Online Workshop: Using Media For Social Justice
In an unprecedented partnership between two educational organizations that believe student led classrooms are crucial in actively engaging students using a social-emotional learning approach, Bank Street College of Education and Scenarios USA have collaborated to present a four week online workshop titled: Using Media for Social Justice. Beginning February 24-March 20, 2015, this workshop will feature Scenarios USA films, curricula, activities, and utilize Bank Street’s world renowned online learning environment for a dynamic course for educators! Successful completion of the course results in 2 CEUs for participants.
Registration instructions are below:
1. go to http://bankstreet.edu/cps/
register/2. click register online at center of page3. find #24 “Using Media for Social Justice”4. click “enroll” the blue button to the right of the workshop with the price5. go to the top of the page and click “checkout”6. select “i will pay the total” from the drop down menu below the grid7. to get a discounted fee of $275, type in the coupon code “susa1” and click “add” (late fee will be waived)8. complete the information requested (i.e. address, name)9. click “continue”10. complete information requested (i.e. address, name, payment)11. click “continue”12. You are registered!
It’s a New Year and We Have a New Look
Last year was a big, ugly year. We felt angry that the deaths of black people went unpunished, that survivors of sexual violence were told they were lying, or worse, didn’t matter. Consenting people were told time and again that who and how they loved was disgusting. It was a year that forced us to realize that, for all the “progress” we’ve made, we maybe haven’t gotten all that far. We went to theaters to see a movie about events that happened fifty years ago and saw something that looked eerily relevant.
As we re-launch our new streamlined website with a focus on narrative voices, art and film for, by and about underrepresented youth in America, we bear in mind the struggle for social justice endured last year, but we also move forward with the next year in front of us. And we shine the focus on young people, because they are the ones who know what’s happening first, who are the changemakers, and who continue to fight the decades-old fight for social justice in new and unprecedented ways: harnessing the power of countless voices to help Nicole Maines win her fight against her school system or building movements like #blacklivesmatter and got people to listen.
But if there’s nothing else that 2014 taught us, it’s that the fight for equal rights is constant, complicated and nuanced with individual stories and struggles. It’s part of every day and every part of our lives. It’s calling out people you love for saying “that’s so gay”. It’s asking why mainstream media continues to ignore the notion of fully-realized characters of color, and why universities aren’t doing more about on-campus sexual assault.
So as we look forward into 2015 and beyond, we want to make the new ScenariosUSA.org a space where we’re going to keep talking. That’s what we do. We amplify youth voices, we fight for social justice, we make movies, and we keep talking. And we’re going to hear from all kinds of people within that dialog—filmmakers, writers, millennials (in all their history-making diversity as a generation)—and, of course, from young people. Welcome, have a look, stick around and stay tuned.
Through a Different Lens: This is How I See Me.
Throughout December, we introduced you to 3 remarkable teenagers. They shared who they are, they told stories about feeling invisible, and they spoke of the need to quiet the noise around them.
At Scenarios, our work creates a space for young people to be supported as they figure out who they are. We do our work in schools, out of schools and online. And when the young people are ready to speak and to lead, we give them the space to do so — loudly and authentically.
In 2015, Scenarios continues to listen and learn from young people with these featured projects:
STORIES – Our new website will be the space for millennials and influencers to be who they are and to share their vision. It will be lived, not told. Experienced, not observed. Site launches in February.
FILM – 3 youth-written, Hollywood-produced films on issues teens define as critical to their world are in production and will premiere on TV, online and on mobile devices together with youth-led advocacy campaigns. Films premiere in May.
EDUCATION – Our standards-based and arts-infused curriculum will be build around the 3 films we’re making now with teens. Our education cycle will roll into schools in Fall, 2015.
Thank you for being our partner in education and promoting youth voice.
Here’s to a productive, transformative, healthy 2015,
Through a Different Lens: Morriah
Morriah Lisowksi, 17, Brooklyn, NY
This is how I see me:
I fight for what I stand for and stand by what I think is right. I’m a girl, and I’m strong, my appearance accounts for a small percentage of who I am.
Through A Different Lens: Fatimata
Fatimata Sylla, 17, Bronx, NY
This is how you see me:
This is how I see me:
I see myself as someone who is strong. After my father was killed we moved to the United States from our home of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Even though I miss him, as the oldest child, I stay strong for my mother and my brothers.
Fatimata participated in the Scenarios curriculum about Place & Power in her high school English class, and is now part of the Scenarios Media Corps, a group of youth working to create a digital campaign for our NYC film that addresses intimate partner violence. At Scenarios, we work side by side with young people to provide them with the analytical skills to connect knowledge with their lived experiences and the world around them. This holiday season, support the perspectives of young people like Fatimata by bringing Scenarios’ films and curricula to classrooms across the country.
Scenarios USA Roundup of the 10 Most Important Reads on Ferguson
Last night a grand jury decided there will be no trial for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, the unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO. In the 108 days since Brown was killed, too many of the news reports have centered around vilifying Brown and the community of demonstrators who have dared to demand justice for the unnecessary taking of black life by police. News outlets have prioritized looting over coverage of peaceful protests, Brown’s past over his once possible future. By demonizing black bodies and black communities, news coverage continues the dangerous narrative that contributed to Brown’s death, and the taking of black lives across the country.
Despite this, there are those who have managed to report on Brown’s death while honoring his humanity. These are the pieces that have impacted us at Scenarios and we encourage you to read.
By Dexter Thomas, Jr
“Because we know that it’s common knowledge that white killers get treated like little lost lambs, while black victims are immediately demonized. Hell, there are now even listicles about this sort of thing. But we also know that any small flaw, any trace of humanity, will ruin the whole thing. That people, too many people, will be positively giddy at the sight of our blood.”
By Kara Brown
“We knew many would care more about the destruction of property and inanimate objects than the destruction of black people’s sense of safety in this country. Still, it was hard not to be taken aback by the downright comical degree to which CNN lamented over a burned pizza chain instead of the dejection of a black community.”
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Among the many relevant facts for any African-American negotiating their relationship with the police the following stands out: The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be be destroyed. Protect the home of your mother and your body can be destroyed. Visit the home of your young daughter and your body will be destroyed. The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.”
By Mia McKenzie
“Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.”
By Roxane Gay
“In truth, the media rarely seems well equipped to write about tragedy and trauma ethically, particularly when race is involved. It does not know how to report on Ferguson’s grief and anger without resorting to the most facile – and often most damaging – language that only perpetuates the ever-present racial divide in this country.”
By Roland Martin
“The fight for a fair justice system has gone far beyond Ferguson. We see men and women of various backgrounds coming together to demand justice …. They are marching, protesting, organizing, registering voters, running candidates for office, training up the next generation of civil-rights lawyers. They are largely young people who have decided that, in the words of Black Freedom Movement leader Fannie Lou Hamer, they are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’”
By Carol Anderson
“A little more than half a century after Brown, the election of Obama gave hope to the country and the world that a new racial climate had emerged in America, or that it would. But such audacious hopes would be short-lived. A rash of voter-suppression legislation, a series of unfathomable Supreme Court decisions, the rise of stand-your-ground laws and continuing police brutality make clear that Obama’s election and reelection have unleashed yet another wave of fear and anger.”
By Ezra Klein
So Brown is punching inside the car. Wilson is scrambling to deflect the blows, to protect his face, to regain control of the situation. And then Brown stops, turns to his left, says to his friend, “Here, hold these,” and hands him the cigarillos stolen from Ferguson Market. Then he turns back to Wilson and, with his left hand now freed from holding the contraband goods, throws a haymaker at Wilson.
By Jenee Desmond-Harris
“But here’s what Facebook comments are good for: revealing data about whether you want your ‘friends’ to be your friends any longer. That is, of course, if you believe, as I do, that the way someone responds to other people’s pain and mistreatment—including the systemic mistreatment of entire groups of people—is a perfectly fine way to decide whether he or she is someone you like or want to continue to interact with.”
By Akiba Solomon
“Later on, the young St. Louisan sitting next to me starts weeping. I know she goes by @Nettaaaaaaaa on Twitter and that she has more than 13,000 followers, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt her tears to get her full name or ask her age. Along with two friends she stands up and tells us how they’ve been protesting since the beginning and that they are exhausted. She also informs us that an out-of-towner (who turns out to be an ex-pimp named Tariq Nasheed) has been tearing her protest work apart on Twitter. She and her friends tell us that they’re thankful that we’re there but feel possessive of their movement. They urge us to keep Ferguson and Michael Brown at the center, a sentiment I hear from local people throughout the trip.”
3 Amazing Films- Coming Soon!
It’s finally happening!
You’ve waited patiently to hear about who won Scenarios’ REAL DEAL contests, who’s directing the films and what’s going on. At long last, the wait is over! We have three amazing young writers and three brilliant directors turning their stories into short films. Please join us in person or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for behind the scenes and on set exclusives, sneak previews of post production and finally, to see the films at their world premiere in 2015!
Meet the writer: Janaya Greene wrote Veracity during her senior year of high school while attending Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in South Side Chicago. During this time the debate of legalizing gay marriage was at its height and many states were pushing for its legality. After many debates among friends, family and classmates, Janaya realized that the issue was not, “Is being gay right or wrong?” but rather “How do humans, gay or straight, deserve to be treated?” With support from her film study teacher, Mr. Eugene Hazzard, and classmates, she proceeded to write Veracity, a story about an African-American girl named Olivia J. Brownstein, who gains the courage to tell her family and friends that she is a lesbian. The response she gets is not what she expected from those she loved most. Veracity explores the taboo of being gay in the African-American community.
Meet the Director: Joshua Butler is a prolific film and television director whose recent work includes FOX’s The Following starring Kevin Bacon, Pretty Little Liars for ABC Family, Crisis for NBC, Reckless for CBS, and Matador for Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey Network. Joshua directed the award-winning feature VLOG for Twisted Pictures and the producers of SAW, Beer Money for USA Network, Deathlands for SyFy Channel, Saint Sinner for writer-producer Clive Barker, and the Christmas movie Prancer Returns for Raffaella De Laurentiis. He has just completed the Random Bench-produced short film Doghouse, starring Michael Maize and Erin Daniels. In addition to working with Scenarios USA this fall, Joshua will be directing Joe Carnahan’s new NBC thriller, State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl, and his 10th episode of CW’s The Vampire Diaries.
New York City
Meet the Director: Laurie Collyer premiered her first film at the Sundance Film Festival, a feature documentary entitled, Nuyorican Dream. Nuyorican Dream had its broadcast premiere later that year on HBO/Cinemax. The documentary earned Collyer a DGA nomination and won multiple prizes at international film festivals. Her second film, narrative feature, Sherrybaby, also premiered at Sundance and earned lead actress Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Collyer participated in the Sundance Filmmakers’ Lab and the Residence du Festival de Cannes to develop Sherrybaby. In 2009, Collyer received a Cinereach grant to develop the script for Sunlight Jr., Collyer’s most recent film which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year. Sunlight Jr., features Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon as down and out lovers, wrestling with pregnancy and homelessness. Most recently, Collyer was hired by LD Productions to write a pilot based on the book, Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its Women, with partner Annie Marter.
Help Scenarios Redefine Place and Power in Chicago!
Scenarios USA has expanded our REAL DEAL program to Chicago schools. Beginning this Fall, 39 dedicated educators in 9 public high schools are implementing the Scenarios curriculum addressing Place and Power.
Our excitement doesn’t stop there. Today – Right Now – we’re launching our first ever Indiegogo Campaign to fund the Chicago REAL DEAL film. REAL DEAL films are written by students as the final assignment of our curriculum and are made by some of your favorite Hollywood talents like Doug Liman (Bourne Identity), David Frankel (Devil Wears Prada), and Gina Prince- Bythewood (Love and Basketball).
Here’s what will happen: Nearly 1,000 Chicago students will submit their stories about place and power to our contest. (This theme is especially potent for the young people of Chicago who live in a city plagued by an epidemic of youth violence and immense cultural segregation.) One submission from Chicago will be selected to be turned into a REAL DEAL film. The winning writer will be partnered with an acclaimed Hollywood director, shoot their story in their Chicago neighborhood with a professional crew, and bring their film to a local and national audience of 20 million!
We’ve been told that for teenagers to learn, you must talk to them. But at Scenarios, we do something just as important as talking. We listen. That’s the mandate we began with when we started the organization 15 years ago.
As described by Scenarios REAL DEAL student, Terrance Ortiz, “Without someone showing you what’s possible, you don’t know what you can contribute to the world. When doors open, you can surprise yourself, and others.”
Help us open new doors – doors that are safe for young people to walk through, where, on the other side, they can be heard.
Please visit our Indiegogo page. watch our video, DONATE and HELP to make a film from Chicago. This is more than a film, though – this is a chance to grow the creative spark in the teenagers we work with, many of whom had long stopped considering their own futures as bright or promising.
We’re honored to be invited into Chicago for this school year, and we’re thrilled to have you join us at this exciting start of our journey. Thank you for visiting the Indiegogo page.
P.S. Please share our current Facebook Indiegogo Update on your Wall!
Announcing the 2013-14 REAL DEAL Teacher Workshops, Curriculum and Contest
Love. Money. Family. Friendship. Power. Violence.
Do your students think and talk about these issues? Do your students love watching movies?
Are you looking for interactive, engaging, Common Core-aligned activities that will get even your most reluctant students thinking critically and writing creatively about sexual health and social justice issues?
Are you interested in exploring how the arts can take critical thinking to a whole new level?
Do you aim to create a safe space for your students to build their social and emotional competencies?
COMING IN FALL 2013 TO NYC, CLEVELAND AND CHICAGO
Scenarios USA’s professional development workshops, for all educators grades 6-12, where we tackle these questions and more. These workshops are for educators who teach in our three REAL DEAL regions: New York City, Cleveland and Chicago.
Every teacher who attends our workshops will receive a free REAL DEAL curriculum and the new Scenarios USA movies, which are written by teens for teens.
Workshop participants will also learn about the 2013-14 REAL DEAL contest, where student winners are partnered with Hollywood directors and make short films.
REAL DEAL Curriculum Lessons:
- Common Core-aligned
- Social Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies
- Creative, interactive and democratic
Please register here to receive more information about the workshop dates and locations as they are set: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Fall2013preregistration.
Not All Wage Gaps Are Created Equal
Several days ago, The Hollywood Reporter engaged a roundtable of “eight of the world’s most accomplished” actresses in a discussion of the pay gap between men and women in the film industry, among other topics. The discussion stemmed from an article Jennifer Lawrence wrote for Lena Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny, on her post-Sony leaks realization that her male co-stars were earning significantly more for comparable roles. When Lawrence spoke out about her frustration with the pay gap, she was “shocked” when a male employee, clearly offended, responded defensively, “Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!”
“The same team.” Reading Lawrence’s post, this comment stood out to me. The issue, of course, is that many women do not view men as team members when it comes to getting equal pay, but the idea of such a team is far from simple. What would it mean to be on someone’s wage equality team? What would a coworker need to do or say to be an ally in this context?
Women of color have been speaking out for years on being left out of the wage equality discussion, or thoughtlessly lumped in the “All [read: white] women category,” as if the hurdles for each racial group were exactly the same.
The notion of such a team raises further questions because when it comes to women, certain voices promote the assumption that we are on the same team, regardless of race, sexuality, or ability. But that’s not true, is it? In tweets, articles, and media responding to THR’s roundtable—which included only white actresses—many noted that wage concerns of actresses of color were not adequately addressed . . . quite simply because they weren’t mentioned at all.
This issue is not new. Women of color have been speaking out for years on being left out of the wage equality discussion, or thoughtlessly lumped in the “All [read: white] women category,” as if the hurdles for each racial group were exactly the same. And sadly, the backlash women of color receive from white feminists when they voice this frustration is often the same as above—personal offense, defensiveness—the “We’re all on the same team, why would you be upset with me?” remark.
There is scarce data on the wage gap for women of color in the nonprofit sector, but research on the lack of diversity in nonprofit leadership suggests it’s worse: 84% of nonprofits are directed by whites, and nonprofit board members are 86% white.
As a white woman currently on the job hunt, it’s critical to probe the question of whether I’m actually treated as if I’m on the same team as women of color in my industry. I’m a social worker applying for jobs in the nonprofit sector, and, despite this sector’s roots in ethics and social justice, the industry is rife with issues of wage inequality with regard to gender and race. When it comes to gender, the wage gap in nonprofits is larger than the national average, with female employees earning 75 cents for every dollar earned by male counterparts, versus 79 cents across all sectors nationwide. There is scarce data on the wage gap for women of color in the nonprofit sector, but research on the lack of diversity in nonprofit leadership suggests it’s worse: 84% of nonprofits are directed by whites, and nonprofit board members are 86% white.
In an industry that privileges my skin color for leadership positions, and my graduate education at a top tier university for salary considerations, it seems clear that our society is encouraging me to be a team of one—to advocate purely for myself, my financial stability, my own career advancement. This is what capitalism founded in white supremacy teaches white Americans—that there are situations in life where you’d be foolish to worry about anyone besides yourself (in this case, the job hunt) regardless of systemic inequalities. But despite my desire and qualifications to be a leader in my field, I can’t avoid the fact that securing a leadership role at most nonprofits means repeating a decade-old trend of white social workers making decisions for communities they have never been a part of.
As a social worker, I have committed to examining my identity and being an ally to those who have suffered from the racist system that I have benefited from. I don’t want to be a team of one, and I want to believe it’s possible to find ways to advance my own career without perpetuating a system where someone who looks like me is always in charge. I want to be on a wage equality team with women of color in my industry, and the first step is admitting that I’m not.
Capitalism founded in white supremacy teaches white Americans that there are certain situations in life where you’d be foolish to worry about anyone besides yourself (namely the job hunt) regardless of systemic inequalities.
To work towards dismantling these inequalities, I believe taking action is critical at all stages of employment. To ask in a job interview whether the organization has made efforts to cultivate diversity in its staff or created a forum for discussions on race, gender, and wage equality. To respond to a job offer by asking if the organization has hired any leaders who reflect the identity of the community served. To take the radical step, once employed, of openly discussing my salary with other women, so that a massive data hack isn’t necessary to break the culture of secrecy around wages and ignite meaningful conversation about the inequalities between us. To then use this shared information to negotiate for higher wages as a community of women, instead of as a white feminist individual. As women, particularly within white feminist circles, we should no longer tolerate the pretense that only two teams exist and remember that the fight for women is about eliminating oppression in all its forms.
ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.
Learn more here.
The Constant Evolution of Jean Deaux
As Jean Deaux walks the streets of Chicago to get food and make a quick run at CVS, she tells me how she never wants her sound to be predictable.
The West Side Chicago native, who now resides on the city’s South Side, started off performing spoken word at Harold Washington Library’s YouMedia space and eventually found herself hungry to be in the studio. After learning how accessible studios actually were from friends, Deaux told herself that making music “…couldn’t be that hard.” It wasn’t long before the singer and songwriter began developing her own sound and dropping tracks the city soaked up eagerly.
Jean Deaux attributes her initial buzz to self-directed video and self-written song, “Escape,” which was released in early 2013. “Escape’s” positive feedback encouraged her to keep making music because she knew it was something that others could enjoy. Deaux humbly credits much of her initial success to the help of other musicians like Alex Wiley and Kembe X, who are both members “The Village”.
Deaux, a West Side Chicago native, started off performing spoken word at Harold Washington Library’s YouMedia space.
Deaux laughs as she tells me how “The Village” came into being. “That was the first thing I was ever a part of when it comes to music. Before ‘The Village’ was ‘The Village’ it was this funny parody group where we all rapped and it was called ‘Swag Village’,” says Deaux. Swag Village consisted of her, $piff, Kembe X, Alex Wiley, Isaiah Rashad and other local Chicago artists. The collective’s name became“The Village” and continued to release music that was all-but-serious, yet still remarkably good. “It kind of fell off but that’s still my family. I’m still village. That’s my squad.”
“Outerbody EP”, which Jean considers a prelude to “Soular System Volume 2,” was released on “a hunch” just last week. The project consists of three songs that range from calming harmonies to invigorating tempos. Though the sound of this EP differs from the music Jean has previously released, she assures me that it is still uniquely her own. “I’m making things that are more upbeat and I keep challenging myself. I have so many tracks that are unreleased that are 100% dance tracks… but it’s still me. It doesn’t sound like I’m becoming somebody else. Sometimes people try to force other sounds. These are still mine, I’ve just evolved into something that you can dance to.”
Chicago is known to have one of the most bustling music scenes in the country. From the rash weather to the city’s politics, Chicago always keeps Jean on her toes and in constant hustle-mode.
The singer’s fan base is pretty surprised by the EP as well. The three tracks have expanded her reach. “I think I’m gaining more of an audience. [My fanbase] is steady but it’s growing. More and more people are becoming interested in the movement.” She has fans as far off as London and France, but Jean’s only making music to satisfy her own passion. She’s not in it for a mass following or fame. She’s making music because it’s what she loves to do.
Chicago culture has been influential on the cultivation of her musical styling. Deaux draws parallels between her new songs and House music, which most Chicagoans have either grown up listening to or had passed down to them from older people in the city. From the rash weather to the city’s politics, Chicago always keeps Jean on her toes and in constant hustle-mode. “I have a day job but I still record all the time. When you love something, you really make time for it, and that’s what I do. It definitely stems from growing up in the city.”
“I have a day job but I still record all the time. When you love something, you really make time for it, and that’s what I do. It definitely stems from growing up in the city.”
Chicago is known to have one of the most bustling music scenes in the country. Chance the Rapper, who Jean names as a huge inspiration, Tink, Saba Pivot (who happens to be Deaux’s cousin), and many other Chicagoans’ music have taken the world by storm. When asked if the city’s competitive music scene makes it harder for her to get her music into the ears of audiences in the city and beyond, she heavily disagreed. “I’m grateful. I get a better opportunity than most… Chicago can gain you decent exposure. The city is big but the artistic community is small. It’s so much easier to gain direct support from people who like your music.”
As our conversation comes to a close, I fangirl over Deaux’s “Puxxy Poppin” video, which features her and other girls wearing all black, breaking into a house where a white girl is rapping Jean’s song lyrics and seemingly trying to impersonate her. Jean directed the video and says the inspiration for it was an accumulation of things, including an incident in which someone called her “a light-skinned Iggy Azalea.” Iggy has often been called out for appropriating black culture, but with Deaux, an Azalea comparison hit home in a different way. “I was tired of being compared to artists that aren’t even unique or original. Iggy Azalea’s [music] is not good, period… I know so many artists of any race or creative colors that’s better than Iggy Azalea. To be compared to her just because she raps, is a girl, has a big butt, and sounds hood is ridiculous.”
With each new song, Jean Deaux presents something refreshing and out-of-the-box. “I never want to get to a point when people know what to expect from me. Ya feel me?”
Jean Deaux is clearly a jill of all trades. She directs her own videos, writes her own songs, and still finds time to inspire her sisters, related and non-related, as black girls. With each new song she releases, Jean Deaux presents something refreshing and out-of-the-box. “I never want to get to a point when people know what to expect from me. Ya feel me?”
Outer Body EP was certainly unforeseen and I have no doubt that Soular System Volume 2 will be just as incalculable.
ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.
Learn more here.
Do Critics Miss the Point of “Hunger Games?”
As Friday’s release of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2” approaches, my feelings as a major fan of the series have been bittersweet. I’m excited to see the ending on screen, brought to life with such a strong cast and crew, but I’ll be sorry to see the series reach its end. The “Hunger Games” era of pop culture has been downright remarkable. The dystopian science fiction franchise has broken boundaries with its social commentary, complex female protagonist, and potent thematic direction.
I’ve noticed over the past four years, however, that with each installment, critics and viewers alike have often managed to either miss the point of the series. While “The Hunger Games” is technically an action movie, I would argue that labeling it only as such does the series an injustice.
For one thing, several critics have commented on “Mockingjay Part 1” and “Part 2,” wondering why there isn’t more action. Keep in mind that in Panem, the North American nation in which the series takes place, citizens are forced to watch members of their districts fight for their lives against their will. It’s horrifying and inhumane for many reasons, not least of which that those in the richer Districts and the Capitol watch the games for pleasure. To look at “Hunger Games” solely as an action film, intended to deliver high-stakes thrills, not only disregards the fact that its content is so much more than the games themselves, but also that we aren’t supposed to derive straightforward excitement from these characters killing each other.
All things given, darkness should be par for the course. So why does the franchise get criticized so frequently for being dark and emotion driven?
For another, one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the films is that they are too dark. This strikes me as condescending. The films tell the story of an oppressive society (not too distant from our own), the power of voice, and the messiness of war and rebellion. All things given, darkness should be par for the course. So why does the franchise get criticized so frequently for being dark and emotion driven?
Largely, I would argue, because it is adapted from a young adult series that is often associated with teen girls. It’s no secret that anything pegged as made or written for teen girls is usually classified as “shallow” or “mindless.” We, as a society, have a huge problem accepting the fact that teen girls contain and comprehend depth. It doesn’t seem like much of an exaggeration to infer that “Hunger Games” gets criticized for being too dark because critics are surprised that a piece of media enjoyed by teen girls like could have a message that isn’t superficial or cliché.
It’s no secret that anything pegged as made or written for teen girls is usually classified as “shallow” or “mindless.” We, as a society, have a huge problem accepting the fact that teen girls contain and comprehend depth.
Adding to this is the fact that the protagonist of the films is a 16-17 year-old girl. I have never seen a movie reviewer criticize war movies such as “American Sniper” or “Saving Private Ryan” for being too dark. Movies in which a white adult male is forced into a physically and psychologically damaging scenario typically get praised for their darkness and use of emotion. Yet when Katniss Everdeen is panicking or suffering from PTSD, many critics are turned off or question her status as a strong female character. Why do so many fault Katniss for showing visible signs of trauma while eagerly tossing Oscars to any film about a damaged white male character? We should be able to expect strong female characters that are written with integrity, multilayered, and allowed the same emotional range as their male counterparts.
Perhaps “Hunger Games” seems too dark for some critics because they aren’t aware of how relatable Panem can be to its young adult viewership. Academic and author Noreena Hertz coined the term Generation K (K for Katniss) this year, which refers to the age group born between 1995 and 2002. Our generation has grown up with advances in technology that coincide with disturbing new waves of war and oppression, as well as aggravated inequality and income disparity. No generation has grown up easily or without hardship, but while some older critics might find these films far-fetched or unrealistic, many millennials fear that this could be the future.
While some older critics might find these films far-fetched or unrealistic, many millennials fear that this could be the future.
It’s one thing to dislike the “Hunger Games” series because it’s not your thing—maybe you aren’t interested in dystopias and science fiction or maybe you just don’t like the story. But it’s something else to hate or criticize “Hunger Games” without taking the time to understand its impact. It’s worse still to do so without acknowledging that a similar movie focused on a white, male protagonist might be considered a masterpiece, expected to garner nominations for prestigious awards. That is where I get lost. Surely, “Hunger Games” is not for everyone. But the pacing, tone, and emotional weight of “Mockingjay” are nuanced and worthy of deeper analysis and understanding. To dismiss them casually would be a certain mistake.
ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.
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Black Lives Matter Protests Met With Excessive Force in Minneapolis
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, Minneapolis police fatally shot Jamar Clark in the head after apprehending him for allegedly interfering with paramedics who had responded to an assault in which he was a suspect. Multiple witnesses claim that Jamar was handcuffed on the ground and not resisting arrest when he was shot “execution style”. The president of the police union claims that he was not handcuffed and had tried to grab an officer’s weapon. Everyone agrees that Jamar was unarmed.
Jamar was 24 years old. He was also black.
— Jie Wronski-Riley (@JieWronskiRiley) November 18, 2015
Nobody seems to trust the police department to complete a fair, unbiased inquiry into this tragedy. Minnesota’s top investigative agency, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, has taken over the investigation and the city’s mayor has requested a federal civil rights investigation with the Department of Justice. The medical examiner ruled Jamar’s death a homicide.
The community wants answers. Several videotapes exist that show portions of the incident but the police have not yet released them to the public, despite repeated demands from many parties, including Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. The videotapes are from a police camera in the area (not a body cam or dashboard cam), an ambulance that was on the street, a cell phone belonging to a witness, and a security camera from nearby public housing.
Minnesota’s top investigative agency has taken over the investigation and the city’s mayor has requested a federal civil rights investigation with the Department of Justice.
Black Lives Matter protesters started occupying the Fourth Police Precinct in North Minneapolis on Monday, November 16, using the rallying call of Justice For Jamar. Three days later, a tent city had been erected to shelter the growing number of protesters after the demands for accountability and for the release of the videos were still not met. On Tuesday night, tensions with the police rose to a boiling point when hundreds of protesters shut down the freeway, resulting in the arrests of 43 adults and 8 minors on misdemeanor charges for unlawful assembly and pedestrian presence on the freeway.
On Wednesday, the tent city was raided without warning by Minneapolis police and SWAT in riot gear, complete with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. Some officers pointed guns directly at people. Protest leadership have stated that Mayor Betsey Hodges requested a meeting with them during which Police Chief Janee Harteau is likely to have given the orders to raid the site. Protesters have said that the police told them to disperse but proceeded to erect barricades and pen them in. In response, the people have formed a human chain around the precinct to protect the tent city. Over the course of the night, more people arrived as they got out of work and answered pleas on social media for community members to come down and support the occupation.
Thus far, the protesters have been nonviolent and peaceful throughout the entire occupation. The city’s show of force is unwarranted and excessive. Early Wednesday evening, there were concerns that once reporters cleared, police would unleash tear gas upon the crowd at nightfall. Reports of violence against protesters had already begun, with concussion grenade launchers and chemical irritants having been pointed at the crowd. As of late Wednesday evening, protestors have been maced and shot at with rubber projectiles, chemicals, and markers. They are facing heavily armed police officers.
We all need to be paying close attention to what’s happening in Minneapolis. We have heard different versions of this story before. The city joins a growing list of communities, from Ferguson to Cleveland to New York City, where people have risen up to push back against oppressive and aggressive policing. Any city or county in this country could be next.
As with most previous Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the most accurate and timely reports are on social media, issued directly from folks on the ground.
For the most part, mainstream media still seems to be covering the story sporadically, or not at all on some networks. Regardless, as with most previous Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the most accurate and timely reports are on social media, issued directly from folks on the ground. For real time reports on Twitter, check the following: #4thPrecinctShutdown, #BlackLivesMatter, #Justice4Jamar, #BlckLivesMPLS, and #Minneapolis. You can also follow @BlackLivesMpls, @Alley_Cat808, @MrNikoG, @WamSwagner, @ziibiing and @colocha_rachel. For livestream directly from the protest, check out Unicorn Riot. Look to websites specializing in news written by or for people of color, like The Root or ColorLines over the next few days to read more in depth reporting.
Wednesday will have been a long night in Minneapolis. Please take a moment to send a positive thought out into the universe for the benefit of the folks risking their safety and liberty to expose police brutality and racism. They’re fighting for us too, even though we’re miles and miles away. Solidarity knows no distance.
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Master of None Raises the Bar for Representation in Comedy
An illustrated review of Master of None, created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, which premiered on Netflix on November 6, 2015.
“Even at a time when minorities account for almost 40 percent of the American population, when Hollywood wants an ‘everyman,’ what it really wants is a straight white guy. But a straight white guy is not every man. The ‘everyman’ is everybody. — Aziz Ansari, “On Acting, Race and Hollywood,” the New York Times.
Learn more here.