Identity & Popular Culture

Designed for anyone who has ever taken an online quiz to determine if they are a Stark or a Lannister, a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff, this critical media studies course explores the relationship between popular media and identity—examining how popular media produces, affirms, negotiates, and (sometimes) subverts traditional notions of identity. We will look critically at representations of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, and spirituality across a range of different media genres—television, film, video games, and toys.  


We will look at historical texts and franchises like Star Trek or Doctor Who; children’s media such as Disney films, cartoons, and toys; video games like the Dragon Age series, Minecraft, and a variety of console and independent games; and contemporary television shows like Dear White People, Modern Family, Rick and Morty, and The Handmaid’s Tale. We will look not only at the media objects themselves but at the cultures and practices that grow up around them, discussing the activities of media audiences and consumers through the theoretical paradigm of Fan Studies. By the end of the class, students will have read and applied basic theories of film analysis and cultural studies to address questions such as: How do popular media function in everyday life? What role does it play in how we see ourselves, others, and the world around us? Do media simply reflect culture or shape it?

Academic Director

Darlene Hampton

Darlene Hampton is an academic advisor in the University of Notre Dame's First Year of Studies (FYS) and holds the rank of assistant professional specialist. She primarily advises students who intend to pursue majors in the College of Arts and Letters.

Hampton received Bachelor's degrees in both Theatre Arts and English Literature from the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR where she went on to earn both Master's and Doctoral degrees in English with a concentration in Film and Media Studies. Her scholarly work is focused on the study of gender and the representation, practices, and cultures of media fans. Using largely discourse analysis and theories of performance, she explores the significant role that mass media texts play in both American culture and our own lives as individuals and members of communities. She examines media fan practices as sites of cultural work and identity performance and is particularly interested in the relationship between patriarchal and post-feminist ideologies of gender and the valuing and policing of fan practices in the public sphere.

Hampton joined First Year Studies in the summer of 2015. In addition to her work as an academic advisor, she holds concurrent faculty appointments in American Studies and Film, Television, and Theatre where she enjoys teaching courses on gender, media, and fan cultures. Her current research focuses on both the significance of gendered representations of media fans and the role of social networking technologies such as Tumblr on the evolution of fan practices and cultures.