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Tell Me Why Are We So Blind To See Why Robin Thicke Is So Creepy

So I had a good teaching day today. We spent the first half of class talking about Gangsta's Paradise vs. Amish Paradise and they got all the basic stuff on their own. I helped them dig a little deeper and use the video more, pointing out that the video shows who Coolio is directing his message to. He's not talking to black and latin@ kids - they know what's up - he's talking to Michelle Pfeiffer, and by extension White America at large.

The meat of the discussion, though, was Blurred Lines/Defined Lines. Most of the class had not known about the original Blurred Lines video before we watched it, and most of them looked horrified as we watched it (I helpfully pointed out all the animal imagery in it that suggests women are subhuman, from the lyrics ["Let me domesticate you", "You're an animal"], to visual components [the prancing like show ponies, the big platform shoes like hooves, the brushing, the fact that the very first time the words "blurred lines" occur in the song one of the guys points at the blonde woman holding the goat]).

Discussion was heated. One kid was adamant that everybody was misinterpreting the song and that it's all really pro-woman, citing lines like ("You don't need no papers, that man ain't your maker"), that the blurred lines refer to Thicke being too drunk to distinguish right from wrong in his actions (referencing the "getting blasted" lines), and saying that the worst stuff didn't come out of Robin Thicke's mouth, so it doesn't count.


One student proceeded to eye roll his way through that and point out that he thought the blurred lines was Thicke thinking rape is some sort of gray area. He used both lyrics (the chorus) and image (the tiny little stop sign on one woman's butt in the music video) to make his point, which I helpfully expanded to use language relating to consent. Well done there.

One of my other students was quite happy to point back to the animal imagery and say, yes, he is painting women as subhuman animals, and she's a woman, not an animal, thank you very much. I helped her out by pointing out that the "You don't need no papers" line - well, what kind of papers? Breeding papers? The defender said that we weren't reading it right, but my student proceeded to pile on more from the video into her defense of her interpretation. Then Defender said something about that just being her interpretation, which I then pointed out is why he can't just say she's wrong out of hand, that's not how interpretation works.

We got some productive discussion, but ran out of time. I asked if everybody wanted to pick up where we left off tomorrow, and just about everybody either nodded or said yes. I got them excited. About analysis. I found out how to get them going. I like it. I should do the Cosmo ads activity either next week or the week after, I think, and see how they do with print advertising now that we've established a baseline for visual media. This makes me feel like a real teacher.

Any thoughts on how I might approach continued discussion of Blurred Lines and Defined Lines? I don't want the discussion to wander too far, but at least one student expressed interest in bringing in the general misogyny of media as part of the discussion (I like him) which could help with context for everybody.

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