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Media Matters: Stereotypes and Social Change in Popular Media

Department: Sociology                                                              

Instructors: Sarah Stembridge & Camila Gonzalez Paz Paredes
Instructors' Emails: & 
Prerequisites: None
Section ID: 153913

Schedule: Mon., Weds., & Fri. 11AM - 1PM PST


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 Objectives

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

Topical Outline

Each week, we will delve into a ‘realm’ of sociology (i.e. class, race, and gender). Students will learn how to think sociologically about these issues, then we bring sociology concepts to life by observing subsequent representations in the media. Topics discussed are listed below:

  • Intro to Media Literacy and Core Sociology Concepts
  • Conducting critical media analysis and media analysis practices
  • Intro to Class, Class-based inequality, the classless society
  • Class reproduction, cultural capital, and meritocracy
  • Meritocracy and class in reality TV
  • What are media makers selling? Explaining representations through cultural, social, political, and economic lenses.
  • Intro to race, race-based inequality, the colorblind society?
  • stereotypes vs. identities, ascription vs. assertion
  • Old news? Race, crime, and power mass media news outlets
  • Race and the American blockbuster film
  • Intro to Gender, gender-based inequality, essentialized difference
  • Hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity, ‘men are from mars’
  • Selling gender in advertising
  • Gendering children through media – Disney films and children’s shows
  • Gender in music/music videos
  • Media and women’s power: Miss Representation
  • Media, violence, and men’s life chances: Tough Guise
  • Using the media as a tool for social change
  • Practicing media literacy outside the classroom


*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.