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Reel Diversity

A Teacher’s Sourcebook – Revised Edition


Brian C. Johnson and Sykra C. Blanchard

The first edition of Reel Diversity: A Teacher’s Sourcebook won the 2009 Phillip C. Chinn Book Award of the National Association for Multicultural Education. This revised edition is an updated resource guide for educators in secondary and university classrooms who desire to integrate mainstream and independent films into their instructional content about diversity and social justice. The book has transformed difficult dialogues in classrooms around the country by helping educators identify full-length films and shorter film clips to enhance, energize, and motivate student learning.
Accessible and practical for both novice and advanced educators, the book provides a lexicon of twenty-five definitions that teachers and learners should understand about difference, awareness, and power. Assignments, classroom activities, and lecture notes highlight these definitions in ways that deeply impact students’ multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. Reel Diversity invites cross-cultural dialogue about films’ mixed messages and how they enforce and reinforce cultural values. Students will emerge with a greater understanding of the educational value of this entertainment medium. The book is perfect for courses in mass media, film studies, American studies, mass communication, and media literacy.
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Introduction: Movies as Edutainment


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It cannot be doubted that motion pictures are a significant medium for the communication of ideas. They may affect public attitudes and behavior in a variety of ways, ranging from direct espousal of a political or social doctrine to the subtle shaping of thought that characterizes all artistic expression. The importance of motion pictures as an organ of public opinion is not lessened by the fact that they are designed to entertain as well as to inform.

~US Supreme Court (1952; Burstyn v. Wilson)

In other words, films appeared to be vehicles of amusement, a highly regarded and sought after source of fun and joy…. However, within a very short period of time, it became clear to me that the relevance of such films exceeded the boundaries of entertainment.

(Giroux, 1996, p. 90)

In the independent film, Film Geek (2005), Scotty Pelk (Melik Malkasian), a video store employee and movie enthusiast, spoke of his love of film—“because of the crackling dialogue in Sweet Smell of Success, the brilliant fight sequences in Raging Bull.” He continues, “I love movies more than anything. Movies are another place. Movies let you be other people.” Similarly, in the 2012 hit movie Pitch Perfect, Jesse (Skylar Astin) tries to woo Beca, who loves music but was unimpressed by Jesse’s love of movies, particularly because of Hollywood’s penchant for the predictable. He was incredulous and equated her position with “not liking puppies.” He...

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