How to Analyze Visual Media

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If you are analyzing visual media, you should consider the following suggestions to help you organize your notes prior to your writing project.  In any analysis of a television show or film, you will need to use a semiotic approach: observe the signs in the show/film in addition to the particular words of the script.  Pay attention to language (including diction and emotional tone), behavior and appearance of the characters, appearance of the sets, the use of lighting and framing, and the situations in which the characters are placed.  Remember to look for non-verbal signs as well as verbal ones.  Once you have watched the show/film (jotting down observations as you notice them), prepare yourself with the following steps:
  1. List any background information a reader will need.  For example, describe the show/film.  What is the basic plot?  What are the key moments of change?  What is the setting and time period?
  2. List any necessary background on the characters.  For example, describe the main characters using demographic characteristics (age, class, education, gender, ethnicity, etc.), supporting your points with evidence.
  3. List the values or themes supported in the show/film (gender roles, definitions of success, moral/ethical arguments, standards of beauty or happiness, etc.), including the consequences of the charactersí actions.  Use specific examples as evidence.
  4. Describe the intended audience for the show/film, using demographic characteristics.  What evidence led you to conclude this group was the intended audience?
  5. State what this show/film reveals about contemporary culture: values, goals, acceptable roles in society, etc.  List evidence to support your conclusions.
  6. Now turn to your specific writing project.  State your claim/thesis, along with your plan to support it: preview the organization of your writing project.  You may find that you have more information prepared from steps 1-5 than you will need for the final project: you are not obligated to use every observation you have made, but you will find any writing project much easier if you have plenty of options (as opposed to scrambling to review the show/film to find more evidence at the last minute).