Teens urged to `separate the junk’ | AspenTimes.com

Teens urged to `separate the junk’

Tim Mutrie

Aspen middle and high school students were exposed to a unique perspective about films and media yesterday, as part of of the Aspen Filmfest’s Educational Outreach Program.

David Considine, a media studies professor from Appalachian State University in North Carolina, made several presentations to students, including one to a group of about 30 seventh-graders.

Addressing the increasingly pressing question of what impacts films and other forms of pop-culture media have on youths – or perhaps what responsibility the media industry has regarding the messages it sends to young people – Considine pressed the youngsters to establish their own criteria for good movies, through informed dialogue.

Discussing a movie students had seen the week before, “October Sky,” Considine asked them to discuss what they liked and disliked about the film, as well as how the characters’ development shaped the film.

“On average, you guys watched five thousand hours of TV before you ever came to kindergarten,” said Considine, who for his “Teen Screen” research viewed every single film featuring a teen-age character from 1930 to 1985, and many that followed.

He impressed upon students that the media does influence, for better and worse.

“I’m trying to get you to think about what makes a good story, a good movie,” he said. “We’re asking you to separate the junk from the really good stuff, and nowadays in particular, the films about kids your own age don’t depict you in a very good light … but that’s not necessarily the case in the world of reality. We want you to see the difference, and discuss it.

“The problem is less the content, than the context,” Considine said following Tuesday’s presentation. “The content is far less powerful if it’s put in context for kids by parents or teachers, so they understand it.”

Considine noted that other countries view and discuss films as part of the regular school curriculum, but in the United States, films that depict nudity or contain violence or foul language – the majority of films that the nation’s youths are viewing – are banned from public school classrooms. Therefore, young people have no educational forum to discuss films, along with the violence, sex, drugs and other racy content they depict.

When Considine asked how many in the group of seventh-graders see R-rated movies and are able to rent them at local outlets, all but four raised their hands.

“The kids are certainly talking, but the teachers can’t talk about it, the parents are too embarrassed to talk about it, but the media themselves talk about it; they have a field day. So in many respects, we’ve brought this on ourselves.

“If we get people talking, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “We say, `Oh, it’s only entertainment, it’s not to be taken seriously.’ But the kids are taking it seriously and they have no one to discuss it with.

“Film and TV is an incredibly powerful artistic medium, but it doesn’t show up in the classroom,” he continued. “We’re just trying to get kids to talk about it.”

Considine also gave a presentation for parents and teachers last night at the Aspen Institute, and planned to give four more presentations to students today in Basalt and Carbondale.

Considine has authored several books on the topic of film and other media’s impacts on youths, including “The Cinema of Adolescence” and a textbook titled “Visual Messages.”

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