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Commercial Representations Essay

The goal of this essay is to demonstrate your understanding of dominant narratives as well as how alternative perspectives can reshape our stereotypical understandings of a place. You will do this by demonstrating the following key writing skills:

  • Summary: Effectively communicating the key points of a text in a way that a reader unfamiliar with the text will understand it; explaining difficult concepts clearly and specifically
  • Integrating quotations: Demonstrating the ability to incorporate relevant, interesting evidence into an essay using conventions such as signal phrases and citations
  • Adding to a conversation: Further exploring ideas, concepts, questions, or terms raised by another writer, which calls for your own examples, claims, and analysis as you test, complicate, or add to the ideas raised by another writer
  • Analysis: Opening up meaning for readers, based on evidence from your subject, beyond an opinion-only reaction by offering explanations, insights, and connections between evidence and claims.

The Assignment

In “Journey Beyond the Stars,” one of Sawhney’s main points is that L.A. is portrayed in stereotypical ways through mainstream or commercial texts. He writes, “Though a common dialogue, collective vision, and shared perspective may not be present in contemporary Los Angeles, the city nevertheless sells itself extremely well” (7). To support this claim, he offers examples of how L.A. has, historically, “sold” itself.

In a thesis-driven and well-organized essay, respond to the following question: How does Los Angeles sell itself today through commercial texts, and what important elements of the city do these commercial representations leave out?

In order to fully address this prompt, you will need to do three things:

  1. Examine how L.A. sells itself through dominant narratives by summarizing and analyzing “Journey Beyond the Stars.”
  2. Choose either the Westside or South L.A. to explain the specific dominant narratives of that area (utopia ordystopia). You may want to bring in examples to showcase these dominant narratives from commercial/popular texts (such as a scene from a film, an ad, a tourist guidebook, etc). This outside source is optional. Other examples of dominant narratives can be found in the introductions to the South L.A. and Westside chapters in A People’s Guide to Los Angeles.
  3. Examine an alternative narrative of that part of L.A. and explain how this alternative narrative challenges, disrupts, or subverts the dominant narrative. Use at least one specific example/entry from the corresponding chapter of A People’s Guide to Los Angeles.

Source Requirements

You must incorporate evidence (e.g. paraphrase/summary, quotations) from both of the following texts:

  • Journey Beyond the Stars” (Sawhney)
  • A People’s Guide to Los Angeles (Pulido, et al.) – either the South L.A. chapter or the Westside chapter. These chapters are located in our module.


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