Project #158891 - MIRROR ESSAY

General Tutors

Subject General
Due By (Pacific Time) 12/07/2016 03:00 pm


Your identity, subjectivity (i.e. selfhood), and agency are informed by a multiplicity of factors that intersect to create you. In other words, you are never defined by just one category. How do you experience your own identity? Perhaps you have encountered conflicts between different ways you identify (say, as queer and as a Southern Baptist, for example). Perhaps certain aspects of your identity are more prominent in your life than others. Importantly, various identities allow the self to connect with the other.

The purpose of this assignment is to explore how popular culture represents and misrepresents an aspect of your identity to yourself and to others. How is your identity formulated by your consumption of popular culture, and what assumptions do people make about you due to their consumption of popular culture? Drawing on the theories that we will look at in class, how is your identity influenced by ideologies? In what sense are you a subject of hegemony? To what degree is your identity conscious or unconscious, and what might be the repercussions of that?

After some preliminary research and contemplation about your identity you will hone in on a particular aspect of yourself and find three artifacts from popular culture that (mis)represent that aspect in some way. We will then find some secondary sources to inform our understanding and write an analysis of how your chosen aspect is (mis)represented, categorized, reinforced or undermined in popular culture.

We will do this analysis under the conceit that we may never fully know ourselves, as illustrated by the metaphor of a dark or dim mirror in Corinthians 13:12. This is to say that even when we see our own identities reflected in popular media, we must be suspicious of even our own selves.


As you explore your chosen identity you will quickly find that popular culture simultaneously represents and misrepresents that identity. Sometimes it is depicted in both positive and negative ways. Sometimes it reflects how you see yourself, while at other times it contradicts how you understand yourself and even insults your identity. Importantly, the way our identities are depicted in popular culture is tied deeply to structures of power and oppression.

Once you have explored your chosen identity and the ways it is represented in popular culture, you will need to formulate an argument about it in the form of a thesis statement. A thesis is simply a claim that you make in one or two sentences that positions you in the larger discourse on your subject. Here are some examples of ways you might set up your thesis:

“X identity is/is not accurately represented in the television shows A and B, and the movie C.” “The film A reinforces the stereotypes 1, 2, and 3, of the identity X, whereas the film B depicts

a more accurate and humanizing representation of X.”

“The social progress that has been made in the US that combats stereotypes about X is undermined in the TV series A and B. The TV series C directly criticizes these other shows.”

“The video game series A challenges the stereotypes surrounding the identity X that are commonly found in other popular video games, such as B, and C. Specifically, A addresses the stereotype that X's are 1, 2, and 3.”

AUDIENCE: Think of your reader as someone who does not identify with the identity you have chosen and has only encountered that identity through popular media. Your reader probably has all kinds of assumptions, misconceptions, and stereotypes about the identity that you will need to address. Assume that your reader has seen the movies or shows, played the games, and read the books you will be discussing. In other words, don't summarize the plot or story, though you may have to remind your audience of the specifics of an important scene or image that you're analyzing.

Here is the writing process that I recommend you use to write your essay.
STEP ONE: Consider some of the social, cultural, and political categories that inform who you are:

Nationality, ethnicity, race, first and second languages, skin color, gender, sex, sexual preference, socio-economic class, body size, income, level of education, age, including the generation or decade in which you were born, political affiliation, religion, abilities or disabilities that you may have, and sub- cultural interests (as a gamer, punk, ballerina, fan of __, etc.).

Write down where you personally fall in each category (you won't turn this in or show it to anyone unless you want to).

For example: I am American, Dutch/English/Italian/Indonesian, white, I speak English as a native speaker and French as a second language, I have light skin, I identify as male, straight, I have a Master's degree, I come from a lower-middle class family, I am a big Game of Thrones fan, I don't have a driver's license, etc...

STEP TWO: Pick one of these aspects, or a combination of these aspects and explore how popular culture portrays them. Find a central guiding question about how this identity is portrayed in media and give some answers to that question in the form of a working thesis.

For example, if you want to research Native American identity, you might watch some old Western films as well as the latest film, Revenant, read a few stories by Sherman Alexie or other indigenous authors, play some video games that have indigenous characters, like Prey or Never Alone, and so on.

STEP THREE: Pick a few of these texts from popular culture to write about. In popular culture studies, anything can be a 'text', not just written material (this includes, movies, games, images, commercials, toys, etc.). Remember that your topic is not the texts themselves so much as the way the texts portray the identity you are exploring. You are not writing a review or consumer report. You might


examine how the texts depict your identity (either accurately or inaccurately), influence your identity, targets your identity as the audience, or ignores your identity as the audience.

Continuing with our Native American identity example, we might select an early Western film that depicts indigenous people, Johnny Depp's portrayal of Tonto in the latest Lone Ranger film, Disney's Pocahontas, and the film Smoke Signals, written and acted by actual indigenous people.

STEP FOUR: Find some secondary sources on your topic. A secondary source is anything that analyzes or discusses a primary source. In this case, the primary sources are the texts you found in step three, as well as your own experience with the identity you chose.

For example, we might cite the documentary film, Reel Injun, which looks at how Native Americans are depicted by Hollywood. We could find an interview with Sherman Alexie about his film, Smoke Signals, and find a few articles through the PSU library databases, like JSTOR.

STEP FIVE: Develop a thesis. A thesis statement gives your reader the argument you're making in your essay. In order to develop a strong thesis, think about the controversies surrounding your chosen identity, or the contradictions between different texts.

An example thesis (after much research, re-writing, and re-thinking) “Contemporary films like Pocahontas and The Lone Ranger perpetuate destructive myths and stereotypes about Native Americans that were established by the Western genre, the most destructive being the 'disappearing race' myth. The films Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancy Dancing attempt to address these stereotypes in a sometimes earnest, sometimes playful way by depicting the lives, culture, and self understanding of contemporary Native Americans.”

STEP SIX: Write a rough draft of about five pages (double-spaced). The rough draft should be a complete essay, include in-text citations, and a Works Cited page.

STEP SEVEN: Write a revised draft. Revision means that your writing should look significantly different than the rough draft. Take the time to rearrange your paragraphs if necessary and write completely new sentences. Incorporate the advice from the peer review that you found useful. Your revised draft should be free of typos and grammatical errors, and easy to read and comprehend.

The revised essay must be in MLA format (12pt font Times New Roman, 1-inch margins, double- spaced, last name and page number in header, Works Cited page, and in-text citations with last name of author and page number in parentheses after citations). See the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University for more information on MLA format.

The revised draft is due during our 'Finals Week' of the course. 


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