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black-mirror-4-picMediateacher.net has the inside scoop: Through the American presidential election and its aftermath, we are currently living in a nationwide performance piece that is the seventh, unreleased episode of the newest season of Black Mirror (being followed by a binge-watching worldwide viewership).  After such standout episodes as Nosedive, Shut Up and Dance, and Hated in the Nation, the innovative British series created by Charlie Brooker has upped the ante substantially by involving the general public in a surreal creation that lives up to the promise of a Twilight Zone for the digital age.  And our English teachers should have fun with some cross-curricular doses of Vonnegut or Orwell.

I promise, everything will be all right.

I promise, everything will be all right.

Know your media literacy, travelers!  (See #4 here.)

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media-literacy-week1230x10001It’s national Media Literacy Week hosted by our professional association NAMLE!  Sign the pledge to be media literate!  And here you can check out NAMLE Executive Director Michelle Ciulla Lipkin talking about Giving Kids A Voice During Election Season on politico.com.

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obamas-2008As we near election day in the United States, this also means that the days of the Barack Obama presidency are concurrently winding down.  As opposed to examining the initiatives and actions of the Obama Administration in current events lessons and Civics classes, educators and students will begin to integrate study of these momentous previous eight years into coursework that deals with contemporary history.  These investigations and evaluations of this administration must also be seen through the lens of public perception and the roles of media platforms in what we see, hear, and communicate about our government.  As has been noted on previous occasions in posts at mediateacher.net — such as in Media Literacy at the White House and The Presidential Inauguration and Imagesit’s not something that can be said too often in U.S. history, but President Obama’s tenure has been a game changer for media literate leadership.

How will the events of these years be seen through the prism of comparison and contrast with other eras and leadership examples?  Undoubtedly, perceptions will be made up of a mix of facts, perceptive analyses, partisan posturing, storytelling, advertising, and many variations in between.  It is clear that both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are already inspiring profound reflections on the major impact of their years in the White House, such as the piece titled “To the First Lady, With Love” from the New York Times Magazine, featuring “four thank-you notes to Michelle Obama, who has spent the past eight years quietly and confidently changing the course of American history,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Gloria Steinem, Jon Meacham, and Rashida Jones.  

familyThe inspired, heartfelt testimonials that have been beginning to appear over recent months echo similar tributes seen at the end of another Democratic presidency that was marked by messages of change and fresh renewal (whether borne out by the reality of its achievements or not): the Kennedy administration.  Interestingly, this was also a presidency that consistently demonstrated the vital importance of media literacy to understand the contexts and legacy of political events in modern eras.  Television and film, including home movies, were to mark and shape the John F. Kennedy presidency and its legacy like no other previous administration, while the Obama presidency will be seen as having a relationship to the media platforms of its era like never before, particularly in the relationships of Internet, social media, and popular discourse, along with the explosion of the television experience.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michelle Obama, and Daveed Diggs at the White House

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michelle Obama, and Daveed Diggs at the White House

In the midst of this, there is another rather intriguing parallel of note.  The Kennedy presidency was marked by the pastoral and cannily mystical term of “Camelot” (by President Kennedy’s widow Jacqueline Kennedy shortly after his assassination) to describe a feeling of the “moment” that embodies the time of the Kennedys in the White House: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment that was known as Camelot” (Lerner and Loewe).  In an even more direct way with the current administration, a musical can be seen to embody the impact and times of the current presidency.  For one to describe that place of a shining home upon a hill, with its growing family, glamorous parties, and vegetable garden, yet inhabited by people whose skin color would have marked them as slaves in the years of the construction of this home, a term that comes to mind is “Hamiltonia.”

President Barack Obama relaxes on a sofa in the Oval Office with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha, Feb. 2, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be used in materials, advertisements, products, or promotions that in any way suggest approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

The Obama family in the Oval Office

For a musical to emerge that examines the roots of the country and in which the principals are played by people whose ethnicity reflects not that of the founding fathers but those who currently inhabit the White House, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton marks one occasion where the creative output of a culture and the zeitgeist embodied by its leaders are remarkably in sync.  The celebrations and honors by those who have been inspired and empowered by the examples and actions of Barack and Michelle Obama have only just begun; it seems clear that the impacts and legacy of their images and personas will continue to resound for generations to come.  For me, this striking, dynamic place and time of the Obama family in the White House might be called Hamiltonia. 

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Photo of Adam and Leonard Nimoy courtesy of Nimoy Archives/CBS

Photo of Adam and Leonard Nimoy courtesy  Nimoy Archives/CBS

In this time of  great tension, conflict, and debate related to issues of ethnicity, cultural understanding or lack thereof, and feelings of belonging to larger cultures among minority groups, a documentary released this month provides an interesting example of how these issues have been addressed in clever and innovative ways in American TV and movie history.  Among the many groundbreaking moments and characters from the Star Trek universe, from the kiss of Kirk and Uhura to the positive characters of Sulu and Chekov at times of intense conflict in Asia and across the Iron Curtain, it is clear that some of the most powerful explorations of diversity and of those whom many see as “different” or “outsiders” is embodied in the half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock.  For the Love of Spocka documentary by his Leonard Nimoy’s son, Adam, has been released this month, and it explores the powerful impact of Nimoy on those with whom he worked as well as the role of Spock as an “Outsider” at a time when that was rarely, if ever, seen in popular media platforms, particularly television.  Here is an interview with Adam Nimoy about his work creating this documentary, along with this new article by Robert Ito: Spock: Half-Vulcan, Half-Human, All Outsider Role Model.   And on these pages, there was an earlier post, To Live Long and Prosper, which celebrated the legacy of actor and multi-media creator Leonard Nimoy.

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clinton-trumpThe debate today between the Democrat and Republican candidates for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is predicted to be the most watched contest in the history of televised debates since the game-changing moment between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon on September 26, 1960.  Yes, it was 56 years ago to the day.  And in 2016, as summed up in the New York Times, “Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are spoiling for an extraordinary clash over race and gender that could come as early as Monday’s debate, with both presidential candidates increasingly staking their fortunes on the cultural issues that are convulsing the nation.”

As a tool for educators, here is a comprehensive article authored by Frank Baker and Karen Zill that can be very useful for navigating the issues of watching and analyzing the debates: “Media Literacy: How to Watch the Debates.”  It also features downloadable debate analysis worksheets (here is one of them).

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KhizrkhanIn this Presidential election season (or perhaps we should start calling it “epoch” with the current length of campaigns in the U.S.), it is no surprise to return regularly to political topics through our posts following the recent “Ands” and thes” and things like that and the earlier Politics, Satire, and Media as well as Politics & Media 2.  Meanwhile, the recent flurry of media-fueled moments in the current Presidential campaign has generated moments of visual communication that appear to have all the earmarks of major historical images in the making.  The appearance of the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, killed in Iraq in 2004, at the Democratic National Convention has set off some of the most powerful political aftershocks seen in contemporary American politics.  There are many indications that the image of Mr. Khizr Khan pulling out a pocket-sized version of the American constitution from his jacket to punctuate a major point in his speech, with his wife Ghazala Khan standing stoically by his side, will stand as a striking image of our times.

UnknownAstonishingly, the Khans had already appeared in an acclaimed documentary from 2008 that featured families of slain American veterans: Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery.  In this piece appearing today on Democracy Now!, an excerpt from the film is shown which depicts the couple visiting their son’s grave and both Khizr and Ghazala Khan discussing the impact of his death and their visits to the cemetery on their lives.  There is also an interview with a co-director of the film, Jon Alpert.     

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Obama cheeriosReady for some media literacy lessons?  Well chosen uses of insert shots, energetic cuts, sound editing, and more — and shot at the White House?  That’s not something that can be said too much in U.S. history, but President Obama’s tenure has been a game changer for media literate leadership.  And yet again, so fun.  So check out 5 Things That Are Harder Than Registering to Vote, Featuring President Obama.  

fallon obama(Okay, and here’s the “slow jam” Fallon appearance, which is more about performance than motion picture language, but those are some pretty sweet focus pulls.)

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