I have always been hesitant toward the popular culture of my own generation, and generally more welcoming of underground influences, but this class really made me stretch my imagination to figure out why popular culture of many different groups of people are so important to understand. Starting out in the class was really rough for me, because it was my first attempt at juggling 13 credit hours along with full time work. Because of this, a huge part of my learning goal was to adapt to the pressure of the workload while still being successful. I feel that the group work was sometimes difficult to stay on top of amidst the other work assignments, but could have been the most motivating had I utilized it properly. Even in lecture based classes I tend to be shy, and less likely to put myself out there. Because all of the prompts asked us to be up front and personal, it took me until Week 3 to jump into the open.
The prompt I first chose asked us to pick key words describing ourselves and come up with potential questions for our mirror blog posts, so I came up with “Queer, White, Male, Athlete, Portlander”. Well, that wasn’t so bad. Immediately I imagined what other people might think about those identities and why. It made it much easier to come up with my questions thinking about it objectively. As soon as I wrote down the questions, all of the ideas came together and a thesis formed. I typed it out immediately so that I wouldn’t forget,
“The heterosexual gaze of queer media through mediums such as movies and television continue to perpetuate a stereotypical representation of the LGBTQ community in order to generate profit.”
It was fantastic how it surfaced immediately, almost like when we talk to our friends about something in the back of our mind and it appears as a full blown thought. So this process really benefited in the formation of the entire essay. Just by dedicating to the thesis, it gave me the gusto to move forward in the class. I started making more comments in the blog and within the group. Because I had realized that I was part of a team which did not judge me based off of individual circumstances, I felt empowered to explain thoughts that I may not have had in a lecture based class. One of these examples is my brainstorming on ideas after reading one of my secondary sources, which ended up relating to many different ideas within my essay,
“ When Jenkins uses Hill Colins idea of intersectionality to relate to Ru-Paul’s drag race, it directly correlated to the other sources by discussing power structure of groups. He stated, “Intersectional paradigms remind us that oppression cannot be reduced to one fundamental type, and that oppressions work together in producing injustice. Within a patriarchal society, domination uses differences that are ascribed social meaning to reinforce the power structure of one group over another.” These ideas and specific terminology helped to pull in a more complex and deeper meaning to the full picture for the research analysis. ”
Through this empowerment I came to understand that people care much more about whether you’re there to support them as a team member than they care about passing judgement on your individuality or struggle in the class. This realization has helped me both in work and in the rest of my classes, pushing me to focus on getting the work done as opposed to the possible judgement of those around me. With this momentum, I became a better researcher because I cared about the class more and had the internal motivation to be part of the prompts. An example from the blog posts was from the essay building tools. While I researched all of the tools, I describe the most useful as,
“Sentence Variation, which reasoned how to vary structure and avoid repetition in paragraphs. This lended to the ideas of paragraph development (Unity, Coherence, A Topic Sentence, and Adequate Development) but also provided direct examples of how to keep paragraphs interesting. Only two strategies were discussed; alternating short versus long sentences and varying sentence openings. Both of these strategies address common issues that most writers have to overcome to perfect our overall writing style.”
The Mirror Blog Essay also forced me to become a better researcher by creating a more realized picture of the popularized images that I had grown up with. For example, I had not known that Brokeback Mountain was a short story before it was a movie, and after reading the short story adaptation had an understanding of the contrast to the popular culture version. The movie cover for Brokeback Mountain only showcased the popularized actors. I explained this in short from the blog post,
“While the original short story by Annie Proulx is not represented in popular media, the positive messages on empowerment she meant to present to society were lost in it’s film adaptation which visualized homosexuality as a lifestyle filled with sorrow and shame.”
Overall the class has created a better understanding of my role as a student, pushed me to my social boundaries by making my thoughts public, forced me to put hours of research in order to come up with quality results, and taught me a different way of writing which is going to be increasingly more important in my career as a student. Although I am struggling with the challenges of this course, I know that I’ll continue to take popular culture while at Portland State University because it has been very beneficial in my educational experience.