Title

Amusing ourselves to death...literally: Youth, moral panics and critical media literacy

Biographical Sketch

Lori Bindig Yousman is an associate professor in the School of Communication and Media Arts at Sacred Heart University. She serves as the Director of the Graduate Program in Communication. She earned her doctorate in Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she was awarded the title of University Fellow as an incoming student in 2004. Her research interests include cultural studies, television studies, and critical media literacy, with a focus on the construction and commodification of young femininity. Bindig Yousman is the co-author of The O.C.: A Critical Understanding (with Andrea Bergstrom) and author of Dawson’s Creek: A Critical Understanding, and Gossip Girl: A Critical Understanding published by Lexington Books. Her media literacy research appears in the edited volumes Media Literacy Education in Action, Media Literacy for a Digital Generation, and Race/Gender/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content and Producers, 3rd Edition. She is the new co-editor for the 5th edition of Gender, Race, and Class in Media.

Type of Presentation

Individual presentation

Brief Description of Presentation

On March 31, 2017 Netflix released their original series, 13 Reasons Why. The series was initially well-received but soon became the subject of controversy due to the series’ depiction of suicide. By adopting a critical media literacy approach, this paper offers a different lens to explore 13 Reasons Why and shows how the series can be used as a timely case study to address systemic social issues afflicting youth today and engage youth in social activism through media culture.

Abstract of Proposal

On March 31, 2017 Netflix released their thirteen-episode original series, 13 Reasons Why. The series, which was based on the 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher, was initially well-received by critics and audiences. However, 13 Reasons Why soon became the subject of controversy as school districts across the United States sent letters to parents and guardians raising concerns over the series’ depiction of suicide (Camera, 2017). Traditional and new media outlets also followed suit, publishing countless articles and stories about the potential dangers of 13 Reasons Why (Locke, 2017; Saint Louis, 2017; Tolentino, 2017). In response to the series, a group of high school students in Delaware launched a suicide prevention program called “13 Reasons Why Not” (Mahoney & Moore, 2017). While suicide prevention is an important issue that certainly deserves a space in public discourse, these reactions to Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why series is reminiscent of past moral panics surrounding youth and media.

By adopting a critical media literacy approach, this paper explores the complicated and nuanced ways media shape individuals and society. Furthermore, critical media literacy provides the tools to examine the underlying themes in 13 Reasons Why that were often marginalized or ignored in the popular debate over the series. Through critical media literacy analysis 13 Reasons Why can be used as a timely case study that points to systemic social issues afflicting youth today and provides an avenue to engage youth in social activism through media culture.

Start Date

2-24-2018 1:10 PM

End Date

2-24-2018 2:40 PM

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Feb 24th, 1:10 PM Feb 24th, 2:40 PM

Amusing ourselves to death...literally: Youth, moral panics and critical media literacy

On March 31, 2017 Netflix released their thirteen-episode original series, 13 Reasons Why. The series, which was based on the 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher, was initially well-received by critics and audiences. However, 13 Reasons Why soon became the subject of controversy as school districts across the United States sent letters to parents and guardians raising concerns over the series’ depiction of suicide (Camera, 2017). Traditional and new media outlets also followed suit, publishing countless articles and stories about the potential dangers of 13 Reasons Why (Locke, 2017; Saint Louis, 2017; Tolentino, 2017). In response to the series, a group of high school students in Delaware launched a suicide prevention program called “13 Reasons Why Not” (Mahoney & Moore, 2017). While suicide prevention is an important issue that certainly deserves a space in public discourse, these reactions to Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why series is reminiscent of past moral panics surrounding youth and media.

By adopting a critical media literacy approach, this paper explores the complicated and nuanced ways media shape individuals and society. Furthermore, critical media literacy provides the tools to examine the underlying themes in 13 Reasons Why that were often marginalized or ignored in the popular debate over the series. Through critical media literacy analysis 13 Reasons Why can be used as a timely case study that points to systemic social issues afflicting youth today and provides an avenue to engage youth in social activism through media culture.