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Film Techniques and Gender and Race Representation in Film

Author: Amanda Fiegel


Northeast High School

Year: 2018

Seminar: History of Hollywood

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: Cinematography, Entertainment industry, Media, Pop culture

School Subject(s): Arts, Social Studies

There are two units in this curriculum packet to give a full comprehensive introduction into film techniques and gender and race representation in film. The first unit focuses on film techniques such as camera angles, sound, lighting, characterization and mise-en-scene. This is to give the students the appropriate subject knowledge and language to discuss and analyze film. The second part of the curriculum requires students to use their acquired knowledge of film to critically analyze how directors use film techniques to represent gender and race in film and how these representations can perpetuate stereotypes.

Download Unit: 18.02.02.pdf

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Full Unit Text

This unit explores how race and gender are represented, and not represented, in Hollywood. It also aims to explore how Hollywood holds agency in representing and misrepresenting marginalized groups in society and how these representations have changed or remained constant over time. In doing so, students will analyze dramatic devices, character development and story lines in a variety of films. Additionally, students will focus on a unit on film techniques prior to study race and gender representation, so that they can use subject specific vocabulary.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a stereotype as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” Most commonly stereotypes are used when referring to race, gender, ethnicities and sex and they are often normalized and naturalized in the mass media.   According to Barry (2009) , stereotypes are often used in the media industry as “dramatic devices” as they allow audiences to identify a character’s “anticipated value system and/or behavior expectations,” based on their appearance, accent, name, possessions, etc. Therefore, as stated by Wilson (1995), stereotypes become “shortcuts to character development and form a basis for mass entertainment,” (Wilson 61). Directors then actively use language and image as devices to portray their characters, and in turn these devices perpetuate stereotypes. The audience is then left translating these narratives into their own daily lives, and as a consequence, inequity and prejudice develops.

For instance, Divine and Eliot (1995)  compared a study of African Americans in 1933 to a study in 1995 and both studies delineated that African Americans were depicted as being ignorant, musically talented, dirty (physically), and very religious through language and stage direction devices. As a viewer, we then subconsciously assign African Americans and other social groups with negative or positive characteristics without even actively realizing it. This obviously can be dangerous, especially if these stereotypes are being introduced to audiences at a young age, as a child’s viewpoint of certain cultures and gender is then formulated and has seeped into his/her subconscious, making it harder for his/her mindset to be challenged or changed. Additionally, the absence of certain gender or racial representations can also equally perpetuate marginalization. Often marginalized social groups lack agency. According to Cole (2017) agency refers to the thoughts and actions taken by people that express their individual power. In film, many marginalized groups cannot express agency; and therefore, they are left voiceless and unheard. For instance, in a recent study (2017) from the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering researchers analyzed 1,000 film scripts and found that of the 7,000 characters studied, just over 2,000 were women. They also found that women were included in less than half as much dialogue than men — they had 15,000 major speaking roles compared to 37,000 for men. This exemplifies that women are not seen as being necessary in storylines; and therefore, they are stripped of power and status.

Additionally, this has been seen with people of color. In a 2015 diversity report on Hollywood, entitled Flipping the Script (a product of UCLA’s Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies)  there was a major discrepancy between the actual population within the US and the representation of that population on TV. Although minorities account for more than 40% of the US population, minorities remain underrepresented nearly six to one in broadcast scripted leads and nearly two to one among cable scripted leads.

This underrepresentation denies the existence of these groups and a lack of value is put on their worth. As a consequence, if women are never in the role of doctors or high-powered CEOs, then we are are not to believe that they will exist in the real world either. Equally, if we only see African Americans as gangsters or athletes, then we will assume that they cannot play the role of someone in academia. This is a major concern, especially since technology and media have become omnipresent and omnipotent in our daily lives.

Although Hollywood can negatively impact people’s perceptions of race, it can also be used to challenge and revolutionize stereotypes. After World War II, a counterculture occurred to challenge the status quo and movements such as the Civil Rights movement  allowed African Americans  to direct Hollywood films where African Americans were apart of the American landscape and weren’t seen as being villains or inferior. The Black Power movement also allowed African Americans to celebrate cultural traits distinct from those of white America,” (Guerrero 50) . Furthermore, African American directors like Spike Lee became catalysts in presenting controversial topics of race and sexuality; thus, making the statement that conversations need to be centered around these topics in order for change to be made.

Hollywood has the ability to manipulate the audience’s mindset and change the way the audience views race and gender. However, this manipulation need not be negative. By encouraging more film-makers to include marginalized people in different roles, the audience’s mindset will naturally begin to change and the paradox of art imitating life or life imitating art may become less ambiguous. Additionally, with the recent uproar about sexism and sexual abuse in Hollywood and the workforce, one wonders whether Hollywood will hold more responsibility about including positive and varied representations of gender, race and culture in the film industry. Will there be pressure for Hollywood to include more diversity in scripts or will it even be mandated or controlled like the era of the Production Code? On other hand, we must also question whether it will try to over-saturate itself with more leading women and ethnic roles in order to counteract the tarnishing of its image. As a result, will these representations be well-received and celebrated or will they just been seen as inauthentic ways to get Hollywood out of their sexism crisis.


Teaching Information:

Currently, I am teaching a Media and Communications course to 10th-12th graders and next year, I will be teaching the IB Diploma course, Cultural Anthropology. I believe that the History of Hollywood course will greatly complement my curriculum and add to my course content and instruction. I also feel that it will help me encourage students to critically think about how the media has a direct impact on our local and global communities and that its’ omnipresence can have a huge impact on politics and perceptions. Lastly, I am excited about being involved in this program because I feel that it is important for a teacher to always be a student. By being a learner, I am able to tune into what works for me and what doesn’t in an effort to bring those lessons back into the classroom. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to learn from other teachers in order to be a better teacher.

Unit Questions

My unit will revolve around the following questions:

  • To what extent is Hollywood to blame for racial and social inequity?
  • Does Hollywood perpetuate stereotypes and recreate and define our memories?

I have chosen these questions as I believe that it is important for students to be critical of how the media can shape and alter their opinions. Whether it is overt or subliminal, messages of inequity are embedded in media outlets, and I aim to have my students be critically aware of how these representations can contribute to the perpetuation of stereotypes. Alternatively, media can also be a catalyst for change and be used as a political platform that propels the public to think differently about gender and race roles and representations. I would like to see how media has contributed to our perceptions and how we can use media in the future to spark conversations and change in social inequity.


In analyzing the films, students will write a comparative essay that uses film terminology and analyzes how directors and actors represent marginalized roles. We will analyze clothing, accents, roles and responsibilities and other characteristics that contribute to social identity and question why these attributes have been chosen for the characters in the film. In the process we will read scholarly articles that focus on language and representation and race and gender representation; these texts and sources will then be referenced in the paper.

The students will then be expected to create alternative representations that challenge societal norms and force audiences to see gender and race roles in different ways.  For instance, in looking at Disney films, where the typical hero is the white male, the student may decide to use a Muslim woman as the hero. They will have the option of creating a film with these alternative interpretations and will then have to analyze their own work to explain why they chose certain wardrobes, accents, and roles and responsibilities to represent race and gender.


Films to Watch

Little Black Sambo

Disney Films and Cartoons Racial Stereotypes in Spongebob Square Pants  Racial Stereotypes in Disney films Gender Stereotypes in Disney films

Hollywood Movies Women in Hollywood African American Men in Hollywood Boys in Hollywood How Movies Teach Manhood

Journals and Articles

Objectives, Standards and Strategies

Course: Media and Communications and Language Arts

Resources Included:

  • Two Powerpoints Links (Film Techniques and Gender and Race Representation)
  • Power Paragraph Handout
  • Storyboard Project Handout/Guidelines
  • Extra Credit Film Project with Student Example
  • Two Lesson Plans (Camera Angles and Gender and Race Representation)

Student Objectives

  • Students will demonstrate understanding of the basic history of film
  • Students will identify and state the effects of camera angles, lighting, sound effects and other features of mise-en-scene
  • Students will analyze the race representation in films; they will focus on how film techniques contribute to this
  • Students will write an essay analyzing gender representation in films; they will focus on how film techniques contribute to this
  • Students will use film techniques to create their own alternative scene, short film or ending to a film
  • Students will critically analyze film techniques
  • Students will compare and contrast techniques, roles and themes in Hollywood films
  • Students will assess how Hollywood portrays race, gender and sexuality from five decades
  • Students will create their own short films using techniques to show positive and educational representations of marginalized groups

Core Standard Aligned Objectives

  • Standard – CC.1.3.11-12.B: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences and conclusions based on and related to an author’s implicit and explicit assumptions and beliefs.
  • Standard – CC.1.3.11-12.C: Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama.
  • Standard – CC.1.4.11-12.E: Write with an awareness of the stylistic aspects of composition. • Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic. • Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms of the discipline in which they are writing.
  • Standard – CC.1.4.11-12.W: Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
  • Standard – CC.1.5.11-12.D: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective; organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
  • Standard – CC.1.5.11-12.F: Make strategic use of digital media in presentations to add interest and enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence.

Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.

  • CC.1.2.11–12.A

Determine and analyze the relationship  between two  or more central ideas of a text, including the development and interaction of the central ideas; provide an  objective summary of the text.

  • Standard – ELP.1.S.9-12.5

Critique and evaluate plays, films, books, songs, computer programs, or magazine articles within a small group.


  • Collaborative Learning: Students will work in groups to produce a short piece of film. Each person will have a role as a director, character (may be all group members), and set and costume designer. They will also need to have a storyboard and a written report with analysis on why they chose certain film techniques and methods.
  • Critical and Analytical Thinking: Students will be expected to identify and state the effect of film techniques such as camera angles, lighting, costumes, characterization and props. Students will use the Power Paragraph format for analysis and will also compare and contrast films.
  • Scaffolding: Students will be given sentence stems so that they can analyze film techniques. Examples of sentence stems are: The viewer can infer.., This delineates…His actions suggest.., The use of low key lighting…The use of low camera angles suggest..). They will also be using the Power Paragraph method of PDEEA (Point, Device, Evidence, Explanation and Analysis).Additionally, they will be given essay plans and student exemplars.
  • Storyboards: Students will produce 6 box storyboard by using specific camera angles and sound for each box. This will show they understand camera angles and will also help them prepare for their short film.
  • Informational Videos: Youtube videos on lighting, sound and camera angles will be shown in class to cover film techniques. Students will answer questions while watching the videos. (lighting) (sound) (sound) (camera angles) (mise en scene)

  • Video Clips of Films:  Film clips will be shown that shower gender and race representation. Students will be asked to pay attention to characterization, lighting and sound. Particular focus will be on costume design, character voice (accent), dialogue, actions and titles.
  • Kahoot: Students will play Kahoot to assess for understanding.
  • Reading Comprehension Tasks: Students will read articles and essays on gender and race representation and how race and gender roles have evolved or stayed the same over time.


Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment


Determine and analyze the relationship  between two  or more central ideas of a text, including the development and interaction of the central ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

Standard – ELP.1.S.9-12.5

Critique and evaluate plays, films, books, songs, computer programs, or magazine articles within a small group.


Classroom Activities

Film Techniques Unit Learning Plan Overview

Powerpoint: Film Techniques Powerpoint

Lesson 1: Students will identify and analyze camera angles and their effects.

Lesson 2: Students will identify and analyze moving camera angles and their effects

Lesson 3: Students will identify and analyze sound; they will learn how to analyze using the Power Paragraph

Lesson 4: Students will identify and analyze lighting

Lesson 5: Students will identify mise-en-scene and write a Power Paragraph

Lessons 6-8: Students will create a storyboard for an opening scene of a movie and will identify and use camera angles, sound, lighting and other elements of mise-en-scene

Purpose: Film Techniques

Film Techniques Powerpoint

Storyboard Template

Appendices 1 and 2

Lesson 1 Plan Background
Course: Media and Communications Unit Title: Camera Angles and Their Effects
Skills/Content:  By the end of today’s lesson, what will students know and be able to do?


  • Identify camera angles and state their effects
  • Demonstrate understanding of camera angles by taking pictures
  • Use sentence stems to describe camera angles


Assessment: How will students demonstrate mastery of the objective?


  • Taking pictures
  • Using sentences to identify camera angles and state the effects
Criteria for Success: What are the features of an ideal product?

That includes…

  • Pictures
  •  Identification of camera angles
  • Correct sentence stems with analysis
Key Conceptual Understandings
Camera angles are used in film and photography in order to capture certain emotions and to emphasize key ideas and concepts in scenes.
Key Tasks
  1. Have students make their own “telescope camera” with a piece of paper. Manipulate the paper in order to see the subject (i.e. a student at the front of the room) in different ways. State what you notice.
  2. Students will take notes and identify the different types of camera angles that exist.
  3. Students will analyze camera angles for their effect on the idea, theme or meaning of a character, setting or scene.
  4. Students will show their understanding of camera angles by taking pictures with their phones.
Energizer (5 minutes)




Energizer Task:

  • Roll up a piece of  paper like a telescope.
  • Focus on the subject in front of the room.
  • Manipulate the lense by making it bigger and smaller and moving it.

What does the lense do and why is it important to use different angles and lenses?

Explain to students that the director has the power to omit, emphasize or add details with camera angles. Therefore, he/she has the power of the message and the receiver has to watch things with a critical eye. Relate to Instagram, Youtube videos, etc. As a photographer or director, YOU determine the meaning and can say what YOU want to say or what you don’t want to say.

Teacher Led Instruction and Guided Discourse (25 minutes) Teacher gives definitions and pictures of camera angle shots. The camera angle shots that are focused on are: close up, extreme close up, medium shot, long shot, bird’s eye view, high angle, low angle, point of view, over the shoulder and two shot). Students should draw and write each camera angle.

A storyboard with different camera angles is projected; students identify the camera angles and state the effect.  (5 minutes)

A movie trailer for Black Panther is shown two times. Students identify the camera angles that are used in their notebooks and discuss as a class. (5 minutes)

Independent Practice (5mins) Students will take their camera phones and go into the hallway and around the room to take 3 pictures using any of the following camera angles:

  • low angle
  • high angle
  • long shot
  • extreme close up
  • medium shot

(10 minutes)



Option A: Students will then post their pictures on Google Classroom. As a class we will identify

Option B: Students will have a speed dating sharing of the pictures. Assign students the role of A or B. “A” students will be stationary and “B” students wil rotate. “A” students will show their pictures first and have “B” students identify the camera angle and the effect; they will then switch.


Gender and Race Stereotype Representation in Film Unit Learning Plan Overview

Powerpoint: Gender and Race Stereotype Powerpoint

Lesson 1: Students will define and use key vocabulary to describe and analyze gender and race representation in clip art. Students will develop own conclusions about how the media can use film techniques to manipulate

Lesson 2: Students will use key vocabulary and the Power Paragraph to analyze a video clip with negative racial depictions

Lesson 3: Students will analyze images and state their opinions about the responsibility of the media

Lessons 4-7: Students will pick a social group to focus on and analyze. They will find three video clips that contain stereotypes and analyze how the director uses film techniques to represent the chosen social group. Presentations will then be made to the class.

Purpose: Gender and Race Stereotypes in Film

Gender and Race Stereotype Powerpoint

Carousel Activity: Appendix 3

Extra Credit Film Production: Appendix

Lesson 1 Plan Background
Course: Media and Communications/English Language Arts Unit Title: Gender and Race Representation in Media and Film
Skills/Content:  By the end of today’s lesson, what will students know and be able to do?



  • To identify how gender and race are represented in clipart, cartoons and live action films
  • To use content vocabulary to describe how gender and race are represented
  • To analyze the effect of these representations on the audience
  • To use the Power Paragraph


Assessment: How will students demonstrate mastery of the objective?


  • Writing a Power Paragraph analyzing the images and using the vocabulary
Criteria for Success: What are the features of an ideal product?


That includes…

  • Proper Power Paragraph Format
  • Thoughtful analysis with a detailed explanation
  • Inclusion of vocabulary to express ideas and opinions
Key Conceptual Understandings
Film techniques such as camera angles, characterization, lighting and mise-en-scene can perpetuate stereotypes of gender and race.Therefore, Hollywood can be directly responsible for creating or fabricating societal norms.
Key Tasks
  1. Students will analyze representations of gender and race in visuals.
  2. Students will use vocabulary and sentence stems to provide critical analysis.
  3. Students will collaborate and analyze film clips for stereotypes.
  4. Students will create presentations and present to class.


Energizer (10 minutes)




Students will write the definition of the words below and come up with some examples of where and when they can use the words. Students should be encouraged to use these words in the describing and analyzing in the following tasks.

  1. Dehumanize: (v)to deprive of human qualities, personality, or spirit.
  2. Objectify: (v) to degrade/lower to the status of an object.
  3. Oversexualized: (adj) seen as being a sex object or sex obsessed
  4. Depiction: (n) a picture; a portrayal; depict (v) to picture
  5. Disparaging: (adj) negative; derogatory
  6. Unsavory: (adj) unattractive; distasteful
  7. Stereotype: (n) oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thin
  8. Grotesque: (adj) repulsively ugly; freakish; hideous
Teacher Led Instruction and Guided Discourse (10 minutes) Teacher explains that stereotypes exist in our world and that some stereotypes can be positive (i.e. Chinese people are good at math) or negative (i.e. Blondes are dumb). However, even if someone may think a stereotype is positive, there is still a danger, as the overgeneralization can lead to prejudice, marginalization and feelings of inadequacy. Ask students if they can think of any stereotypes and explain that this is a safe space.


Explain that the media has a major responsibility in portraying gender and race in a neutral way; however, it often displays negative depictions that can hurt social groups. Even something so innocuous as a Google search can speak volumes.


Group Practice


(15 minutes)

Carousel Activity (Appendix 3) :

The following pictures are from a Google search for the following ethnicities; the picture was the 1st-3rd one in the search:

  • White man/woman cartoon
  • Black man/woman cartoon
  • Muslim man/woman cartoon
  • Asian man/woman cartoon
  • Latino man/woman cartoon

Look at each pair of images and write down how each ethnicity is portrayed

Try and use the vocab 🙂

Then pass to next group.


(15 minutes)



Power Paragraph (Appendix 1):

How can a Google search manipulate a viewer’s mindset?




Appendix 1

The Power Paragraph: PCEEA

  1. Point:  Answer the question and state a main point you want to prove.
  2. Device/Context: Give background details to give your reader information about the character, topic, scene, etc. . Start with “During this scene, a long shot angle is used when we see the hospital” or “At the beginning of this scene, diegetic sound is used”
  3. Evidence: Find a quote that specifically proves the point and can be analyzed. “In the scene, we see a close up of her tears”
  4. Analyze: Dig deep and state what this does for the reader. Analyze what the device implies or says about your point or the meaning. Start with “This implies” or “This suggests” or “This delineates” or “This emphasizes/magnifies/intensifies”
  5. Smarties! Add additional or alternative analysis to show you think outside of the box. Think MEAT! Use sentence starters like “Additionally” or “On the other hand”

Power Paragraph Prompts

Answer ONE of the questions in Power Paragraph format (PCEEA). Look at the sentence stems to help you.

How does the director create a sad mood in the scene with the psychologist in Good Will Hunting?


C:During ______________________________________________________________


E:In the scene__________________________________________________


A: This emphasizes  _________________________________________________________


Smarties Extra/Alternative:_______________________________________________



Appendix 2

Camera Angle Storyboard Project

Directors often have to create movie storyboards/comic strips before they create a film.

You will create an opening scene storyboard for a horror, action or mystery film. You can use other films for inspiration,  but it should be your own original idea. It is just an opening scene, so think about how films open (i.e. establishing shot of setting, introduction of character, etc.). Also, think about lighting when you are using color and shading.

Step 1: Use the storyboard to plan out camera angles for an opening scene in a horror, action or  a mystery film. You should have at 6-8 boxes.Use and label the following shots:

  • Close up
  • Establishing shot
  • Medium shot
  • Long shot
  • Point of View Shot
  • Extreme Close up

Include mise-en-scene info on side of storyboard or underneath:

  • Character names
  • Actors chosen
  • Costume
  • Props
  • Setting
  • Name of movie

Step 2: Use big paper to create a final version of the storyboard. Include color, bold fonts, etc. and LABEL all camera angle shots. Also state WHY you chose camera angles certain costumes, props, setting, actors, etc.

Step 3: Present! Present your storyboard and WHY you chose mise-en-scene components and camera angles.

Appendix 3

Extra Credit Film Project

You will be creating a short film, using the film techniques we have covered: camera angles, sound, color, lighting, mise-en-scene, etc. You will have three options for your project:

Option 1: Create a SILENT film with intertitles (color optional); this can have a plot or be informational

Option 2: Create a black and white film that introduces color to highlight key moments (use associative color symbolism); this can have a plot or be informational

Option 3: Recreate a scene in  a movie to disrupt viewers expectations of gender or race norms (i.e. female electrician, Latino Superman, etc.)

Sample Plotlines for Option 1 & 2

  • First day of school
  • First day in America
  • Winning the championship game
  • Winning a singing competition
  • Discovery a secret room

Sample Informational Videos  for Option 1 & 2

  • Food waste
  • Plastic waste
  • Cyber-Bullying
  • Smoking
  • Opioid Abuse
  • Benefits of Being Bilingual
  • Gun Control


  1. Pick a plot and create a plot diagram; (i.e. first day of school, first day in America,
  2. Create a storyboard with at least 6 boxes. Each box should be labeled with a camera angle, sound, color, etc. If there is an intertitle, write “Intertitle”
  3. Make sure to state why you chose each technique:
    1. We use a _________________ angle because…
    2. We used the ________________sound of a ____________ because….
    3. We used the color _____________ because…………..
    4. We used these costumes because………………………………


Divine, Patricia G., and Andrew J. Elliot. “Are Racial Stereotypes Really Fading? The Princeton Trilogy Revisited.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 21 (1995): 1139-150. Sage Journals Online. 3 Apr. 2009 <>

Guerrero, Ed. Framing Blackness : The African American Image in Film. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1993.

Wilson II, Clint C., and Felix Guierrez. Race, Multiculturalism, and the Media. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1995.