Jurassic Park is a science fiction media franchise that produces a series of films. Every film is centered on an attempt to create a theme park of cloned dinosaurs that escape their confinements, only to seek and attack the visitors. In 2015, the franchise released their fourth movie titled Jurassic World. In this movie, Claire who’s the park manager is a single woman with no other priority in her life but the park. Regardless of her adequate ability to run this park, she fails to save herself without the help of the manliest man, the protagonist Owen, whom she later falls in love with.
Looking at this film with a critical lens, the female is portrayed as either the mom who looks like a mess and can’t wait to get a day off, or the ice queen, the workaholic and has no time for family, friends, essentially life outside of work.
Claire is the ice queen. She is running around the entire park (forest and mud included), while in heels and business attire. Her ideas frequently get dismissed because she’s in a man’s world, and she couldn’t possibly know what she’s saying. When she has a moment of saving the manly man Owen, Claire’s heroic act gets quickly covered by a kiss, which re-asserts his power and control over her, reducing Claire to a blushing and embarrassed girl.
This film stereotypes women as weak. The woman needs a hero, her opinions aren’t helpful, she is only good for producing children, she can’t have a balanced life, she must be pretty regardless of the circumstances, etc.
Let’s say this movie was played in a mainstream classroom. Stack and Kelly suggest that:
“Educators need to engage students by analyzing that which is playful as well as engaging in an ideological analysis of that which is serious.” (Stack and Kelly, 2006, p.13) A film as such could be playful, yet contains the means of a serious ideological analysis. That would be teaching critical media literacy.
“Indeed, teaching critical media literacy should be a participatory, collaborative project.
Watching television shows or films together could promote productive discussions between teachers and students (or parents and children), with emphasis on eliciting student views, producing a variety of interpretations of media texts, and teaching basic principles of hermeneutics and criticism.”
(Kellner and Share, 2007, p.5)
In watching popular media in a collaborative way, students get the “opportunities to inquire into, and debate, who controls the media system and whether a predominantly corporate commercial media system is compatible with democracy.” (Stack and Kelly, 2006, p.9-10). How much choice do we get with the media system?
Murphy states: “post-feminism, which would claim that the female characters in these stereotypical roles chose to be where they are” (Murphy, 2015). It’s important to relate choice with the point of democracy when dealing with critical analysis. Nevertheless, is it really choice, or it a result of preconceived biases that led Claire to choose this role?
According to Durham, “Mass media representations of adolescent girls constitute a facet of the cultural shaping of girls' training in femininity, and they are particularly effective at that developmental stage” (Durham, 1999)
Who’s developing our children? Are the individuals making their own choices, or is it the mass media forming them?
Durham, M. G., (1999) Articulating Adolescent Girls' Resistance to Patriarchal Discourse in Popular Media, Women's Studies in Communication, 22:2, 210-229
Kellner, D., & Share, J.(2007). “Critical Media Literacy Is Not an Option.” Learn Inq, Kluwer Academic Publishers
Murphy, J.N., (2015). “The role of women in film: Supporting the men -- An analysis of how culture influences the changing discourse on gender representations in film" Journalism Undergraduate Honors Theses. 2.
We live in a society that carries a large demand on having literate individuals. So far, in the Western society, a decent job has been done in ensuring that students can read and write. However, literacy is not confined to the 4 walls of the classroom or the school,
“[…] literacies exist outside of the world of the classroom and can and should be included in academic instruction.” (Morell, p.235)
A lot of students carry stories with them into class that may prevent them from understanding the literacy being discussed, simply because it does not incorporate any current or realistic points of view. So, those are the literacies outside of the classroom that should be included in a powerful academic instruction.
“[…] For any progressive literacy educator interested in reaching students and helping them to achieve must involve examining the everyday language and literacy practices of students to make connections with classroom practices.” (Morell, p.238)
With examining the everyday language and literacy practices, arises the concept of critical literacies. This form of critical literacy, takes powerful academic instruction through another dimension, because it’s not only using the everyday language and events, but it is comparing texts and understanding the underlying relationship between power and domination. Furthermore, it’s a mechanism that creates a platform where students can re-write their world. A literate student can be able to read and write, however, that doesn’t prevent him from viewing the world with a racist lens, a sexist lens, ageist, homophobic, etc. That’s why it’s important to understand the nature and the purpose of the literacy they read. Moreover, if the literacy they tackle in class is in conjunction with what they are experiencing outside of the classroom, it creates relevance, fuels passion and engages the students to thoroughly investigate, challenge and critically examine their world.
“By honouring and drawing upon local literacy practices and the everyday culture of youth, educators can prepare curricula that simultaneously increase academic literacies while also reaching into the worlds of students, facilitating empowered identities among these students, and making connections between their local practices and global concepts of educational and social justice.” (Morell, p. 235)
When I was in school, I remember my English teacher taking up the song “Where is the love” by the Black Eyed Peas and I feel that experience works very well as an example to what Morell is trying to say in his readings. My teacher used a hip-hop song to discuss with us literary devices and more importantly controversial topics (world peace, KKK, drugs, etc.).
An activity like that trains students to listen and observe carefully what is in their environment, then to assess the meaning behind it. Something a teacher might notice is students approaching her/him with other songs they heard that could produce insightful debate. An effective inquiry-based learning strategy would be to take up that song as a class and see if the students can critically view it on their own. I can’t wait to use this strategy in my classroom!