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Project III: Research Paper on a TV Show/Movie/Music Video
TV shows, movies and music videos entertain us by evoking (and sublimating) the economic, social, and racial conflicts or anxieties of our time. As Maasik and Solomon observe in the introduction to Chapter 6 ofSOL, you can interpretsemioticallyan entiresystemof television programs, illustrating how the associations among, and differences between, various series over a number of years can reveal broad movements within American social history (399). However, as the authors also point out, the seeming transparency of images on the screen, i.e.icons, often mask theirrhetoricalnature, so that we are tempted to receive it uncritically as reflections of reality. Thus, Project III asks you to turn a critical eye towards your own entertainment taste, and read beyond thedenotationof a TV show/movie/music video to mine itsconnotative significance.
For Project III, you are asked to make a specific ARGUMENT (typically a cultural claim) about a TV show/movie/music video of your choice. To successfully fulfill the assignment, you will be relying on the descriptive and analytical skills you have developed so far through the previous two projects. You can significantly revise Project I into Project III, but you should not feel obligated to keep your previous choice of text. You are welcome to choose one of my suggested texts (on D2L). Either way, treat Project I as an extended brainstorm exercise and jumping-off point.
The research component of this assignment requires you to cite at least THREE credible outside sources. These could be reviews from popular sources such as newspaper and magazines (e.g. theNew Yorker, New York Times, Slate, The Atlantic, LA Times, etc), or scholarly writings on mass culture (peer-reviewed journal articles or books). In addition to their credibility, you should evaluate your sources in terms of their relevance to your topic and the helpfulness in deepening your analysis. Generally, the better your sources are, the stronger your analysis will be.
Remember, youre not pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Rather, you areparticipating in an existing critical conversation about a particular cultural phenomenon. The outside sources you pick should either support your argument, or serve as a counter-argument, against which youll pitch your claim. Either way, think of your writing as part of a larger critical conversation. By research and writing about the topic, you are contributing to the conversation and participating in making sense of the culture you live in.
Where do I start?
In order to successfully complete this assignment, you need to research the sign system to which the text of your choice belongs. As the authors ofSOLsuggest: Your interpretation of a movie or group of movies should begin with a construction of thesystemin which it belongs that is, those movies, past and present, with which it can be associated. While tracing those associations, be on the lookout for striking differences from films that are otherwise like what you are analyzing, because those differences are what often reveal the significance of your subject. (447) Be on the lookout formetaphors,archetypesandparadigms.
To start brainstorming, ask yourself the following questions: (A version of this is in the Brainstorm Worksheet on D2L.)
1. What genre does this movie/show/video belong to?
This genre could be sci-fi, fantasy, horror, romance, drama, sit-com, musical or it could be medical, legal, crime, high school drama, etc.
2. How is this movie/show/video different from or similar to others in the same genre?
Chances are, if you like Gossip Girl, you also watched other high school dramas. (In fact, it is likely your taste to similar dramas that drew you to the show in the first place.) But what make this movie/show/video stand out? A show either deviates or conforms to the stereotypes of its genre, although it is sometimes a combination of both.
3. A related question: How is X portrayed?
X could be anything that piques your interest, such as the hero or anti-hero, gender, race, class, high school life, the medical/legal/law-enforcement profession, etc. This question forces you to look at the show/movie carefully, and identify archetypes, metaphors, stereotypes, cultural myths, ideology, etc.
4. Notice things that puzzle you about the show/movie/video, like if it seems to be sending two contradicting messages (such as in Mad Man, Downton Abby, Glee, etc.), or if its characters seem contradictory.
A final word of advice:A good paper depends on a good choice of TEXT and TOPIC, two things you will investigate thoroughly in the coming weeks. You have read a fair amount of articles throughout the semester, all of which can serve as both sample analyses and credible outside sources. Note that, due to the limit of our time, I only selected a handful of articles from the book that sparked particular interest in me. Please feel free to read other ones, if they are relevant to your research. For more instructions on how to conduct semiotic analysis on visual texts, please (re)read the introductions to Chapters 6, 7, and 8. And feel free to pick a text from my suggestion list.
Learn to pose research questions and develop a thesis.
Learn to conduct research using the ARCC library databases.
Learn to produce an Annotated Bibliography.
Continue practicing semiotic analytical skills.
Familiarize yourself with academic writing conventions and the MLA citation style.
1. Brainstorm for TV shows and movies, and free-write on possible research questions. (Thursday, Apr 7) 5%
2. Annotated Bibliography Draft. (Thursday, Apr 14; See separate prompt) 5%
3. Annotated Bibliography Peer Review (Saturday, Apr 16) 10%
4. Annotated Bibliography Final Draft (Tuesday, Apr 19) 5%
5. Rough Draft (Monday, Apr 25) 10%
6. Revised Draft (Monday, May 9) NO GRACE PERIOD 65%

Final Draft is typed, 5-6 pages double-spaced, Size 12, Times New Roman font
MLA Citation Style

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