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 She has taught film at Johns Hopkins University 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.
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 independent films like the Columbine-inspired Elephant.
The required viewing is divided into categories like high school and horror; and bad boys (and girls): delinquency, race, sex. Jocks, preppies, bookworms, loners, sociopaths — all of the big-screen stereotypes are questioned in relation to the way real teens view themselves, and how the rest of the world views them.
Coursework: 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 300-500 word journal entries for each film, frequent quizzes and class participation. Missed class meetings result in lowered grades or being dropped from the course. No late papers, make-up 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
Overheard 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."
Meeting time: 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, through Aug. 6.
Members of the media interested in writing about this class should contact Amy Cowles at 443-287-9960.
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