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Reading Media: Topics to Explore Category

Lessons and activities encourage critical viewing of film and evaluation of the sexual messages being conveyed. Themes include: the reality of sex scenes, depictions of romantic relationships, defining societal and cultural "norms."


After a brief introduction to the concept of film as a socializing force, participants view the film, Spiderman. Discussion encourages examination of the messages sent by the film, focusing on the concepts of identity formation, socialization, and relationships.

Where The Heart Is
After viewing the film, Where the Heart Is, participants discuss how sexual relationships, pregnancy, and child rearing are portrayed.

Say Anything
Issues of teen relationships and how family/friends play a part in their development are discussed after a critical viewing of the film. Youth are also asked to brainstorm examples from other films that use music to crystallize important emotional moments.

Far From Heaven: Crashing Through the Myth of “Normal” Relationships
Through a critical viewing and discussion of the film, participants explore the impact of social “norms” and stereotypes on relationships. Specific attention is given to issues regarding gender and sexuality. Participants also examine the use of melodrama as a way to juxtapose social norms with individual realities.

Bend It Like Beckham
Through a critical viewing and discussion of the film, participants explore issues of the representation of women, and how gender roles can be tied into greater cultural and social trends. Youth then bring in their own clips from TV or film for further discussion.

LGBT Images in the Movies and on Television
Participants are asked to take a critical look at LGBT portrayals in movies and television, and how the images that are presented have created, perpetuated or changed society’s images of the LGBT community.


Playing By Heart: the Emotional Effects of HIV/AIDS
After critically viewing the film, youth examine two character relationships affected both physically and emotionally by HIV/AIDS. The impact of HIV/AIDS on both familial and romantic relationships is discussed.

Riding in Cars with Boys: the Lasting Impact of Personal Choice
After viewing this film about an aspiring writer whose life is derailed by an unexpected pregnancy, participants brainstorm what could have happened to the main character if she had chosen differently at several moments in the film.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
After making a selection of films that address teen issues like relationships, gender identity, and sexuality, participants practice their Ebert & Roeper skills by pairing off and reviewing the films for an audience of their peers.

10 Things I Hate About You: Resisting Peer Pressure
After watching this popular film loosely based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, participants discuss how characters respond to peer pressure. Themes of confidence and independent thinking are also discussed.

How To Deal: Learning About Relationships from Those Around Us
After viewing the film, participants discuss how emotional environments affect they way young people think about relationships, love, and intimacy.

Interracial Relationships on Film
After selecting and viewing a film that depicts an interracial couple, participants discuss how film approaches social issues regarding interracial relationships, including peer and parent reaction.

It’s Not As Sexy As It Looks
To learn more about how love scenes involve a high level of artifice for filmmakers and possible discomfort for actors, participants read and discuss an article on love scenes and some quotes by popular actors.

Your Parents’ Movies
To examine how portrayals of love, relationships, and sexuality in films have changed over time, participants interview their parents about films they watched as teenagers.

Remaking Classic Romances
After viewing two different film versions of the same romantic story, participants analyze content for issues regarding attraction, relationship dynamics, and the role of women in relationships, and how each of these is affected by the storyteller’s choice of historical or contemporary setting.

What We’re Watching
Participants record and discuss their viewing habits, and compare with those of their peers. An excellent place to start a discussion of contemporary film’s impact on the viewer.

You’re the Critic
Youth examine existing styles of film criticism, and then write their own critical analysis of a contemporary film.

Other Instructional Materials

Film Glossary
Meaning in film is derived not only from its audiovisual components, but from how they are interpreted. Terms provided here help youth discuss film form, including camera angles, sound, light, color, use of space, and composition within the frame.

Reading Film: Analysis Framework
A short list of questions to help the critical viewer turn observation into formal analysis.

For More On Film, See:

LGBT Portrayals in the Media
Participants will be asked to take a critical look at the portrayals of the LGBT community in recent movies, television shows and in the print media, and to examine how these images have affected their own views, and society’s.

A Walk to Remember
Participants analyze this popular film about a romance between a young woman who follows her faith and a reckless rebel who falls for her. Messages about resisting peer pressure, abstinence, and personal values are emphasized in discussion.

Romance, Old-School
By viewing a Hollywood classic romance of their choice, participants explore courtship rather than consummation as a way for a couple to become intimate. Youth select and discuss scenes that they think best exemplify the relationship depicted.

Romance, New-School
Participants select, update, and perform scenes from classic romance films to explore contemporary perceptions of courtships that have little to do with sex.

Hackers: From Geek to Chic
Through a critical viewing of the films participants examine how pop culture’s perception of the hacker has changed from hapless nerd to sexy, rebellious hero who takes on the establishment. Films discussed: WarGames, Hackers, and The Matrix.


Media Literacy 101 Using Sex to Sell Talking About Abstinence Reducing Risks Reading Media Be the Judge Producing Media
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