Monday, October 20, 2014

American History X: A lesson on the lasting impact of hate

flickr photo courtesy of sylvar
     In the name of my Visual Literacy class, I was 'forced' to re-watch American History X.  Okay, let us be is one of my favorite movies of all time.  I love that anyone can learn from it, and that the subject matter is of extreme importance in our society.  Plus, there aren't that many movies starring Ed Norton that I don't like.
     The message that I thought director David Fincher was trying to convey, was a message that hate can follow us anywhere - that it can consume lives, and that there is a universal karma when answering hate with hate.  The director provides evidence of the fact through Derek's (Ed Norton) life.  He lost his father to hate, he retaliated with a hate filled heart, and eventually his little brother was killed.  However, the only one that committed a hate crime was Derek!  However, even in losing his brother, the audience is meant to understand that Derek never re-embraces a lifestyle of hate. Also, the fact that the narration of the story is done by his brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), indicates that the hate we retain can also infect many of those around us.  
     The depiction of all races in the movie is somewhat accurate.  However, outside of the prison, we are only really shown interactions that are drenched in hateful dialogue.  I do feel like the movie does a wonderful job accurately portraying the kinds of cooperation that need to happen in prison.  I imagine that there are many jobs to be done in a prison, and it only makes sense that there would be a lot of racial intermingling.  Most of the racial interactions occur in various situations, but I feel like the director really captured the essence of what prison life is like by showing how the gangs inside of the prison interact.  
     The movie has reinforced my understanding of symbols in Visual Literacy.  There are many symbols of hate in the movie, and those symbols adorn Derek's body in the form of tattoos.  These tattoos, much like the effects of hate, change how a person looks to other - and they are very hard to get rid of.  Visually, we also see a change in Derek's demeanor as he abandons hate.  He was once confrontational and rigid, but after abandoning hate, he becomes very friendly and greets everyone with open arms - understanding the damage he has done.  
     The director used very dark images to portray the hatred in the movie.  The hateful acts almost always occur under the cover of darkness.  The grocery store attack and Derek's violence both happen in the darkness, as well as the meeting of the hate group.  Similarly, the director also uses humor and light to portray an abandonment of hate.  Derek and Lamont have quite a few humorous interactions that assist in both men abandoning their hatred -- though Derek's was far worse.  Finally, the director uses the shock value of the violence of Derek's crime to really drive home the idea of the ugliness of hate.
     I feel like this is a very important movie to show to an audience of an appropriate age.  We must inform our youth of the dangers of hatred, and this movie does an excellent job of that.

     Here is an interesting resource, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  It is a map of America that depicts where hate groups are in America - with a few details about them.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Killing Us Softly 4: Now with improved exploitation!

flickr image courtesy of Classic Film
     A number of weeks ago, we watched Killing Us Softly 4, a video about the exploitation of women (and men) in media and popular culture.  First and foremost, I would like to just say that I have seen a lot of documentaries on this particular topic, and I find it most odd that we still seem to be failing to address the blatant exploitation, and in many cases, misogyny present in our advertising.  I already discussed the movie in a class discussion post, so I would like to use this forum to address the overarching impact of the subject matter in the movie.
     I do not think that the advertising industry invented exploitation.  It has been a facet of many societies across much of human history.  Even in a purely utilitarian sense, gender roles were created and enforced even in our earliest hunter-gatherer existence.  However, I have to ask why advertising feels like it is an imperative to cause gender-based distinctions in our present society.  Even our military has opened combat roles to women, yet permits the wear of earrings by women while in a non-deployed environment.  Is it that maybe the subversive advertising language and pictures are simply that covert?
     If I learned anything new from the video, it is that our early advertising was more overt, because it could be.  In the 50's, magazines got away with being more direct.  As the Women's movements came and went, advertisers kept pushing the same message, but I feel as though they had to take it somewhat underground, in order to make it more accessible.  This leads me to one final question: Is the covert nature more or less harmful?
     I would say that it is absolutely more harmful.  I will use the example of racism to illustrate this.  Would you rather deal with a hateful face that you can see, or a society that follows your every move just because you look different?  While the latter may be less directly injurious, it seems to permeate the subconscious and infect future generations.  I don't know how to combat this any other way than through education, but I am always open to suggestions!

Revenge of the A-ha! Journal...Episode 2

     In our last installation, I talked about how visual symbols impact my life.  Here is what has happened since then:


flickr photo courtesy of *Psycho Delia*
     Rory Sutherland's TED Talk from tonight's class really made me think about how we sell education to students.  As a teaching major, I know it is always important to promote learning in whatever ways that I can, and that relevancy and differentiation play a huge role in that.  But, how would school have been if my teachers actually taken the time to give the the same information in a more tech-savvy, interesting, and colorful way?  What if my teachers had even packaged the learning in such a way that even they got excited?  We should take Mr. Sutherland's ideas and continue to apply to those to the education sector.  Last year, I was in a class that worked with Project Based Learning, and now that I think about it, this is certainly one way to repackage information - and to build on it.  If we think about it, we can add layers to learning just by encouraging collaboration and strong meta-cognitive inquiry.  We can reach out to community leaders and locally source our data collection in a way that benefits everyone.  Not only will our students learn the same lessons as before, but they will have made connections all over region and potentially the globe!  This TED talk was truly able to put what I have learned in Education Technology in a different perspective - which means it was doubly useful for me!


flickr photo courtesy of Wojtek Gurak
     This week, we watched Helvetica.  I have already made a blog post on that, so I will instead strive to take a look at the bigger picture of design in society; while drawing some parallels to the movie.  First off, I began to think that maybe the same principles that apply to the Helvetica font also apply to many other places in society.  I'd like to point out that we seem to be comfortable with buildings that have definite 90 degree angles at all our corners.  There are very few round buildings in our society.  For our universities, we prefer to have "brick and mortar" buildings.  These are buildings that have the right amount of concrete with the right amount of brick - to provide a specifically erudite collegiate atmosphere.  We also prefer to have our doors centrally located on buildings, and we prefer our windows to be evenly spaced, providing the appropriate ratio of wall space.  This should sound very familiar to the movie, as the Helvetica font provides a comfortable incorporation of the white space around the words and between the letters.  Ultimately, this is just a musing, but we also seem to favor symmetry over unevenness, and we prefer to teach understanding over creation, even when it doesn't challenge us.