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MediaLit Moments

Real Women Without Stereotypes?

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In more than one research survey conducted for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, female characters in television and film frequently appeared as "eye candy" for the audience and for the lead male. What about female characters played by plus-sized actresses? How are they portrayed? They seem to run the gamut, from the Gabourey Sibideh's entirely serious portrayal of a young single mother in Precious, to Kirstie Alley's role in the pseudo-reality show Fat Actress, which practically makes Alley an object of audience ridicule.

In this MediaLit Moment, your high school students will have the chance to identify stereotypes of plus-sized actresses that they might have taken for granted, and a chance to develop their own criteria for roles which cast larger women in a realistic or positive light.

Ask students to identify stereotypical roles for plus-sized actresses
The entertainment industry has its own definition of plus-size. See example of how the term can vary: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/news/a18375/plus-sized-models/

AHA!: Plus-sized actresses are typecast most of the time!
Grade Level: 9-12
Key Question #4: What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?
Core Concept #4: Media have embedded values and points of view

Materials: DVD player and/or computer with high-speed Internet connection

Activity: You may want to ask if any students have seen Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. If they have seen it, what impression did they have of Ms. Suggs (Jennifer Coolidge), the driving instructor? Did her weight or body size seem to have anything to do with her character?
Next, play clips of two or more television or film characters played by plus-sized actresses, and offer students a glimpse of a variety of roles. Here's a sample list: America Ferrara as Ana in Real Women Have Curves; Melissa McCarthy as Mullins in The Heat; Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray; Queen Latifah as Mama Morton in Chicago. You will need to be judicious with your choice of excerpts, as plus-sized actresses are cast in R-rated films with some frequency. What kinds of characters do they play? Make sure to ask, can they imagine this actress playing any other kind of character? If not, why not? Introduce students to the concept of typecasting/stereotyping. Draw students' attention to KQ#4 and keep asking questions to help them unravel the social assumptions embedded in these stereotypes.
If time permits, hold a discussion on the kinds of roles these actresses might play that are not based on stereotypes. What might be a serious, realistic or positive role for them?


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework. Used with permission, ©2002-2014 www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Monday, 12 January 2015 14:24 )
 

My Hunger Games

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When people or institutions start to look oppressive, many reach for an analogy to George Orwell's 1984.  But The Hunger Games?  In fact, the latest installment from this teen fantasy franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, has become much more than a conversation piece.  Released on November 21st, 2014, just four days before the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri decided not to issue an indictment in the case of Officer Darren Wilson's shooting of Michael Brown, Mockingjay has led to protests inspired by the film.  Overnight, graffiti appeared on a Saint Louis monument with the words "If we burn, you will burn with us."  In a video that has gone viral, a young woman sings the "Hanging Tree" song from the film, with an American flag in the background and lyrics altered to describe events in Missouri. In this MediaLit Moment, your middle and high school students will have the chance to develop a greater understanding of the power of social commentary in popular media, and greater awareness of different ways that audiences can be affected.

Ask students to discuss the emotional impact of Mockingjay, and how different audiences have reacted differently

AHA!:  A movie can emotionally stir and energize people to rally for a cause in real life!

Grade Level:  8-10

Key Question #4:  What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

Core Concept #4: Media have embedded values and points of view.

Key Question #3: How might different people understand this message differently?

Core Concept #3: Different people experience the same media message differently.

Materials:  High-speed Internet access, LCD projector and screen.  Story from NPR Weekend Edition Saturday, November 29th, 2014, "Finding Ferguson and Other news Headlines in 'Mockingjay" Accessible at: www.npr.org/2014/11/29/367362450/finding-ferguson-and-other-news-headlines-in-mockingjay

You may want to screen Laci Green's MTV video on the parallels between Mockingjay and events in Ferguson (readily available on YouTube).  Much of it is excellent.  You will need to be selective, however.  Not all of the content will be appropriate for students.  And, for discussion of audience differences, you'll find a ready supply of social media content--especially on Tumblr and the rest of the blogosphere--with differing interpretations of the political significance of the film.  Tweets with the hashtag #MyHungerGames may also be of interest.

Activity: Ask students whether they've seen the film.  For those who have, what events or conflicts in the film had the greatest emotional impact for them?  Why?

Do they see the government oppression in the film reflected in real life?  Make sure to reinforce classroom norms during this discussion, as students may well disagree with each other.  Have students listen to part or all of the NPR story.  Make sure to include the author's comment (in the final minute of the story) about political polarization in the U.S. and the tendency to "paint our enemies as larger than life."  Use the social media content to demonstrate the variety of audience reactions and responses to Mockingjay, and ask them to reflect on different responses among students in the room.

 

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

 

 

 

Making News

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An important part of understanding the constructedness of media is recognizing that choices are made and that those choices can influence people and society. The decision of what to include and what to leave out is made all the time as media creators struggle to balance competing needs. By enacting the role of news producers and organizing a brief newscast, students experience the process of making the critical choices about what gets aired (or posted) and what is never seen.

Have students feature three top stories in a two minute broadcast.

AHA!: There’s not enough time to tell the whole story!

Grade Level: 6-9

Key Question #1 for Producers: What am I authoring?
Core Concept #1: All media is constructed
Key Question #4 for Consumers: What values, lifestyles and points of view are embedded in or omitted from this message?
Key Question #4 for Producers: Have I clearly and consistently framed values, lifestyles and points of view in my content?
Core Concept #4: Media have embedded values and points of view.

Materials: paper and pencils. Access to a stopwatch or timer.

Activity: Place students into small groups so they can work without overhearing the other groups.  Ask each group to generate a list of important stories and current events. The list can include local, national or international news, sports, school events, etc.  Then ask the team to select the three stories they want to cover in their 2 minute broadcast.  Tell them to choose the stories they think their audience will be most interested in (the audience is their classmates).  As they draft their scripts, they will need to keep in mind the time limit and should practice to be sure they are on target.  Each team can designate a news anchor(s) to broadcast the stories to the class.  Designate a class timer to call out “time” when the two minute limit is reached.

One student from each team should explain why their team selected certain stories and certain details and left out others for this particular audience.

Class Reflection: Did multiple teams report the same story?  Were there similarities and differences in how they were reported? How do you feel about the choices you made about what to include and what to drop? What insights does this give you about the news you see and hear everyday?

This activity is adapted from CML’s Five Key Questions That Can Change the World.

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

 

What Does Your Digital Footprint Tell About You?

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With every mouse-click, you leave behind a digital trail of what you do, where you go, and who you know online.  Your digital trail creates a digital footprint of your online identity that increases in size every time you post, share, and search online. Your online identity can tell a lot about you.

Ask students to follow their digital trail then reflect on what they find

AHA!: My digital footprint is different from who I am in real life!

Grade Level: 9-12

Key Question #1 for Construction:  What am I authoring?

Core Concept #1:  All media messages are constructed

Materials: Paper and student access to the Internet

Activity: Ask students to write down their user names for email, Twitter, Skype, etc. Then ask them to list their favorite web sites and social media sites.  Who do they follow on Twitter?  Which web sites do they visit? If they have a blog, ask them to write down the name of the blog.

Next, have students copy and paste their profile pictures, selfies, “About” pages with interests and likes listed, shared or tagged photos, and videos into one document named “my digital footprint.”  Also include any recent tweets or instagram photos.

Ask students to reflect on what they see in their digital footprint.  Start by asking the following questions: How might others view you? Does your online identity match who you are in real life?  What does it say about how you view yourself? Is this how you want people to perceive you?

Remind students to take control of their online identities; they are the authors of their digital footprints.  Suggest that they delete posts and/or photos that might cast a negative light on who they are and how they want to be perceived.

This MediaLit Moment is based on an activity developed by Dr. Bobbie Eisenstock, California State University, Northridge.

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 October 2014 08:56 )
 

What's Your Brand?

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Most of us have a personal philosophy, or at least a set of values and beliefs which we use to explain our personality and character to ourselves and others.  When we interact with people who are relative strangers, we must convey a public image of ourselves as well.  The fidelity of public images preoccupies many of us when we encounter public personalities via the media. Is this politician making himself out to be somebody he's not just to get my vote?  In this MediaLit Moment, your upper elementary and middle level students will have the chance to learn about public image and personal branding by 'trying on' the role of someone who spends much of their time in the public eye.  They'll also have a lot of fun in the process.

Ask students to construct a public personality for themselves which includes their own real-life character traits

AHA!:  When I present myself to the media, I'm presenting a personal brand!

Grade Level:  5-7

Key Question #4 for Producers:  Have I clearly and consistently framed values, lifestyles and points of view in my content?

Key Question #4: What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

Core Concept #4: Media have embedded values and points of view

Key Question #2 for Producers: Does my message reflect understanding in format, creativity and technology?

Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

Materials: Screen, LCD projector, computer with high-speed Internet connection

For production activity:  Paper, pencil, imagination 

Activity:  Ask students to name different kinds of public personalities--sports stars, politicians, rock musicians, talk show hosts, etc.  Who are some of their favorites in these categories? If you wish, screen a video excerpt of a particular public personality, and discuss the kinds of character traits he or she appears to embody.  Introduce students to KQ #4 and discuss how people promote their public/celebrity image on screen.

Next, ask students to imagine themselves as one of these kinds of personalities.  What would they be doing or saying in this role? (Students are likely to be familiar with the conventions of each role, but introduce them to CC #2 if needed).  How does this personality still genuinely represent their character?  How does it feel to promote themselves in this way? Ask students to write a 30 second script for themselves in this role.  Make sure that students have one or more partners for feedback.

Enjoy sharing and performing scripts in class.

Extended Activity: Students create a 'demo reel' of themselves as a number of different public personalities.


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 02 September 2014 10:13 )
 
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