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IDEAS - A Media Analysis Battery

from Sean Cavazos-Kottke/Language Arts, Gifted/Talented Specialist/Tomball High School


A battery is a set of questions that you have to answer to accomplish some task, like getting into a secret clubhouse or winning a scholarship for college. Below is the Media Analysis Battery, a series of questions to think about when you are confronted with a media product, like a movie, TV show or advertisement. Always begin by asking yourself "What is my first response to this work?" First impressions are always strong and rarely off-base. Then, ask yourself the series of questions that are presented below. They will challenge you to look carefully into the work to discover what it is that caused your initial response. Your task this year will be to take this series of questions and write short (1-2 page) critiques of a variety of media products, using your answers to these questions as raw materials for creating your answer. Let's look closer at the Media Analysis Battery and use the movie The Breakfast Club as an example.

Identify the product - What is it?
The first stage in applying the MAB to a media product is to identify it. Give as much information as you can to identify what the product is. Some sample questions, with answers for our example product, are given below to get you started.
What is the product's official name? (The Breakfast Club)
What is its medium? (movie)
What is its genre? (teen comedy/drama)
When did it come out? (1985)
What's it about? (When five students are thrown together by Saturday morning detention, each begins to see the others apart from their stereotypes. Andrew, the jock; Brian, the geek; John, the wastoid; Claire, the popular Prom Queen; and Allison, the psycho girl; each finds qualities about the others that make the Saturday morning change their lives.)

Determine the target audience - Who was it made for and why?
The second stage of analyzing a media product involves determining the target audience for the product. To whom is this product directed, and how do you know? Then ask yourself why - what reasons do you think the creators had for making this product and gearing it toward that particular audience? Give as many details as you can here.
Who is the intended audience for this product? (suburban teenagers, both boys and girls, probably white, middle class)
How do you know? What characteristics of the product appeal to (or attempt to appeal to) the target audience? (The characters are all from that group; they talk about home and school situations that would be familiar to that group, such as trying to be popular, peer pressure and parental pressure to get good grades & fit in; the movie is set in a high school, and it also uses popular music that would appeal to teenagers.)
What messages, ideas or themes does the product seem to convey to its target audience? (The movie doesn't have a lot of product placement, so it doesn't seem geared to selling any particular products to teenagers; it does try to convey the message that "you can't judge a book by its cover," which would be a
helpful message for teenagers to live by, especially after Columbine, when teens were killed just for belonging to particular groups, not for anything specific that they did to the killers.)

Examine the origin - Who made it?
This stage involves delving below the surface to examine the people and institutions responsible for producing the work. Giving a little history behind the people involved and what kinds of products you would expect them to create is also good to include at this stage.

English IV