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Critical Youth Studies Reader

Preface by Paul Willis

Edited By Awad Ibrahim and Shirley R. Steinberg

This book won the 2014 AESA (American Educational Studies Association) Critics Choice Award.

This reader begins a conversation about the many aspects of critical youth studies. Chapters in this volume consider essential issues such as class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, cultural capital, and schooling in creating a dialogue about and a conversation with youth. In a society that continues to devalue, demonize, and pathologize young women and men, leading names in the academy and youth communities argue that traditional studies of youth do not consider young people themselves. Engaging with today’s young adults in formal and informal pedagogical settings as an act of respect, social justice, and transgression creates a critical pedagogical path in which to establish a meaningful twenty-first century critical youth studies.
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23 She’s the Man: Deconstructing the Gender and Sexuality Curriculum at “Hollywood High”

← 281 | 282 →CHAPTER 23


Movies about the high school experience are popular at the box office and influential in constructing cultural notions about what constitutes normal and ideal high school experiences. From John Hughes’ popular films such as Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Buehler’s Day Off (1986a), and Pretty in Pink (1986b), to more contemporary examples such as Bring It On (Bendinger, 2000), 10 things I Hate about You (Lutz & Smith, 1999), the High School Musical franchise (Barsocchini, 2006), and the Twilight (Rosenberg & Meyer, 2008) saga, these films present scripts and expectations for teen relationships and high school life and exemplify the concept of “Hollywood High.” With few exceptions, these films focus exclusively on heterosexual relationships based in suburban schools with predominantly White students. These representations of adolescent sexuality create and perpetuate the dominance of suburban White heterosexual experiences as ideal and iconic. As a result, the stories and characters in these films contribute to the construction of the gender and sexuality curriculum at “Hollywood High.”

Masculinity and femininity are ideals that are carefully constructed, performed, and enforced in North American society (Bem, 1993; Butler, 1990; Meyer, 2008, 2009; West & Zimmerman, 1987). Films and television shows that focus on adolescence and the high school experience teach and reinforce dominant notions of valued masculinity and femininity through the scripts, casting, and costuming of characters (McKinley, 1997; Meyer, 2007b; Resnick, 2008). Although many teen films could provide an interesting text for a deeper analysis of gender codes and...

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