reviewing professions: major media representations

In A Guide to Composition Pedagogy, Susan C. Jarratt's chapter "Feminist Pedagogy" encourages the design and implementation of assignments that invite students to reflect on their own gendered ways, bringing them "out of invisibility so that their sources and effects in the context of a sexist culture can be examined" (120). A constructive way to get at this might involve an invitation for students to think about how various media represent their intended majors/professions. The following assignment turns students to cultural analysis for the purposes of greater comprehension regarding the ways in which a particular profession is viewed through various forms of media. Over a four-week period, students attend to the gender, power and authority in their intended majors/professions, their expectations and perspectives on how such issues influence future endeavors.

Major Media Representations

The following asks you to think about, reflect on and write a piece on representations of your major/intended profession. Of major focus will be attention paid to the gendered ways your major/intended profession is represented in the media, but take some time to reflect on questions of age, class and ethnicity, too.

Movies, television shows and even video games can be rather influential in portraying certain jobs. In the field of education, for example, we have Robin Williams
(Dead Poet’s Society), Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski (The Wire) and Dewey Finn (School of Rock), Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Minds), Hilary Swank (Freedom Writers) and Jeri Ryan (Boston Public) as well as the teaching faculty in Bully and Grim Grimoire. From such examples, what sort of precedent do various media set regarding male and female positions in a particular profession?

Therefore, take in at least five
different movies, television shows and/or video games somehow related to your major/intended profession. The relationship can be direct (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for law, Black Hawk Down for military, Grey's Anatomy for medicine), peripheral (The Shining for creative writing, High Fidelity for small business) or even absurd (Harvey Birdman for law). Also, keep selections timely; of major concern should be the more current representations of a major/intended profession. Be sure to either take notes while viewing or engage in reflective free-writing as the end credits roll.

Furthermore, the following questions are intended to provide guidance in the writing process:

  • Are those of your major/intended profession predominantly male/female, young/old, upper/middle/working class, African/Asian/European/Mexican American?
  • How do you compare/relate to the media’s representation(s) of your major/intended profession? Do you see yourself as part of the majority/minority? How/why?
  • In the media viewed, are representations of your major/intended profession more glamorized, romanticized, satirized or criticized?
  • How accurate are these representations? In other words, are they quality portrayals? If so, what makes them quality? If not, what needs revision?