Guilty Media Pleasure

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Do you have a favorite TV show you don’t tell other people you watch? Is there a mp3, DVD or video game you own that you’d rather no one know you actually own? Do you visit a website every day but haven’t added it to your bookmarks for fear friends would see it? Now is your time to come clean. This assignment requires you to use class concepts to gain critical distance from the media that you consume and the social world you live in. It requires you to analyze your enjoyment of a particular media product in relation to norms or expectations about what you are “supposed” to watch/play/listen to—norms and expectations that are organized hierarchically in large part by the communities you identify with.

Goal: To apply class concept (e.g., taste cultures, hierarchies of taste, criteria of evaluation, and the comfort-challenge model) to help you think differently about one of your favorite media texts.

Step 1: Pick one specific media text/product (e.g., a TV show, a movie, a website, a video game, a song, a musician, an actor, a book) that you really enjoy but that you feel guilty about enjoying.

Step 2: Use class concepts to analyze why you feel guilty. You’re embarrassed for a reason. Think about the source of that embarrassment in terms of a specific taste culture’s hierarchy of taste.

We all interact with mainstream American culture (the hierarchy behind the skyscraper model as discussed in the textbook). As a result, you might feel guilty about consuming a lot of cultural products because they fall way down on that general high culture/low culture hierarchy. This assignment, however, requires you to identify and describe a more specific taste culture than the broad one reflected in the mainstream American culture. In other words, do NOT use the skyscraper model in your entry. Instead, you need to identify a media pleasure you feel guilty about because, by consuming that product, you are breaking the standards, norms or expectations of a specific subcultural taste culture (i.e., a smaller group) and the hierarchy of taste it uses to judge media texts. We all live within the norms and expectations of numerous taste cultures (a few examples: the Greek system, your church community, a racial/ethnic community, the university community). From whom do you most want to hide your guilty pleasure: certain friends? your parents? someone else? Answering this question will help you identify what specific taste culture’s internal hierarchy you are transgressing (use the ideas discussed the “Taste Culture” handout on Canvas). In your entry, you must clearly

  1. Identify and describe a specific taste culture that judges your media text to be inferior or inappropriate. You must create a name to identify and discuss the taste culture central to your analysis. Discuss ONE taste culture (trying to discuss two would lead to an unfocused and superficial analysis).
  2. Identify the specific criteria of evaluation that taste culture uses to differentiate superior from inferior media texts. You MUST use the phrase “the more……the better” in the way Dr. Becker modelled in lecture.
  3. Explain why your media product doesn’t meet those criteria (i.e., identify the specific features of the media product that don’t rate well when judged against the criteria of evaluation).

Step #3: Use the Comfort-Challenge continuum to analyze your pleasure. What do you enjoy about that cultural product? Reflect on what aspect(s) of the product you enjoy even in the face of possible social stigma. Explicitly use the Comfort—Challenge continuum to analyze your pleasure. Don’t just identify what you like about the product, but dig deeper to analyze WHY that aspect of the product is pleasurable to you in terms of the comfort/challenge model discussed in lecture.

Step #4: Craft a well written 2-3page paper (~900 words) that presents your analysis in a clear, informed, and engaging manner with well structured paragraphs, precise word choice, and good grammar.

Submission Requirements

  • This entry needs to be double-spaced.
  • A reminder about formatting rules:
    • ITALICIZE the title of a TV series, album, movie, newspaper, magazine, or video game.
    • PUT QUOTATION MARKS around the title of an episode of a TV series, song on an album, article in a newspaper or magazine.
    • Websites do not need any special formatting.
    • If you fail to follow any of these rules, your entry will receive no higher than a 12.
  • Upload an e-copy (with .doc or .docx in name) to the appropriate link on Canvas by 10:00 am Tuesday, 9/25. Include a hard copy in your diary folder and turn your folder in during Small Group Session #2.

A Few Tips:

  • Pick a media product you have strong feelings for—both of guilt and pleasure. Feel free to pick a past guilty pleasure—one you loved years ago.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard this before: manage your time so that you can finish the assignment early, print off a copy, and return to it later to proofread; if needed, revise your word choice, sentence structure, or paragraph structure.
  • If you need to go longer than 900 words, that is okay. However, be concise. You should be able to meet the assignment’s requirements with 3-4 well-structured, efficient paragraphs.

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