Well, not quite, but I was feeling rather gratified to know someone out there has been listening to those lectures.
After the speech contest orientation (for a contest which is mandatory for our junior-year English Language & Culture majors), one of my students approached me and asked, “Is it possible for me to use things we’ve discussed in our Understanding Popular Cultures class for my speech?”
“Well… in what way do you mean?” I ask, wondering whether she means materials, concepts, or actual discussions on texts or films.
“I want to talk about sexist and racist discourses in James Bond 007 films…” she says. “Especially about the Bond Girls.”
Yeah, someone’s been listening. We’ve narrowed it down to sexism, for manageability within the 10 minute time limit, and she’s now off hunting up Moonraker, Octopussy, and Goldfinger — the titles that came to mind quickest for me — and thinking about what the marginalization and sexualization of women in Bond films suggests when we consider what Bond himself is supposed to represent. (If women are being excluded, who is it making room for, and why and how does he dominate the narrative?)
Interesting stuff. Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about Andy Duncan’s story “Beluthahatchie,” the Robert Johnson mythos, and what both have to do with the construction of blackness in American popular culture. On which theme, following next week: Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, and blackface minstrelsy.
(Future weeks hold promises of:
- A genealogy of jazz music, against the background of the Harlem Renaissance but extending, selectively, before and after that period.
- Motown (which arguably has been more formative for Korean pop music than any other Western pop music, since all the boy-bands and girl-groups that dominate here must be, genealogically, descended from groups like The Four Tops, The Supremes, the Jackson Five, and the rest of those groups).
- flappers and changing constructions of femininity and sexual mores which leads, many weeks later, to:
- the “ultimate woman” media icon, a bizarre but arguably real position that has been held, sequentially, by women like Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Madonna, as well as whoever comes after Madonna — I’m gonna make them debate who today’s occupant of that position is; I hope someone says it’s 효리 or some other Korean media icon, in recognition of the globalization of this form of constructed femininity, or better yet raises the question of how the American genealogy of “ultimate women” media icons has affected the comparable handling of women in the Korean entertainment media.
- the genealogy and pop-cultural significance of the Beats — their predecessors, the non-whites and poor whites they emulated and appropriated from, as well as their later influence on American pop culture
- Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, rock and blues and folk music in America — still mulling it over but the debate about “theft” will be inescapable of course
- Science and Religion in American popular culture…
… and more. Big fun.)