This course introduces students to the study of media with particular emphasis on film studies and gender representations within media. After an overview on various aspects of media history, media theory, and media analysis, we will focus on selected episodes of one of the most popular and most successful American TV series, Modern Family (2009-2020). In this mockumentary sitcom, a camera team accompanies the three households of a family in suburban Los Angeles. In the individual episodes of the series, storylines of different family members or households with the same, similar or interrelated problems are woven together. The resolution of the plot knot(s) at the end of each episode reveals a moral to the viewer, which, however, often remains hidden from the characters themselves. The circular dramaturgy of the series is just as typical of the sitcom format as its stereotyped characters. However, the characters repeatedly break out of the roles assigned to them and oscillate between opposite poles (e.g. macho/softie, female/male, emotional/rational or childlike/adult) depending on the situations they find themselves in. Episodes end with the characters’ relapse into their stereotypes, which restores the status quo and prevents them from learning something new and evolving. By playing with the audience’s viewing habits and expectations, the series’ creators reflect on the consumption and production of media in general and TV series in particular. Therefore, the study of Modern Family allows for both the application of film analysis and its analysis from a meta-level. Although the course focuses on a TV series, the students will be provided with a toolkit to critically analyze media productions in general and from various angles.
Readings and material:
A selection of texts will be provided; the series is partly available on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ and can be provided on DVD.
The introductory part of the course will be accompanied by readings and small writing assignments, students will give a presentation in class and write a short essay.