The Lens used in my semiotic analysis will be “family relations” in the Simpsons.How are they depicted? And how morals and life values emphasized? Please read the attached file well. Two of my cited sources will be two episodes of the Simpsons.
Fall Semester 2015
Semiotic Analysis of a Television Show
Issue: After discussing the steps necessary to review a text, we’ve spent a great deal of time
discussing how to analyze it. To that end, we’ve read several essays that deconstruct television
shows in efforts to expose implicit messages that the show conveys. For example, Curtis and
Erion showed that South Park champions the democratic process by lampooning extremist or
intolerant viewpoints. More often than not, these essays show what those messages in turn
reveal about the audience that watches them. Matheson asserts that the show’s popularity
proved society’s love for “a humor of cruelty and condescension.”
In each case, these essays applied elements of the semiotic method, which involves finding
“meaning in the way we can relate things together.” This is done by asking questions – looking
for signs, making meaning of them, and showing what this meaning says about our system of
values (and their accompanying cultural mythologies).
This is your opportunity to contribute to this societal discussion by selecting your own television
show in order to find significance that moves beyond mere entertainment. You will closely
examine what’s seen and heard on the screen in order to find meaning from the show, showing
us what this in turn says about us – the culture that watches it.
Assignment: Write an essay in which you conduct a semiotic analysis of a television show. Use
one of the essays we have in class, either as a critical lens or a model.
In this analysis you will examine at least two particular episodes of the show, seeking clues
(signs) as to what makes the show interesting, popular, or successful. Using signs from the
show as clues, show us the primary messages of the text.
Once you have done so, you must effectively place your analysis in a broader context. In other
words, show us what your analysis says about those who watch this particular TV show.
You must also incorporate evidence from at least two additional sources that shed light on
aspects of your argument such as (but not limited to) the show’s history or content, general
Step 1(Research): Select a television show. Choose one that is relatively recent (i.e. one that
was in production as of 2011), and that you find interesting. It will help to choose one that is
accessible online (Hulu, Netflix, network sites) or through rental (The VT Library has numerous
DVD’s.), so that you can watch it multiple times if necessary.
Step 2 (Episode Analysis): Watch at least two episodes. Pay attention to character, plot, and
message. Take notes, knowing that the details will later be evidence to support your
arguments. I recommend watching each of the episodes you select at least twice.
Step 3 (Find a Lens): Look through the readings of this unit. Which one helps you best
understand the context for your television show? Why?
Step 3 (Finding Signs and Making Connections): Connect your notes about character, plot,
or message to the ideologies and/or mythologies of a society. Try to connect your observations
Fall Semester 2015
to essays we have read. Here are some possible questions to consider: What ethics are
present? Do you find a moral center within the show’s plot points? Where? What kind of
humor exists? Is there ample use of, for instance, hyper-irony? Is a certain political position
espoused? What is the show’s overriding philosophy?
Remember, you are writing towards classifying your show as a political or social vehicle that
makes a specific point about the ways in which our society should work (or is working). Also,
you need to read “between the lines.” What are the subtle messages the author/creator
attempts to get across and how does this happen?
Elements that need to be included in the essay:
• A detailed description of the television show, the environment in which it has been created,
and primary and secondary demographics to which the show is designed to appeal
• Focused, extensive denotations of character and plot which call to attention clear signs that
exist within the text
• Thoughtful connotations which adequately provide explanation as to what messages those
signs convey to their audience
• A sufficient number of examples from at least two episodes of the show to support the
• Substantial, sustained connections made between these connotations and at least one of
the essays we have read on this subject
• A significant theory that attempts to ascribe political significance to these messages,
illustrating what it reveals about the TV show and in turn about the audience that watches it
• Incorporation of at least three other sources other than the TV show or theoretical text (no
Wikipedia Entries, please)
• At least 6 typed, double-spaced pages in 12-pt. font
• MLA format with a Works Cited page
• A paragraph that details your topic must be submitted to Scholar by Tuesday, October
• Draft 1 is due on Tuesday, November 3
Essay 3 Rubric
Fall Semester 2015
Excellent Good Satisfactory Fair Poor
1. Subject: The essay successfully provides a
semiotic analysis of a popular television show
2. Subject: The essay deals particularly with a
recent television show. The reader becomes
familiar with the background of the show’s
creation. The reader understands the show’s
characters, plot, and reoccurring themes.
3. Narrative Detail: Two particular episodes of
that show are discussed. Sufficient detail is
provided to give the reader a thorough
understanding as to what happens in the
course of these shows. This detail is provided
in a professional manner that enables reader
and author to sufficiently deconstruct the
4. Evidence: The author uses sound reasoning
and evidence (observations of the shows and
outside sources also, if necessary) as evidence
to support his/her argument.
5. Semiotic Analysis/ Interpretation: There is a
thorough, well-reasoned semiotic analysis of
the show. By using signs from the show as
clues, the analysis provides an understanding
of the show’s inherent messages. The essay
illustrates the primary political, moral, and/or
ethical messages that are inherent in the show
and what these messages in turn say about the
show’s primary audience.
6. Conclusion: The conclusions are rational and
insightful. They reveal that which is not
evident to one not familiar with the show
and/or its context.
7. Paragraph Organization: The essay flows
from beginning to end in complete, clearly
arranged paragraphs. It has clear organization.
When appropriate, transitions are used to
8. Style: Within paragraphs, the sentences flow
well. There is an appropriate tone and
engaging language style. The prose is
consistent with college-level writing
9. Grammar: There are few grammar errors.
There are no misspelled words.
10. Format: The essay is formatted correctly
according to MLA specifications. It is written
in accordance with the assignment logistics.
The essay has been presented in a professional
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