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The new Disney/Pixar film Coco has topped the box office for three weekends in a row, and is well on its way toward passing Justice League and becoming the biggest hit movie to come out during the mid-November-to-mid-December corridor – in other words, in between Disney/Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney owns a lot of stuff, you guys, and they’re angling to own more with a possible purchase of Fox’s movie and TV studios). This is not surprising in the sense that Pixar movies are often big hits (and, again, Disney owns everything) – but it is notable that this particular Pixar production features almost entirely Mexican characters (and I say “almost” only because the origins of its happily mangy dog sidekick are technically unknown).

 

I just edited a new edition of our intro to film studies book The Film Experience, and one of our objectives for the new edition was to revamp our history coverage to talk more directly about major contributors to the medium’s development who happen to be members of marginalized groups – and whose stories are not always told in traditional narratives about how film got to where it is today. And where it is today, incidentally, still requires a ton more work to do, especially in Hollywood – it’s rare to see a live-action big studio film as dominated by non-white people as this animated one, though Universal’s Fast & Furious series does its part. But we are seeing progress, and it’s particularly heartening to see this progress coming from Pixar, because the company hasn’t made that many movies focusing on humans, period, as opposed to the secret lives of toys, bugs, monsters, fish, scarily sentient planet-dominating cars, and so on.

 

Coco isn’t just a movie where the characters happen to be Mexican (though there’s value in that kind of creative choice, too, of course; that's closer to the kind of inclusive casting choices Disney has made on the new Star Wars pictures), but one that specifically speaks to the dynamics of a large Mexican family, that takes place on the Day of the Dead, and immerses itself in a particular culture’s notions about family, memory, and the afterlife. It’s not as hilarious as some past Pixar movies, but it’s a lovely little film. A lot of cartoons have trouble telling human stories that are actually about humans (perhaps understandably; toys and monsters and bugs are probably more fun to animate), and in a relatively weak year for family-targeted animation, which has seen plenty of big-studio product scrambling for a marketable hook (The Boss Baby; The Emoji Movie), it’s nice to see Coco create a fully felt character out of Miguel, its young hero. The movie is still wildly imaginative in its designs – Pixar’s vision of a city populated by the deceased does not disappoint – but it never feels desperate to throw everything it can think of at its audience As a result, it also feels confident that the audience will find it.

 

One interesting aspect of Coco’s success is only tangentially related to the movie itself, but does have to do with the notion of an audience finding it despite the lack of Nemo, Dory, Woody Buzz, or the Incredibles. Coco was initially released in theaters with a short subject in front of it, as has become tradition for most Disney animated features, and just about every Pixar feature. But this wasn’t a Pixar short attached to Coco; rather, it was a 20-minute “featurette” starring the characters from Disney’s megahit Frozen. If 20 minutes sounds like it stretches the definition of a short subject (especially for a family audience), that’s because Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is, in fact, a TV special (an airdate of 12/14 on ABC was recently announced) tacked on to the front of Coco, ostensibly as a special treat.

 

Both the specialness and the treatness have been in doubt, however. There’s speculation that Disney may have been nervous about the financial prospects of a non-sequel Pixar joint with such a specific cultural focus, which would explain why they gave so much screentime over to perhaps the whitest set of characters in the current Disney stable (I mean, the main character in it is a dang snowperson). But what happened next, as the clickbait headlines say, may surprise you: Audiences reacted with irritation towards the Frozen spinoff. Now, a lot of this is anecdotal, as almost all chronicles of audience reactions tend to be, and some of it has to do with the simple yet nearly unsolvable math problem of how to make a kid sit for a 20-minute “short” plus a 105-minute feature (the only real solution: have extremely patient kids). It’s probably a mistake, as ever, to confuse Twitter-complaining with a popular sentiment.

 

Olaf: newfound public enemy number one?

But over in Mexico, where Coco has become the highest-grossing movie in the country’s history (!), the results have been a bit more quantifiable: Though Disney stopped running the Olaf special in front of Coco after a few weeks of its U.S. release, some Mexican theaters (which got the movie several weeks before their U.S. counterparts) began taking it upon themselves to not show Olaf’s Frozen Adventure after some audiences complained. The audiences were – get this – wildly excited to see Coco itself, to see powerful representation from a beloved studio, moreso than whatever bonus Disney thought might draw bigger crowds. U.S. audiences, too, turned out not to need hand-holding from Olaf to lead them into Coco. It's a potent example both of how Disney may be thinking more progressively than they were even five or six years ago... and how audiences around the world may be even further ahead than that.

 

 

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Melanie McFadyen

NCA 2017 Wrap-Up

Posted by Melanie McFadyen Dec 7, 2017

Last month, a few of our editors flew down from our New York offices to Dallas, Texas, to participate in the 103rd annual conference for the National Communication Association. There, we had the chance to meet with Communication instructors like yourselves, from a variety of courses and institutions. If you were in attendance at this year's NCA and stopped by our booth or chatted with some of our editors, THANK YOU! We had a blast, and hope you did too!

 

For those who couldn't make it this year, see below for some pictures and insights from our editors in attendance:

 

Hellooooooo, Dallas!

 

This year marked the first time the conference was held in Dallas, and the city proved to be a great location for the event! In this commercial and cultural hub, scholars around the country learned a lot from each other as they shared ideas, engaged in civil dialogue, and discussed educational tools and teaching methods.

 

Tony Tasset's Eye (2007), found in downtown Dallas

 

The days of November 16th - 19th were filled with educational panels, meetings of special interest groups, and other exciting programs. If you wandered among the vendors and other book-sellers at the exhibition booths you may have spotted Macmillan's red-and-white banner at our booth, where we had great conversations with instructors about our catalog this year. 


Just look at those lights!

 

And of course, after long days of engaging in scholarly discourse, it was time to party! Bedford/St. Martin's held hteir party at the Midnight Rambler, a gorgeous location perfect for a party of communication experts. It was the perfect even to wrap up the conference and the week!! 

 

Next year's NCA conference will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 8th - 11th. The theme will be "Communication at Play," which, according to the event's website, "is intentionally and playfully ambigious." We can't wait to see what next year's theme shapes up to be, and hope to see you there! 

 

Did you attend the NCA this year? What were some of the highlights and takeaways for you? Tell us in the comments, or email a brief statement to melanie.mcfadyen@macmillan.com, and I'll add it to the blog!

Oh, I just can't wait to see The Lion King!

 

That's something I would not have said a week ago. I'll admit, I haven't been the biggest fan of Disney's live-action remakes these past few years, mostly because I'm still re-watching the original animated classics, and I'm tired of seeing the same movies again and again (get some new stories, Hollywood!). No matter how great the live action film is, I'm ultimately going to be comparing them to the original classics.

 

Image result for lion king zazu gif

My reaction to hearing that even Winnie the Pooh and Chip n' Dale are getting live-action movies

 

But with Disney's cast announcement released this Wednesday, I can't help but be excited for the upcoming film. See below for a photo of the full cast below: 

 

 

 

 

 

You may have heard what I'm about to say already, but here goes anyway: Beyoncé as Nala! Donald Glover as Simba! John Oliver as Zazu! I'd be freaking out over James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa, if it wasn't so clear that he could never be replaced as Mufasa. No one can replace Mufasa (It's been over 20 years, and I'm still not over it).  

 

While this announcement is exciting simply for the incredible amount of talent assembled here, it's also being rightly celebrated for being representative of the film's setting, which is strongly implied to be set in the African savanna. This is in contrast to the 1994 animated movie, which had a majority of white actors voicing characters whose names were in Swahili. Disney has struggled with updating their classics to include more diverse and representative casts, and has been criticized for some of their casting choices for Aladdin and Mulan. The casting announcement has given fans hope that the live-action remake will be not only true to the original film's story, but also more inclusive for children of color. As pointed out in my recent post on the Emmys, the entertainment industry still struggles with diversity and inclusion; like this year's Emmy awards, this is a wonderful step in the right direction.

 

Nina Bradley's article in Bustle points out that "being able to identify with someone that looks and sounds like you on screen plays a critical role in one's growth and validation...the Lion King movie will offer young black children an opportunity to feel that their presence matters." For a new generation of children, this live-action version may be their first introduction to The Lion King, and many children of color will be able to appreciate the story in a much deeper way as they can identify with the characters they see and hear onscreen. The live action movie, expected to hit theaters on July 19, 2019, will not only be more authentic to the story's roots in African heritage, but will show both children and adults how a diverse range of talent can take a beloved classic and make it even better.

 

 

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We've been posting a lot on Media lately, but we haven't forgotten other Communication topics! What would you like to see more of in our blogs? Let us know in the comments! 

 

Banner image source: Have You Seen The Current Cast Of The New “Lion King”? Check Inside! | WADL TV Detroit  

The 2017 Emmy Awards aired a week ago, and as the news turns away from this year’s ceremony, the prevailing theme of highlighting diversity will remain relevant for many award ceremonies to come.

 

Overall, this was a great year for diversity in television, as host Stephen Colbert was quick to point out during his opening monologue, stating “For the third year in a row, this is the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history” (2017). To further back up his claim, a montage later in the night showed clips from shows that told diverse and inclusive stories, including Master of None, The Handmaid's Tale, Atlanta, This is Us, and Insecure.

 

In an age of peak television, when there are more scripted shows out and available for streaming than ever before, there’s also a better opportunity for those who have not been previously represented on television to have their stories told. Some of this can be attributed to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which rely less on ratings and therefore have more creative freedom. Other times, such as in the case of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None and Mindy Kalin’s The Mindy Project, stars who have already established themselves in other shows sometimes have to take matters into their own hands to create the shows that better reflect who they are and what they know.

 

Some of the winners from this diverse group of nominees have done exactly that. Donald Glover became the first black director to win an Emmy for comedy direction for his show Atlanta, and Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win for comedy writing for her episode on Master of None, “Thanksgiving,” which was based on her life growing up as a queer black woman. Other record-breaking winners included Riz Ahmed, the first man of Asian descent to win an acting prize; Sterling K. Brown, the first black actor to win best lead actor since 1998; and Reed Morano, who became the first woman to win for directing in 22 years.

 

Image of Lena Waite with her Emmy Award from www.indiewire.com

Lena Waithe with her Emmy Award. Image from www.indiewire.com

 

These winners are rightfully being celebrated by the television industry and viewers alike, but some industry leaders are skeptical of the self-congratulatory manner in which this year’s diversity was covered, both during and after the show. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Shonda Rhimes said that “it feels embarrassing that we are still in a place in which we have to note these moments…I’m hoping that it’s not a trend. I’m hoping that people don’t feel satisfied because they saw a lot of people win, and then think that we’re done.”

 

It’s certainly true that there’s still a great deal of work to be done. Other critics of this year’s award ceremony pointed out that the pool of nominees and winners were completely devoid of Latino actors, directors, and producers. The only Latino American nominated for an Emmy this year was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for hosting Saturday Night Live last October (the award went to Alec Baldwin for his guest appearances on the same show).

 

As previously mentioned and as noted by Eliana Dockterman for TIME, the winners who broke records this year all won their awards for work “that dealt explicitly with issues of identity. Donald Glover, who won…for his show Atlanta, has said that he wanted to…share the black experience with the world. Lena Waithe…took home the trophy for an episode about her character coming out to her family.” While these are important stories that deserve to be told and should continue to be told, it should also be normal for marginalized actors to win awards for their talent alone, and not just on work that directly relates to their personal identities.

 

Of course, as television leads the charge in offering diverse stories and then celebrating those stories, it’s wonderful for marginalized groups to finally have a chance to share their points of view with the world. During her acceptance speech, Lena Waithe thanked Netflix and Universal “for creating a different playground for us to play on and shine,” and added that, “the things that make us different, those are our superpowers.”

 

 Riz Ahmed accepting his Emmy Award

Riz Ahmed accepting his Emmy Award. Image from www.eonline.com

 

While presenting the award for Best Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, Riz Ahmed called attention to the importance of giving women more opportunities to tell their stories, as “Time and again we see how the stories we tell are often skewed in favor of the male perspective. When this happens we miss out on an opportunity to let our best talent shine.”

 

Overall, the diversity in this year’s Emmy Awards is a wonderful step forward but, as Shonda Rhimes pointed out, the work isn’t over yet. Now that the Academy has rightfully celebrated the progress it’s made so far, it’s up to the entire television industry to keep up the momentum, because diverse television makes for really great television.

 

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Students will be arriving back on campus over the next few weeks, and many will be coming in to the 2017 - 2018 school year with thoughts and questions about distressing recent events in national and local news. One way to help students process these events is to discuss them as a group in class. While it can be daunting to bring hot-button topics into the class environment, chances are high that these topics are already weighing on students’ minds and students will want to talk about them. Allowing students to express their thoughts and questions among their peers will help them develop the skills they will need to participate in ongoing discussions and debate outside of class.

 

These conversations also present an opportunity for students to practice their media literacy and research skills, which will lead to more informed discussions with fact-based support. Leaders of The Choices Program, an educational nonprofit at Brown University, note that tying curriculum to current events “prepares students to become more informed and engaged citizens.” By sharing their personal experiences and stories, these conversations also have the potential to help students recognize how these issues impact people from different racial, economic, and social backgrounds. That being said, it can still be a challenge for instructors to begin such discussions in the classroom – here are some suggestions for getting started.

 

Prepare students for the discussion beforehand.

 

Despite these clear benefits to discussing current topics in the classroom, it is also important to remember that these issues will impact students in different ways. If you suspect a student might have a particularly strong emotional response to the topic, talk with them and help them prepare for it beforehand (or give them the chance to opt out). Another approach would be to inform all students of the upcoming discussion beforehand, so that concerned students may discuss it with you privately. This tactic also gives students the opportunity to research the topic beforehand, so that they may practice finding reputable sources and using those sources to support their viewpoints. Consider asking students to write down what they know and what questions they have beforehand, so that their responses might help you decide how to frame the conversation.

 

Create a safe, supportive, and respectful classroom environment.

 

For any conversations on an uncomfortable topic, it is imperative that all students feel that their thoughts and feelings are respected, and that they have an equal chance to share. On the day of the discussion, have the class create a set of ground rules that will allow them to share their perspectives without fear of judgment, interruption, or rebuke. Examples of potential ground rules include “One mic” (one person at a time), “I statements” (saying “I feel that” instead of “You’re wrong because”), and “Step up step back” (pay attention to how much space you’re taking up in the conversation and adjust as necessary). Once the students have agreed to the ground rules, ensure that they remember to uphold these rules, and address any violations immediately. In the article “10 Ways to Talk to Students About Sensitive Issues in the News,” Jinnie Spiegler from The Learning Network recommends that instructors encourage students to talk openly about their feelings in the discussion, and to occasionally check the emotional “temperature” of the room. These talks can become very personal and cause intense emotional reactions, which can be helped with a safe, open, and respectful classroom environment.

 

Determine your role and prepare accordingly.

 

Many instructors struggle with the ethics of sharing their own personal and political beliefs with their students, especially during group discussions. Therefore, some might decide not to participate in the conversation at all. Others might play the role of a moderator, facilitating while not participating in the discussion. A moderator has the ability to steer the conversation away from off-topic threads, remind students to keep the conversation respectful, and make sure that the discussion is productive with equal chances for all to contribute. Some might choose to answer questions as they come up or clarify misconceptions when necessary, and some will participate fully in the dialogue. Regardless of the role you choose to play, it is important to research the topic fully beforehand so that you can participate, respond, or clarify if needed. Instructors are not immune to these topics and may have an emotional response of their own; if you feel that you might have such a reaction, prepare yourself beforehand in the same way that you might help a concerned student prepare. Along with the links posted at the bottom, there are various resources available either in print or online to help you with these types of discussions. Finally, remember that while these conversations are uncomfortable, by addressing them head-on, your students will be better prepared to engage in public conversations going forward, and may even start to challenge their own biases and assumptions as a result.

 

Questions: How do you teach current events in the classroom? Do you host a group discussion, create lectures, or show news clips or other videos?

 

Resources

10 Ways to Talk to Students about Sensitive Issues in the News

Uncomfortable Conversations: Tools to Teach Current Events and Controversial Issues

 

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It is 11pm on a Tuesday night. Tomorrow morning is the big presentation you have been preparing weeks for and you make moves for an early bedtime. You set the alarm on your phone and plop right into bed. The room is nearly pitch black as you begin shutting your eyes. You are on your way into rem sleep when suddenly...vzzzzzzt; a notification illuminates the room with a piercing flash of light. Fully awakened and tempted, you check that notification of a snapchat. But a snapchat turns into a google search, then a twitter check, an instagram gander, and before you know it, it’s 3am and you’re editing your Facebook profile picture.

 

Many young adults and teenagers have fallen prey to my own device-- it’s the Black Mirror Effect.

 

While the Black Mirror Effect is something I merely coined based off the technological dystopian British program Black Mirror, it describes our society’s current dilemma; we have become entranced by technology and slaves to our screens.

 

Here are some statistics:

  • 95% of all teens (13-17 years of age) are actively online.
  • In 2016, 81% of online teens have some sort of social media account, which is up from 55% in 2006.
  • According to a recent study by the UK disability charity Scope, of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62% reported feeling inadequate and 60% reported feelings of jealousy when comparing themselves to other users.

 


 

 

Online games, dating apps, and social media in particular have negative effects on the happiness of Millennials and Generation Z. The increasing number of depressed,sleep deprived hypertexters measuring their self-worth by a Facebook post is frightening.  Adam Alter, social psychologist and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, mentions the effects of addiction on social media usage.

 

Featured in a recent TED Talk, Alter explains why screens do not make us happy. The info graphic below (taken from Alter’s TED Talk) shows how the average work day is organized into time spent on our daily activities. The red space in the personal section represents the amount of time we spend on screens during personal time and how it has increased in just ten years time. According to this chart, screen time has consumed almost our entire personal time.

 

 

 

Now do not misunderstand, screens are not the bane of existence. Screens have revolutionized the world. Calling friends and loved ones over video chats was not possible a few years back and today, we have opportunities to see a familiar face or “attend” an event. It’s quite incredible that our devices can function as a remote, open your car, act as a GPS, count your steps, and even check your heart rate! There’s power in revolution, but the problem with too much power is the lack of self-control.

 

The true culprit behind these addictive behaviors is a common feature on many social media apps--endless scrolling. As Adam Alter suggests, with the lack of stopping cues we have the ability to indulge ourselves into an infinite amount of scrolling. Without an endpoint, it is difficult to determine where and when to stop at any given moment.

 

So how can we put a cap on screen usage? Is legislation over the top? Believe it or not, there is indeed legislation dubbed “Cinderella Laws” already proposed and up for debate in South Korea and China. While that is still just a debate, what can YOU do now? Here are a few thoughts to consider:

 

  • Put it on airplane mode. That way notifications, texts, and emails are not on the radar.
  • When going to an event, such as a concert or festival, keep your phone in your bag. Challenge yourself to not snapchat or “go live” while you are at these events. Just live the experience without your phone.
  • Pick a time of day not to pull your phone out. Dinner time would be a great opportunity to put the phone down.
  • Set time restraints. If 11pm is your bedtime, 9:59pm should be the last minute your thumbs touch that screen.
  • Get an alarm clock. It may be “old school” nowadays but using your phone as a bedtime alarm can prompt temptation. Nothing wrong with a good old fashion alarm clock!

 

There is bliss in unplugging yourself from the digital world and, as I have learned through my nights of sleep deprivation, getting a full eight hours will not only save you from dark circles and zombie eyes, but you’ll ace that big presentation, improve your mental health, and open yourself up to "screenless" experiences. Go live without your phone, and live your life through your own eyes.

 

 

Resources

 

Abrams, Allison. “Mental Health and the Effects of Social Media.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 5 Mar. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201703/mental-health-and-the-effects-social-media. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

 

Alter, Adam. “Why our screens make us less happy.” YouTube, uploaded by TED, 1 August 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K5OO2ybueM.

 

Cottle, Julia. “Facebook and Mental Health: Is Social Media Hurting or Helping?” Mental Help, 15 Mar. 2016. www.mentalhelp.net/articles/facebook-and-mental-health-is-social-media-hurting-or-helping. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

 

Dreifus, Claudia. “Why We Can’t Look Away From Our Screens.” The New York Times, 6 Mar. 2017. www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/science/technology-addiction-irresistible-by-adam-alter.html. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

 

MacMillan, Amanda . “Why Instagram Is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health.” Time, 25 May 2017. www.time.com/4793331/instagram-social-media-mental-health/. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

 

 

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As the end of summer quickly approaches, many colleges will soon start their fall semesters. Some students may be returning back for another year at school, while others will begin as freshmen in the fall. On the first day of classes, students and professors alike may feel a variety of different emotions ranging from nervousness to excitement and everything in between.

 

To deal with these emotions and others, it’s important for students and professors to set clear goals to help them get through the semester. Through personal experience, I find that when I write out my academic goals for myself and keep the list in an accessible place to refer back to, I am more likely to actually achieve my goals. For professors, it might be harder to balance the responsibilities of teaching multiple classes and interacting with students, while also trying to reach the targets they set for themselves.

 

For the upcoming semester, I have personally set goals for myself and have expectations to complete them all. One goal I would like to make happen is to engage more with professors to benefit from their extensive knowledge and really learn from them. In the past, I haven’t tried to make strong relationships with professors because I focused more on balancing my social life with finishing coursework on time. Throughout the semester I will occasionally glance over my list of goals to make sure I keep working towards completing them. At the very end of the semester, I will go through my goals one more time to see which ones I was able to achieve. If I didn’t do something I would’ve liked to do, I will put it on my list for the next semester and continue to work at becoming a better student.

 

On the first day of class, it may be a good idea to set aside time during class for students to set goals for themselves. Setting goals will encourage students to strive to do their best right from the start of the semester. Another useful tip for professors is to have students make another list with specific things that they would like to get out of the class and any teaching techniques they would like the professor to use. Professors can collect the lists from students to develop their own objectives for the semester according to their own needs as well as their students’ needs.

 

As an instructor, do you set goals for yourself at the beginning of each semester?

What are some of the goals you set?

How do you stay on track to achieve your goals throughout the semester?

Do you have any tips for professors or students on what types of goals they should set or how to achieve their goals?

 

 

About the Author

Danielle Straub is the Communication Editorial intern this summer at Macmillan. She is a rising junior at Hunter College in New York City. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, Danielle plans to go into publishing when she finishes college. Danielle enjoys spending her time traveling, cooking, reading, and volunteering.

 

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Whether or not you watch Game of Thrones, you probably already know that the seventh season of the action-packed fantasy returned last month (to record-breaking ratings, no less). Maybe your friends held a viewing party, or posted about it on social media, or slipped “Winter is coming” somewhere into a recent conversation. Even if you’re behind on the show (three seasons behind, in my case), it’s unlikely that you’ll have to wait long before the events of the current season come to your attention (curse you, spoilers!).

 

In an age where countless varieties of television shows are available for your entertainment in a growing array of mediums – like Netflix, DVR, and various online streaming platforms – it’s rare to find one single show that captures such massive appeal and has an audience dedicated enough to tune in every week. Game of Thrones manages both, drawing in 16.1 million total viewers for the seventh season premiere, which includes 10.1 million who watched on the linear channel as the show aired (Variety). While not the only example of “consensus” or “appointment-viewing” television left, it is currently the strongest, growing in its last few seasons while other examples Scandal and The Walking Dead have seen viewership drop off (TIME).

 

Why, then, has Thrones been able to command not just viewers’ attention, but also their Sunday nights? Is it just the merit of the show itself, or is there a social aspect to it as well?

 

Game of Thrones is a prime example of communal TV - shows most enjoyed when we share them with others. Methods of sharing a TV viewing experience include physical watch parties or social media shares - Thrones fans use both.

 

In fact, so many people participate in Game of Thrones parties that The New York Times recently published an article asking “How Quiet Should You Be During ‘Game of Thrones’?”. Reactions from fans were mixed, preferring either total silence, some chatter during unimportant or dialogue-light scenes, and free talking throughout. Some fans need to fully immerse themselves in the show by watching it alone first, and others need to watch with others so that they can ask questions when they lose track of the plot. Fans from both sides cited “the shared experience” as part of their rationale, so which is it? Does the shared experience refer to quietly watching a show as a group, or does it mean talking as a group while watching a television show?

 

If you prefer to watch alone, you can still participate in the communal viewing experience through social media. Here, fans can share their opinions, reactions, and thoughts on the show without having others physically present. In an attempt to increase ratings, many shows have started to encourage (spoiler-free) live-blogging and live-tweeting by having cast and crew members participate. With Game of Thrones, it feels inevitable that as soon as an episode airs, the internet will become a minefield of spoilers for anyone who dares to watch the show later.

 

And that, in part, explains why Game of Thrones is one of the last appointment-viewing shows on television. Because of the communal experience, fans are all but required to view the show each Sunday night when it airs, either because they have agreed to watch with someone else or because they want to avoid having the episode spoiled ahead of time. While spoilers are difficult to avoid for most television shows, it’s particularly risky with Game of Thrones, where dramatic plot twists and power plays are infinitely more enjoyable to fans who didn’t see them coming.

 

                  

Spoilers on Game of Thrones are so hard to avoid that Stephen Colbert introduced the “Spoiler-Proof Bucket” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. All you have to do is wear it on your head and you’ll be spoiler-free! (Image from www.cbs.com)

 

Overall, Game of Thrones is a fun show to watch with others – either electronically or in person – for a variety of reasons. With a large cast of characters to root for (or against), the frequent plot twists and shifting power dynamics compel viewers to tune in week-to-week. As someone planning to catch up to the show this month (to join a viewing party, of course), all I can say is: winter is coming, and it’s bringing communal television back with it.

 

Questions:

  •     Do you watch Game of Thrones? If so, how do you watch it? Alone, with a group? Do you post your thoughts on social media?
  •     How do you think the communal viewing experience differs from the individual viewing experiences? Does it increase your enjoyment of the show, or decrease it?

 

 

 

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Premiere Shatters HBO Ratings Records | Variety 

Game of Thrones' New Finale Record Proves It's Consensus TV | Time.com  

How Quiet Should You Be During ‘Game of Thrones’? Fans Disagree - The New York Times  

More often than not, college students are completely overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to complete. They often have lengthy lists of tasks they have to do from professors who seem to love to pack on the workload. Although this may be a generalization, the majority of students are exceptional procrastinators and will take the easiest way out when doing their work, trying to get the least amount of work done in the shortest amount of time. Students try to balance their academic studies with their social lives and sometimes the latter trumps the former.

 

A lot of times students start the semester off strong: being on top of their assignments, up-to-date with readings and reassuring themselves that this semester will be different from the last. They tell themselves that they’ll continue to be organized, study for exams, and get projects finished on time. By the middle of the semester, professors’ assignments are more frequent and students are suddenly faced with a daunting list of time-sensitive tasks to complete. This is the point when some students give up and start showing serious signs of sleep deprivation, procrastination, and overwhelming anxiety. Things like Netflix or going out to a party easily distract students and sometimes hinder their productivity. At the end of the semester, all hell breaks loose. Students are especially sluggish and seriously slacking with their work, and they may start scrambling to recover their grade in a class.

 

Many different factors influence whether or not students will be motivated to do work for a class. Most factors are situational: where they go to school, what professors they have, their upbringing, their economic background, and the state of their mental health and so on. Every student is different in how they work best. As stated earlier, some are great at time management and others are better at procrastinating, or some are a mix of the two. In the fall of 2016, the American College Health Association conducted a survey of over 30,000 university students that measured their physical and mental health. One specific section of the report found the biggest factors students reported that affected their individual academic performance within the past 12 months. 32.2% of students reported that stress was the biggest factor in their academic performance, followed by anxiety at 24.9%, sleep difficulties at 20.6%, and depression at 15.4%.

To ease students of their stresses, professors can take simple steps to encourage students to be more motivated in and out of class. As a college student myself, I find that when professors exercise these techniques, I, along with other students, are more likely to be interested in the class as well as more willing to work to receive a good grade. Some specific practices include:

  • Inform students on the value of a college education. A lot of students view college as something they have to do because their parents expect them to, rather than a time to be as invested as possible in their education.
  • Get to know your students. Students often need to be told what to do and need significant guidance during college. Giving students the opportunity to have a relationship with their professor is often extremely beneficial. Students are more comfortable to ask questions and are more motivated to excel in a class. Be flexible with office hours times and always be available to be reached by students.
  • Get students engaged in class by having class discussions frequently. If students are comfortable to speak in class, they will actually enjoy coming to class, participating, and being friends with other students.
  • Keep the information during lectures current by relating the topic to students’ lives. References to media and pop culture spark students’ interests and are easily identifiable for them. The more interesting the topic is to the student, the more they will want to learn about it.
  • Give students an incentive to do well. Giving them a participation grade, extra credit opportunities, or reward for a job well done will make the students appreciate you and motivate them to do well.
  • Treat all students equally. Students pick up on a professor who favors certain students and can dislike them for that reason, making them care less about the class.
  • Ask students for feedback on the teaching techniques that work and the ones that don’t. Give students choices on project and paper topics. If the topic interests them, the more likely it is that they will do well when graded.
  • For more tips on motivating students click here.

 

 

About the Author 

Danielle Straub is the Communication Editorial intern this summer at Macmillan. She is a rising junior at Hunter College in New York City. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, Danielle plans to go into publishing when she finishes college. Danielle enjoys spending her time traveling, cooking, reading, and volunteering.

Throughout our lives, we meet many different people, each with different personalities. Sometimes we get along with people and are able to communicate well with them, while other times we don’t. Have you ever wondered why?

 

One of the biggest factors influencing our connection to other people is our personality. According to the American Psychological Association, personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.” It is clear by now that understanding who we are and how we perceive ourselves is crucial to interpersonal communication. Having greater insight into why we do the things we do and what personality type we are can improve the way we effectively communicate.

 

With the internet right at our fingertips, there are endless ways to dissect who we are and what personality we have. Facebook and Buzzfeed quizzes pop up every time we scroll and tempt us to find out which Friends character we are, what type of wine we are, or which ninja turtle we are by taking a pizza quiz. Some of the quizzes are simply for entertainment’s sake, while others can actually give us interesting feedback. In the world of psychology, there are personality tests that are backed by research and have taken years to perfect by highly respected individuals in the field. Some of the more well-known tests include, the Myers-Briggs type indicator test, the Rorschach inkblot test, and the Thematic Appereception Test.

 

One of the most trusted tests is the Big Five Personality test, based on the Five Factor Model of personality, which is the most widely accepted theory of personality today. The test consists of 50 questions, asking questions such as do you make friends easily or do you carry out your plans. At the end, you receive a score that measures a low, average, or high level of five traits:  

  • Openness to experience: Describes how open you are to think in complex, abstract, and creative ways. This measures how intellectually curious you are.
  • Conscientiousness: This trait describes a person’s ability for self-discipline and tendency to aim for goals.
  • Extraversion: This refers to a person’s inclination to seek stimulation from the outside world and from the company of others. It also describes a person’s degree of talkativeness, assertiveness, and sociability.
  • Agreeableness: This trait is used to describe how compassionate, kind, and cooperative a person is while interacting with others.
  • Neuroticism: Neuroticism is the likelihood a person is to feel negative emotions, including anger, sadness, and anxiety. This trait measures a person’s emotional stability and their ability to control the negative emotions they experience.

 

You might be asking yourself, how can the measure of these five traits determine how well we communicate? Those traits can influence the ways we communicate with others. Someone highly open to experience is probably someone who is always coming up with new ideas and isn’t afraid to share them with others. People who are highly conscientious are usually dependable, hardworking, and cautious. They might communicate well with others because they are honest and not afraid to go after what they want. Those who are highly extraverted exhibit enthusiasm, friendliness, and ambition. Extraverts communicate more easily because they know how to talk to people and are not afraid to tell someone how they feel. People who score high in agreeableness are very kind, compassionate, and sensitive to how others feel. They communicate well because they are very cooperative and typically put others before themselves. Neuroticism, the last of five factors, is the hardest to measure. Most people experience negative emotions from time to time although it happens more often to some. People who score low in neuroticism usually have a good handle on their emotions, don’t let those emotions cloud their judgment, and don’t let stress take over their lives. On the other hand, people who are highly neurotic can be sometimes unstable and overly reactive. In these instances, these people can be difficult to communicate with due to unpredictability in their words and actions.

 

Exploring our personalities in depth by taking personality tests can give us insight into who we are. By beginning to understand ourselves and others, we can better understand how we communicate the way we do. Whenever you are in a situation where you are communicating with others, you can be mindful of how the other person is speaking or acting towards you. Whether you know the person well or not, you will be able to gauge what their personality is. From there, you can adapt accordingly to the conversation. If you encounter someone with a personality conflicting with yours, you can try to improve your communication skills by adapting to be sensitive to their personality. If you’ve scored low in agreeableness and want to aim to improve in that area, you can try to be more easygoing when communicating with others and more willing to cooperate. Effective communication in relationships starts with understanding the various aspects of personality and using that knowledge to adapt to day-to-day interactions.

 

Find out your results by taking the Big Five test here.

 

 

About the Author 

Danielle Straub is the Communication Editorial intern this summer at Macmillan. She is a rising junior at Hunter College in New York City. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, Danielle plans to go into publishing when she finishes college. Danielle enjoys spending her time traveling, cooking, reading, and volunteering.

 

Spring in New England is a glorious time.  The ice and snow of winter are finally melting, flowers are poking their heads up, and the population of the city of Boston seems to double as people come out of the woodwork to ride bikes, take walks, cheer on marathon runners, and enjoy the outdoors without having to wear six separate layers of clothing to stay warm.

 

I fully appreciate the rebirth and energy that comes with the change of seasons, and trust me – I'm going to get out there to experience it soon.  I must admit, however, that I also love spring for a reason that’s a lot less about fresh air and a lot more about couch time: the considerable joys of spring television viewing.  As a self-diagnosed TV junkie, I can officially say that – when it comes to high quality TV – spring is the new fall. 

 

While many of the network shows are drawing to a close, with finales just around the corner, there are a number of other programs that are just now making their debuts. In particular, I have two cable networks to thank for occupying so much of my time these days: AMC's fascinating character study/Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul is just back for its third season, and FX's thoughtful-yet-brutal spy drama The Americans has returned for its fifth season.  Both of these shows feature top-notch acting and writing, which has led critics like this one and this one to christen them among the best dramas on TV.  (Spoiler alert for these links if you're not caught up to the current season.)  But in addition to overall high quality, both of these shows have internalized an important TV lesson that helps them stay fresh: When it comes to prestige dramas, less can actually be more.  Saul has only 10 episodes per season and The Americans only 13 per season, which keeps the shows humming along.  Before you know it, the run is over and you are left mentally calculating how long it will be until the next anticipated season debuts. 

 

Image from TV show The Americans

(Image from: http://theamericans.wikia.com/wiki/Season_One)

 

This "less in more" approach is certainly not unique to these two shows – in fact, when it comes to cable, premium cable, and streaming services, shorter seasons are the new normal.  FX's perfectly pitched Fargo (which also begins this month) is another short and sweet series of just 10 episodes per season, while Netflix's breakout show Stranger Things, an ode to 1980's spine-tinglers, is only eight episodes long.  And juggernaut Games of Thrones (normally another show with an April debut, though its penultimate season has been pushed back to a summer start) usually runs just 10 episodes long.  (The upcoming seventh season will be further truncated, with just seven episodes.)

 

The power of the short and sweet season is a lesson that all not showrunners have internalized – perhaps to their own detriment.  AMC’s The Walking Dead, for example, just wrapped up its seventh season with a total of 16 episodes. In the grand scheme, 16 episodes is not overly lengthy (the latest seasons of network shows NCIS and The Big Bang Theory had 24 episodes each), but even a few extra episodes can drag a show down and ruin its pacing.  As my husband and I made our way through 6.5 seasons of The Walking Dead – only to abandon it, finally, at the midpoint of season 7 – we found ourselves remarking time and again that certain "filler" episodes felt sluggish, unnecessary, and just downright boring.  Apparently, we were not the only ones who jumped ship, nor were we the only ones to describe a show about the zombie apocalypse – which should have you on the edge of your seat – using the "b" word (big-time spoilers here). We can't help but wonder if the later seasons would have done a better job of holding our attention if the showrunners were more brutal in the editing room.

 

Meme of The Walking Dead that says "We're Goin' to War, But We're Gonna Talk about It for 3 More Episodes First" 

(Image from: http://www.norvillerogers.com/five-reasons-im-done-watching-the-walking-dead/)


Of course, just because a show's season is shorter, that doesn't guarantee that it will be good: Though Season 2 of HBO's True Detective ran for only eight episodes, it was considerably less interesting (and less well-acted) than the atmospheric and arresting Season 1 (also eight episodes). Generally, however, when it comes to quality dramas, short and sweet seems to be a step in the right direction. I, for one, am glad to see some of my favorite shows return – and I’m just as glad that they won’t be overstaying their welcome.

 

Have you found yourself experiencing the joys of spring TV over the last few weeks?  Have your students?  What are the qualities in a TV show that keep audiences coming back for more, and what types of decisions can writers and producers make that ultimately cause ratings to slide and attention spans to wane?  Feel free to share your own thoughts about television viewing in the comments section below, including recommendations for any must-see shows and spring debuts.  Happy watching!

 


 

“Image from Film-Book.com”

 

The latest in the series of Disney’s planned remakes, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast stirred up controversy prior its release over the filmmakers’ revelation that this adaptation would feature a Disney movie’s first “exclusively gay moment” with the character LeFou, played by Josh Gad. This decision correlates with Disney’s wider efforts to increase inclusivity in representations of modern gender roles and sexuality in order to appeal to a wider contemporary audience; recent films in the Disney brand exemplify this strategy, such as Tangled (2010), Brave (2012), and Frozen (2013) with their proactive heroines who reject the damsel-in-distress archetype often foisted upon fairy tale females and instead, display character traits that subscribe to contemporary Western feminist values.

 

Disney’s relationship with the Beauty and the Beast tale has always been progressive on issues of gender representation. In TIME magazine, Eliza Berman hails Belle as Disney’s first feminist princess, and attributes that to the efforts of the 1991 animated film’s screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, the first woman to write a Disney film. The article also details the challenges Woolverton faced in attempting to realize her vision of Belle, whom she was determined to make “a new kind of Disney heroine,” one more active and intellectually curious than her predecessors.  2017’s treatment of Belle, played by Emma Watson, furthers the portrayal of modern sensibilities on gender roles and juxtaposes current gender politics with those of the indistinct eighteenth-century time period of the film: Belle, rather than her father, is the inventor (she applies this trade to the domestic chore of laundry through the invention of a rudimentary washing machine), her bookish quality is expanded to include a scene of her teaching a young girl to read (an act met with hostility against female literacy), and her father describes her as a woman ahead of her time when she voices concern that the townspeople find her odd.

 

In her introduction to Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales About Animal Brides and Grooms from Around the World (Penguin Books, 2017), Maria Tatar points out that while different cultural iterations of Beauty and the Beast still feature the heteronormative romance as their centerpiece, their variations express cultural  and generational differences in ideas about social issues. Disney uses the version of the tale published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as a foundation for their adaptations, but brings its themes into the twenty-first century by eschewing de Beaumont’s moral of virtue to convey a message of acceptance. The 2017 adaptation distinctly underlines the concept of self-identity to resonate with a diverse contemporary audience. This emphasis on being true to one’s self is particularly appropriate for the filmmakers when navigating representation of gender and sexuality in a time of shifting attitudes on these subjects. LeFou may remain a supporting character, but his character arc is updated to reflect the movie’s themes of self-discovery and acceptance. According to the film’s director Bill Condon, “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody just realizing that he has these feelings [...] And that’s what has its payoff at the end”.

 

From oral storytelling to film adaptations, fairy tales endure because of the manner in which they reflect a shared set of cultural norms and values. Disney’s latest Beauty and the Beast adaptation continues that tradition by expanding the film’s inclusive representations of gender and sexuality to reflect the changing cultural landscape.

I am fascinated by storytelling. I am a Moth podcast junkie and am a regular at story slams around Boston. Something about hearing other people’s stories helps me place my own experiences within a meaningful context. They have the power to help me empathize with other people’s perspectives. They can inspire and teach me.

 

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on why storytelling holds such power. In a three-part series on Fast Company, Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (Mariner Books, 2013), talks about the ubiquitous, powerful nature of stories and their influence on us and our culture. He begins by illustrating how storytelling infiltrates many aspects of our human experience:  

 

"Humans live in a storm of stories. We live in stories all day long, and dream in stories all night long. We communicate through stories and learn from them. We collapse gratefully into stories after a long day at work. Without personal life stories to organize our experience, our own lives would lack coherence and meaning."

 

Storytelling isn’t new. As a social and cultural activity, storytelling predates writing and began as an oral tradition. It is a distinctly human endeavor that serves to share and interpret experiences, teach, and entertain. We are drawn to stories for a good reason. Turns out, we are wired for it. “Stories powerfully hook and hold human attention because, at a brain level, whatever is happening in a story is happening to us and not just them,” Gottschall writes. You see our desire to tell and consume stories in our love of television, movies, and books as well as our fascination with social media. Telling stories shapes how we interact with others not to mention well-constructed narratives are often behind compelling initiatives in advertising, business, and journalism.

 

Storytelling is woven throughout all aspects of our media and culture and is evolving as we do. With the digital era, we are also seeing our increased ability to participate in and have an effect on the stories being told.  Though the exact extent to how much media can change our society and vice versa is still unknown, storytelling's capacity for creating empathy and shifting cultural attitudes is an interesting phenomenon to look at. While trying to convince somebody to change a belief is largely ineffective, telling them a story with characters they can empathize with can be more persuasive. For example, Gottschall argues that social scientists believe that storytelling might have had an impact on shifting American attitudes on homosexuality over the past 15 years with television shows such as Will & Grace, Glee, and Modern Family. That's some powerful stuff!

 

With storytelling being such a huge part of the way we consume media, teach, and learn, I suspect we will continue to talk and hear a lot about storytelling in the coming years. Want to learn more? Gottschall’s interesting three-part series on storytelling is available to read here:

 

The Science of Storytelling: How Narrative Cuts Through Distraction Like Nothing Else

Infecting an Audience: Why Great Stories Spread

Story 2.0: The Surprising Thing About the Next Wave of Narrative

 

How has storytelling impacted your life? Have you changed a perspective on something because of a well-told story? How do you think storytelling will evolve in the future? Feel free to share your thoughts below!

A while ago, I wrote a bit on COMMblog about the idea of "one perfect shot" that encapsulates a movie perfectly (or just looks really, really nice). That's been on my mind again as I finish up helping the authors of The Film Experience with the visual program for our new fifth edition of the book, which is coming out this fall. Editing lots of different types of books is fun, but I can say confidently that the visual side of editorial work is most fun with film books. The authors and I are constantly looking for examples to illustrate technical concepts (related to editing, cinematography, and, trickiest of all, sound!) as well as broader categories (like genre or narrative).

 

We want some examples that students will know immediately -- often this involves looking at a list of the highest-grossing movies of the last year or two, and then trying to figure out which of those are most likely appeal to a wide-ranging "college student" demographic that can include teenagers, adult learners, and plenty of people in between (it helps if they're good movies, too). But we also want examples that come from classic movies, or obscure titles that students may not know right away, but should. We've heard from film instructors that they have similar struggles in the classroom: Trying to teach concepts through instantly recognizable movies but also trying to expand students' horizons and include movies from -- get this -- before they were born! 


Here's a little preview of just a few of the images we're going to include in the fifth edition:

 

Ghostbusters wasn't a huge hit last summer, but it's a good go-to example because it includes comedy (including good examples of comic framing, as in the frame below), special effects, four excellent female leads, and "intellectual property" from the past that so many studios are desperate to mine.

 

 

Of course, there are always superhero movies. No matter how you feel about them, at least a couple images from them will make their way into an intro to film book these days. The first frame below is from X-Men: Apocalypse, which I admit wasn't the biggest hit in terms of recent superhero movies, but on the other hand, has this really cool shade of purple in this scene. Contrast with Captain America: Civil War, a very entertaining movie that, as you can see, has far less purple. I may sound flip, but that's also part of our consideration: How these images will look and catch students' eye on the page, be it in print or on an ebook reader.

 

 

 

Not everything has to be super-current, either. In the Cinematography chapter, the authors use a series of images from Carrie (1976) to show different points of view within the same sequence. This overhead shot is one of my favorites.

 

A box in the book's final chapter on writing about film discusses the creation of a video essay on Touch of Evil, which has similarly striking images to choose from. A lot of students supposedly don't watch black-and-white movies so it's especially important to choose memorable images to get them interested in the form.

 

 

Finally, sometimes when a movie is being used for an example that's not 100% shot-specific, you can suggest particular shots that you just love. These images from God Help the Girl (2014) and It Follows (2015) perfectly convey aspects of their genres (musical and horror, respectively); it doesn't hurt that they're two of my favorite recent films.

 

 

Don't you want to see those movies now, if you haven't?!

The Film Experience will be out in the fall with literally dozens more new shots like this. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from any film or media instructors who have favorite frames or other visual cues they use for teaching!

Recent reports from Common Sense Media revealed that American teens spend an average of nine hours per day using media, excluding time during school or for homework. If you think that's a lot, additional reports state that parents, too, spend about the same time. When generations young and old are spending more than one-third of their day using media, it's no wonder that Steve Barrett, Editor-in-Chief of trade magazine PR Week, called media literacy "the social issue of our time."  In the wake of the 2016 Presidential Election and the controversy surrounding "fake news," media literacy has become a buzzword for educators and journalists alike, who now see the need for media consumers to be able to understand not only what "fake news" is, but also the importance of knowing where they're getting their news, what biases are possible in the news they're consuming, and what message this piece of news is trying to send.

 

So, in case you missed it, here are a few places where we can see media literacy gaining traction around the country:

 

 

Are any media literacy initiatives occurring at your school, in your state, or in other communities? Leave a comment below!