Thursday, September 13, 2012

Update from TSEM102:Popular Culture and Politics

It's hard to believe that the third week of classes is almost over at Towson University. We've been having a lot of fun in my Towson Seminar (Popular Culture and Politics: Comedy, Entertainment, Celebrity, and Democracy) and we've been reviewing some interesting video content

In fact, I'm struck by how much material the 2012 campaign has already provided. We spent some time talking about Clint Eastwood's Invisible Chair debacle at the Republican National Convention -- what a great example of celebrity politics gone wrong! If you don't believe me, see for yourself:



We've been giving equal treatment to the Democrats too -- a great gem from this past week was this New York Times article about Joe Biden's get together with a group of bikers in Ohio. The NYT journalist penning the piece, Sarah Wheaton, offers some spot on commentary regarding the picture featured in the article. Even she can't believe it's not ripped from the pages of The Onion:



While the 2012 election has offered some inspiration, we've actually spent the past few weeks taking a look back at the history of political comedy, talking about political cartoons, programs like Laugh In, In Living Colour, and Saturday Night Live, which if you can believe it, kicks off it's 38th season this Saturday with guest host Seth McFarlane (aka the guy behind Family Guy).

We've re-discovered the rich history of political comedy and have been studying the fundamental changes in the media industry that have further blurred the boundaries between news and entertainment. And for a real history lesson (at least for these college freshmen who were little kiddies in the late 1990s), we looked back at the case of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and the subsequent replacement of traditional old media news gatekeepers with new media newsmakers like Matt Drudge.

Just this past week, we studied the differences between the comedic forms of satire and parody, reading the work of Jonathan Gray and his colleagues as a guide. We learned about the four features of satire: aggression, judgment, play and laughter, and the value of understanding the original text when examining parody.

It's been a fun, educational, and eye-opening experience so far. Next week, we'll focus some more on political cartoons as Towson University hosts Kal Kallaugher, cartoonist for The Economist and The Baltimore Sun, how political comedy viewers perceive programmatic content, and how watching political comedy influences our evaluations of the mainstream media.

Stay tuned for more from TSEM 102: Popular Culture and Politics and feel free to watch along with us on our course blog.

We enjoyed this great clip just yesterday!