We are in the midst of a Digital Revolution that many scholars find comparable in scope to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, which transformed the Western world.

Indeed, it was not so long ago that the Internet and social media were heralded as revolutionary social justice resources for new dimensions of participatory democracy, which allowed for marginalized and oft-suppressed voices to be heard in a public forum.

Yet, as revelations of large scale manipulation emerge regarding the 2016 US presidential election including disinformation, surveillance, data collection and microtargeting by marketers, data resource corporations, political organizations and foreign governments, it becomes increasingly evident that there is an urgent need for courses which teach or incorporate critical media/digital studies.

Loosely defined, critical media literacy involves teaching students to think critically about “the ways media texts are produced, constructed and consumed” as well as to provide skills that help them recognize messages encoded in media/digital texts, many of which are not consciously perceived.

It is within this context that it is essential that students learn to critically engage media within the discourse of media itself.  And in GS 149 Media: Gender, Race, Class & Sexuality, 40 students, many with no previous production experience, learn how to apply critical media studies to co-productions of short documentary style productions as their final projects for the course.

Although I admit to some bias, I believe that the results have been remarkable and invite you to review the titles and descriptions of these projects as well as view and share any of these.

Rhonda Hammer, Lecturer


Winter 2019 - Gender Studies 149 Media: Gender, Race, Class & Sexuality

Cis-temic Transgender Representation in Film


Producer: Madison Clark

Director: Kristina Carmickle

Archival Footage: Madison Clark

Editor: Kristina Carmickle

Writer & Narrator: Madison Clark


Running Time: 5 minutes and 16 seconds


An exploration of the representation of transgender roles in all genres of film, focused primarily on the casting of cisgender actors as transgender characters. While some may argue that it is an actor’s job to portray different roles, there is a lack of opportunity for transgender actors globally. One of the most important jobs as an actor is to portray the role as accurately as possible. Therefore, more transgender actors should be considered when casting for transgender roles in films to properly portray roles in an accurate and authentic manner. This short documentary looks at the dynamics of casting and the effects of how film influences the societal existence of transgender people.

When Women Rule: A Paradigm Shift in America’s Political Sphere


Producer: Natasha Ray

Director: Ariana Chavez

Editor: Grace Stevens

Interviewer: Isabella Mullen

Running Time: 9 minutes 48 seconds


This documentary explores the relationship between women politicians and the mediaspecifically within the framework of the 2018 midterm elections. When Women Rule: A Paradigm Shift in America’s Political Sphere sheds light on how political representation is transforming. Representation is of vital importance to a functional democracy. Political women are represented in the media in ways that portray them differently than men. Regardless, this moment in time is proving to be a pivotal moment in history for political representation with more than 100 women being elected to Congress in the recent midterm elections. These numbers have shattered records, laying a foundation for radical change—change America so desperately needs.

Autism in the Media: Beyond Rain Man



Producer: Mackie Lorkis

Director: Soli Rachwal

Archival Footage: Mackie Lorkis

Editor: Soli Rachwal


Running Time : 8 minutes and 55 seconds


Using interviews with PhD researchers and actors with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), this short documentary examines how characters with ASD in American film and TV do not accurately represent the autistic community in the United States. These characters are frequently heterosexual white men, despite the fact that ASD diagnoses occur in every race, gender, and socioeconomic class. The portrayals of characters with ASD also tend to be speaking. The relative homogeneity of representations can create limited expectations for what ASD should “look like”, when in reality it is a spectrum disorder. Every person’s autism is entirely idiosyncratic, and mass media should reflect these distinctions.

More Than an Athlete



Produced and Directed by: Stephanie Mercado, Lanea Tuiasosopo, Ivanna Gamboa, Brittany  Tuliau, and Gabriela Gonzalez

Editor: Stephanie Mercado

Camera: Ivanna Gamboa and Lanea Tuiasosopo

Sound: Brittany Tuliau

Archival Footage/B-Roll: Stephanie Mercado, Lanea Tuiasosopo, Ivanna Gamboa, Brittany Tuliau, and Gabriela Gonzalez


Running Time: 10 min.


This short film addresses the high significance that sports carry in American culture as well as the commoditization of professional and collegiate athletes. Colin Kaepernick is an athlete that has sparked attention by the media most recently to protest the inequalities that still exist in the United States today and carried out by many athletes following. More Than an Athlete critiques the dominant ideological views that athletes serve primarily as entertainment and have been told to stay silent when it comes to their political opinions. Kaepernick was not the first in speaking out to address these problematic issues, as well as those that arise from the commodification of black bodies (Bunche, Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, etc.) and now has inspired both professional and collegiate athletes to also act in solidarity in their own teams.


Interviewees: Josh Woods, Kaiya McCullough, Patricia A. Turner (Senior Dean of the College and Dean/Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education)

Representation of Women in Horror Films: Slasher



Producer: Lily Tonucci, Irene Ramos

Director: Megan King

Archival Footage: Megan King, Gillian Moore

Editor: Gillian Moore

Writer & Narrator: Lily Tonucci, Irene Ramos


Running Time: 6 minutes and 30 seconds


An exploration of the reputation of women in the horror film genre, specifically within slasher films, which will analyze the glorification and fetishization of abused, tortured, and slaughtered female bodies. This short documentary primarily focuses on the dynamics of casting and the effects of how this genre influences the hyper-sexualization of the female body and sexist portrayals of women as frail, helpless victims. Furthermore, it will discuss films that both perpetuate this toxic fetish, as well as the films that promote female empowerment examined through more of a feminist framework. Ultimately, Slasher aims to promote an intersectional viewpoint of women, discussing their unique experiences of sexism by race, class, ability, and sexuality in order to reduce the derogatory portrayal that women have been plagued with through not only horror films, but all forms of media.

The American Epidemic: School Shootings



Producer: Danielle Singer

Directors: Dasha Kalekina, Kathy Orellana, Paris Rivera, Danielle Singer

Editor: Danielle Singer

Script Writers: Dasha Kalekina, Kathy Orellana, Paris Rivera, Danielle Singer

Interviewers: Dasha Kalekina, Kathy Orellana, Danielle Singer

B-Role/Footage: Dasha Kalekina, Kathy Orellana, Paris Rivera, Danielle Singer

Narration: Danielle Singer


Running Time: TBD – will be around 10 minutes.


Our country has been taken over by an epidemic. School shootings have become more widespread and common in this day and age and are getting more common every year. Our documentary takes a closer look into a deeper issue in our society: how toxic masculinity helps fuel violence that leads to these shootings. We will also look into the Parkland students’ activism and the impact that they are making with a call to action.


Your voice matters – go and vote for politicians that can help stop this epidemic!


Pretty Ugly: The Beauty Industry’s Issue with Diversity



Produced and Directed by Ashley Gan and Emily Luong

Script and Narration: Emily Luong

Editor: Ashley Gan

B-Roll Collection: Emily Luong

Interviewers: Ashley Gan and Emily Luong


Running Time: Approximately 10 minutes


The beauty industry has systematically excluded people of color for years in product formulation, advertisements, and social media representation. Now, as a wave of diversity and inclusivity initiatives permeate the landscape, companies must adhere to inclusive policies to avoid public scrutiny. However, this brings about the issue of performative diversity--or inclusivity being performed for the sake of business, rather than with good intentions. Our documentary explores the beauty industry’s issue with racial justice and diversity, over the ages and into the present day


Interviewees: Celia Feramisco and Rachel Ricketts

AlieNation: Asylum-Seekers in the Media



Directors: Bryan Acosta, Gabriela Cornejo and Katia Kiston

Writers: Gabriela Cornejo and Katia Kiston

Producers: Gabriela Cornejo and Katia Kiston

Editor: Bryan Acosta



Running Time: 10 minutes


The United States of America has a notorious history of “otherizing” groups of people who do not meet the standards of an American citizen—a loosely defined ideal in itself. Today, immigrants and asylum-seekers, in particular, have become the recent target. The global refugee crisis has magnified immigration as a pressing issue worth addressing for politicians, many of whom—particularly those with populist and nationalist platforms—engage with these issues with fear and contempt. This short documentary explores the ongoing national debate on asylum-seekers and demystifies popular misconceptions about asylum-seekers and why they migrate. 

Colorism: Black Womxn in Media



Producer and Director: Jazz Broughton 

Editor: Tyree Edmondson 

Camera/Sound: Tyree Edmondson and Josh Wariboko

Archival Footage/B-Roll: Jazz Broughton and Tyree Edmondson

Interviewers: Tyree Edmondson and Jazz Broughton 


Running Time:  9 minutes


It is imperative that we recognize the institutions in place that sustain and normalize power relations on the basis of identity contingencies and intersectionalities such as gender, race, and class. Specifically, we want to analyze “colorism” which privileges light‐skinned people of color over those with a darker complexion. This short documentary will analyze the role of colorism within the institution of media, particularly regarding African American womxn in Hollywood. Through interviews, video snippets, and other compositions, we will be exemplifying the consequences of colorism within media: where it stems from, and the impact that it has on both opportunities for dark skinned womxn in Hollywood and the audiences who watch.


Interviewees: Angela Barber, Mikhael Johnson, and Jendi Samai 


An Analysis of Mental Illness in the Media



Directors: Jeana Cho, Caitlin Doyle, Jesse Leigh, Melica Khorassani

Producer: Caitlin Doyle

Camera & Sound: Jeana Cho

Script & Narration: Caitlin Doyle

Editor: Jeana Cho

Archival Footage: Jeana Cho, Caitlin Doyle, Jesse Leigh, Melica Khorassani

Interviewees: Dr. Richard LeBeau, Jason Micallef


Running Time: 10:38


An analysis and examination of the portrayal of mental illness, particularly that of depression and suicidality in the media through a variety of platforms (films, television series, etc.). This documentary explores how media stigmatizes, romanticizes, as well as glorifies mental illness, and could even evoke suicidal thoughts and behaviors in a young, impressionable audience. Using interviews from a clinical psychologist and researcher -- Dr. Richard LeBeau -- as well as a screenwriter and showrunner -- Jason Micallef -- we examine the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and its potentially harmful representation of suicide, considering the demographics of their largest audience. Additionally, we examine how celebrity culture and stigma may also affect the way people view and understand mental illness and suicide.

Saying No: The Shadow of Medieval Courtly Romance


A Film by Damon Dumas

Running Time:  4 min

Cultures, and their problematic bits, don't just exist as snapshots in the present. Rather, they're continuous phenomena, histories of ideas written in the collective minds of societies. This documentary follows the journey of one such idea: the expectation of women to say no to romantic advances in order to seem more "valuable." It's a journey that begins thousands of years ago in Rome, blossoms into prevalence in late Medieval times, and gets carried through to today on the backs of literary giants. It's a journey of confusions, of misogynists, and of consequences.

Fucking Racism



Directors: Amelia Jones, Marina Movellan, Heaven Torres

Interviewer: Amelia Jones

Editor: Marina Movellan

Writer: Heaven Torres


Running Time: 10 min and 30 seconds


Our documentary seeks to explore issues of colorism and racism that occur within the scope of pornography.  Navigating through a historical timeline of porn itself, this film will focus on racial stereotypes encoded in pornographic media as well as the lack of diversity and inequalities which face people of color within the industry itself. It is in this sense that the discussion of research and interviews with performers raise important questions about challenging these kinds of racist realities.  Our goal is not to criticize the performers or porn itself, but rather to criticize the discrimination that occurs within the context of the industry. This in turn, demonstrates the importance of studies of this industry for the kinds of insights it provides about contemporary social desires and exposes the relationship between enforced norms and repressed actualities


Go to http://women.ucla.edu/faculty/hammer/student-projects/ to view other student projects.