October 16 2019
October 2019 Issue II
Friends refer friends.
Taking a deep dive into a specific topic related to education.
Acting out of Fear…
The end of September is marked with Banned Book Week, which supports the First Amendment (free speech) by calling into question moves that censor public access to information. The event strives to de-shelf books that have been suppressed by schools (even libraries) because some are fearful of the ideas they represent, the topics they discuss, or even the characters they present. The whole goal of the Banned Book event is to bring to light these otherwise absent texts.
But fear itself is subjective (based on our personal experiences) and the word “text” is not limited to written pages. So when you curl up on your couch to watch those horror films this Halloween, keep in mind they are pointing at someone to be afraid of. The question is whom? Films (especially horror) set up a cultural narrative (telling us who to fear and those to cheer) that the current era of cinema is attempting to trouble.
Horror as a movement towards social justice
By presenting those voices that are suppressed in society, film is bringing these historically problematic perspectives under the lens through more diverse perspectives of horror. Audiences are viewing very real problems that are being faced everyday within our local communities, experiences that require empathy towards a protagonist fighting for retribution in an unjust world.
So let’s take a look at how some current events are being portrayed on the big screen:
Immigration: Building a perimeter wall seems like the premise from Dashner’s dystopian novel Maze Runner, but is an idea we are all too familiar with. The ever-changing immigration laws have brought to focus the growing dangers of crossing the border, and a compounding body count as evident in the toe tags hanging at the Hostile Terrain exhibition. The U.S. seemingly offers opportunity as the land of the free but Hulu’s Culture Shock takes this Pleasantville-like dream of living in the City on the Hill and reveals a realistic nightmare. The film juxtaposes a Spanish-speaking Mexico with an English-speaking North America to provide a grueling tale of why, how, and who is crossing the border as well as what awaits them on the other side. Culture Shock attempts to answer this seeming border crisis by revealing the real traumas at hand.
Women’s Rights: From the pay gap to sexual assault to reproductive rights, women are facing growing issues of equality, accountability, and power. The resurgence of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale as a TV series, brings concerns about stepping backwards in time rather than forwards with the women’s movement into discussion. The government’s (Gilead) extreme rule over the bodies of women (even physically muzzeling their voices) is a dim look at a horrifying future if women’s rights continue to be challenged. Protagonists like Offred offer an empowering perspective of the female narrative. Can someone say, praise be?
Mirror, Mirror, on the wall…
Arguing for more inclusive and culturally relevant texts that disrupt more traditional perspectives is imperative to a more globalized society. Cinema is no different. As a text, film informs identities and reminds us that how we see ourselves portrayed on screen has important implications. Implications that can reiterate or disrupt fears driven by cultural -isms. No matter the genre, diverse perspectives have a right to be represented.
SPOTTED: WHILE AVOIDING WORK…
Taking a meaningful break to chip away at the silos in education.
Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves oh my —
Say no more. We’ve got you covered with a frighteningly real horror – Chernobyl. The historical mini-series heads deep into the exclusion zone to look at the events that immediately preceded and followed the 1986 meltdown of a nuclear power plant near Pripyat (part of the then Soviet Union). The documentary highlights the catastrophic effects of human error coupled with a political cover up that has led to a still-rising death toll (we’re talking within minutes of the core melting and decades later after control of the reactor has been restored). Radiation is a silent but deadly killer (aka kryptonite to Superman) with detrimental effects on the environment (contamination via bodies of water and forestry) as well as wildlife (such as livestock and abandoned domestic pets during the evacuation).
Chernobyl is one of the deadliest nuclear disasters our world has experienced thus far. Radioactive artifacts that prove the area was once inhabited are still where they were left over 33 years ago, including gear in the hospital basement removed from the responders who were first on the scene to put out the reactor fire. These mysterious and frozen-in-time qualities have made it an alluring destination for tourists. In 2011, Ukraine began welcoming tourists into the exclusion zone (the area surrounding the plant that once banned human occupation), but radiation levels remain high and individuals who enter are checked once exiting, including the contamination of personal equipment (cameras, cars, etc.).
When selfies go too far…
The uncertainty of safety visiting places like Chernobyl has become a draw for dark tourism, the practice of traveling to places associated with tragedy such as death. This type of travel isn’t new (e.g. Pompeii, Auschwitz, the Twin Towers…). But, because changes in the visitor experience certainly are, concerns are being raised over the ways that people interact with those particularly dark locations (think selfie yoga poses on top of memorials).
One artist has attempted to trouble these behaviors by juxtaposing images shared on social media with historical ones from each location. Inappropriate etiquette isn’t the only growing concern, selfies have taken the lives of a number of individuals taking more risks in hopes of getting that perfect shot if only for an Insta.
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