“We need an overflow room for the overflow room!”–KState during reality TV lecture

Thank you to the fantastic students, faculty and staff of Kansas State, who turned out in droves for my talk Tuesday night, “Project Brainwash: Why Reality TV is Bad for Women (…and men, people of color,

the economy, love, sex, and sheer common sense).”

As noted in this lovely article in the Kansas State Collegian, the 660-seat hall where I spoke exceeded capacity. The overflow room broadcasting the lecture upstairs in real-time sat approximately 433 people: also packed. Which led to my favorite tweet of the night:

@KSUMatt: KSU Union Project Brainwash by @JennPozner #RealityBitesBack #kstate we need an overflow room for the overflow room!

…and so a third room was added (haven’t heard yet how many people ended up there).

Think makes more than 1,000 K-Staters excited about feminist media criticism. Who knew Manhattan, Kansas would be the site of the largest audience for any media literacy event I’ve done in ten years of lecturing?

Students were ready to sink their teeth into a lively dissection of media representation and media economics because my lecture (plus two class visits, and working lunches and dinners with students and faculty) was hosted in part by K-State Book Network in conjunction with the school’s common-read book, The Hunger Games. The young adult novel is set in a dystopian future in which a cruel, all-powerful government forces its citizens to send their children to be brutally slaughtered in an annual mandatory, televised fight to the death. (You know, just a few degrees past Game of Death, a French psych experiment masked as a horrifying reality show.) My talk was also cosponsored by the organizers of KState’s Community Cultural Harmony Week; additionally, many of the students had already been mulling issues of gender, race and media in communications, humanities and women’s studies courses.

Perhaps that’s why K-State prof Josh Meyers told me — and this maybe makes me happier even than the multiple overflow rooms:

“You held the audience’s attention more than when we had a drag show. And that had money and dancing!”

I’m not sure if that’s true — or if so, HOW that’s true — but I’m so glad that students were open to thinking about media in new ways. It was a privilege to have explored the implications of reality TV’s gender and race stereotyping, product placement, and production tricks with so many lively KStaters during the lecture, and to dig in more deeply during a hands-on “Reality TV Bingo” workshop with a small group the next day. And when I read this quote in the Collegian article, I knew that students were getting what I hoped they would from my visit to K-State:

“Pozner hit the nail on the head. I thought her whole presentation was absolutely fabulous,” said Mika Domsch, sophomore in life sciences. “Although I watch a lot of TV, her main points never really occurred to me. She opened my eyes on how women are stereotyped.”

Of course, even in a crowd overwhelmingly receptive to critical thinking, media literacy, and feminist analysis, there always seems to be one dude who… isn’t. And so (as if in payback for telling students they could livetweet the talk with questions or comments if they wished), one irksome little fellow’s Twitter feed overflowed with posts about how my lecture was an “insane” “Communist propaganda experience” but, still… “I’d bang her.” Stay classy, kid.

A filmmaker friend suggested that “I’d bang her. — KState Douchebag” should be a book jacket quote, and an author friend thinks it should be listed under “What the Critics Are Saying” here. I think that’s hilarious, but the many intelligent, thoughtful and supremely friendly KState people I met this week are the ones who deserve

the attention.

Thanks to everyone at KState who made my time there intellectually rewarding and socially entertaining. Nearly every minute of my two days in KS was full, visiting a class that was talking frankly about race after reading Tim Wise’s work on white privilege and being able to encourage them to think about institutional biases, not just individual people’s feelings; having numerous discussions with students in and outside of mass comm classes about reality TV as anti-feminist backlash, the censorious effect of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 on media content, and the reason why CNN is now as likely to focus on Paris Hilton’s panties than the most recent development in Iraq; and trading laughs and insights with faculty while enjoying the best post-lecture peachy cocktail and chocolate torte I can remember having. I may be tired today, but it was beyond worth it.

PS: if you’re on another campus and are interested in organizing a lecture or media literacy workshop on gender, race, class and the media, do contact me.

Leave a Reply