CMWKSE – Culture Identity




Watch “Changes,” an episode of the U.S. television sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” paying particular attention to how the show discusses race, gender, and social class issues. Think about which aspects of cultural and critical theory relate to how different kinds of people “understand” the meaning of the show. Keep an eye out, too, for the iconography of the era in the signs and symbols and photographs displayed in the background of the scenes.

Some questions for your response:

1. What kind of “social knowledge” does the program assume you have about the work world? Who is in charge? Who has power?

2. This program came on the air in 1982, what were some of the stereotypical assumptions about white salesmen and African Americans?

3. The show plays with the notions of “self-concept” that we discussed earlier in this class. Why do two of the characters question their self-concept? How are their self-concept issues “resolved” through interactions?

4. This show is very much about presentation and representation of meanings done by the media. The media create programs to make money by attracting viewers. What do the iconography of the era in the signs, symbols and photographs displayed in the show suggest? What is the overall message of the show — what is it trying to teach the audience? What would a cultural studies or critical scholar say about this program’s message in terms of using representations in a way the audience will find both appealing and true?

5. What TV or online shows are there today that attempt to “teach” the audience in a supportive and entertaining manner about social and racial identities and relationships? What TV shows use stereotypes in a way that hurts the power of the people being represented? In other words, are some people being represented for the audience simply to mock?


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