Lesson Plan: Popular Music, Gender Representation, and Media Effects

Fifth Harmony feat. Kid Ink, “Worth It” (2015, music video directed by Cameron Duddy)

Ian here—

For three quarters in a row, I used Stanley J. Baran’s Introduction to Mass Communication textbook for my Mass Communication course. However, during that time, I drifted away from assigning Baran’s chapter on media effects. I was very upfront to students about the reasons why: I find it dull, and dry. It provides a thorough historical overview of various theories of media effects, from the Frankfurt School to George Gerbner’s “cultivation analysis,” but it doesn’t provide meaty examples of studies of effects in action. So, instead, I decided to turn my media effects week into a feminism week, and use Susan J. Douglas‘ wonderful observations on popular music and its effect on perceptions of gender roles in her book Where the Girls Are: Growing up Female with the Mass Media. The book’s breezy, first-person style is far removed from the distanced overview of sociological theories found in Baran, and a good model for the types first-person observations and analysis I hope to provoke when teaching this material.

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