CCJN4360: Women and Minorities in the Media


Course Description

Why are most of the models – female and male -- selling luxury goods in glossy magazines white? Why are almost all of the women on prime-time network television slim, attractive and under age 40? Why is it that when black men make the news it’s usually because they’ve either been arrested or signed a lucrative contract with a professional sports team? The goal of the mainstream media in this country, as with any other business enterprise, is to make a profit for shareholders and executives alike. Thus the “cultural artifacts” – or films, TV shows, newspapers, magazines, music DVDs, books, Web sites, etc. – they produce are designed to appeal to audiences who match advertisers’ sought-after demographic profile: young, affluent, primarily white. Those artifacts will generally also reflect the accepted norms and values of the society. In the U.S. these include youth, beauty, wealth, heterosexism, male dominance and “whiteness.” These media products, as you will see if you look around you, give voice to the powerful, including politicians and celebrities, and ignore the powerless. They lavish attention on beautiful airbrushed magazine models and sculpted starlets and ignore the flawed, even the “normal.” In this class, we will look below the surface of the media we turn to for entertainment and/or information to explore what they say about our political economy, our norms and values, our society.

Instructor Biography

Camille Kraeplin earned a doctorate in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin after nearly a decade spent as a newspaper and magazine editor. A member of SMU’s Journalism faculty, she also directs the Fashion Media program. Dr. Kraeplin has specialized in examining media portrayals of women and minority groups. She has published articles and presented papers on topics ranging from fashion magazines and our society’s obsession with the “thin ideal” to the representation of blacks in American newspapers throughout the 20th century. This is one of her favorite courses – and she has taught it many times.

Learning Outcomes and Benefits

In this course, students will:

  • Examine the critical, conceptual and historical background/context that has influenced the way mainstream American media portray women and other minority groups.
  • Learn more about how mainstream media institutions give voice to powerful groups in society, from politicians to performers.
  • Analyze media content of all kinds to assess the images of woman and minorities.
  • Examine the effects that commercial pressures, professional norms and other factors exert on media portrayals of women and minorities.
  • Become more critical media consumers.
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