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PWR 1KTA: "That's Entertainment!" The Rhetoric of Hollywood's Inequities

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In almost all employment categories in the entertainment industry, White males continue to over-index. Organizations like the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media have approached solutions from a non-adversarial angle. The Women’s Media Action Coalition supports litigation as one of a number of proactive solutions. How is Hollywood ever to rid itself of its deep inequities? Perhaps more importantly, what is the impact of its oppressive practices on audiences? How do these practices shape larger social and political concerns?

In this course, students will investigate Hollywood’s inequities and the impact on beliefs, employment opportunities, and our daily lives. Students will individually research topics that matter to them personally and write important argumentative texts addressing often overlooked aspects of show business-as-usual. Students may incorporate into their coursework publications we will review as a class including The Arduous Ride(r) to Inclusion, Bias and the Business of Show: Employment Discrimination in the ‘Entertainment’ Industry, and Women’s Media Summit White Paper on Gender Inequality in Film and Television along with videos Whitewashing: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) and Yellowface Rock!

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) For this first assignment, students will each choose a short text about inequities in or via Hollywood that particularly resonates, such as Lupita Nyong'o’s account of her experiences with Harvey Weinstein, a news article about the 2018 Bill Cosby sentencing, a transcript of Terry Crews discussing his sexual assault lawsuit, or Jean Kilbourne’s So Sexy So Soon. Students will analyze the ways in which their selection is and is not persuasive to its target audience in the manner the author intends.

Texts in Conversation Essay

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) To prepare for the Research-Based Argument, students will explore the major issues surrounding their unique research question about Hollywood inequities. After constructing an annotated bibliography, each student will write an essay that summarizes sources' arguments, puts authors’ viewpoints into dialogue with one another, and explores the questions raised. In studying these multiple perspectives, students will gain insights into the landscape their own research-based arguments will enter. A student may, for example, in seeking to understand disability discrimination in Hollywood subsequently research positions of major influencers: California and federal law, lobbyists, data, advocacy, activists.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) In this essay, students will make unique arguments based upon the research conducted and the insights developed in their Texts in Conversation Essay. A student might, for example, have researched violations of law and inadequate enforcement mechanisms within Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s template Inclusion Rider or perhaps the impact of celebrity on whose voices are prioritized in the landscape. This research might then be followed by an argument about which mechanisms for leveling the playing field are appropriate or that celebrity status itself needs to be dismantled if equality is ever to be achieved in American society. Students are encouraged to then publish their insights in the appropriate venue.