Literature in the Media—Semester B
Comedy Central comes to class.
Think about your dream class. What would it involve? Watching TV? Screening movies? Playing video games? Well then, welcome to your dream class.
Semester B of Literature in the Media provides in-depth readings and interactive assignments that will knock your pop culture socks off. With 90 lessons worth of Common Core-aligned activities, you will
- analyze advertisements for their rhetorical strategies the same way you'd analyze a great work of literature.
- think about why comedy and the news are classic besties.
- consider how the Internet has changed the way we read.
- start to think of video games as a type of literature, ripe for analysis.
And we'll end the course with one final question: is reading still a thing?
This is the second semester of a two-semester course. You can find Semester A here.
Unit 7. TV and Advertising: Reading Between the Lies
There's no question that Americans are generally way more literate in TV-watching than in book-reading. In this unit, we'll think about the TV phenomenon along with advertising and commercials, which are starting to look more and more like little mini TV shows in themselves. That's right, folks: TV is the new reading.
Unit 8. Infotainment: Comedy, the News, and Everything In Between
It's time for the odd couple: comedy and the news. In this unit, you'll see just how much they have in common and how we can read them the same way we read literature. With maybe a few extra grains of salt, of course.
Unit 9. Movies and Music: Fame On!
Hollywood and pop music, together at last. In this unit, we'll swing back to movies before diving into music like you've never seen it. Finding the poetry in music isn't hard—it's figuring out what makes it sing that's the challenge.
Unit 10. The Internet: The (Anti?) Social Network
In this unit, we're going to dig into all the ways that our lives got flip-turned upside-down by the Internet and what it means to be constantly connected to other people through our computers—for better or worse. You thought the Internet was just for zombies, but it turns out we've got some big time analysis to do.
Unit 11. Video Games and Remixes: Audience Participation
It wouldn't be a media course without tackling video games and everyone's favorite: the remix. In this unit, you'll use your analysis skills to dig deep into these pop culture phenomena that you never thought you'd be studying in school.
Unit 12. Reading: Is It Still a Thing?
In this unit, we'll head all the way back to that thing we call reading, focusing on how things have changed in the Ebook world. And since this is the final unit of your course, you'll have a chance to show your chops with a culminating project that puts the multi—er, and the media—in multimedia.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 8: Behind the Ads
Now that we've got an iron-fisted kung-fu grip on the ideas behind television and visual media, we're going to take a sideways step into television's shadowy twin: advertising. Particularly of the television variety. After all, TV and commercials go hand-in-hand—in most cases, you can't have one without the other.
Ads are fascinating for a bunch of reasons:
- Their shortness (usually about 30 seconds or fewer) forces them to get their message across really quickly.
- They have to compete with other ads for the attention of people who may not be paying close attention.
- They want to do one thing, above all else: sell you stuff.
So how do they pull it off, even though we know that's what they're trying to do? Our answer: with billions of dollars ($139.5 billion in 2012 alone), an almost omniscient understanding of what makes people desire stuff, and—maybe most importantly—a mastery of rhetoric, the art of convincing people with words and images.
In this lesson, we'll learn some of those rhetorical techniques. Tricked no more, we say!
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 7.8: There Are Text Messages, and Then There Are Subtext Messages
One of the most common techniques advertisements take advantage of is the deliberate use of subtext, which is the implied meaning of a text, rather than the literal meaning. So when we talk about "reading between the lines," the stuff we're reading is the subtext.
For example: Ever notice how many commercials have almost nothing to do with the product or service that they're selling? That's usually because they're delivering some kind of subtext, instead of just going out and telling you that the product is good.
Feast your eye-sockets on this E*Trade commercial that aired during the 1999 Super Bowl. It doesn't tell you anything about their service. Why would they "waste" $200,000 on an ad with no useful information in it? Well, one subtextual message is that they're such a rich and successful company, they can afford to waste $200,000.
For another hilarious example of subtext, check out this scene from the John Carpenter horror-movie cheesefest They Live, where the main character finds a set of magic sunglasses that allow him to literally read the subtext behind all advertisements. (In the movie, the subtext is put there by aliens who want to brainwash all humankind—not quite the same thing as real advertisements, but you can't deny that subtext works.)
A lot of the time, subtext gets used because it lets you get away with saying things you're not really allowed to say, or they would be a total lie. Think of all those beer commercials where some schlubby guy orders a drink, and then he's instantly surrounded by gorgeous women. The subtext there is: "If you buy our drink, women will find you attractive." Lots of ads work this way, but they'd never get away with saying it outright. Because it's pretty much the opposite of true.
(Sorry, schlubby guy.)
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 7.8: Spot the Subtext
Put on your They Live subtext-spotting glasses and read the subtext behind an advertisement of your choice. Go and look for an advertisement that expresses something more than just what it literally means—it can be a TV commercial, one of those YouTube videos, a magazine ad, or anything in between.
Take about 75 – 100 words to explain the subtext of the ad:
• What is it really trying to say?
• What audience is it trying to reach out to?
• What does it hope that you'll think about it?
Got that? Good. You're going to create a collage of other ads with not-so-hidden subtexts. Go old school and use magazines you have at your disposal, or use the internets and screenshot online ads/scenes from YouTube videos. Include 13 – 16 images in your collage, and remember: You want ones with subtext. Do include: beer ads featuring schlubby men, yogurt ads featuring smiling housewives. Don't include: an ad for a spatula that just depicts…a spatula. Ain't no subtext there.
Plop the ad you used in Part 1 and the text box with your written analysis in the center of your collage, and upload your masterful deconstruction below.
- Course Length: 18 weeks
- Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12
- Course Type: Honors
- High School
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?
Common Core Standards
The following Common Core Standards are covered in this course:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5