dubbing scholarship

Class size (ideal):​ 30 or fewer students

Class time:​ 75-90 minutes


This activity is best suited for a class on media representation, criticism, or cultural studies. By this time, students should have learned about connotation and denotation, dominant and resistant readings, and something about remix or culture jamming.

Preparation before class.

Students read “In the Time of Plastic Representation” by Kristen Warner and prepare short notes. [Other readings that talk about media representation of difference could work.]

Instructor creates a “dubbing clip” from a film or tv show that the class has seen before. The scene should be a dialogue between two people with a balance of pauses, tonal shifts, and monologues.

Edit the scene to remove sound. [If the instructor is familiar with Adobe Premiere or another editing software, they can also include onscreen countdowns that mark how long each character speaks (so participants can time their dialogue).] Load the clip into an editing software that has a simple record voiceover function.

[Note: I use the diner scene in You’ve Got Mail (Nora Ephron, 1998) because it also allows us to revisit discussions in previous weeks over gender norms in romantic comedies, and how the activity could subvert these.]

Learning Objectives.

  • Learn to summarize main concepts into students’ own words.
  • Speculate on the affective dimensions of academic language.
  • Reinforce course themes about gender representation, connotation/denotation, and resistant reading strategies.

Set Up.

  1. Assign students into groups of 3-5.
  2. Each group should have one laptop with the clip loaded into the editing software and a microphone.

Activity Timeline.

Run through the clip once to the entire class. Signal to students where they should look to the countdown and suggest how to take facial expressions into consideration.

Take questions on anything that is unclear.

Run through again to the entire class. Ask students to write down very brief notes on key moments, shorter and longer stretches of dialogue. Since they will be performing, dissuade them from writing down too much.

In groups, students compare notes and come up with lines to fill in the dialogue. Once the group has a script, they play the clip on their laptops and record voiceover. Ask students to feel free to record as multiple iterations as long as they remain spontaneous (i.e. they haven’t memorized a line to say every time). Encourage switching up which student records a voiceover.


Each group exports and shares their favorite dubbed clip.

Discussion questions:

  • What were similarities and differences in the phrases used? Why did each group think these were the most important points to summarize from the reading?
  • What were similarities and differences in the acting? What were students trying to convey with different tone, expression, or accent? Did students try to approach Kathleen’s facial expressions in their voice?
  • Why did we use this scene? How does responding to the Joe Fox’s sense of entitlement give new meanings to the scene?
  • Were there any difficulties in doing this activity (logistical or conceptual)?