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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 2, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 41
JHU Course Catalog: Teens on Screen

In the reflected glow of the movie screen, students watch 'Elephant.'

Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series of articles dropping in on interesting classes throughout the university's eight academic divisions.

By Amy Cowles

THE COURSE: Teens on Screen, an exploration of the ways in which Hollywood has shaped perceptions of teenagers over the past 50 years. Participants also look at alternatives to mainstream film portrayals of adolescence. Limited to 15 students. 3 credits. Program in Film and Media Studies; offered by the Johns Hopkins University Summer Programs for both Johns Hopkins undergraduates and visiting students.

THE INSTRUCTOR: Linda DeLibero, associate director of the Film and Media Studies program, who has taught film at Johns Hopkins since 1989. Her research and teaching areas include film history and theory; ideology and film/television/popular culture; mass culture studies; and issues in film education and historiography. She has published and lectured widely on contemporary film; the history of television theory and criticism; women, class and popular culture; and media education. Current research interests include a history of the divide between popular and academic film discourse, and the aesthetics of violence in Hollywood film.

MEETING TIME: 3 to 5:30 p.m., Monday, Wed-nesday, Thursday and Friday, summer 2004.

Linda DeLibero

SYLLABUS: In the words of one Teens on Screen student, "High school is a strange, alternate world." This course examines what makes high school good, bad and ugly by examining how teens have been portrayed in mainstream movies like Scream and in independent films like the Columbine-inspired Elephant.

The required viewing is divided into categories such as "high school and horror" and "bad boys (and girls): delinquency, race, sex." Jocks, preppies, bookworms, loners, sociopaths — all the big-screen stereotypes are questioned in relation to the way real teens view themselves, and how the rest of the world views them.

COURSE WORK: Just because it's a summer course full of movies doesn't mean it's a day at the beach. A six- to eight-page paper on a teen film, ideally one that wasn't covered in class, accounts for 25 percent of a student's grade. The remaining 75 percent is split equally between 300- to 500-word journal entries for each film, frequent quizzes and class participation. Missed classes result in lowered grades or being dropped from the course. No late papers, makeup quizzes or incompletes. And yes, you have to watch the credits roll.

REQUIRED VIEWING: Rebel Without a Cause, American Graffiti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused, American Pie, Scream, Elephant, Menace II Society, Thirteen, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Heavenly Creatures.

OVERHEAD IN CLASS: "All of these films desire to try and show how to deal with the irrational, with things that don't fit. High school is about setting boundaries through stereotypes. It can be cruel, but it's also convenient or comforting."

STUDENTS SAY: "I took the class partly because it would fulfill some major requirements to allow me to graduate early, but also because I took Latin American Films with DeLibero last summer and think the way she teaches is really provocative. She encourages exploration of thoughts and ideas in a completely open manner. No idea is wrong, no comment too outrageous. She somehow creates an environment where everyone feels comfortable to say what they think without the fear of being wrong, or worse, judged for it. The way she handles the subject matter has showed me that teen movies are more than their surface value, and I feel I have the tools to more fully appreciate them for the messages they have to offer."
Christina Tung, 21, of Carlisle, Mass. She's a rising senior at Johns Hopkins, double majoring in the Writing Seminars and Film and Media Studies.


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