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Cinema Junkie Relaunches With Episode On Marvel And Party On YouTube

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Since Marvel's "Black Widow" just opened and Comic-Con starts this week, the latest Cinema Junkie episode celebrates pop culture by looking at the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Check out this excerpt and register for the relaunch party.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Cinema junkie is KPBS his longest running podcast, and it returned from quarantine break. Last week, since Marvel's black widow just opened and Comicon starts this week, the latest episode celebrates pop culture by looking at the Marvel cinematic universe. Here's an excerpt from the podcast featuring host Beth Huck Amando and her guest professor Arnold T Blumberg,

Speaker 2: 00:29 Dr. Arnold T Blumberg has the distinction of teaching. The first of its kind course on the Marvel cinematic universe. Back in 2015 at the university of Baltimore, the class was called media genres, media marvels. So Arnold, what did the course description for this class say? Well,

Speaker 3: 00:45 It grew out of the similar course that I had already been doing for years on the zombie genre. That was the first time I had done sort of a genre specific course. And you B and that had been very successful. So a few years into that, I came to them with media marvels, I thought, okay, I think they would probably go forward at this point. Cause the zombie course is doing well. And in some ways it was even easier to set up because at that point we were just getting up to age of Ultron when I did it.

Speaker 4: 01:16 Hello, I am Jarvis. You are out from a global peacekeeping initiative designed by Mr. Stock. This feels wrong. I'm a peacekeeping program, created the Avengers, the mission you give me a second peace

Speaker 3: 01:35 In our time. It wound up fitting perfectly into basically a 16 week semester of giving them the historical background of Marvel in the comic world, where the characters come from a little bit of grounding in mythology and, and heroic literature of the past. And then we started going through every film from iron man up to the present. And the semester ended with everybody going to the Senator theater for a screening of age of Ultron. It was great. So

Speaker 2: 02:03 When you set up this course, what was the response like from both students and administrators? The university

Speaker 3: 02:09 Itself was already certainly the department that handled the media literacy stuff. They understood where I was coming from and where the benefit was and using the Shondra as a lens for talking about anything socially, culturally, and otherwise. So that part was fine and they were totally receptive to that. As far as the students are concerned, the interest was immediate as you might expect. But what I did find right out of the gate on that one, from what I can remember was that in some respects, I think it worked even better quicker than the zombie course did in the sense that it felt like everybody clicked in immediately to the idea that we're not just doing this frivolously. This is Steve Rogers. We're not just sitting here talking about the films. We're going to look at them in a substantial and try to figure out, you know, what they mean, what they're reflecting. And it worked really well.

Speaker 5: 03:05 I know I'm asking a lot, price of freedom is high and always has been price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one then, so be it

Speaker 2: 03:21 I'm willing to bet I'm not. So what kind of public response did you deal with

Speaker 3: 03:27 The response publicly was exactly what you think it would be far as I'm concerned. The people that started attacking it for, oh, is this what our tax dollars are going for? Oh, this is why American children are falling behind. Or that that's just the kind of just complete willful ignorance that has led to such an incredible lack of critical thinking and the kind of media literacy we desperately need, especially in a world where organizations are doing everything within their power to manipulate people into believing false hoods. And of course they very well know how critical thinking immediate media literacy works. So these courses are not just a fun way of teaching students. They're vital and actually they're vital for much younger. They shouldn't be teaching these just in colleges. We should be teaching media literacy from the beginning and we don't. But apart from the usual kind of garbage you get online about, you know, why would people waste a semester that actually the response was still for the most part pretty nice.

Speaker 2: 04:27 And one of the things about a class like this that I think is great is that so often you'll get students who kind of glaze over at the idea of classes that have a very kind of academic sound to them and to take something that they already have an inherent interest in just seems like a great way to capture their interest and get them to come to class very eagerly. And it seems like a gateway to teaching that, you know, teachers should embrace and then the public should appreciate absolutely.

Speaker 3: 05:07 That's the fundamental thing that's at work. There is you already have like a steep slope at times to get kids engaged and particularly to get them involved in conversation about all sorts of things, whether that's race and gender and other politics and cultural issues, social issues. And if they're already excited about the fact that they get to talk about things, they love, the one thing you find out pretty quickly is there discussion about those things. It's usually not very empty. It's usually very substantial. I remember like the zombie class walking dead, it just debuted. It was literally the first season of walking dead when we first started that class. And naturally one of the first things I did was let's watch the show every, and we'll talk about it. And there was that one particular episode that really hit one of those early points. I mean, not suddenly where they had the women were doing the laundry at the, like the river's edge. I'm beginning

Speaker 6: 06:09 To question the division of labor here. Can someone explain to me how to win the wound up going out ahead and McDaniel work, the world ended and you get the memo. That's just the way it is. I do miss my Maytag.

Speaker 3: 06:22 It was like a whole episode about, is this what we're going to do? Are we going to devolve back to these ridiculous gender roles for things and the conversation in the class after that episode, wasn't like, oh, it wasn't the zombie thing. Cool. Or that was a fun part, but incredibly deep and charged and very informed discussion about everybody's opinion about that. And that's why you do something like this. Can you imagine trying to get those kids to talk about things like that without that entryway? I mean, that's, that's how it works.

Speaker 2: 06:52 And what was it that made you decide to tackle Marvel and not DC? Was it strictly because of what films were coming out at that particular moment?

Speaker 3: 07:00 Partly. I mean, um, I was always a Marvel kid, so I mean, I've certainly read my sheriff DC stuff and I'm certainly in some respects because of my other work, having worked at, uh, the Overstreet comic book, price guide and, and I'm certainly very familiar with DC stuff, but Marvel has always been more emotionally I'm connected. I knew I could speak to that material with, with a conviction that I probably couldn't necessarily give as much to the DC, although I've taught courses in superhero mythology too, and use plenty of Superman, wonder woman, Batman, all that kind of stuff, because it's vitally important for that part of the history of it all. But you know, there's something to be said for the fact that the Marvel cinematic universe that they started building was just so incredibly successful and cohesive and fascinating. And DC has continued to demonstrate that when it comes to comic book movies, Marvel seems to be the only one that really knows how to make it work. And I'll be happy to continue to defend that particular perspective on it. So it was a little personal is also a little bit. This is a nice single narrative through line. We can look at through a whole semester.

Speaker 1: 08:09 Cinema junkie podcast comes out every other Wednesday. You can register for this Thursday's free YouTube cinema junkie relaunch party at kpbs.org/cinema junkie.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.