How to compare Ideology to NFL Games
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Assignment 3: Ideology
1. Watch the assigned television show. 2. Read one of the following essays. 3. Read my notes. 4. Write a paper following the directions provided on this page.
This week’s TV show
This week’s TV show is NFL football (regular season)
pick a game of your choice from week 1
Ideology is confusing. I explain ideology as a the collection of values or preferences shared by a group of people. An ideological group shares a dominant ideology. Let’s take another look at these binary oppositions:
The people who believe in the dominant ideology of a group will generally agree that these binary oppositions should be resolved. They agree on what “masculinity” means within the group; they agree on what “femininity” means to the group. The members of the dominant ideology share values and preferences on how binary oppositions should be resolved.
Accordingly, the mass media teaches the members of the culture the dominant ideology by teaching them how to resolve the binary oppositions and what rewards and punishments are associated with how the binary oppositions are resolved.
Now I am borrowing from John Fiske and Stuart Hall and many other scholars. People within the dominant ideology agree with how a program resolves the binary oppositions within the story line. Other people may disagree with the resolution and disagree with the ideology–be in opposition to the dominant ideology. Some people may negotiate a position within the ideology. Others, may find a position on the margins of the ideology.
I will use marriage as an example.
In American culture, the dominant ideological position is for a man and woman to be in love, to have sex and child, and raise a family in a state of marriage. This is the dominant or the preferred position. People who agree with this statement accept the dominant ideology and are rewarded by society, the law, and their friends.
However, we accept many other relationships as being acceptable within our culture, but not dominant. These negotiated positions will be punished. Among the negotiated positions within our dominant ideology are:
Dating, particularly if the couple is in love, but not financially ready for marriage.
Choosing a celibate life.
The couple being of the same gender.
A male and female living together outside marriage.
A man or a woman who is not in a relationship, but seeks out sexual partners.
People who chose to live alone.
People in total oppositional positions will be more socially isolated or even arrested.
People who prefer polygamy.
People who chose relationships with children.
People who chose partners through violence, like rape.
As you can see, our culture has one dominant ideological position, many less acceptable cultural positions, and some positions that will land you in jail. However, there are attempts within our culture to establish other dominant ideologies. In isolated parts of the western U.S., groups have formed their own communities based on polygamy. I am sure there are still a few communes around where people in the community share sexual partners. The biggest ideological conflict is over the role of homosexual marriage within our culture and law.
Among competing groups, the binary oppositions change little. Definitions change.
As I said in the previous reading, television teaches the audience how to resolve binary oppositions, according to the producers of the television show, by rewarding the people who demonstrate the proper behavior and by punishing the improper behavior. Television is the dominant means for teaching ideology in American society.
Another tool for cultural assimilation is the school system, which helps teach students what is preferred and what is not. I require you to write your papers according to the preferred standards of the English language. If you violate those standards, I will dock your grade. If you cannot meet those standards, I can give you a zero. I am teaching and enforcing dominant ideology.
Football is an ideological conflict between two teams. The winner will be preferred; the heroes will be preferred. The loser will be punished throughout the week by the media and fans. The players whose mistakes lead to victory for the other team will be punished for their errors by being denied respect by the people who follow football. They were less masculine and more feminine by extension than the heroes and the winners.
The TV commenators will be a veteran sportscaster (like Jim Nantz) and a former NFL player and football expert (like Phil Simms). They will present the players in binary oppositions. The binary oppositions will be the coaches, the opposing quarterbacks, the offenses and defensives, the stars from the two teams, and finally the fans of the opposing teams.. The sportscaster does the play by play and then feeds the question to the ex-football player. The expert is a former player or coach who has been a hero, victor, and winner. Based on the game, the expert identifies the heroes and explains how they were heroes; the expert identifies the losers and how they failed.
Networks will have these camera positions so that it can present the binary oppositions. The teams line up and the camera will be a wide shot from a high angle so that we can see the whole play. There will be a camera trained on the quarterback, others on the running backs, and others on the wide receivers. There will be a camera on the key defensive player. There will be cameras on the sidelines. There will be cameras viewing the game from each end zone. When the play is over, the network will show us the play again in slow motion during the 45 seconds that the team huddles. We will see the hero–offense or defense–being heroic by being more masculine than the opposition players. The former NFL player will explain to us what this happens, informing us who was the hero and who was the loser.
Questions asked from the perspective of binary oppositions:
What is the primary binary opposition set up during the football? Usually these are the coaches and the quarterbacks. What are the secondary binary oppositions? Wide receivers and running backs versus the best defensive players. Or, coach vs. coach.
You don’t need to count, but how many times were these binary oppositions presented during the course of the game?
Did the announcers identify the heroes or the losers? How did they present the position of the dominant ideology?
Pay attention to how the commentators use superlatives? Words like great, fantastic, all-time, totally fooled, totally outmatched, etc.
What role did the camera shots play? Did the shots show the heroes and the losers?
Applying ideology to NFL football
Section 1: Summarize the game in one paragraph, i.e., no more than half of a page. We all watched a game. 10 points
Section 2: Explain the theory. Tell me which parts of ideology theory (the reading and my notes) you are going to use and how you are going to apply the theory to this show. 10 points
Section 3: Critique the announcers and the game presentation from the perspective of ideology. 20 points
Section 4: Your conclusion should be a logical result of what you have said in the first three sections of the paper. This is not a football paper about who won and why. This is a paper on how the television presentation fit with the theory of binary oppositions. Your conclusion should be based on your critique.
Your conclusion should not be a personal opinion, but a logically developed conclusion based on ideology theory. This is not a football paper. Do not tell me why the winning team won the game or do any game analysis unless it is directly connected to your analysis of the ideology.
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