Summary of DVD for Sociology: A Canadian Perspective, Third Edition
Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class
This video clip addresses the definition of class, specifically the working class, in today’s world. The student’s view of people who are working class is often largely influenced by images of the working class as seen on TV. As such, their opinions and attitudes toward an entire class of people are informed by the media around them, regardless of whether they are willing to acknowledge this idea or not.
Several academics in the clip, including sociologists, speak to the idea of class and the working class, and give statistics in terms of the proportion of the American public that is working class. Based on numbers alone, we learn that the working class is the majority. Noted as well is the fact that most people who are defined as working class do not see themselves as such. As a result, the working class is not in a position to develop class consciousness, as Marx suggested was necessary for a class revolution.
Relevant chapter: 1 Sociological Theory
The opening chapter of the text addresses the theories of society of such thinkers as Marx, Foucault, DuBois, Weber, and Bourdieu, among others, noting their views on and definitions of class and how class operates within society. This video clip allows the student to begin the process of connecting text material to the ‘real’ world of the media. The student will also be able to begin the process of seeing that the ideas of earlier thinkers can, and perhaps, should be revised slightly to reflect the realities of North American society today.
- Outline how Marx defined ‘class’. Given Canadian society today, is this definition functional? How might you alter it to better reflect Canadian (or American) society in the twenty-first century?
- How do Weber, DuBois, Foucault, and Bourdieu build on Marx’s concept of class and alter it? Which of them does the better job in terms of creating a definition of class that works in Canada today? Explain your choice.
- Think about situation comedies you have seen that portray people who are working class. What attributes of the working class are shown on these television shows? Are such portrayals accurate? Explain your position.
- Other than television sitcoms, identify other media examples that show working class people and families in stereotypical ways? Choose specific instances that you have seen. Do all of these have an impact on how people see themselves and others? How, exactly? Use specific examples to make your point.
- Compare and contrast Canadian and American conceptions of class as portrayed on situation comedies produced in each country. How are they the same? How are they different?
Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes
Byron Hurt, former football quarterback in college and high school, takes a long, hard look at the world of rap and hip-hop music in terms of song lyrics, overall messages to young people, and the possible relationship between this music genre and violence against both women and men.
This clip contains short interviews with rappers and academics on the issue of the messages in the music and begins to explore why black men in particular feel the need to present themselves as tough, hard, and destructive.
Relevant chapter: 2 Research Methods
The discussion of research and sociology as science in Chapter 2 can provide the backdrop for critically analyzing this video and Hurt’s methods of exploring the topics presented. Students can analyze Hurt’s approach, which is to interview a variety of hip-hop/rap musicians, and others in the music industry, as well as academics. Referring to the discussion in the chapter, students can then assess whether this is a scientific approach to studying this or any issue. They can think about whether the ideas presented are generalizable to a wider population in the United States and to other countries.
Further, the text material can lead students to an exploration of their own—how might they conduct research into the topic of hip-hop/rap music and its presentations of manhood and violence? What kinds of variables come into play here and how might one define these variables?
- In order to conduct your own research into the messages sent by rap or hip-hop music, you must first identify the key concepts. What would you argue are the key concepts here? How are these concepts connected to one another? In other words, what is your theory? Are your measures valid? Explain.
- Create two or three hypotheses that could be tested within the context of research into hip-hop/rap music. Identify the variables in each of your hypotheses and explain how they are related to one another.
- Describe exactly how you would conduct research to test your hypotheses. Which technique would best be suited to your research? Explain why you chose the one you did and did not choose the other techniques.
- How does Weber’s concept of verstehen relate to your research about hip-hop music? Explain fully, making reference to the idea that Hurt focused his film on young African Americans and you would likely not have that opportunity. How does a middle-class young Canadian of any colour begin to develop an empathetic understanding of a world with which they have no direct experience?
- How might you argue that conceptions of manhood are different among young males in Canada? What issues raised in American hip-hop music are completely foreign, in terms of personal experience, to young people in Canada? For example, how is the topic of violence different in Canadian and American rap and hip-hop music?
Understanding Hookup Culture: What’s Really Happening on College Campuses
This lecture by Professor Paula England (Stanford University) is about the new culture among university and college students in the areas of dating, relationships, and what young people are calling ‘hooking up’. Professor England uses both quantitative and qualitative data to examine what these terms mean to today’s young people and what proportions of all such activities lead to sex, orgasm, and relationships. She also notes the gendered nature of these activities and presents bar graphs to illustrate her findings.
Relevant chapter: 3 Culture and Culture Change
Given the format of her lecture, and her graphic presentation of quantitative data and noting some qualitative data, Professor England’s short lecture ties together several things that students are ready to learn at this point in the course and their reading. This video allows students to see and hear a clear example of research as noted in Chapter 2 on research methods, material on culture in Chapter 3, and presents a topic that young people find both personal and relevant to their lives.
- After viewing this short lecture and writing down all the statistics England presents, consider your own circle of friends in terms of their dating habits and hooking up. How accurate do you think England’s numbers are? Could you generalize her findings to your own circle of friends? Why or why not?
- How would you critique England’s research? Note positive and negative aspects of the research process here.
- In terms of subculture, how would you describe the similarities and differences in heterosexual relationships, etc. between your generation and that of your grandparents and parents?
- Focusing on whatever differences you can identify between your generation and your parents’ generation in the area of heterosexual relationships, etc., speculate what further social change will occur in this area by the time your children are in their teens. Why do you think these changes will occur? What might prevent them from happening? Explain fully.
- Are there factors other than age that need to be considered in a study of campus hook-ups? What are they? Explain why these are important variables to consider.
This video clip addresses how the media teaches young people, especially girls, how to look and act. The overall theme of the video is misogyny and its presence in everything from music videos, to video games, to commercials, and other forms of advertising. In the first ten minutes we look at examples of music videos and hear from educators Jean Kilbourne and Dr. Thomas Keith on the issue of the portrayal of women in popular culture.
Relevant chapter: 4 Socialization
Chapter 4 of the text takes students through the feminist analysis of gender and gender role socialization. As such, this video brings to life this feminist view of the social construction of gender role socialization and focuses attention on the role of the media in this effort. As is noted at the start of the clip, young people today believe that equality between the genders has been achieved—no more effort in this regard is needed. Feminist theorists note that although gender equality has made some progress, there are still areas that need work—and the video clip reinforces this.
- How do the media socialize girls? Give specific examples of media types and what girls are learning about what it means to be a girl.
- In this video clip it is noted that women have a new opportunity to participate in their own exploitation. What does this mean? Explain fully.
- Wolf argues that ‘media images place a great deal of pressure on women to conform to an impossible standard of physical perfection’. Provide support for this statement from the video clip.
- Are girls and women sexually objectified in the media? Are boys and men? Explain the similarities and differences between the portrayal of males and females in the media.
- What role does gender play in educational attainment, career choice, activity selection, and family life? How are these things socialized? Which socializing agent would you argue is critical in each of the above? Why? Defend your choice.
The Codes of Gender
Relevant chapter: 5 Statuses, Roles, Self, and Identity
The Codes of Gender explores femininity and masculinity using Goffman’s work in his book Gender Advertisements (1979). The video utilizes popular culture references, including Boys Don’t Cry, the movie about Brandon Teena, Pat from Saturday Night Live, and Monty Python, to name a few, to explore how gender is more problematic than we might first suspect. Gender is distinguished from sex, and viewers are asked to see gender as a social construction, one that is very much dependent on the culture in which one lives.
Relevant chapter: 5 Statuses, Roles, Self, and Identity
Chapter 5 includes a subsection entitled ‘Constructing a Transsexual Identity’ that clearly notes the confusion and fluidity of gender. To see gender as a binary distinction between man and woman or femininity and masculinity with clear boundaries between the two is much more problematic when we look in the direction of those who are transgendered.
This chapter also includes a discussion of the presentation of self, as does the video clip.
- How do you present your gendered self? Is this gendered you exactly as society would prescribe? In what ways do you exhibit the characteristics of the gender as assigned to you by our society? In what ways might you argue that you exhibit characteristics of the ‘other’ gender?
- In this video clip, Sut Jhally notes that ‘we learn to inhabit the gender category we have been assigned from outside’. What does Jhally mean by this?
- How does Pat from Saturday Night Live confuse people? Is Pat transgendered? Explain.
- The binary distinctions of male and female or man and woman are very much a North American cultural distinction. How do you feel about countries like Australia allowing for a third sex, referred to as middle sex, to be declared on a passport application? What are the advantages and disadvantages of allowing for a third sexual category?
- Jhally notes that there are essentially two functions of the binary two-sex distinction: it downplays the similarities between the sexes and it downplays the variability within each sex. Discuss this idea.
Mickey Mouse Monopoloy
Relevant chapter: 6 Groups and Organizations
This video clip shows Disney as a true capitalist organization whose pursuit of profit has been very successful. By policing the Disney image, producing media for children, and becoming a large media conglomerate, the Disney corporation has almost monopolized the entertainment of children. As a result, Disney is very much a model of capitalism at its finest, on a North American and global level.
Relevant chapter: 6 Groups and Organizations
Capitalism is noted in the chapter as one of the foundational elements for the rise of bureaucracy. As noted, under capitalism, some forms of social and economic organization can yield higher rates of profit. A rational organization like a bureaucracy is, therefore, compatible with a rational pursuit of profit.
The modern bureaucracy, as noted in the chapter, manages investment and pursues maximum profit impersonally. One can certainly see that the Disney Corporation pursues profit and does so quite impersonally, often without regard for what might be best for children in terms of what they see and hear and the stories they are told.
Weber would also argue that Disney, as a corporation, organizes human activity in a logical and efficient manner. Those who manage Disney organize human activity in an efficient and logical manner, basic characteristics of a bureaucracy.
- Identify how the critique presented in this video clip is unique in its analysis of Disney as a media conglomerate. How might other such conglomerates face similar criticism? How might other media conglomerates face criticism different than Disney?
- Corporate media power is a concern for many people. How does most of the media being concentrated in the hands of a few large corporations impact society and the individual? Discuss at length.
- Many students argue that Disney does not harm children. How would you counter this argument?
- Create an argument to convince someone that Disney is a prime example of capitalism.
- Is it fair to choose Disney as the subject of such criticism? How does it make you feel about your experiences with Disney as a child? How do you think the executives at Disney would respond to the criticisms levelled in this video clip?
- Does the Disney Corporation have a responsibility to the children of the world in terms of the stories it tells and how it tells them? In other words, does Disney have a responsibility to do something other than make money?
Further Off the Straight and Narrow
Relevant chapter: 7 Deviance
This short clip looks at the portrayal of gays and lesbians on television starting in the mid-1990s. Clips of such shows as Ellen, Will and Grace, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek, The OC, and ER are shown as examples of the changing TV landscape in terms of how and why gays and lesbians are shown. Throughout, commentators add depth to a discussion on the changes in portrayals of gays and lesbians in popular culture.
Relevant chapter: 7 Deviance
In the introduction to the sociological discussion of deviance found in the text, we learn that popular conceptions of deviance are defined by illustration, statistics, and harm. Based on this popular conception of deviance, many people in our society would define homosexuality as deviant on all three grounds.
As a sociological concept, deviance is defined as those behaviours, conditions, etc. that are subject to social control. LGBT people are noted as an example of this in the text. Many LGBT people are subjected to the various forms of social control from name-calling to gay-bashing and death.
It is also noted in the text that gay people in Canada especially are seen as less deviant now than in prior decades and generations.
- Looking at only the brief clips of TV shows shown in this video, how might you characterize the changes in attitudes toward gays and lesbians from the mid-1990s to the present?
- The TV shows noted in this clip are all American-made shows. Do these shows also impact Canadian viewers in terms of their attitudes toward gays and lesbians? Explain.
- Which is the stronger argument—that popular culture shapes attitudes or that attitudes shape popular culture? Defend your choice.
- Utilizing a claims-making approach, how would you describe the process by which the LGBT community was, in the past, identified as problematic? Who, might you argue, were the primary moral entrepreneurs in this case?
- How would a conflict theorist describe the changing societal view of gays and lesbians, as reflected in popular culture?
Relevant chapter: 8 Class and Status Inequality
In this video clip, Juliet Schor addresses what she calls the ‘cycle of work and spend’. People work longer and longer hours to spend their money on goods they believe they want—goods that will give them the lifestyle they want.
Schor also notes that what was once the definition of middle class has changed over the years: comfortable is no longer good enough. Now people want luxury, and this has led to conspicuous and competitive consumption. This new consumerism is no longer based solely on what a person’s neighbour has in terms of goods. Our reference groups (including those in the media) have now expanded to include the emulation of people in a different and higher class. Schor refers to this as upscale emulation.
Relevant chapter: 8 Class and Status Inequality
Chapter 8 makes note at the beginning of the chapter about our realities being constructed socially. Part of the social landscape that informs our realities is the world of the media. Cumulatively and largely unconsciously, we learn from the thousands of ads, TV shows, and movies we see and hear what products and services we need, desire, and with which we should identify. As the text makes clear with the example of a car and how we get impressions about the social class of the person driving a given vehicle, we form impressions of people based on their possessions and their relative quality.
As such, we all learn which goods we need to possess to show others that we are members of a particular class, even if, technically, we are not. Some people buy certain things to create specific impressions of higher status in the minds of others. If we are identifying with those whom we see in the media in terms of their status and class, many of us are identifying with people who earn much more money than we do. When we attempt to keep up with these people in terms of their lifestyles and possessions, we incur debt—and lots of it.
- How do rising hours of work relate to the competitive consumerism that Schor discusses? What does she mean by a cycle of work and spend? Explain fully.
- Have you ever bought something you could not really afford because you knew it would give others the impression that you are a higher class or status than you are? What was it and why did you feel it was necessary to have this item?
- This video clip is focused on American society. Should we as Canadians see ourselves as somehow exempt from this process of conspicuous and competitive consumption about which Schor speaks? How are we similar to and different from Americans in this regard?
- The new consumerism comes about as a result of three factors identified by Schor. What are these three factors? Discuss each on some detail.
- If you were marketing a new product and wanted to target young people looking to increase their status and social class, what would this item be? Where would you advertise your product? Why? Explain in some detail. What kinds of products are out there right now that young people want as a sign of higher status?
Relevant chapter: 9 Gender Relations
This video clip focuses on the different portrayal of men and women in video games. This selection deals with the issue of masculinity in games and the representation of women.
Noted in this clip is the fact that even women who do not need to be rescued by men are still portrayed with large breasts and tiny waists—an essentially inhuman combination. The emphasis on beauty and sexuality is constant in the portrayal of women.
Asking For It—The Ethics and Erotics of Sexual Consent
Relevant chapter: 10 Sexuality
This video clip takes the form of Professor Harry Brod asking questions of his class during a lecture. Brod takes on the issue of when ‘yes’ and ‘no’ mean yes and no and when they do not, with the help of the students in front of him.
Tim Wise on White Privilege
Relevant chapter: 11 Ethnic and Race Relations
This video clip is the beginning of a talk by Tim Wise about white privilege. Wise is a compelling speaker who draws our attention to the issue of the different treatment experienced by white and non-white people in American society.
Relevant chapter: 12 The Social Aspects of Aging
This video clip focuses on the nature of male-to-male relationships, especially among older males. The video addresses the differences between male-to-male and female-to-female friendships in terms of their depth and topics of discussion. Noted is the fact that as we age, the quality of these relationships does not necessarily change because the stereotypes regarding how these relationships should be does not change either. Also noted is that men, perhaps, need to learn how to discuss their problems and feelings with other men, to share common experiences and issues.
Relevant chapter: 13 Families and Personal Life
George Gerbner has studied television content and its impact on Americans. Since much of American television is seen by Canadians, we can, perhaps, assume that there has been some impact on Canadians as well.
This segment is entitled ‘Violence is a Social Relationship’, and includes discussion of the relationships between women and men, as well as relationships between races. Gerbner asks us to consider the impact of television violence on all of us.
Relevant chapter: 14 Education
This section of the video is entitled ‘The School Shootings’. Jackson Katz, the film’s producer, is well-known for his anti-sexist male activism. The thrust of this video is that masculinity is socially constructed, particularly in the media. This section of the film focuses on the school shootings in the United States, with a discussion of how these are the result of a crisis of masculinity.
Capitalism Hits the Fan
Relevant chapter: 15 Work and the Economy
Richard Wolff, Ph.D. in Economics, gives a lecture about the current economic crisis occurring in the United States and around the world. He clearly lays out the root causes of this crisis as they exist in the structures of capitalism itself. In this particular section, Wolff tells us what the economic crisis is not—it is not a financial crisis, it is not temporary, and it is not easily and quickly fixable.
Big Bucks, Big Pharma
Relevant chapter: 16 Health Issues
This portion of the film Big Bucks, Big Pharma is a section entitled ‘Disease Mongering’. The clip explores the idea that large pharmaceutical companies redefine medical conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, present conditions as more common than they are, and the other ‘tricks’ they use to sell their drugs to more and more people.
Reel Bad Arabs
Relevant chapter: 17 Religion in Canada
Dr. Jack G. Shaheen, author of Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, has studied over a thousand Hollywood movies to examine their portrayal of Arabs. He is forced to conclude that over many decades, this portrayal has not changed—Arabs have almost always been shown as villains, terrorists, or as the butt of a joke. This stereotyping of Arabs applies to both Arab men and Arab women.
In this particular portion of the video, entitled ‘Islamophobia’, Shaheen looks at perceptions of Muslims and Arabs, as well as the consequences of these mostly negative perceptions on Arabs and society in general.
Not Just a Game: Power, Politics, and American Sports
Relevant chapter: 18 Politics and Political Movements
This video clip draws together politics, power, and American sports, noting the strange contradiction in the ‘no-politics’ rule in sports. This clip argues that sport is a political space. Sports and politics collide in many different ways, often unnoticed by most of us, including on the level of culture. Sports serve as a place where we can experience nationalism, patriotism, and the elements of culture. Ideas, norms, and attitudes about society are shaped by culture and sport is a reflection of all of this.
Dave Zirin, a sports editor, argues that even while we are told that sports and politics do not mix, they are mixing all the time in virtually every sport. Granted, this clip is focused on American sport and American politics, but these basic ideas can be transferred to sport in any country.
This Is Our Land
Relevant chapter: 19 Social Movements
This video clip is an introduction to the idea of the commons—a term most students may not have not heard or, at best, do not truly understand. David Bollier, an activist and commons scholar, argues that we need to reclaim the commons and return society to the way it was intended, according to the traditional ideals of American society.
No Logo: No Space, No Choice, and No Jobs
Relevant chapter: 20 Challenges of Globalization
Naomi Klein talks about brand logos and how they sell much more than a brown fizzy liquid (Coca-Cola), a pair of sneakers (Nike), or a child’s story (Disney). These brands sell ideas, lifestyles, and metaphors and they sell them on a global level. Also discussed in this clip are Virgin, Apple, Diesel, Ikea, Starbucks, Tommy Hilfiger, and McDonald’s.
Advertising and the End of the World
Relevant chapter: 21 Population and Society
We have all seen more than a few advertisements in our lives and most of us accept, to some degree, that these ads sell more than just products and services. They also sell normalcy, telling us what we need to buy and what counts as normal behaviour.
The Mean World Syndrome
Relevant chapter: 22 Cities and Urban Sociology
This video introduces the viewer to the discussion of violence in the media and the effects on its viewers. Movie clips are shown and presented alongside the ideas of George Gerbner. Gerbner, who died in 2005, argued that violence in the media makes us more scared of violence being done to us, rather than the traditional argument that media violence makes us more violent.
Money for Nothing
Relevant chapter: 23 Mass Media and Communication
In this clip, we begin the process of understanding the music world in terms of who controls what we hear and who becomes a music star. We learn that five companies control 80 per cent of the music in the world, and the impact this has on the music industry on a number of levels. The business of music outshines the creativity of music.
Shop Til You Drop
Relevant chapter: 24 The Environment
In this video clip we are confronted with the materialism that is now characteristic of our culture. We are told that the way we see our stuff and ourselves has changed since the Industrial Revolution, and how we have become driven to efficiently produce goods for consumption.