Sexuality, Gender, Class, and Race in the Teen Film

Course Code: 
MDST 3306
Andrea Press

The focus of this class will be on viewings and analyses of films featuring images of teens produced between the 1930’s and the present.  Students will be asked to reflect on their own experience as adolescents, and to reflect on the power film has to influence one’s self-interpretation of experience.  In particular, we will be interested in the power of films to spark what has been termed in the cultural studies literature “subcultures of resistance” to the dominant culture, particularly amongst adolescent fans and viewers.  Students will be asked to analyze and mine their own experience, and that of their friends and contemporaries, for evidence of this phenomenon, and to consider the evidence for film’s power to shape our ongoing cultural experience of adolescence, and the meanings we assign to it.

Throughout the course we will pay particular attention to the following general questions:  what is adolescence (and how has it been defined in American film)? What is the range of experience of adolescence that characterizes American adolescence across gender, race, sexual, and class lines? How does it make sense to think about the influence of films on society? How might we study the social influence of films? What is the importance of high school to American culture, and how has it been represented in the teen film?  For each unit we should keep these key questions in mind as we view and discuss a range of teen films.

Students will write a series of short questions and commentaries based on theories, films, and viewing experiences covered in the course of the class, and will also complete an essay examination based on course viewings and readings.