Mad Authenticity: Television Portrayals of Women from the 60s II

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

This week we invite Cecilia Portillo back to continue her discussion about the portrayal of women in AMC’s Mad Men. Last week, Cecilia explored Mad Men’s portrayal of the homemaker. This week, Cecilia continues her conversation as she explores the portrayal of the 1960s modern woman.

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Cecilia Portillo, Guest Blogger

As we discussed in Mad Authenticity I, each of the female characters in the TV show Mad Men plays an important role in showcasing the problems and experiences common to women in the 1960s. Today we’ll explore our ideas of the modern woman and how these ideas shape the characters of Joan Harris and Peggy Olson.

 

Modern Women: Joan & Peggy

Joan and Peggy are two strong female characters in AMC’s Mad Men. Their story lines shape our understanding of office gender relations during the 1960s. {Click on image for source information.}

The characters Joan Harris and Peggy Olson are crucial to our understanding of women’s role in the workplace during the 60s. Both women are quietly ambitious, clever, and intelligent. In addition, both experience the negative side of being women in a male-defined space. Through these visual representations, viewers can see the struggle that women faced when entering the workforce—a place where sexual harassment and discrimination were both common and standard practice.

“Why is it that every time a man takes you out to lunch around here, you’re the dessert?” —Peggy Olson

Joan & Peggy, fan favorites, literally show the audience how women have fought—in many ways— to reach important and respectful positions in the professional sphere. In the clip below, we see these two women discussing the sexism and disrespect they encounter. Although Joan’s response to Peggy’s unease would not typically be considered enlightening or helpful, it is prudent to recognize that her mentality was one shared by many women entering the workforce at this time.

What do you think about the portrayal of women from the the 1906s in “Mad Men?”

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), Betty Draper (January Jones) and Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) {Click on image for source information.}

 Let’s keep the conversation going. . .  

How can the depiction of a historical era on TV challenge what we thought we knew about a time period?

How do our modern conceptions shape our look at the past?

 – Cecilia 

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Mad Authenticity: Television Portrayals of Women in the 60s

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom. This week we invite Cecilia Portillo, a blogger from our sister organization’s blog Images Shaping History, to discuss the portrayal of women in the television show Mad Men.

Along with bringing film literacy into language arts classrooms, the Labragirl Film Project works to bring film analysis and media literacy into history and social studies classrooms. In addition to teaching students how to engage in traditional historical study, it is important that students be able to both understand the way popular culture shapes our understanding of history and also be able to navigate their relationship with history within this sphere.

Today’s conversation takes a look at:

  1. our relationship with media images;
  2. how our modern conceptions of the past shape our understanding of the past; and
  3. the ways moving images shape our view of history.

How do our modern ideals shape our portrayals of the past?

How do modern morals and beliefs shape the way we perceive the past, visually speaking?

Let’s see what Cecilia has to say. Discuss below!

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Academic texts and articles are the most common ways historians explain the past to the public. However, television programming based on historical topics gives people a look into the lives of people from a different era, providing a sense of closeness and a reality that words on a printed page can never do.  Television viewers are able to actually look into the past to witness the culture and attitude of a particular time period. 

Let’s explore these human and cultural connections by discussing an episode of AMC’s Mad Men, a television drama based in the 1960s that focuses on the home and work life of several advertising executives.  Although the story is a work of fiction, the look and feel of the show seems very authentic. The historical authenticity can be seen in the fashion, the cars, houses and most importantly in the everyday problems faced by the characters. These interactions highlight the concerns and mentalities of the era. Through character interactions, the viewer can learn of the daily workings of the people of the 1960s.

The cast of Mad Men {Click on image for source information.}

My favorite part of the show is the portrayal of the white working woman and homemaker. The shows’ main female characters are:

  • Betty Draper: the stay at home wife and mother
  • Peggy Olson: a copy writer and modern working woman
  • Joan Hollaway/Harris: a 1960s corporate secretary

These three characters have been crucial to the show since the first episode.

Betty Draper ( January Jones), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) {Click on image for source information.}

Let’s take a look at Betty Draper’s character – the stay at home wife and mother.

Betty Draper

Mad Men Season 3 Promo. January Jones as Betty Draper {Click on image for source information.}

Betty Draper,  the quintessential homemaker and wife of Ad Man Don Draper, is the series protagonist. Her character provides many visual lessons about understandings of what it was like to be an economically stable woman in the 60s.

She tends to her children and the home and tends to her husband when he arrives from work. Betty is resourceful, charming, and seemingly unhappy all the same. On the surface it appears that she is content with her life, however, Betty Draper is an example of the syndrome that many women underwent during this era. This  syndrome  would later pave way for an important piece of literature in the time  “The Feminine Mystique”  which describes the sense of void  that many suburban housewives felt throughout their supposed successful lives. Through her character such issues as infidelity, independence and reproductive rights are brought to light – all issues that were impactful in the sociocultural sphere of the era.

How do our modern gender ideals and beliefs shape the way we perceive the portrayal of Betty Draper?

In the following clip, we see how normal Betty’s life seems on the surface. We have a greater understanding of the domestic issues that she faces as a housewife and mother.

Her life is filled with troubles bigger than having to get dinner on table.

How does our modern knowledge of the past shape the way we perceive this portrayal? 

There is a wild misconception that all women of the era were happy suburban housewives completely fulfilled and living the “perfect” life. The character of Betty disrupts the notion that all women of this era were as identical as the Levittown homes where many housewives lived.

Do you watch the show?

What do you think about the portrayal of  suburban housewives? 

Next week Cecilia takes a look at the portrayal of another Mad Men character in Mad Authenticity II.

Until Next Time,

Cecilia

Check out our Downton Abbey discussions here & here.

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Bring Labragirl into your classroom. Contact us at info@labragirlfilmproject.org or fill out our Interest & Inquiry Form.

Lost Voices: The Stoning of Soraya M.

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

Last week we discussed cultural memory and the role moving images playing in shaping our collective understanding of the past.

This week we are joining a conversation from our sister company – Labragirl Pictures‘ blog.  This discussion about the film The Stoning of Soraya M. combines film analysis with two of the Labragirl Film Project’s goals:

  • Fostering a global perspective
  • Addressing racial and gender inequalities 

Please comment below or discuss with us on 

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700-Movie-Reel

Classroom Discussion Synopsis: 

This week’s Moving Images-Moving Forward conversation explores the film The Stoning of Soraya M.

Grade Level: High School & College

Educational Goals:

  • Help students apply film analysis and film reading skills to larger global discussions
  • Foster a global perspective and understanding of the world
  • Help students think critically about their interactions with moving images
  • Encourage students to navigate critical thinking discussions about moving images & historical images

The Stoning of Soraya M., 2008

{Warning: This blog post contains movie spoilers.}

Based on a true story, The Stoning of Soraya M. was adapted from the book La femme lapidé by Iranian—French journalist Freidoune Sahebjam. Sahebjam’s book was also published in English as: The Stoning of Soraya M.: A Story of Injustice in Iran.

{Click on image for source info.}

Have you seen The Stoning of Soraya M.?

What do you think about it?

This film tells the story of an Iranian woman who was unjustly stoned to death in 1986. This movie provides an intimate look into a small, remote Iranian village – exploring customs, morals, and social norms. Additionally, visual life and sound are given to the women in this town—women who have been otherwise silenced.

The Stoning of Soraya M. Official Trailer

Perhaps most disturbing in this movie is the 20+ minute stoning scene. It’s real, brutal, and visually intense. What makes this sequence so disturbing is also what seems to give the story and the characters in this film stronger voices. If the filmmakers had chosen to allude to the stoning, rather than recreate the execution, then maybe the story wouldn’t be as shocking.

A still from the film’s stoning scene. {Source: http://dianiko.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/the-stoning-of-soraya-m/}

If the stoning scene were shorter then maybe the slow and painful process of stoning would not seem as violent or tragic. Or, maybe if the stoning was filmed from a distance rather than with a series of close-up images, the reality of the situation wouldn’t be as powerful.

What do you think about these images?

Would this movie had been the same without such a prolonged and unapologetic stoning scene?

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Did you use any of these discussions or activities in your classroom? How did it go?

Do you teach film reading and film analysis?

What are some exercises you use?

We’d love to hear from you.

Please comment below or discuss with us on .

*Disclaimer: All movie clips are suggestions for class use, only. All instructors should screen clips to determine if they are appropriate to use in their classrooms. 

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UP NEXT 6/3: Lost Voices: X Restored

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Previous Blog Entries

Film & Cultural Memory I

Film Education

Relevance – the 4th ‘R’

Making Film I

Talking Film I

Downton Abbey in Your Class #1 – Roll Sound!

Reading Film

Fictional Projections of History

Think Globally Using Film

Our Relationship with Movies

Moving Past Historical Accuracy

Images Telling Stories

Film Shaping History

Think Film Images

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©2013 Labragirl Film Project. All rights reserved.

Relevance – the 4th ‘R’

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

Last week we combined beginning film production skills with beginning film literacy skills.

This week we are grateful to have media literacy professional Greg Williams as a guest blogger.

Greg is graduating from Brigham Young University this month with a BA in Media Arts Studies (film) and a minor in English. Post graduation plans include going to Tulsa, OK to work in a k-12 school with Teach For America, blogging and writing about media literacy, and learning how to be a good father. He is leading a team of innovators on a project to create a website where teachers and educators can share and find popular culture clips to use in their lesson plans. Greg loves creating and critiquing films, reading, hiking in Utah’s stunning national parks, and spending time with family.”

Greg’s blog, The Relevant Classroom can be found herehttp://therelevantclassroom.blogspot.com/

You can also follow Greg on:  and !

Please comment below or discuss with us on 

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Relevance – the 4th ‘R’

Gregg Williams - A media literacy professional and author of the Relevant Classroom.

Gregg Williams – A media literacy professional and author of the Relevant Classroom.

Relevance has and will continue to be an important quality to understand and promote in learning centers around the world. “Think of it as the fourth R”, encourages Daniel Pink in his bestseller Drive, “Reading, writing, arithmetic and . . . relevance.” We need to focus on the idea that students obtain more knowledge and retain further information when they actively participate in the learning process and when they can relate to what is being taught (Akey, 2006).  Amongst all the hype and contention over issues such as high-stakes testing or teacher evaluations the necessity of relevance and the student experience itself is often left out.

Relevance Blog Image

Image by Andrew Langendorfer – Click on image for source info.

Indeed one reason students fail or are disinterested is because they don’t see the connection between today’s lesson and what they really want to do someday. The more we can close that gap – to illustrate classroom relevance to their world – the better we can engage students and keep their interest (Masters, 2009). Many different methods and pedagogies have developed from this need for relevance in education, including project and problem-based learning. Using movie clips and other aspects of media literacy, however, has largely gone untapped as an important paradigm that can greatly strengthen students’ yearning for relevance and meaning in the classroom.

Why Film?

Using film in the classroom effectively can increase relevance and student motivation in at least two ways. First, film and forms of pop culture can be connected to just about every subject there currently taught, and second, using media clips empowers students outside of formal learning environments.

1) Film can be used for a variety of subjects even when it gets it wrong.

Perhaps you are thinking that showing a clip from a film in your class will be a waste of time or will distract students from your lesson objectives. While this can be true in some circumstances, it really depends on you as the teacher. I still remember a lesson from my freshman year in high school where we learned about balancing equations in Pre-Algebra. Why do I remember it? My teacher showed us a clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and then led a constructive conversation about balance and its application to math. It became more relevant to me! Though I remember little about the rest of the curriculum for that year, the connection and motivation from that one clip is still with me.

In middle school we watched Pocahontas and my teacher helped us understand the historical inaccuracies and why the filmmakers may have presented the film in the way they did. The media doesn’t have to be correct for you to show it (indeed it rarely will be), but it is important for you to discuss with your students what they are seeing and where the connections are. Writer and former educator Mark Phillips explained, “Film can be used as a culminating experience to summarize a unit or lesson. It can be studied as an art form. Short films designed to teach a concept or skill, especially in a subject like physical education, can be very useful. Developing students’ critical consciousness of visual media should be a major part of every school’s curriculum.”

2) Using film and other popular culture resources in your classroom empowers students to learn outside of class.

I agree with teacher and researcher Renee Hobbes when she stated,

Teachers who have used popular works in the classroom know that such works can generate some remarkable, vigorous, and sophisticated reasoning, rich conversations, and dynamic writing from young people . . . It’s a transformative experience for a young person to discover that the same skills used to discuss The Tempest can be applied to an episode of “The Wonder Years.” Students who discover this in a powerful way chant a mantra that many teachers who employ media literacy have heard frequently: ‘I’ll never watch TV the same way again!” (Hobbes, 1998).

As you show and discuss clips, students will begin to see that the world around them – the very same world that they turn to for entertainment and “non-school stuff” –in a new light. As a nation do we really think we can nurture a new generation of STEM students by feeding them tests and banal worksheets? Not to mention other fields such as the humanities and business.

The Bottom Line

With education being at the center of many debates, there are multitudes of issues in the air. Though we may be unsure of vouchers or the role of public school, technology integration and classroom sizes, one thing everyone ought to understand and rally around is the idea that students need to understand the relevance of learning in their own lives. As we move toward using film and other multimedia effectively in the classroom we can increase student motivation in all subjects, and empower young people to learn outside of formal education.


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Citations

Akey, T. M. (2006, January). School context, student attitudes and behavior, and academic achievement: An exploratory analysis. New York: MDRC. Retrieved April 6, 2012, from http://www.mdrc.org/publications/419/full.pdf

Hobbs, Renée. “The Simpsons Meet Mark Twain: Analyzing Popular Media Texts in the Classroom.” The English Journal, 87.1 (1998), pp. 49-51. http://www.jstor.org/stable/822021

Masters, Andy. “4 Ways to Engage Today’s Generation of Students.” Techniques (AECT) 84.3 (2009): 8-9. Print.

We’d love to hear from you. Please comment below or discuss with us on .

*Disclaimer: All movie & television clips are suggestions for class use, only. All instructors should screen clips to determine if they are appropriate to use in their classrooms. 

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UP NEXT 4/29: A Film literacy resource suggestion

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Sign up for our e-newsletter for more lesson plans and classroom conversations. Click here. 

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Bring Labragirl into your classroom. Contact us at info@labragirlfilmproject.org or fill out our Interest & Inquiry Form.

———————————————————————————————————————–

Previous Blog Entries

Making Film I

Talking Film I

Downton Abbey in Your Class #1 – Roll Sound!

Reading Film

Fictional Projections of History

Think Globally Using Film

Our Relationship with Movies

Moving Past Historical Accuracy

Images Telling Stories

Film Shaping History

Think Film Images

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©2013 Labragirl Film Project. All rights reserved.