& Save Subscribe
Join RS E-List
Download a Catalog
An interview with editors Elizabeth Marshall and Özlem Sensoy
by Jody Sokolower
This spring RS published our newest book, Rethinking Popular Culture and Media. The editors are Elizabeth Marshall (left) and Özlem Sensoy, (right) both teacher educators at Simon Frazier University in British Columbia, Canada. Reviews and response have been enthusiastically positive. A few weeks ago, Elizabeth and Özlem took time out from their busy schedules to answer a few questions (as befits scholars of popular culture, we talked via the internet).
Q: Why did you want to edit this particular book—about popular culture and media?
We were teaching classes about popular culture and children’s literature and we used numerous Rethinking Schools articles. We kept saying to each other that we really needed talk to the RS people about collecting all of these articles into a book. So we finally did. The editorial board said yes, and the ball got rolling.
Q: How did you collaborate?
Well, we wrote the first draft at the pub with pints of beer and colored sticky notes. When we write, we sit together (we have two computer screens so we can see the text) and talk about what we want to say. Someone is in charge of typing; later we pass it back and forth to edit.
Q: What are the scariest aspects of popular culture today?
How pop culture makes sexism, classism, heterosexism, and racism “normal” and even desirable or profitable. For instance, the notion that girls’ power comes from dressing sexy. Conversations about popular culture often focus on the choices people have to watch certain shows or consume certain products; what gets left out of these discussions is that the so-called “choices” we are offered are all essentially the same, reproduce the same old stereotypes, and usually benefit the same corporations.
Q: Where do you see hope or positive developments?
We—and our students—aren’t cogs in the machine. We’ve noticed that when our own students develop some critical media skills, their capacity to actively resist expands exponentially. We also see positive developments in organizations such as ADBusters and Campaign for a Commerical-Free Childhood that are doing courageous work.
Q: Can you tell us about a couple of the articles?
Rachael Cloues’ “My Year with Nike” really exposes the ways in which corporate benevolence always has strings attached. Renée Watson’s “The Murder of Sean Bell” moves from analysis to using poetry, art, and spoken word as tools for talking back. We are really excited to have the article “TV Bullies: How Glee and Anti-Bullying Programs Miss the Mark,” by Gerald Walton, because it is new material for Rethinking Schools’ readers and raises provocative questions about this popular show.
Q: Who do you think will find this book most useful?
Many of the articles offer activities that can be used immediately in elementary and secondary classrooms. For example, Robin Cooley’s “Beyond Pink and Blue” shows teachers how to critique everyday texts, in this case a Pottery Barn catalog, to encourage kids to thinking critically about how boyhood and girlhood are presented, and then to take action through writing. Similarly, in “Stenciling Dissent” Andrew Reed describes a history unit in which students learn the power of political graffiti in their study of strikes and protest.
We think teacher educators will see it as a great resource, too. There are strong examples of teachers at work doing critical media literacy. There are also critical readings of texts related to education, including an entire section looking at how teachers are represented in television and film. Theoretical critiques of popular texts include Ehrenreich’s “Bonfire of the Disney Princesses” and Barbara Munson’s “Human Beings Are Not Mascots.”