No, this class offered at Colorado College is not about how to dress slutty on Halloween or lose three pounds on the cheese fries diet (although I'm sure it touches on that). It's a course offered through the school's Comparative Literature Department. Taught by professor Lisa Hughes, the class focuses on "motives behind why women seek authority and the actions they are willing to take in order to hold onto it." As such, Hughes has her 13 students (10 girls and 3 courageous guys) compare movies like Mean Girls to classical stories in mythology where both women and men vie for the power seat. And yes, on Wednesdays they wear pink.
This past summer, Skidmore College offered a course on Miley Cyrus. Yes you heard that right. The twerking cannon ball herself is now on the gender studies syllabus. The course is called "The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Class, Gender and Media," and students "[use] Miley as a lens through which to explore sociological thinking about identity, entertainment, media and fame." According to Carolyn Chernoff, Miley's presence in pop culture complicated things so much, it was worth spending an entire semester dissecting her. I can definitely see how that's possible.
This Beyoncé class made headlines last January when it appeared in Rutgers University's course catalog. It too explores race, gender and sexuality à la the Miley course, but it does so through Beyoncé's music more than her celebrity image. Professor Kevin Allred explains that "while other artists are simply releasing music, she's creating a grand narrative around her life, her career and her persona." And she does it all while looking as fine as possible. Best role model ever.
This course, which was offered at U of South Carolina in 2011, was one of the first of these celebrity classes to get the public's attention. It focused on what exactly makes a person famous and what it means to be a celebrity in today's society. As sociology professor Mathieu Deflem put it, "the central objective is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga." He's also a huge Gaga-head, so the class was probably just as much fun for him to teach as it was to take.
Rutgers again just killing it with the celebrity classes! This one looks at Springsteen's lyrics through the eyes of a theologian. It seeks to dissect his use of biblical motifs in his songs and his notion of the possibility of redemption through earthly means (cars, women, etc). Also how tight pants may be the key to salvation. Just kidding about that last part, but hey, there's always a chance he knows something we don't...
This one was offered at NYU in 2013, and it delved into how Sean Combs become one of the first truly successful entrepreneurs of the music industry in the 1990s. As the course description puts it, "he helped redefine the concept of celebrity-branded entertainment and he mainstreamed innovative marketing techniques (like street teams) in the music industry." Basically, the class looks at how Combs rode the wave of cultural/political change of the 1990s and became the face of urban pop culture.
Heading back to awesome television, Middlebury College offered a course on the AMC show Mad Men that examined the changing tides of masculinity and femininity in 20th-century America. The course description says, "We will focus specifically on the connections between postwar mass communication and formation of gender roles, consumption and cultural expectations." We will not, however explain how Don Draper manages to not die after consuming the amount of alcohol he does each episode. Because it is impossible.
I was so hoping this American University class description was just "we set you down in a simulated arena with nothing but weapons and your own set of skills. The students left standing after 24 hours pass," but alas, ethics do not permit such lawlessness in the real world. The course looks at how the Hunger Games series explores the interplay of class, politics, ethics and marketing. It also delves into the part that feminism plays throughout, or more succinctly, why Katniss is so good at kicking ass and taking names.
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