Media Images

Imagine: You’re an extraterrestrial anthropologist, new to Earth and its strange customs. You’ve altered your features, granting you the ability to walk among humans unnoticed. One of your first assignments is to study every form of media created by humans. On the first day of your mission, you open up a newspaper at random and see an advertisement. What does this advertisement tell you about the species that made it? What can you infer about the culture, politics, values, morals, and religious notions of this species? * * * The assignment is to pick any image—you can pick more than one—and analyze it objectively. Consider the image’s hidden subtext, much as the various commentators do in the documentary The Ad and the Ego (part of which will be shown in class this week). This assignment will be an exercise in both CRITICAL THINKING as well as CREATIVITY. Let me be clear: The phrase “image,” as I use it, is very broad. It covers not only advertisements, but any media image (it doesn’t even have to be contemporary) up to and including TV shows, movies, photographs, cartoons, websites, video games, comic books, security camera footage, crop circles, graffiti, tattoos, skywriting, etc. Take your pick. (If you wish to write about an image-type I haven’t thought of, run it by me first.) With this essay, turning in a rough draft is wholly OPTIONAL. If you don’t wish to turn in a rough draft, you need not do so; however, if you want substantial feedback on your essay, then I highly recommend turning in a rough draft. It should be, at the very least, 3-4 pages (not 2 ½). Double-spaced. Times New Roman 12 font. 1 inch margins. Follow MLA format. You may also reference Diane Hacker’s A Pocket Style Manual or this website: <>. Remember to always include a Works Cited page. The overall quality of the essay might be strengthened if you utilized outside sources to back up your argument; however, you may limit yourself to analyzing the image alone if you wish. Due Date for Rough Draft: To Be Announced. * * * Recommended Books (in no particular order): The Mechanical Bride, Culture Is Our Business, and The Medium Is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan; Subliminal Seduction, The Age of Manipulation, and Media Sexploitation by Wilson Bryan Key; Faces of the Enemy by Sam Keen; Parallel Visions by Maurice Tuchman (I know our library has this book); Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud; The Image Makers by William Meyers; Violence In Our Time by (sorry, can’t remember this author’s name); Unexpected Journeys by Janet Kaplan; Reality Is What You Can Get Away With by Robert Anton Wilson; America by Ralph Steadman; Death Scenes by (can’t remember this author’s name either, but it’s published by Feral House Press and has an introduction by Katherine Dunn); any book of artwork by Robert Williams or Winston Smith or Roller Wilson; any book of photographs by Man Ray or Harold Edgerton or Robert Frank. Recommended Movies (in no particular order): Atomic Café, Heavy Petting, Reefer Madness, The Ad and the Ego, The Merchants of Cool, The Persuaders. Analyzing an Image (Note: You needn’t go about the assignment quite as systematically as this. However, if you’re feeling stuck, simply answering these questions will probably fill up the required pages sooner than you might expect.) 1. What does the image look like? Act as if you’re describing it to someone who doesn’t have the image in front of them. (Don’t go overboard here. The description should not comprise the bulk of the paper.) 2. Who made the image? 3. Who’s the intended audience? 4. Is there an agenda behind the image? If so, what is it? 5. What is the image’s intended effect upon the viewer? Does it succeed in achieving this effect? If so, what specific techniques does it use to bring about this effect? 6. How does the image fit into the social milieu of the culture at large? (This might be the most difficult question. Obviously, it requires some knowledge of the culture that produced the image. For this reason, it would probably be easier to analyze a contemporary media image.) 7. What is your reaction to the image?

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