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December 1993


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Theresa Dolan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 16 Dec 1993 11:03:44 -0500
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I am very interested in this discussion since I had the following
experience last year while teaching Critical Reading & Writing (freshman
English) at Boston College as a graduate student.  In the context of the
Drama section of the course, I showed "Paris is Burning" to provoke
discussion about how identities are "put on" and how some putting
on (like the film's drag balls) takes the form of using the costumes of the
dominant culture in order to subvert that culture....blah, blah, blah That
was my introduction to them; it was in the very specific context of Drama.
What happened was that the students (9 females and 16 males) made a lot of
jokes and comments while we were watching the movie, which was fine, and
then during our discussion, they expressed shock that such a culture even
existed within their culture.  That was all to be expected, but then on my
teaching evaluations, several of them wrote that they shouldn't have had
to watch it because "it had nothing to do with English" and that it was a
"bad movie."
I now wonder, if they are reading about this University of Iowa case if
they are thinking they could have refused to watch that movie they so
disliked and if they could have made a similar case at BC.  I was so
surprised to read the evaluations, but I persisted in thinking it was
a good thing I had shown it.
Now I wonder though, since those students were very aware of themselves as
consumers of education, if they won't be able to turn academia into a
supply & demand market in which no one would choose to take a class billed
as containing "unsettling" content.  The department did not support those
students, and as far as I know, the university didn't either, but there
seems to be a wave of this kind of thinking (i.e., I'm paying $25,000 per
year, and I don't want to support the teaching of this kind of material).
Theresa Dolan