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Movies on The Field unites film lovers at Sun Devil Stadium

December 11, 2018

Holiday favorite 'The Polar Express' will follow recent screening of 'Sorry to Bother You' in ASU 365 Community Union movie series

Next stop: “The Polar Express.” Sun Devil Stadium at Arizona State University will play host to another Movies on the Field event Friday, Dec. 14, with Robert Zemeckis' 2004 animated North Pole adventure that features the voice of Oscar winner Tom Hanks.

The presentation of “The Polar Express” on ASU’s new giant video boardThe 47- by 113-foot screen at Sun Devil Stadium, installed in 2017, is one of the largest college football video boards in the nation. will mark the third Movies on the Field outing for ASU 365 Community Union. It comes just weeks after the Sun Devil Stadium screening of the hit 2018 independent film “Sorry to Bother You” that included an in-person talkback with the movie’s director, Boots Riley. A joint effort between ASU 365 Community Union and ASU Film Spark in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, the “Sorry to Bother You” presentation brought hundreds to Sun Devil Stadium on Nov. 14 for a night of movie watching under the stars and on the football field.       

       

Video by Charrie Larkin/ASU

“Sorry to Bother You” has earned a number of nominations in the current film awards season and was recently named one of the Top 10 Independent Films of 2018 by the National Board of Review. Riley’s participation at the screening at Sun Devil Stadium and a classroom discussion earlier in the day provided students with a rare opportunity to interact with the first-time filmmaker and learn about his journey into feature film.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, ASU vice president for cultural affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage, called the screening of “Sorry to Bother You” at Sun Devil Stadium “an historic moment,” marking Riley's footnote as the first director of a Movies on the Field screening to attend the event — just two movies into the new seriesASU 365 Community Union and ASU Film Spark also partnered to screen the 2018 deep-sea action adventure "The Meg" in October..

Jennings-Roggensack and Adam Collis, director of ASU Film Spark, introduced Riley to an enthusiastic audience before the “Sorry to Bother You” screening and promised to continue the effort to bring more moviemakers to future events at Sun Devil Stadium.

Collis, who has helped guide students through the production of feature films such as the 2016 car-dealership comedy “Car Dogs,” also teaches the ASU film studies course Welcome to Hollywood, which allows students to interact with working professionals in the film industry live at the ASU California Center in Santa Monica and via video conference from ASU’s Tempe campus.

“ASU Film Spark exists because we like to connect ASU with incredible filmmakers and artists,” Collis said at the “Sorry to Bother You” screening. “We are delighted to be able to help realize this incredible ASU 365 Community Union concept that allows the football field to be used every day of the year for events like this.” 

ASU 365 Community Union is transforming the use of ASU’s landmark outdoor football stadium into a multipurpose venue and cultural hub for ASU and the surrounding community — 365 days a year. From breakfast meetings and yoga to concerts and films, Jennings-Roggensack says the idea is to create a place where community members of all ages can participate in various activities when Sun Devil football is not in play.

The ASU 365 Community Union screening of “The Polar Express” will be presented in partnership with iHeartMedia and radio station 99.9 KEZ on Friday, Dec. 14. The G-rated holiday favorite starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $3 and free for children under the age of 2; there are also free tickets for ASU students exclusively on the ASU mobile app. Blankets and seat cushions are allowed and encouraged.

Top photo: ASU 365 Community Union, photo by Tim Trumble.

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How 'Sex and the City' pushed the evolution of female characters in movies, TV

December 11, 2018

Women and gender studies class explores female sexual agency as reflected in popular culture

A hit comedy series that helped to shape the image of the modern-day woman has been adopted into a gender studies class at Arizona State University. And like the show, it continues to get big ratings from students.

Michelle McGibbney’s “Sex and the City: Women, Sexuality and Popular Culture” is a seven-week online course that examines how women and sexuality have been depicted in American pop culture from the 1950s to the current day.

It’s also one of the most popular and highly anticipated classes at the university, drawing close to 1,000 students a year. Taught for over a decade, this course is offered year round and will commence again in January.

ASU Now spoke to McGibbney about the three-credit course and why it continues to resonate.

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Michelle McGibbney

Question: Your program has a course named after "Sex and the City," the popular HBO series. In your opinion, was that show the tipping point in terms of accurately reflecting/depicting the modern-day woman and ideologies of gender and sexuality?

Answer: "Sex and the City," I think, was influential and appealing to a modern-day audience because it was less apologetic about its representations of women than we had seen. It challenged mainstream images and crossed — for some — into an uncomfortable area, examining issues that obviously existed but weren’t so openly discussed. Adoption, abortion, breastfeeding and other topics surrounding the politics of reproduction that women in modern-day America face were seen throughout the course of this show. Plus, these four women, who shared a strong bond, openly and honestly discussed sexual issues that are considered taboo, but only because they are women.

However, at the same time, in terms of it being a tipping point, we still see a rather familiar formula. We still have four women who meet the beauty standard and are set up for the male gaze. We also have the implications of race and class with these four white women who live in New York City and represent consumption. And even though the show touched on lesbianism it was still very heteronormative.

Q: Some say the feminist movement of the 1970s was the first real glimpse into representations of the modern-day woman, yet it took several decades for their lives to be depicted on television. Why so long?

A: Well, I guess I would say we have always made some progress but even still today women are held to a double standard and to a beauty standard.

But even if you look at popular shows in the 1970s, you can see the impact the feminist movement had on these representations. Feminism made these shows happen, these shows speak to and from the culture at large. In the ‘70s, in a similar setting to "Sex and the City," we saw … Mary Tyler Moore (depicting) the single girl trying to make it in the city. While this show was groundbreaking for the time in terms of showing a single, working woman, what made this show nonthreatening was her ultimate goal of marriage and landing a man. Often, as scholars have suggested, when we see a single girl trying to survive or even thrive it often becomes a cautionary tale for women warning them of the dangers of not confirming to a so-called patriarchal life.

In the ‘70s, we also saw shows like "Wonder Woman," "Bionic Woman" and "Charlie's Angels" and while not entirely liberating — and extremely full of mixed messages where the characters are tough but sexy — it was still a change from the nuclear housewife, which had dominated TV.

Q: It took a premium channel like HBO in order to portray women without being watered down. How has that affected the other networks in terms of accurately portraying women?

A: I think censorship, self-censorship and even sponsorship plays a large role in what images we consume and where. Prime-time TV still caters to the idea that families and youth are watching and offers “safe” content. While technological advancements have made HBO and others available at your fingertips whether on your phone, computer, IPad, etc., I don’t think you can compare these types of channels to prime-time TV. Prime-time TV, I think, still largely has to cater to a much wider audience and because of this the images tend to be nonthreatening. Take "Will & Grace" for example; it has recently made a comeback. While we see a gay male character in the lead role, it is still what critics consider a “safe” comedy. As critics and scholars alike have pointed out Will is symbolically coupled with Grace and her relationships often outshine his. And of course, again we have four white characters living in New York City.

Where we really see progressive representations is now on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon that offer niche content. These audiences are paying for specific content that meets their needs, content that unfortunately, network television can’t even touch or compete with.

Q: What current shows that better represent race, class, ethnicity and age are pushing the envelope in regard to women?

A: There are many shows today that push the envelope in one way or another. Whether we see more representations of LGTBQIA communities, women of color, aging women or even single moms, we have made great strides. But in terms of an intersectional analysis I guess I have yet to find a show that truly captures it all. "The L Word," "Girls," "Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce," "Ugly Betty," "Jane the Virgin," "Grace and Frankie," "Queen Sugar" and "Insecure" have all contributed to more diverse depictions and multifaceted characters, but we still have a long way to go.

Q: Do shows that use nudity help the case in gender equality or has this shifted?

A: There is a body positive movement that embraces all body types and sees nudity and personal agency over public displays of sexual expression as a possible form of equality. While this seems to be a great message there is also another side to this story that we can’t overlook. Let’s face it, there is a significant difference between the way male and female nudity is presented in the media. And I guess I would ask: Are these depictions we see on TV, in magazines and billboards even really about empowering women?

Women are held to a different standard in terms of the body. Women, from a young age, are taught the most important thing about them, their biggest asset or contribution, is the way they look. Nudity often does not represent equality for women because of the way in which their bodies are socially constructed. Women have been and continue to be set up for the male gaze and until we have more feminist women and men behind the camera producing, writing and directing, these very sexualized yet passive images of women will continue.

Q: Why do so many students take women and gender studies classes such as this course?

A: WSTWomen's Studies courses appeal to a very diverse audience of students from all majors for a variety of reasons. As a student in our class you learn about the historical, cultural and social forces that shape our society. Students are asked to challenge conventional wisdom about gender and explore new ways of viewing the world. Courses such as this offer a new perspective through an intersectional lens, one that encourages students to critically analyze the images they see and the messages that dominate the popular discourse and to examine the relationship between popular media and social change. We offer so many engaging courses that I think really resonate with students because it helps them to make sense of important current social issues that are shaping our society.