Ideological Criticism, Cultural Studies & Production Studies (Discussion)

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Decoding (or reading) a text

Groups 6 & 2

  1. Perform a dominant-hegemonic decoding of My So-Called Life. What would be the result of your reading in terms of representations of gender and sexuality, ethnicity, and youth (vs. middle age)?

Group 3

  1. Perform a oppositional decoding of My So-Called Life. What would be the result of your reading in terms of representations of gender and sexuality, ethnicity, and youth (vs. middle age)?

Group 4

  1. Perform a negotiated decoding of My So-Called Life. What would be the result of your reading in terms of representations of gender and sexuality, ethnicity, and youth (vs. middle age)?

Groups 5 & 1

  1. What do you feel is the preferred reading of this episode? What is the preferred reading in terms of representations of gender and sexuality, ethnicity, and youth (vs. middle age)? ("Hall and others often presume that the preferred reading encoded on the text by the television apparatus will be from the dominant position," but in this case it probably is not.)

Readings from Thompson & Mittell, How to Watch Television

  1. Group 3: How does Daniel Marcus define "nostalgia" in "The Wonder Years: Televised Nostalgia"? Thinking back to our discussion of semiotics, what do you think he means by "denotative authority" and "connotative authority"? What effect does this connotative authority have on the ideological decoding/reading of The Wonder Years—especially in regard to the pilot episode we viewed?
  2. Groups 4 & 5: In "I Love Lucy: The Writer-Producer," Miranda J. Banks lists five things for which I Love Lucy is "celebrated." In addition to these, what significant shift in the behind-the-scenes TV-production hierarchy does she identify? What new title did this result in and which unheralded individual associated with I Love Lucy fit this title? Why was the Screen Writers Guild wary of this development? How does the episode we viewed play out what Miranda Banks calls the show's "basic plot idea"?
  3. Groups 1 & 6: In "Modern Family: Product Placement," Kevin Sandler specifies two distinct attitudes toward the iPad's inclusion in the "Game Changer" episode. Summarize these "attitudes". Which do you think is correct and why? Also, how have technological changes necessitated marketing changes that affect narrative? What new techniques have you yourself noticed in TV advertising—especially in online services such as Hulu and YouTube?
  4. Groups 2: In "Modern Family: Product Placement," Kevin Sandler refers to Timothy Havens and Amanda D. Lotz's "industrialization of culture” framework as a way to understand the relationship between art and commerce in TV production. Explain Havens/Lotz's use of these terms: "mandates, conditions, and practices". How can these terms be used to explain the iPad's product placement in "Game Changer"? What is James Grant Hay's assessment of the episode and do you agree with it?


List two strength(s) of ideological criticism, cultural studies and/or production studies. List two weaknesses of these approaches. Answers in boldface are the best ones. Email them to .

  • Group 1 on production studies:
    • S: (1) Studying the production of television shows helps the audience find out what the preferred reading is. (2) Allows audience to see the production side of television and how it's used and integrated into the story
    • W: (1) Don't have to take into consideration the economic or social attitudes of the time (example: Modern Family with technological advantages). (2) Takes focus away from the actual text itself
  • Group 2 on Stuart Hall:
    • S: (1) More freedom to interpret a show yourself through Encoding/Decoding. (2) Easier to identify how a episode of a TV show was intended to be understood and compare that to what people are getting out of it that are watching the show.
    • W: (1) Trying to understand a show in one particular way may limit the understandings of a show, because sometimes multiple meanings can be encoded. (2) Encoding/Decoding has created a standard that may force production companies to try and create a meaning behind everything they produce.
  • Group 3 on Stuart Hall:
    • S: (1) It allows for more critical inspection or analysis that goes beyond aesthetics of a tv show. You can draw your own meaning. (2) If there's multiple ideology analysis you have multiple ways to look at things
    • W: (1) Silences contrary ideologies (2) It’s difficult to avoid being biased and any ideological analysis will be hinged on the critics point of view
  • Group 4 on production studies:
    • S: (1) economics of production will influence the storytelling capabilities, so production studies can help us understand the full meaning. (2) Knowing the modes of production common to certain areas can help identify where real innovation happened and help ground an analysis. (Can't compare I love Lucys cinematography to Game of Thrones without talking about cameras available)
    • W: (1) Audiences may not care how something was made to add meaning. (like death of the author concept in literature) (2) It's hard to know all about a production unless you're actually there because the press story will be different from actuality.
  • Group 5 on Stuart Hall:
    • S: (1) Being able to view shows in the context they were created can allow for greater understanding than when they were initially aired. (2) Nostalgia driven programs like The Wonder Years were created with a lens that its almost impossible to recreate today
    • W: (1) Its inherently subjective. (2) Once time passes, media isn't looked at through its original lens, its viewed more as what the then current viewers see
  • Group 6 on Stuart Hall:
    • S: (1) There are multiple decoding positions employed- multiple approaches. (2) Some people subside majority (dominant hegemonic) to avoid conflict.
    • W: (1) Not everyone accepts the concepts of Marxist foundations. (2) More people stand negotiable hegemonic b/c they don't to be on one side or another


  1. Jeremy G. Butler, Television: Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture (NY: Routledge, 2018).
  2. Ethan Thompson & Jason Mittell, eds., How to Watch Television (NY: NYU Press, 2013):
    1. Miranda J. Banks, “I Love Lucy: The Writer-Producer,” 244-252
    2. Kevin Sandler, “Modern Family: Product Placement”, 253-261
    3. Daniel Marcus, “The Wonder Years: Televised Nostalgia,” 223-231