April 21, 2008

US Magazine Back Page Ad


One of my guilty pleasures is looking at gossip magazines. I usually only do this on long car rides, a sunny day outside, or when I am really stressed and just need some brainless activity. Well, on the way home from the store this week my husband brought me a magazine. He can tell when I am tense and with Prom, a yearbook deadline, mid term grades due, my class coming to an end, and just regular day to say business of running our house and keeping our kids in line, he correctly determined I was stressed and needed some down time.Anyhow, I felt fortunate to have a magazine sitting around the house.
After looking through all the ads, all of which were geared towards women and dealt with fashion, food, health, and family, I couldn’t decide what to pick. I put the magazine down and walked away for awhile. When I returned I noticed a full page glossy picture of a woman, from her chin to just below her belly button in a sexy black and pink bra with matching panties - what you could see of them. I was confused for a second as to why that was on my table until I realized it was the back cover of my magazine. I picked it up and stared for a moment trying to recall if there was another undergarment ad in the magazine - I double checked and there was not. So, the only ad like this graced the back cover, interesting. My husband would not look in my magazine but he would notice the back cover - especially with this gorgeous body on it. I decided to use this ad for the sole purpose of the placement.
The target audience for this ad I would argue to be primarily females ages 16-55+. This is just a range but I feel it could be accurate because this is about the age of the people who read these magazines. The secondary target audience, due to the placement of the ad on the back cover, would be males in relationships ages 16-55+ who would buy their partners sexy lingerie. The images that imply this audience is the sexiness of the figure. Any person who feels sexy or believes their partner to be sexy would be interested in this ad. Any person who is still interested in sex and an attractive body would look at this ad. The image is bait to get people to look as the image takes the entire back cover. One has to really scan the page to notice the print. In fact, the eye naturally travels from the upper left to the bottom right - this is something basic; the last place to look on a page is the bottom right - which is where you will find the only print on this ad.
The underlying value assumptions is that to be sexy you need (not only a great body) but beautiful matching lingerie. The print states, “Real Sexy Crazy In Love Bra? which implies that to be sexy and to show/feel crazy in love, one should buy these products. You will have love and be loved in this product. You will be noticed.
What it tells me is wow - I need to get my body in shape. It doesn’t matter who I am but what I look like. The face is not shown, only a portion of the body is shown which again implies it has nothing to do with who you are - but how you look. It all boils down to looks and you will look better in their lingerie.
This goes along or fits Beach’s description of Objects of Desire. This ad clearly, “positions audiences to adopt gazes that define females or males as objects of desire-as things to be desired?(80). The picture creates (for most people) fantasy worlds and not those that are truly attainable unless a model or dating one. This leaves those who do not fit this image to feel inadequate and want to buy the product or eat less or work out or do anything to BE that.

Commercial Assignment

This is old - and incomplete. I thought I had it finished and was just going to paste it in here but then I couldn't find it and when I did it was not complete. Here is what I have.
Charles Barkley and Dwayne Wade Commercial for T-Moblile

Not sure why exactly, but during the superbowl my husband and I just both really got a kick out of this particular commercial. Overall, the way the video was shot with constant calls filled with random tidbits and criticisms made you feel for Wade but also see the humor because it was not happening to you.
Breaking the commercial down:

Camera shots.
Several shots are used in this one minute commercial including: long shot, medium shot, close-up shot, tracking shot, wide-angle lens, and also avoids the zoom shot for effect.
The long shot, medium shot, and close up shots are used interchangeably throughout the commercial. The makers switch quickly between long shots and close up shots for effect with Charles Barkley to introduce him and then give the effect of in-your-face, which is ultimately what they are trying to create. The medium shots are used when the characters are together and combined with close-up shots when one character is talking to the other. The speaker is the focus of the shots. They do not take Dwayne Wade from long to close-up shots. Also, zoom is not used because they are attempting to show brisk transitions between shots to create either a sense of urgency/force (when Barkely is talking) or to create a manipulation of time and change of place to again help manipulate time. This leads the viewer to believe that the class are taking place over a period of several days/weeks at various times throughout any given day.
The wide-angle lens are used with Barkely to show his massive/impressive surroundings to support him as a massive/impressive figure himself. The tracking shot is used only once when the camera follows Wade down the tunnel. This the viewer believes is Wade heading to the locker room which has a sense of importnace or urgency as well - yet Barkely still calls ANYTIME.

Low key lighting is used predominantly throughout the commercial. Low key lighting, according to the text, is used in detective, horror, or gangster movies - dark movies where power is an issue. This idea would fit the commercial because Barkley a figure with some power over his protegee Wade and though there is not horror present, there is a feeling of “gangsta? control over Barkley’s younger peer. The only places with high key lighting are in the bathrooms and bedrooms - places that should be private sanctuary type places of safety - which is not the case in the commercial creating this idea that no place is safe and Barkley really can/will call ANYTIME whether he is in the bathroom/working out or Wade is in the bathroom or bed.

Through lighting as well as scene/wardrobe changes, time is truly manipulated. Viewers do not know if this is happening in a day, a week, or longer. Fact is, it doesn’t matter in the commercial, the point is they are showing contact at ANYTIME.

There are three sounds in the commercial - voice, a playful musical tune, and the T-Mobile chimes. The main sound in the commercial is the speaking parts of the characters. Their tones start out normal and unassuming with Wade showing and speaking excitement when Barkley announces he has added Wade to his Fave 5. This immediately changes as Barkley is loud and in charge, Wade is tolerant and stuck. At the end a spokesperson comes on and comments on T-Mobile. This voice is the only other voice besides the two central characters.
After the speaking begins a playful tune comes on in the background that sounds like clown music or a teasing/mocking tone. This fits well with the comedy of the commercial and keeps the commercial light and playful. Periodically the T-Mobile chimes also play along with the background music. Neither the music nor the chimes take over the voices of the characters.

Initially the two characters are introduced individually but quickly share the screen, a short interaction, and then again are separate. In the scene they share, Barkley states he added Wade to his Fave 5, Wade is excited and tells Barkely to call “Anytime? which Barkley questions and Wade repeats, “Anytime? This alone is slightly commical and foreshadows the remaining scenes which depict Barkley’s literal interpretation and abuse of Wade’s “Anytime? comment. The relationship begins as friendly interactino and turns to friendly annoyance and tolerance-in a light manner. It remains a respectful relationship.

Tina Turner doesn't need another hero

Growing up my mom was a big fan of Tina Turner. Though I found her life to be somewhat interesting, I was not a big fan. My younger sister though felt differently then me and she and my mom would often belt out Tina Turner tunes out of nowhere. I would roll my eyes and be grateful they didn’t pull that prank in front of my friends. They were such big fans they even travelled a good distance to see this “legend? in concert. Again, I shared this with no one - what an embarressment. Still, makes me wonder why, when I hear her music I can sing along and often find myself doing so. I will smile a big smile as I imagine my mom and sister dancing like goofballs to Private Dancer. I never really got it - or her - but it became a fun childhood memory. For some reason, when I looked over this assignment I couldn’t get the song “We Don’t Need Another Hero...? out of my head. I listened to the song and was amazed by how many of the words I actually knew AND that there was a bit of a meaning to the song that I had never noticed or cared to think about before. This was actually kind of fun and interesting and I almost want to call up my mom and sister and tell them - I kind of get it. I won’t though, it is too good of a family memory and allows for too much friendly banter that I don’t like her or her music and they do.
Anyhow, on to the assignment.
“We Don’t Need Another Hero./We don’t need to know the way home/All we want is life beyond - Thunder dome.? is the chorus to Tina Turner’s hit song and soundtrack lead to Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome movie starring Mel Gibson. WIthout really listening to the lyrics one could just recall the chorus and assume this is a piece about people being self-sufficient and in some ways they would be right, that is part of the song. There is more to this song though when one looks deeper. The song covers many emotions that listeners can relate to and understand that one may not get at first glance.
As Ann Powers states in her article Bread and Butter Songs: Unoriginality in Pop, it isn’t just seeing that music can move people but, “The next step, even harder, was figuring out why.? In Turner’s song the why could be because it offers, “...a way not just to feel but to better grasp the structure of feeling? and “because those emotions can be overwhelming, sometimes they’re most palatable when framed within something familiar.? The lyrics covers the emotions of moving beyond where one currently is (ALl we want is life beyond... Thunder Dome) with Thunder Dome possible being representative of any place one may feel trapped or stuck. The chorus, after the first verse, is even sung by the innocent children trapped in their circumstances due to reasons beyond their control. The lines “Looking for something we can rely on...There has to be something better out there...Love and Compassion - that day is coming...what can we do with our lives...? etc speaks to many people. The message is generic and can relate to any person in any situation that they are trying to improve or leave. Everyone in the world wants love and compassion, they want to know there is a better life, they want to be able to rely on someone or something - this song relates to the masses and offers hope. All these things stated in this song take possibly strong emotions people may be feeling and puts them in a form - song - that is familiar, making the song applicable to their lives and safe.
This song helps music critics investigate, “what music people like and the role it plays in their lives,? as David Sanjek states. This idea that the role music plays is more important than possibly originality, authenticity, or god Vs bad is, in my opinion an important topic. Music, like literature, creates a dilemma when critics try to categorize and rate. There are so many genres, styles, and writers in both that that alone makes defining music difficult. Then, when you add the variations in the audience and the fact that, “Audiences are more than simply passive targets?(Beach 35), it becomes even more complex to categorize music and create a true “Top Ten? list of either.
In the language arts classroom, students are introduced to numerous pieces of literature. Never will a teacher find a piece that all students enjoy and gain knowledge from; no matter how hard a teacher tries and no matter their love for Shakespeare or Keats, they will never convince all their students that there is value in that author. Music is the same. No matter how many times someone listens to Pop, if they are not a fan, they are not going to like it. When it comes to taste, people can generally not be convinced to change theirs. So, how can we use a song like Turner’s to teach? We use the message and allow students to use their identity to frame it.

Students may not know what Thunder Dome is, but that is OK, especially if each student is allowed to identify their own personal Thunder Dome. Turner had long been separated from her abusive husband Ike when this song came out. This can be used as an example though - her THunder Dome could be her husband. We Don’t need another hero, Ike was her hero at one time. He took her from a no name dreamer to an incredibly successful artist. We don’t need to know the way home, when she left him she had no idea where she was going to go or what she was going to do without her “creator? her husband/manager/controller. All we want is life beyond....Thunder Dome, but all she knew is she wanted a life beyond Ike Turner. What is your Thunder Dome? Continuing on with the lyrics, Looking for something we can rely on, because she cannot rely on her current Thunder Dome - Ike. Has to be something better out there, obvious. Love and compassion, that day is coming, again obvious. Castles built in the air. Here she refers to Henry David Thoreau and having dreams in the clouds and the next line is to build the foundations underneath them. She had her castle in teh clouds and Ike was her foundation but now that foundation does not exist - what is the student’s foundation? I wonder if we are ever going to change. An honest question regardless of where listeners are in life. What can we do with our lives? Another great question for listeners because the possibilities are endless once out of Thunder Dome.

Another thing to look at in this song is why she would have the children sing the chorus. This could be easily answered by students and listeners - children represent youth, innocence, endless possibilities. Children do not have to be trapped. They can be who they want to be. Who wouldn’t love this idea, especially young adults who feel trapped into a role put on them by school, friends, parents, others. 

Having the audience, in this case the students, analyze a song like We Don’t Need Another Hero and applying it to their lives and their identities can create the opportunity for analysis of text and self. This would engage students because all could apply it somehow to their lives. Also, this forgotten song from a forgettable movie could breath new life into its audience as they do the same to the song. Fitting to the lyrics...

Moms on YouTube

It was somewhat difficult to find a lot of good clips on YouTUbe dealing with moms. There were many options under the heading Hot Moms, but that really wasn’t what I was looking for. At the same time, just the fact that this was its own category says something about moms today. Now, not only do we have to take care of house and home and kids and all - we have to be hot too...talk about pressure.
Anyhow, as I was looking at clips there were several I thought were quite stupid and others I found very touching and interesting. Through them all though there were some common themes. I looked at clips dealing with teen moms, soldier moms, comedians discussing moms, and even a clip by Barack Obama praising moms.

I will cover my favorite clips though - The Mom Song, Christopher Titus: Mom’s Thanksgiving, Soldier Moms and Truth about Teen moms These were my four favorite because they either struck a chord with me or made me laugh.

In the first clip, The Mom Song, a comedian takes everything a moms says in the course of a day and puts them into a 2 min 55 second song. The structure of this clip is commercial, as it shows a comedian on stage with their audience during a live show. This comedian’s song became quite popular and was on several news programs and received much attention. The lighting was high key as the center area around the comedian was brighter than the sides and audience. The only; editing is going back and forth between the comedian and the audience. There are some close shots and long shots of the comedian. They show the audience at the moments when the audience is laughing and engaged in a certain comment. The only sound present, other than the speaker’s song, is background music - band type music to support her lyrics, a sort of “Off to the races? number. The sound is upbeat, rushed, and comical to add to the comedic effect of her song. There are no special effects or directing as the setting is a live comedy show with one performer - the comedian.
This song shows all the roles and responsibilities placed on a mom in a single day. Moms are to organize, discipline, teach, caretake, and play with their children, all their children, every day. This pokes fun at the repetition of motherhood as well as some of the commonalities between all moms.
What appeals to me in this clip is the honesty in the words. Everyone who grew up with a mom could relate to the comments made by the comedian. Regardless of the type of mom you had, we all heard the phrases shared. You could be a great, patient, loving mom or a busy, impatient, hectic chaotic mom and the phrases with resonate. This seems to fit. I found this then to be honest and not really biased.

Another clip depicting moms in a comedic fashion was Christopher Titus: Mom’s Thanksgiving. Again this clip shows a comedian on stage. There is not a great deal of editing here, it is mostly the camera following the comedian as he moves around on stage. The lighting is again high key lighting. The only sound is the laughter of the audience and the comedian’s voice. The stage is interesting as it has a large plain wooden chair that the comedian occasionally sits in, a big window behind and a beaten up wall all around him. There are no special effects and other then the detail of the stage there is not much to the video.
This clip shows the complexity of the comedian’s mother. He calls her brilliant and manipulative, beautiful and crazy, loves her kids, kills her husband. Each shows the complexities of his mother. He loves her mother but does not see her as perfect or flawless - in fact he sees her as quite the opposite. He brags up her high qualities which are traditionally feminine, wise, speaks several languages (romantic), amazing cook, creative woman. Although he points out how wise she is he also points out how terribly unwise she is when it comes to men.
This clip spoke to me because though it deals with the tough issue of domestic violence, it shows the many sides to moms and females in general. Many of the clips viewed or articles read about mothers seems to typecast women into being a certain type of mom - this clip, although it shared some commonalities with the others as far as the qualities of moms, also allowed the mom to be many types without limiting her to one role.

The last clip I will discuss is the Soldiers’ Mother clip. This clip is a music video of sorts that a singer/songwriter put together for all moms who have soldiers overseas. In this clip the singers words are accompanied by still images of mothers and soldiers as well as mothers alone and soldiers alone. She sings of ho the moms are waiting for the call from their sons to say they are OK and that even if they do not receive the call they will hide their tears and be brave because that is what their role is. It attempts to unite soldiers’ moms and support them as well.
This clip is not an action video but has images blending together through various transitions. Words at the beginning and end are added as well.
What grabbed me about this clip is, well first of all - my husband was deployed three times to Iraq over a four year period. He spent a total of 2 years overseas and during that time I obviously struggled with his absence but his mom did as well in a different way and I felt badly for her. I don’t know what I would do if my son were overseas like that, because, as corny as this sounds, doesn’t matter if your little one is two days old or thirty years old - they are your little baby. The other reason this clip grabbed me for this assignment is that it shares some of the themes I saw about moms - like the other clips the moms are loving, supportive, proud, caretakers, and there for their children above all else. All these women are very different moms but the title mom unites them in so many ways so that a clip like this one, or a song like the first example, can easily unite them despite their otherwise extreme differences.

All the clips mentioned, as well as others I viewed showed mothers as the following
strong but vulnerable
loving caretakers proud
supportive touching
creative inspiring
devoted to their children
children respected, appreciated, feared, and admired them whether 10 or 40.

April 20, 2008

Madonna Response - accompanies Power Point

Madonna Power Point

The historical artifact I selected is Madonna. I grew up to Madonna, to my parents hating Madonna, to my friends later picking on me for still listening to Madonna, and to my husband laughing at me for liking Madonna while still surprising me with an occasional CD by Madonna. It isn’t necessarily her music that I love, though some of it I find incredibly entertaining – it is more her personality that I admire. Now, I do not agree with many of her choices and/or actions but I am so impressed by her confidence and drive to do what she wants. She has always had the guts to do what so many others can barely dare to dream about doing. Therefore – though I do not worship Madonna or really view most of her choices as great inspiration for my daughters, I do think she is an important figure for her bold display of who she is.
I often wondered why she seemed so over the top in some ways and, in my research I came to some conclusions that I can’t truly support as well as I would like but will give the title of “clues? to my thinking. First, I feel she is over the top because of her upbringing. She is one of 8 children, later to be one of ten children when you add in her step-siblings. Not only this, but her mother, the woman she was named after, died when she was only six. For both these reasons I believe I could argue she is attention seeking because she missed out on a great amount of attention and possibly love as a child. This is more personal than historical though.
As far as historic significance, Madonna was just 21 when Margaret Thatcher was named prime minister. This position of power for a female was not at all common during this time frame. Viewing Margaret Thatcher in a position of power could have been inspiration for Madonna and other females to take on non-traditional, more powerful roles.
As far as her pushing sex so blatantly and repeatedly, especially in connection with religion, I would argue that historically, based on my findings, this was happening during a time when homosexuality was being scrutinized to a greater degree than today. Also, sex scandals of Clinton and other prominent figures were in the news. Now, obviously I wouldn’t cover this portion with my students at all (in fact I probably would not ever bring Madonna into my classroom for any reason if possible-but she is interesting), but seeing the connections she has to history would be interesting. I have to admit though, after looking so much information up – mostly what I found for the choices and changes of Madonna through the years can be explained by personal journey and growth more so than historical impacts. I thought I would find more for her choices in topics as far as religion, abortion, and sex in her music are concerned. I didn’t find nearly as many connections as I was initially hoping to uncover.
I would not use this timeline in the classroom because the sexual content would not be needed in my language arts room; although, I see the value of such a timeline and think the students would be very interested in doing this themselves. I know I enjoyed looking up information on my artifact and the time frame in which she has lived. This would be an excellent activity for showing connections and reasons for choices/actions.

Madonna Power Point

Download file

My Final Project

I plan to build upon my Holocaust unit currently being taught to sophomores and create a genocide unit. In looking at genocide students will not be limited to the atrocities of WWII’s Holocaust but will be able to look past and present at situations around the world that have occurred. The Holocaust is an important event in our history that we should all learn about, but I feel there are other historic events that do not receive as much attention and should. By looking at genocide and combining it with media, students can examine newspapers, history text books, web pages, various forms of literature by survivors and outsiders, they can learn about propaganda, photography, intolerance, bias, and the list goes on. I would begin with the Holocaust unit where we define genocide but add a propaganda, photography, history text accuracy/bias and news section to the unit(some of this already exists but I need to build more into those sections as well). Once students are familiar with these ideas by examining them in the Holocaust, I imagine having groups research other events from Native Americans to Darfur. In groups they will again look at the propaganda, photography, history/text accuracy and bias, and news to learn more about their selected event. We will look at how the events are presented in the media above and question possible reasons. We will look at the amount of information on WWII Holocaust and compare and contrast it to their selected event and again ask questions regarding comparing and contrasting. We will also look at literature from survivors and outsiders and analyze those pieces to see if we can find any common threads.
This is important to me because I have been working on the Holocaust unit for seven years and have always felt it should be bigger than it is. I want to teach about propaganda and motives behind articles and pictures. I want to go into intolerance and humanity and have the students begin to question not just how can this happen in this war but how can this happen ever? and anywhere? and really look at the information they have and analyze and question it. Why are some voices heard and not others? I just think this Holocaust unit could open so many other doors and that is what I am hoping to begin to accomplish by building upon this unit. By looking at all this media I hope/believe that students will not just find answers to my questions but begin to develop their own questions about intolerance and media. There are many things I hope to learn by doing this unit. I want to learn more about propaganda and really build a foundation for demonstrating to my students the power behind media through propaganda. Also, I want to learn and discover some better methods for covering this graphic but important topic with young impressionable adults – I want to learn ho w to get them to start asking the right questions and developing their own sound/logical opinions by using analyzed information from media as support. I hope to learn more about identity as well and how individual and community identity places values and understanding on certain topics. There is a great deal I want to learn through building this unit and even more I hope my students gain through the completion of this unit. I want this to be a unit that I build the foundations but that my students take off with and create something beyond the unit. Those are hard to get b/c you can’t create them – you can only start them and hope the students give them a life of their own – that is what I want. Pretty high expectations.

Media Ethnography

Discourse analysis of MySpace

OK, I have a family blog. I write it about me and my husband and our kids for our out of town family members so they can see pictures of the kiddos and hear stupid stories about our house. I have thought aout MySpace/FaceBook only because my students talk about it a lot and I have been curious but I really haven’t wanted to go there too…plus a couple colleagues have run into trouble as teachers with having these spaces. So, I went to my life-long friend’s Molly’s house because I know she has a FaceBook account and uses it on a regular basis.
Molly uses this method because, as the oldest of about twenty cousins, all her younger family members have one and she feels she is missing out without one. She doesn’t post on hers as much as she lurks on theirs but in order to view theirs – she has to have one as well. It is this community I will use for this entry.

Practices observed:
In many ways the contributors in this community are sure to send out updates to everyone as no one is happy if they are left out. Each person seems to have an identity-one is big on posting pictures, another writes in depth about her only child, another is a creative writer who will go on walks and write stories about what she sees (which everyone tells her how wonderful she is and how she should publish but Molly admits she has really only read portions of most b/c they get too long), there is the social coordinator who reminds everyone of birthdays and such, there is the videographer who makes random obscure videos to funky/scary/crazy music as a hobby, and there is the entertainer – the one who sends funny clips from YouTube and other places for all to see and enjoy. Each has a set role and are kind of expected to follow that role. Molly is the receiver – they all “teach? her how to do the things they are doing if she ever wants to try and she plays clueless b/c then she won’t be expected to contribute as much.
It is really kind of funny how, as Molly explained these roles she was dead on and OK with the fact that they were so defined.

Shared social agenda:
Their social agenda is simple – here you have twenty cousins all within the ages of 36-18 staying in touch with each other. These are those people you use to run around in your skivvies with at the family gathering at the lake. They all grew up together and were so close and do not want to lose that closeness because they are no longer geographical neighbors.

How did this shape their responses:
Everyone was pleasant and playful and nice. No bitching or backstabbing occurred. A lot of encouragement and support together with just trying to maintain a fun relationship with each other was basically what they were all after and all wanted. Through this method they were able to hang on to the playfulness of their youthful relationships despite the craziness of their real worlds. Some innocence regained.

Interview with Molly:
In interviewing Molly she seemed so genuinely happy that this media was available to her. Growing up she had just her younger brother and her cousins. Her brother died 6 years ago, many divorces and family issues have risen up but the cousins remain intact and strong supporters of each other. She was practically giddy when a new post would appear and depending on who it was coming from – her response was different but still positive. She didn’t love that other friends – noncousins that is – were invited or allowed in their community but the bulk of the discussion was limited to cousins so only when an outsider sent something was she slightly bitter about it. She admitted to letting old friends on to her page but also said she really didn’t communicate with them but occasionally looked at their pictures and stuff simply out of boredom or curiosity. She envied some of the things other people sent her because they were so impressive but also admitted to not wanting to put that much of herself out there.

First when I viewed these sights it was really fun to look at all their pictures and brief profiles. Most were individual shots of themselves or family photos with kids and/or spouses and/or pets. All were very nice pictures and all but three-four contributors were females(one husband didn’t have his own page but would add to his wife’s page). Some were really loud and overbearing…borderline obnoxious and I didn’t want to stay on those pages very long. Others were quite interesting and entertaining. None had inappropriate or risqué images – most likely because most have families and/or they know their moms and dads can see these.
After this I started looking more at individual pages. Mostly I found myself looking at their friends section to see if I knew anyone, anyone was especially nice or painful to look at and just entertained myself with these images. Molly had the least amount of friends on hers which she told me use to bother her but most of her friends are older and don’t have these. Several of her cousins had pages of friends but most of these were her college age or just out of college age cousins trying to keep in touch with old friends. Apparently when this first started a lot of people put/allowed random friends on their page just so it looked like they had a lot of friends – even if they didn’t actually communicate with these people. I thought this was kind of funny – back to high school perhaps?.
I didn’t look too deep into the about me section – mostly because of time, the fact we had 8 kids (4 each) running through the house under our feet, and I knew most of her cousins. I could see though where all this information and especially the pictures, could get a bit addicting.
Overall I actually enjoyed FaceBook and could see why people would be interested in using it. One thing I did notice though was an awful lot of drinking/partying pictures and I wonder if people realize just how many people can access these pages – especially the public pages. This is something I think more people need to consider when/if they create a page.

Critical Approaches/Lenses

Several of my previous courses have dealt with some or all of these theories/approaches so before I begin to discuss one, I wanted to share something of my teaching experience working with these in my language arts classrooms. When introduced to, and after working with these theories, the majority of my students seem to have one of those "light goes on" moments as they begin to put all these ideas together and make a different kind of sense of a certain situation. It is wonderful to see. One thing I particularly enjoy about these theories and approaches is that my struggling students seem to "get them" more than anything else they work on and/or more than their more traditionally successful classmates. I can only guess why this is but my thought is that my "successful" students are use to being the "norm" the "accepted" and have never had to (or wanted to) look outside the safety of their little world. Many of my struggling students are not in that safe box and so they, on a regular basis, look at things from different perspectives than their classmates - because they are - in many ways - the others themselves. Regardless, I have really enjoyed working with these theories/approaches. My only problem is, some of my less dedicated students want to take the easy way out and simplify everything back into a stereotype and leave it there. This is a problem in class but more often than not other students will point out what they are doing and what they are leaving out in the bigger picture. It is great to see that part but discouraging to see those unwilling to push themselves to greater understanding.

OK - on to the assignment. I agree wholeheartedly with Lisa and others that it is quite difficult to separate these and that they overlap and work together. At the same time - looking at one part of the many will help in clearer understanding of that one, and consequently others as well. I was most interested in the cultural codes. This one is the one I have the least amount of deliberate/active background learning and use with so I wanted to look at it further.

It reminded me a great deal of language barriers for those who move into a country from another. Vocabulary is one thing but the jargon unique to that culture can be very difficult to master and can cause some problems. Living briefly in WIsconsin I had no idea what a student wanted when they asked to go to the bubbler - now this didn't cause any problems but was interesting nonetheless. When reading a book to my nine year old the words "gay little elf" (Prince Caspian) was read and he stopped me and shared that he heard that word at school but what did it really mean. The language teacher in me wanted to blurt out that it was simple matter of connotation Vs. Denotation but my son would not be enlightened. I explained the original meaning - happy. He interjected - "Oh, so when they say "You're gay" they mean you are happy?" and continued, "I can say, "I feel so gay today." then?" Ah...to avoid future problems for my son, as well as to teach him why he should never say this himself, I explained the two cultural meanings - stupid and homosexual. He understood then and sort of chuckled and said, "Yeah, I better not say that huh?" Well, short story long...I see cultural symbols the same way. In your culture that you are comfortable with, you take for granted the meaning behind symbols. Outsiders looking into a unique culture will completely miss the meaning. This can be VERY powerful in media b/c if you are listening and/or viewing and don't get it - you really WANT to get it so you too can be an insider to the specific cultural norms. You then can understand the code AND use it yourself to demonstrate that you "fit into" the culture. THis is especially powerful with adolescents who are constantly trying to "fit in" as they also struggle to find themselves.

Makes me think - wow, advertisers are brilliant. More than that though, makes me think - wow, we really need to show our students how to recognize not only the codes but what media does with the codes and what they are attempting to tell/show their viewers in using the codes.

Maybe I am off here but that is how I see cultural codes coming into play - desire to understand, need to fit in.

How to use this in the classroom? I think removed from literature you could simply work in groups with topics/themes "codification of cool/beauty/outcast" and see what exists in media - you could also combine this with literature.

With literature, before reading a pice (like To Kill a Mockingbird) students could use cultural codes and images to define courage/justice/equality/ignorance/pride and others before they read and then during/after reading they could see how the characters match up/fall short and if they would agree with their original codes. Could be quite interesting.

Rationale for teaching film, television, or media studies at HHS

I am not entirely sure if I am suppose to post this topic in my blog but better safe than sorry I guess...
Why Media Studies education? Well, to begin with, as everyone here knows, the state of Minnesota has put in place standards in the area of media literacy for all high school students to meet. Currently there is not in place at our school a clear way all these standards are being met. Also, media begins to enter our students lives at a very young age and continues to carry an even stronger influence in their future years. Students are surrounded by media on television, the internet, their cell phones, even in literature the format of some writing for teens is changing to copy what media looks like. All these outside influences play a huge role in the development of our students, how they think, formulate opinions, and make decisions. Having students be able to critically analyze media is more important now than it has ever been.

As a language arts teacher who has had experience working with students grades 8-12, I see the need on a daily basis for media education. My background in media education began over ten years ago when I first took a course at the University of Minnesota titles teaching Media Literacy. Since that time I have tried to include media studies in my regular ed English classrooms to some degree in many of my units. Recently, as I began taking courses at the University again, I have opted to take a few that deal with media studies – either as a side note or as the emphasis of the course. Currently I am taking Teaching Film, Television, and Media Studies through the Web which focuses specifically on this area in question today.

Hayfield High School has always prided itself on preparing students for life once they leave this building and community. In accomplishing this goal Hayfield, a school strong in tradition, has had to change with the demands of the outside world, something that has not always been easy but when the focus is on what is best for the students – Hayfield has complied. Today students are bombarded on a daily, hourly, minutely rate by media influences. There is so much information and so many sources that students need to have the skills and tools to properly decipher and process everything thrown their way. Not only that but students have to be shown how to use the technology that goes along with this information. At the university I attend, freshmen comp students are required to access, use, and create blogs as a part of their course requirement. Papers are sent via email or through blogs, wikis, and/or discussion boards to professors. It is expected students know how to access and are familiar with tools such as youtube, facebook, and others. Because we have not taught our students how to properly use these sources, they are blocked. Those technologies that are not blocked, many students do not know how to use. I began the year requiring students to email me their papers. Because a large number of my students do not have computers at home, or have computers but no internet, I had to change this requirement. Also, those that did have these things did not know how to attach files. This is a problem. I would argue that if students are struggling with the basics of how to utilize these tools, the internet, etc, that they certainly have not begun the next step of how to analyze/interpret the tools.

Our school needs to continue to prepare students as in the past – and in order to do so, not only do students need to be familiar with how to access and use the tools they have before them, they (and more importantly) need to know how to interpret and critically analyze data from the media they do access.

I believe for our school, it would be best to have a required media class at an early grade. This course could be a part of their seventh or eighth grade curriculum. Here students could get some of the media studies basics. From here media studies could be a required component in all courses. There is not a field that is not directly affected by media. Teachers would not need to create any new units, they could begin by incorporating media studies into their already created units. Projects could be developed that include media. Creating lessons that truly require students to look critically at and analyze in an in-depth process the media that surrounds their topic will help students engage in the media and develop keen skills in the area of understanding some larger pictures regarding the area they are researching and media in general.

An example could be in a science class to have students develop a wiki on a controversial topic (or controversial topics). Perhaps in groups teams could develop an argument for the ir cause, present the information on the wiki and include media that supports and goes against their view. Once each grou is done developing their own final product on their topic, they can branch off and examine another group or groups. They could analyze another group’s findings and look further for more media and information to argue for or against. While they are doing this, they are aware that other groups are looking at their creation as well and question their findings. This would encourage students to be honest and upfront as well as thorough on their topic.

In a language arts classroom students could create a wiki on grammar or writing papers. They could also research an author or piece of literature. Perhaps they could study something like To Kill a Mockingbird. They could look for articles on the piece to study bias. They could study the time period the novel was written in and look at the newspapers, trials, laws, ways of that time and together create a new jury for Tom Robinson’s trial or a new outcome to the novel and have accurate citizen’s reactions to a not guilty plea as well as the consequences in the town of such a verdict. They could create a blog as a newspaper and have people respond to the articles by role-playing. Ay of these tasks would require deep-thinking and in-depth analysis using sources outside the actual novel as well as the novel itself.

There are countless more examples one could create for any classroom setting. Bottom line – critical analysis, questioning, and understanding what they read, see, and hear, is very important in the preparation of our students for the world outside this school. We do them a disservice by not meeting this need. An introductory course in media studies, followed by deliberate instruction and projects using media studies in regular classrooms are necessary in order to prepare our students accordingly and should begin right away.

March 3, 2008

Moms in science

For some reason my images did not post in my blog. I will try to send those again.
After looking at several sights it appears as though science is trying to scientifically prove the importance of the role of the mother in the life of their offspring.
One study done on rats showed that those rats born or raised to nurturing mothers scored better and performed better both short and long term in mazes and tests. Also, scientists found that physically rats develop differently when raised in a nurturing environment.
Students seem to perform better and handle stress better when raised by nurturing mothers in secure homes.
There are no studies done on negative relationships, I imagine there would be countless human rights and vulnerable child issues brought into account in such a situation. Scientifically it seems to make sense. All life forms grow better and perform better when they are taken care of properly and nurturing anything during its development is taking care of it and will lead to better results.
Scientifically then, to be a nurturing mother is positive. Media portrays most nurturing mothers in an exaggerated light. Few truly healthy, normal representations of a good mother exist in the media I looked at and was familiar with. I am aware that I have not watched many TV shows that have moms as central figures so this view could be a bit skewed on my part. Scientifically though the research finds that the relationships that most benefit the child are supportive, nurturing relationships but these are not commonly seen in the media.
Another study shows that while these things are required for a healthy child, reality states that most moms spend roughly 11 minutes a day in conversation with their child grades 6-12. This hardly creates the possibility for the type of nurturing scientists are looking for - perhaps reality then is dictating media...I like to hope not.

Moms in the media

The phenomena I researched in the media was that of moms. Society has so many expectations and images of moms and there are several options for the type of mom one can be - some more acceptable than others. Overall though, mothers are generally portrayed as nurturing and loving, protecting their children no matter what. Overall I found about 12 mom types in the media. None of these varieties are necessarily independent as most moms portrayed are actually a combination of several.

First there is the typical 1950’s Donna Reed style nurturing mom. These moms ran rampant in the “golden age? of television. Any family show had the mom with the apron, dinner ready at 5:30 as Dad walked in the door, sheets pressed, house clean, smile on her face image of family bliss. Today those images are harder to come by. The traditional mom of the 50’s has been replaced by moms like Debra on Everybody Loves Raymond. Like her earlier influences, Debra stays home to take care of the children and household responsibilities. Unlike her earlier role models, Debra is not great at cooking or cleaning, complains to her husband, rarely has dinner ready as he walks in the door, and has a large influence on family matters. Why - she even handles most of the bills. She is presented as a more modern version of this typical nurturing mom, but she is not always smiling and very little in her home is pressed or clean.

In this same show is the over-the-top nurturing mom. This mom is in everyone’s affairs and is constantly poking in business “for the best of her child? If this mother is at fault of anything it is admittedly her love for her children. The very same show, Everybody Loves Raymond has the perfect example of this sort of mom in Raymond’s mother Marie. She constantly goes over the top, finding blame in everyone but herself or her children for the outcome of day to day events. Usually her daughter-in-law or husband is to blame in her mind. Everything Debra does, Marie does better and she is sure to point this out to anyone who will listen. There are other examples of this mom in media, but she seems to take the cake.

This over-the-top nurturing can turn into control - where the control freak mom wants to have a say in everything their child does. The movie Monster -In-Law shows this quite well as Jennifer Lopez’s character is to marry the son of Jane Fonda’s character. Fonda manipulates her way into every aspect of her son’s life. She is so afraid of losing the control she has always felt she had over her son to another woman (Lopez) that she goes to unrealistic extremes. In the end the two come to a compromise with Lopez
acknowledging that his mother will always have a place. Fonda though grapples with control throughout the film. Another example of control freak moms in seen in the Bravo reality show The Real Housewives of Orange COunty. Numerous times in this show the moms come right out and state that if their children do not do what is expected they will cut off the “only control they still have over their children - money.? They say this, they mean it, and they will do it. The children know it too so the control of the moms is very real in this series.

These control moms also seem to be the “do-it-all-I-will-conquer-the-world? moms. These moms try to have it all - a happy marriage, successful career, well-adjusted children, a beautiful clean home, an active social life, a great body, and anything and everything else a woman may want in this world. The Real Housewives of Orange County are these moms, Fonda’s character is this mom, and Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in Freaky Friday is this mom before the “switch? and she is forced to lighten up to function in her teen’s world. These moms run ragged trying to do it all. They are insane multi-taskers who never slow down but go-go-go in order to accomplish it all. Who said having children should hold you back - not these moms. In society, many moms try to achieve this and at times are successful but are always going to fail in moments because no one can do or be everything all of the time.

The result of the do-it-all mom is the frazzled mom. The mom who has too much on their plate and never seems to get things right. This mom is always on the go but is never getting anywhere. Goldie Hawn’s character in Overboard was this mom - until she figured things out. Tina Fey’s American Express commercials in magazines portrays this mom. Another example of the frazzled mom is Toni Collette’s character in The Sixth Sense. She is clearly lost as a parent and financial provider throughout the movie, really not having any idea where to turn. Erin Brokovich has moments where she is frazzled as she tries to “do-it-all? but often falls short. The frazzled mom usually loses something in the process - for Hawn it is her pretentiousness, for Brokovich it is her relationship, for Roseanne Barr it is time for herself. regardless of what is lost, the manic frazzled struggle remains as day to day the impossible is accomplished.

Then we have the mom who doesn’t just give up one or two things, she gives it all up in the name of motherhood. The “selfless mom? can be seen in many older movies and images. The Christmas Story mom is so selfless about getting her family a great meal that she herself is never able to sit down and eat. Sally Field could make a career out of playing the selfless mom role in movies (wait, she does). In Steel Magnolias Field’s character goes so far as to give her daughter a kidney without any hesitation. In Forest Gump, Sally Field’s character mom is so selfless she gives her whole self - body included - to the man in charge of deciding if young Forrest can attend his school. Forrest is sent outside as the audience hears groans and bed squeaks...apparently her performance is impressive and the man is satisfied, for Forrest is accepted. Ahh-the things women will do for their children...

The compromising mom is the peacekeeper of the family. Movies like Christmas Vacation when the mom is constantly trying to keep things “happy? during the holidays, as well as The Christmas Story where the mom keeps a secret about her sons fight from the father in order to avoid conflict show the mom doing what she must to keep smiles on the faces of her family members. Home Improvement does this a bit more realistically as Jill and Tim go back and forth, Jill usually trying to explain either her sons or her husband’s perspective on the matter at hand.

When moms compromise a great deal, especially with their children, they can begin to take on the role of the “friend? mom. This friend mom is played well by Diane Keaton in such movies as As Good As it Gets and Father of the Bride I and II. A more recent example of a friend mom can be seen in teh movie Stepmom with Julia Roberts and Susan Surandon. Roberts, in the position of stepmom takes the role of friend to try to get closer to her soon-to-be step children. Surandon’s character is usually a stark contrast but at times plays the friend role (takes her daughter to a concert on a school night) to also try to get closer to her children.

There are also extreme roles of moms portrayed. These roles dangle between heroic and crazy. In the movie The Missing, starring Cate Blanchet and Tommy Lee Jones, a mother travels across country with her estranged father and younger daughter in hopes to save her oldest daughter from kidnappers attempting to sell her on the black market. She goes to dangerous lengths to save her child. Much the same degree is Jodi Foster in Flight Plan. She goes against everyone on the plane and tears the plane apart in order to save her child. Jodi Foster plays this extreme parent role in Panic Room as well. A less extreme version of the savior mom is in the Home Alone movies when the mom repeatedly travels across country to reunite with her forgotten troublemaking son. She too chooses paths she would not normally travel in order to save her child.

The three remaining moms, the evil, distant, and absent mom are harder to come by but still present in the media which sends a strong message about these images.
The evil mom puts her own needs and wants before her child’s - which culture dictates to be unnatural. Mommy Dearest is an old classic that clearly demonstrates a troubled evil mom. The only other evil mom discovered in the time searching is in the movie Barbie - The Island Princess. In this movie the mom wants revenge on a family that robbed her of money and title so she has a daughter with the plan to have that daughter marry the prince and steal back what is “rightfully hers.? The mom raised the daughter to be a princess, not ever caring about what makes the daughter happy or what the daughter may want. This lengthy elaborate plan does not work and the daughter, whose very birth was to execute revenge, turns out to be a beautiful, well-adjusted young lady...interesting.

The distant mom is usually also quite wealthy in the media. The examples found include Two and a Half Men, Dharma and Greg, even Friends has distant moms. These moms seem more concerned with things other than their children - again something that is viewed very negatively in society. In the older movie Prince of Tides, the mom, after living through a terrible ordeal, remarries a wealthy man and distances herself from her children. This woman is portrayed as very cold. All these moms are dressed impressively, well off women who are always together and seem to have little to no time for their children. They are concerned more with how their children reflect on them rather then the actual well being of their child.

The last category is the absent mom. Disney movies are strongly lacking positive female role models for all their young princesses. Of the 44 movies that are considered classics by Disney, 4 have moms (Mulan, Peter Pan, Black Cauldron, and Sleeping Beauty); 7 animal movies have moms present, 2 have evil step-moms, and the rest are motherless with many fathers present. Of the four movies that do have moms, the moms are very much background characters that either send their daughters away(Black Cauldron and Sleeping Beauty) or don’t know what to do with their daughters (Mulan and Peter Pan).

Overall, the various images of moms in the media do not paint a great picture for young ladies or anyone to really follow. Media does generally portray extremes, but one would think that somewhere a more mainstream mom would exist. 
I must admit I do not watch much television, but what I do see is either series that are missing mom roles, have distant mom roles, or the do it all moms that never have a bad hair day let alone a dinner flop or child outburst. Perhaps Debra on Everybody Loves Raymond or Jill on Home Improvement are as close as TV will get to something more “normal? - my definition of normal anyhow. Actually, I believe Mrs. Weasly of Harry Potter fame is perhaps the closest to a “normal? mom as I have seen in years...and she is a witch.

February 4, 2008


Well, I am not entirely sure what we are suppose to put in our blogs. I have been trying to come up with some curriculum ideas to use in my classroom and to use for the final project for this course. It is still new and we haven't read much yet so I maybe shouldn't be panicking yet that I don't have an idea brewing. Part of me would like to go out of my comfort zone and perhaps look at something in an area I usually do not venture but then I wonder if I would ever really use it. I kind of want to look into creating a unit for my sophomores about propaganda using the Holocaust for starters and then branching from there into modern day propaganda. With the elections coming it would be great timing for working with news media. At the same time that doesn't sound terribly exciting either - I don't know. I think I should try to think outside the box a bit and come up with something different from the norm.
I have enjoyed what we have been reading in class. I think the US is so terribly far behind in many aspects of education and media is just another area but one that should be moved up on the priority list. Perhaps we can take some emphasis off testing and use that time and money to put to better use in the area of media and media education. Data driven decisions sounds great, but we have all this data telling us what we should be doing and we don't follow any of it because of the almighty dollar.
Wow, I am going in a bunch of directions here.
Well, I will continue to think about a topic and hope it is something great that I will use and enjoy using and students will benefit from working on...