysis. While the course will offer a robust academic discussion of a contemporary social phenomenon, students should come away from the course feeling prepared and empowered to engage media environments in their daily lives. More specific course objectives include:
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the sociological perspectives of race, class, and gender.
  • Have practice using critical media analysis methods
  • Understand and be able to critically engage many common issues with representations in the media
  • Recognize the commercial, political, social, and cultural incentives behind particular media representations
  • Articulate this media literacy clearly and coherently to peers

Course Topics

  • Intro to Media Literacy and Core Sociology Concepts
  • Conducting critical media analysis and media analysis practices
  • Overview of the Media Industry
  • What are media makers selling? Explaining representations through cultural, social, political, and economic lenses.
  • Fake News, Narrative Analysis & Critical Analysis of News Stories
  • Introduction to the Sociology of Social Class & Inequality in the US
  • Representations of Social Class in the Media (i.e. Reality TV; Sitcoms)
  • Introduction to the Sociology of Race
  • Representation of Race in the Media: stereotypes vs. identities, ascription vs. assertion
  • Introduction to Sociology of Gender: Gender ideologies, gender-based inequality, essentialized difference
  • Representations of Gender in the Media
  • Social Media: Social Networks and the Curated Self
  • Media as a Tool for Social Change


*Courses vary by experience and exposure to content. Instructors have the ability to change content and pace to serve the needs of students. Courses have been modified for online teaching.