Framing is arguably one of the most crucial concepts our students can learn. Framing and social construction are inextricably connected processes. Only when you understand how frames are used to manipulate (and create) the public’s perception can you fully critically analyze social issues. If you don’t understand framing, it’s really easy to be taken by a well crafted message, regardless of how warranted and measured its claims are.
The problem is, students struggle with the concept. Framing is almost a meta-process. It’s something that often happens in between the lines. When done well it’s subtle and covert.
In class I will show my students a commercial, or some other curated message, and together we critically analyze each piece of the message. We work together to identify all of the symbols and frames used. Slowly, one by one, the class begins to nod along as we go through it until finally most of the class leans back in their chairs and smiles that, “A ha!” smile. However, the moment I ask them to do it on their own they struggle to see anything beyond the surface message.
The deep analysis of cultural messages is hard to teach and hard to learn precisely because cultural messages and frames hide in plain sight. So instead of starting the learning process by trying to give students the eyes to see their surround in new ways, I think it’s better to start with something much easier to see and then try to bring the skills gained back to the student’s everyday life.
I Need Your Help
The activity I am about to tell you about I’ve never been tried before. Unlike most posts on SociologySource, I won’t be talking about a project that worked smashingly for me. Rather, this is a call to our readers for help. I see a problem, I have an idea for a solution, and I need YOUR help to execute it.
Using Cover Songs to Teach Framing
Music provides a handy metaphor for framing. When a band or artist covers a previously popular song in a way that is all together different it demonstrates how the same base material can be framed in very different ways to create starkly contrasting affects. At the end of this post I have some examples of just the sort of covers I am talking about.
I want to design a simple in-class (and/or homework) assignment that asks students to read a bit about issue framing and then analyze two starkly different versions of the same song.
Here’s What I Need
- Song Recommendations.
- A great, short, intro level article or piece about issue framing.
Help me find songs that have dramatically different versions between the original and the cover version. The Holy Grail would be a song with two versions that are diametrically opposed. For instance a song that is very stereotypically masculine and aggressive paired with a version that is stereotypically feminine and passive. I’m looking for contradictory versions of songs that illustrate a sociological concept (gender, race, class, sexuality, etc.)
I have never found a concise discussion of framing that I’ve liked for an intro level class. It’s a complex idea that is hard to succinctly describe in simple terms. If you have an article or short piece that you’ve had success with I’d love to read it.
Want to help?
All contributors will be given credit by name. Thanks in advance!
Below are just a few examples. The original version followed by the cover.
“WHIP MY HAIR”
Artist: Willow Smith
Artist: Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young) feat Bruce Springsteen
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Artist: Johnny Cash
Artist: Elvis Presley
Artist: Dwight Yoakam
This song is a giant guilty pleasure of mine. The repeating guitar hook gets me every time. And I love how instead of saying, “I can’t walk out” Yoakam says, “iKaWaOu” in one syllable. My mother is an Elvis fanatic, she named our 3 cats Elvis, Pricilla, and Colonel Parker. TMI? ↩