We typically think of rock n’ roll as having an antagonistic relationship to mass media industries, specifically in regards to the risk of “selling out” that always lies in waiting within the context of corporate profits sought by record companies, film studios, television appearances, and marketing tie-ins. But moving image production, technological innovations, and media industries have been integral to the development of rock n’ roll not only as a musical genre, but as a powerful force that shaped postwar popular culture in ways that still resonate today. We not only know what rock n’ roll sounds like, but we are able to read and imitate its looks, attitudes, styles, and politics through its continued presence on film and television.

This course traces the history of rock n’ roll’s representations in and relationships to cinema and television industries from the 1950s to the present. This course covers a variety of topics on this subject, including: the many ways in which film and television have played an instrumental role in changing rock n’ roll aesthetics and developing new audiences; the ambivalent relationships between musicians and the media forces that circulate their music; the record industry’s varying roles in film and television production; the overlapping and disparate developments of rock n’ roll between British and American media industries; discourses and representations of race, class, gender, and sexuality in rock n’ roll culture and media; and rock n’ roll’s place as a potent and controversial site of political consciousness and identity formation throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.

Undergraduates should leave this course with the ability to understand: 1) the complex intersections between the record, film, and television industries in shaping the rock n’ roll phenomenon; 2) the historical development of rock n’ roll in relation to various youth cultures and movements in American and British politics after WWII; 3) the politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality in relation to rock n’ roll commercialism, stardom, and representation; and 4) the ideological functions of rock “authenticity” in mass media and industrial production. 

To see the full syllabus, contact me.