Courses

WGS 2713: Women in Popular Culture
This course aims to explore the representation of women in various facets of popular culture. First, students will consider the gendered codes that inform the representation of women in mainstream film and television. They will examine the politics of representation in three key genres—chick flicks, action films, and reality TV—and explore the structural barriers that limit women creatively behind the scenes. Second, students will consider the ways in which women are represented in American popular music. In particular, they will examine five distinct archetypes that frequently appear including pop princesses, divas, female rappers, girl groups and girl bands. Third, students will consider the depiction of girls and women in animated films, video games, comic books and social media. The goal of this course is to foster a critical consideration of gender representations in American popular culture and, through them, the messages being conveyed about the value of women in society.


WGS 3123: Social Justice and Social Change
This course aims to introduce students to major theories of social justice. It includes both an analysis of the major cultural and structural causes of inequality and injustice, and an examination of the most effective responses. First, students will be introduced to such key course concepts as social location, intersectionality, systems of inequality, oppression, privilege, social hierarchies, viewpoint formation, and discrimination. Second, students will explore a number of (intersecting) forms of social oppression including racism, classism, religious oppression, sexism, heterosexism, transgendered oppression, and ableism. Third, students will examine three “spotlight” issues highlighting key systems of oppression: women in prison, the representation of women in the media, and environmental justice. The goal of this course is to teach students that social justice is not a single-issue movement; instead, it requires a comprehensive understanding of complex social processes that produce systems of inequality that advantage certain people at the expense of others.


WGS 3353: Race, Class, Gender
This course aims to explore the conceptualization, intersection, and performance of three key social locations—race, class, gender—in a variety of popular cultural artifacts such as television, film, and music videos. First, students will consider how notions of “normative” masculinity and femininity have changed over the past century in response to such women’s movements as second wave feminism, third wave feminism, and postfeminism, as well as protofeminist and masculinist men’s movements. Second, students will examine how race functions as a social identity and site of privilege. In particular, they will explore the messages conveyed about race through problematic representational racial practices like racial masquerade and racial stereotyping in mainstream American media. Finally, students will explore various topics related to socioeconomic class in their group work projects/presentations.


WGS 3413: Body Image vs. Reality
This course aims to explore body image, an attitude that a person has about the actual/perceived function of her/his body. Body image is dynamic and is strongly influenced by parents, peers, and media, in addition to other agents. First, students will consider critical approaches to the study of body image including sociocultural and feminist perspectives. They will also examine body image development in childhood, adolescence and adulthood for females and males. Second, students will examine three key industries that convey powerful messages regarding body image: mass media, fashion, and sports culture. They will explore how these messages are gendered and promote the female and male ideals. Third, students will consider how body image can be adjusted in both temporary and permanent ways through body art, weight loss, and surgery. They will examine the relationship between the perception of body image and the altering of appearance as well as the impact of various mental disorder on self-perception.


WGS 3703: Female Heroism in Hollywood
As a “cinema of attractions,” Hollywood action is defined primarily through its sheer excess of visual spectacle. In her introduction to Action and Adventure Cinema (2004), Yvonne Tasker argues that Hollywood is “barely concerned with the narrative dimension” of its action cinema, which is “all but subsumed within the spectacular staging of action sequences employing star bodies, special effects, artful editing and persuasive music” (6-7). She notes that the primary site of meaning in the action film is the body which is ascribed heroic identity through the performance of gender, race, sexuality and class (ibid 8-9). Hollywood has historically preferred white male heroes, presenting non-white and non-male heroes in supportive and often stereotyped roles. Over the past three decades, however, models of heroism have changed and the expansion of positive masculinity has opened up space for the emergence of women as lead protagonists. This course examines conceptual and performative shifts in female heroism in Hollywood genre. Students will engage with various theoretical (feminist theory, feminist film theory, critical race theory) and critical texts discussing the social construction of the female body in American society and cinema, and examine the changing generic parameters through which the female body is considered and constituted heroic. The goal of this course is to explore how the female body is constructed as a locus of heroic identity as it engages dynamically in the male dominated and oriented space of physical action.


WGS 3713: Gender and James Bond
James Bond is the longest-running and most profitable film series in history. With 24 films released across a 50-year period, the series has inspired an unprecedented degree of trans-generational fandom extending across the globe. It is estimated that at least one-quarter of the world’s population have seen a Bond film and millions more are familiar with the James Bond brand through its referencing in books, films, television shows, video games, and music. Given the longevity of the series and its widespread influence, it is important to critically examine the messages being relayed through the series about gender and especially women. This course aims to explore the politics of representation at work in the Bond film franchise. First, students will consider the representation of heroism and villainy in the series. They will focus specifically on the performance and intersectionality of gender, race, class, nationality and sexual orientation. Second, students will examine gendered codes defining the “Bondian” film formula, including aspects of visual style, music, and the role of technology. They will also consider the gendered marketing of the Bond films through the opening credit sequence, movie posters, and secondary market products such as James Bond videogames, comic books, and cartoons. Third, students will explore the problematic representation of women in the Bond film franchise. They will examine four key character types: the Bad Girl, the Bond Girl, M, and Miss Moneypenny. Finally, students will consider how Casino Royale (2006) functions a prequel and effectively reboots the franchise in the new millennium. They will explore how key “Bondian” elements (such as heroic masculinity) have been reframed in the 2000s and consider why producers chose to reframe the film franchise. Ultimately, the goal of this course is to explore the ongoing commercial viability of the James Bond franchise and explore the popular cultural impact of its films.