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POSC 160

Professor Braunwarth

Instructor: Joseph J. Braunwarth, Ph.D.


Office Hours: Tue and Thur: 8:30-9:30, Wed 9:30-12:30; Rm. 515B, 619-644-7514

Course Overview:

This course examines politics through the lens of films.  Throughout the course you will examine both how politics influences films and what films say about politics.  Films often provide important messages about politics and greatly influential cultural conception of politics. Throughout the course we will examine, in detail, various aspects of U.S. Politics and how these topics have been presented in films.  You will learn important lessons about political science but the emphasis is on fictional movies rather than documentaries.  Why fiction?  Fictional movies provide opportunities for film makers to send messages that offer great insight into the social and political world.  In addition to being entertaining, films can also be quite informative.  The mass appeal of film allows these messages to be widely dispersed often without audience awareness that they are being educated or indoctrinated.

Catalog Description:

This course uses film to explore major aspects of political life and to examine the cultural creation of meaning about social and political power, values, and activities. Films are studied as social and political products and to enhance understanding of political phenomena in the American and other cultures.  These phenomena include social/political movements, civil liberties, electoral politics, war, law, political economy, and race, gender, and class differences and conflict. This course explains for students how they can view films in different political contexts and view politics from different theoretical lenses to gain insight about contemporary political life.

Satisfies General Education for: Grossmont College D1, CSU D8, IGETC 4H Transfers to: CSU, UC

Required Texts:

  • Parenti, Make Believe Media: The Politics of Entertainment.
  • Reader: American Government Examined: A Reader. Joseph Braunwarth, editor. First edition. NSS Press, 2005.  This is sold as a CD.
  • On-line articles will be assigned throughout the semester.  These links can be found on the course web page.
  • Films and videos will be shown in class and assigned for home viewing.  These are to be considered texts for this class and information from these sources may appear on exams accordingly.

Methods of Evaluation:

Two Exams

100 points each

Final exam

100 points

Total (best three out of four exams)

200 points

Your final grade is not curved and will be assigned according to the following chart:

A = 90-100%  (outstanding work)
B = 80-89%     (very good work)
C = 70-79%     (average, satisfactory work)
D = 60-69%    (below average, marginal work)
F = 0 -59%      (very unsatisfactory work)

Withdrawing From a Course

Should you decide to stop attending class, it is your responsibility to officially withdraw from the course by using WebConnect (, College Connection 619-668-4040, or by filing a drop card at the Office of Admissions and Records.  If you do not officially drop the course, then your name will appear on the final grade roster and you will receive an F for the semester.



Exams will consist of a combination of short answer, essay, multiple choice, and word identification.  We will take three exams and your lowest score will be dropped.  There will be no opportunity to make-up exams without prior approval from the instructor.


We will be covering a large amount of material over the semester and in order to be an active participant in the class, it is expected that you will have read the assigned readings BEFORE coming to class.  You are required to watch all of the films shown, in class.  Even if you have already seen one of the films or intend to see it on your own, you must attend the class at which the film is shown in order to discover what aspects of the film are important for the class, participate in discussion, complete "comprehension" questions, etc.   These are designed to focus your attention to certain political aspects of the film.

Academic Expectations:

  • Plagiarism or cheating results in bad karma and will not be tolerated.  Academic dishonesty will be reported to administration and will result in an automatic F on the assignment and usually in the class.
  • Be on time; let me know if you will have to leave early; turn off your cell phone.
  • You will get much more out of the class and find it much more interesting if you participate in class discussions.
  • Do the readings before the class.  You will be tested on this information.
  • Take notes.
  • Students with disabilities who may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to notify the instructor and contact Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSP&S) early in the semester so that reasonable accommodations may be implemented as soon as possible. Students may contact DSP&S in person in room 110 or by phone at 619-644-7112 (voice) or 619-644-7119 (TTY for deaf). 

Important Services at Grossmont College

  • Academic Counseling, Rm. 118, 644-7208
  • Transfer Center, Rm. 100, 644-7215
  • English Writing Center (EWC) provides tutorial and instructional support, word processing, grammar tutorials, and writing resources.  Rm. 70-119, 644-7516
  • The English Reading Center (ERC) also provides tutorial support as well as activities focused on increasing your reading speed and comprehension.  Rm. 545, 644-7464

An Optimistic Course Outline and Readings: 







Reader Ch. 1

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Link to our discussion notes


Power and Freedom


Reader Ch. 2


Office Space


Constructing Political Reality

Parenti Chs. 1, 2, 3

V for Vendetta








Reader Ch. 3

Parenti Chs. 4, 5

9/20/06 Celebration of Constitution Day withGood Night and Good Luck


Civil Rights

Parenti Chs. 8, 9

Long Walk Home

Do the Right Thing



Parenti Chs. 6, 7

Exam One 10/4/06 revised review


Political Communication

Reader Ch. 5

Parenti Ch. 10, 11



The Peek-A-Boo Presidency

Reader Ch. 6

Parenti Ch. 12

Canadian Bacon


Political Campaigns

Reader Ch. 9

Reader Ch. 14

Bob Roberts


The President and the Media Wag the Dog


Wag the Dog


11/8 Class Exercise: go over the powerpoint and watch Bulworth on your own

Reader Ch. 8

Reader Ch. 10



Money and Politics

Political Parties

Reader Ch. 7

Reader Ch. 11

The Candidate



11/22 Class Exercise: go over the powerpoint and watch Apocalypse Now on your own

Reader Ch. 13

Apocalypse Now


Foreign Policy


Green Berets

Heaven and Earth

Exam Two 11/29/06


 Violence in the Media






Final Exam Wed 12/13/05 8:00 p.m.

Last Updated: 06/16/2015
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