Writing, Community & Government

Consuming and Criticizing Culture

Roxane Gay

Lesson time 15:42 min

Roxane frames much of her feminism and social commentary through the lens of culture. She explores the practical aspects of approaching cultural criticism and takes a look at some renowned essays from her book Bad Feminist.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Criticizing Culture · “Not Here to Make Friends” · Bad Feminist (Take One and Two) · Writing Cultural Criticism as a Black Feminist


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I watch really high quality, classy television. I enjoy "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," "The Real Housewives of Potomac," "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," "Vanderpump Rules." And we've really recently gotten into this really terrible show called "Selling Sunset." And I also watch some quality television as well. I recently enjoyed "I May Destroy You" on HBO, which was singular. Michaela Coel really had a vision, and she executed it, and I loved it. And I'm into "Yellowstone." And it's this sort of soap opera set in Montana, where apparently, like, cowboys are basically like the white people mafia. It's wild. What I love about all of these things, whether it's reality television or prestige drama or comedy, is like you can learn so much about storytelling from television. But you can also learn so much about our culture and what we value. And as a cultural critic, I love being able to look at a piece like "Yellowstone" and then talk about, like, the political climate in the United States. Or to watch something like reality television, like Beverly-- the Real Housewives franchise, and talk about the ways in which women are stereotyped in pop culture. And so just find what you want to engage with, and then do so. You don't have to be a Swiss army knife. Sometimes, you just want to be a razor blade. [MUSIC PLAYING] When you approach cultural criticism, you want to be able to deeply engage with something, and that takes thought and time. Take that time to not only watch the piece, but to start to make connections between that piece and something beyond it, just like when you're writing a personal essay and you want to start with the personal and look inward and then look outward. How can you also take a similar approach with your cultural criticism? So you have this thing you consumed, this thing you either enjoyed or didn't, or you are ambivalent about. Okay, how can you connect that to something beyond it in the world that we're living in? Let's say we're talking about a television series. First of all, you have to watch the series for entertainment. The second time, you have to watch it with a more critical eye and try to figure out, what are the major themes that this show is exploring? What seems to be working well? What seems to not be working well? And then if you watch it a third time, you want to ask, what do I have to say about this? And then you watch with that question in mind. So if you were watching "I May Destroy You" and you were thinking about the intersection between sexuality and sexual violence, you would watch the series with that in mind to pull from it examples that support or contradict your argument. And so you have to develop a level of discernment. You have to be able to ask questions, and you have to be able to go beyond the obvious. And part of that also involves reading cultural criticism so that you're not repeating things that have already...

About the Instructor

Bestselling author, professor, and New York Times columnist Roxane Gay has connected to readers around the world with her unyielding truth-telling and highly personal feminism. In her MasterClass, she teaches you how to own your identity, hone your voice, write about trauma with care and courage, and navigate the publishing industry. Learn how to document and narrate the world as you see it—and then demand change.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Roxane Gay

Bestselling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay teaches writing for social change and arms you with the skills needed to make an impact.

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