Deconstructing ideological notions of otherness in Far from Heaven

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Using a critical cultural studies framework, and the tenets of critical media literacy, this project began as an opportunity for 76 racially mixed students (i.e. Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, Bi-racial, Whites and other) to deconstruct a popular film text, Far from Heaven (2002), and to examine how students process otherness within this film, as well as construct communication strategies to talk about issues of sexuality, race and gender. The goal of this study is to encourage students to reflect on and think critically about how characters were stereotyped and positioned in the film, and also to address the need for educators to incorporate critical media literacy into their pedagogical strategies so that students can become more critically aware. We begin this study by offering a literature review of the tenets of critical media literacy, and then reconceptualizing otherness within critical communication studies by redefining otherness in structural terms. Consequently, we describe student interpretations of otherness within the film, their capacity to enact rules for characters in the film, as well as their personal use of metaphors that presumes knowledge of history. We conclude by sharing implications and suggestions for applying critical cultural skills to ideas of otherness in an effort to train students in the development of using critical media literacy skills in the classroom. We argue that the use of film texts in the classroom creates an approachable climate to scrutinize sexual orientation, gender roles and race.

Keywords: critical media literacy; cultural studies; idle speculation; metaphors; otherness; otherness-centred messages

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: California State University 2: Indian River State College 3: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Publication date: September 19, 2011

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