Cultural Hierarchy and Media Effects

Lay Theories of Media Effects by Ellen Seiter

In this text, Ellen Seiter presents the results of her interviewing the three pre-kindergarten teachers about the problem of kids and television. Speaking of the teachers’ positions, I entirely disagree with Sara Kitses from a Montessori pre-school. Her primary objection to television is that it comes not from children but the adults (Seiter, 2003, p. 370); but so do other things surrounding a child, including education. Sara believes that television is frightening and makes children consume more (Seiter, 2003, p. 370), but she “denied having any knowledge of popular children programming” (Seiter, 2003, p. 369), so she cannot know what television teaches children.

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The approach of Gloria Williams from Gloria’s Place looks more sophisticated to me: while being aware of the effect of marketing strategies, she does not dismiss television entirely, but advises parents to choose carefully what their kids would be watching (Seiter, 2003, p. 378). Jean de Witt from the hospital daycare facility won my approval, by the way, in which deals with gender problems well. De Witt maintains gender equality during the games, in which children reenact the events of TV shows; girls can be active characters, as well as boys (Seiter, 2003, p. 380).

Trash, Class, and Cultural Hierarchy by Laura Grindstaff

The given work is an excerpt from Laura Grindstaff’s book The Money Shot Trash, Class, And The Making Of TV Talk Shows, devoted to the analysis of how talk-show producers make stars out of ordinary people. In this text, Grindstaff mentions the fact that talk shows are very much alike to other media forms. For instance, the job of a talk-show producer is similar to that of a journalist in having particular often used topics, deadlines they need to hit, and regular channels to secure participants (Grindstaff, 2013, p. 407).

They have to follow the rules of media organization (the pattern, according to which the way of telling stories is defined) and, at the same time, consider the limitations of outside world, such as the availability and competence of their guests and their willingness (Grindstaff, 2013, p. 407). The producers of daytime talk shows have to maintain active interaction between the participants, as the producers of late night-celebrity talk (Grindstaff, 2013, p. 407).

White trash and trashy

In her text, Grindstaff examines the meaning of the terms trashy and white trash. According to her, white trash, a term applied to poor white people, demonstrates that typically white people are associated with power and wealth, and if a person is poor and white, the latter fact needs additional specification (Grindstaff, 2013, p. 417). “The primary function of invoking the term white trash,” states Grindstaff,is to solidify the middle and upper classes a sense of cultural and intellectual superiority” (Grindstaff, 2013, p. 417-418). Trashy goes beyond the class characteristics and consists of behavioral, aesthetic, and cultural qualities (Grindstaff, 2013, p. 418).

In American culture, the concepts of body and privacy determine the things that people keep to themselves; while in trashy talk shows white trash people are encouraged to open these things to public (Grindstaff, 2013, p. 418-419). White trash and trashy stereotypes are widespread in American culture; for instance, the term white trash is used in black folklore (Prahlad, 2006, p. 966). The representation of white trash in the American media includes the portrayal of them as rapists, prone to incest, living in trailers, etc. (Harter, 2013, par. 2-5).


Grindstaff, L. (2013). Trash, class, and cultural hierarchy. In L. Ouelette (Ed.), The media studies reader (pp. 407-426). New York City, New York: Routledge.

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Harter, G. (2013). The representation of white trash in the media, specifically in tv shows and movies. Web.

Prahlad, A. (2005). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore (Vol. 2). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Seiter, E. (2003). Lay theories of media effect: Power Rangers at pre-school. In G. Dines & J.M. Humez (Eds.), Gender, race, and class in media: a critical reader (2nd ed.) (pp. 367-384). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

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