Popular Culture is literally “the culture of the people,” and popular culture texts can include a variety of things including advertisements, popular fiction, graphic novels, television, film, popular music, magazines, videogames, and increasingly, the internet with sites like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to name a few. Occasionally with popular culture texts that are new and different comes a panic of sorts about how that text threatens society in general or a particular aspect of society – sometimes they’re deemed to possibly cause the downfall of society (to state dramatically). This assignment requires you to find out about a moment in popular culture history when a public scare surrounded a popular
cultural phenomenon. You need to find a moral controversy that has not yet been discussed in the course. For this assignment, you need to find a newspaper or magazine article from the time that your moral panic was happening and then to report about the popular culture production that caused the scare, the circumstances of the scare itself, and then the attitude that the newspaper or magazine seems to be taking about the controversy. Remember, popular culture is NOT a disease or merely an event that took place in American culture – it must be a popular culture text SPECIFICALLY.
There are five major steps to successfully completing this assignment:
- Using the UMB library’s online resources ONLY, you will use keyword searches to locate an article that was written at the time of your “scare” you are researching. Your article can be from a newspaper or magazine published anywhere in the US (but it MUST be from the US.)
- Save an electronic copy of the article as a PDF to hand in (or if you have found your article on microfilm, make a printout. Ask a librarian if you’re not sure how to do this.) Upload your article in the appropriate link titled: Moral Panic Article Upload only. If you do not upload your ARTICLE you will lose 15 points from this assignment. If you do not include a PROPER MLA citation at the end of your write up, you will lose 7.5 points from this assignment.
- Answer the questions on the Moral Panic Assignment sheet to help you get thinking about this assignment. You can find this in the Fieldwork and Research Assignment tab.
- You will need to write a 250-400 word short essay that explains the popular culture production that caused the scare, the circumstances of the scare itself, and then the attitude that the newspaper or magazine seems to be taking about the controversy. In your introduction you should explain where you got the article (so you can use “I,” but the rest of your assignment should have a more historical/ college writing tone.) You will need to upload a copy of your paper and upload your article by the deadline stated in the course shell. Please make sure you upload your paper to the correct link.
*Please note, riots themselves are not moral panics. In the examples where we discussed riots in class, it wasn’t the riots that were the popular culture texts. The riots were the result of a society’s or group of people’s reaction to or translation of tensions in a society (the zoot suit, or hip hop music that suggested the racial tensions experienced by a community).
Moral Panic Assignment Sheet: This handout is for your use only, and to help you start to gather the info you need for this assignment. You do not need to turn it in.
Moral Panic: A moral panic is an intense feeling expressed in a population about an issue that appears to “threaten” the social order.
- Year/date this moral panic occurred:
- Bibliographic Information about the newspaper or magazine you’ve chosen regarding this topic:
Title of article:
- Topic/text you’ve chosen to research: Give some detailed background information about the cause of this scare.
Who: (What portion of the population does this moral panic involve?)
Why: (Elaborate on any other information you think is relevant about this moral panic.)
- What is the tone or the attitude that the newspaper or magazine seems to be taking about the controversy? (In other words, how is the author talking about the moral panic? Does it seem like something that will go away soon? Is the author worried about the long lasting affects?)
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