The portrayal of women on talk shows, news and reality TV can sometimes be easy for audiences to recognize as positive or negative, demeaning or empowering. Are they role models for other women? Are they portrayed as someone you would never want to have as a friend? While the character or social position of these women may seem natural, or given, they’re still constructed by the media in which they appear. In this MediaLit Moment, the sharply contrasting images of women in our media samples will give your middle and early high school students an opportunity to ask questions about the production decisions which support those portrayals.
Ask students to analyze production elements in television shows which cast women in a favorable or unfavorable light.
AHA!: Women aren’t just themselves on news and reality shows. The people producing the shows can make them look like creeps or model citizens, too!
Grade Level: 9-10
Key Question #1: Who created this message?
Core Concept #1: All media messages are constructed.
Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
Materials: computer with high speed internet access; LCD projector and screen
Activity: Ask students if there are any female television personalities that they really like or love to hate. What made them feel that way about that person?
Play a selected excerpt from the Sixty Minutes interview with Sonia Sotomayor:
Follow this with a video from Dance Moms in which two of the mothers have a drunken fight on the streets of New Orleans. It may help to give students a little background information about the show. This clip is PG13 for language and content.
Allow students some time to express their reactions to the women portrayed in each of these videos.
Next, introduce students to Core Concept #1, and to Key Question #2.
Show students the videos again and ask: Aside from the things these women do or say in these shows, what else might have created a positive or negative picture of them? (a couple of examples: footage of Sotomayor in the halls of the Supreme Court; the wide-angle, epic shots of the New Orleans street fight). You may wish to let students know that reality show producers often aim to heighten conflict between participants.
Do these shows support a portrayal of Sotomayor and the Dance Moms as empowered women? Why or why not?
The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework. Used with permission, © 2002-2013, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com