Gays on Television and Girls in Media Among Topics Explored in Videos by UMass Amherst Professor

July 1, 1998

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AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts communication professor Sut Jhally is overseeing the production of four new educational videos in his role as executive director of the Media Education Foundation. The non-profit educational organization founded by Jhally in 1991 is perhaps best known for the documentary "Dreamworlds," which explored sexism in music videos. "Dreamworlds" led to a highly publicized lawsuit threat by MTV (it was later withdrawn), and has since been seen by millions, according to Jhally. The following is a description of the new videos:

1. "Off the Straight and Narrow: Gay and Lesbian Images on Television" – This 60-minute video traces the history of gay representation on television from invisibility to breakthroughs during the AIDS crisis to the high visibility of programs such as "Ellen."

2. "Mary Pipher on Reviving Ophelia" – The author of the New York Times best-seller "Reviving Ophelia" discusses how television and magazines are unhealthy for young girls and what parents and teachers can do to combat the negative effects of these media.

3. "Edward Said on Orientalism" – The book "Orientalism" by Columbia University Professor of English and Comparative Literature Edward Said is one of the most influential humanities texts of the last 25 years, says Jhally. In this interview, replete with illustrated examples, Said outlines the main themes of his book, showing how ideas about "the Orient" that originated in the 18th century still impact the way we view the Middle East today.

4. "Edward Said in Lecture: The Myth of the Clash of Civilizations" – This lecture by Said was delivered at UMass last fall before a standing-room-only audience. Said argues that in the post-Cold War era, international relations have not shifted from a clash of ideologies (communism vs. capitalism) to a clash of civilizations (western vs. Islamic) as many foreign policy thinkers now claim. Instead, he sees these abstractions as distorting simplifications, and he calls for a fuller vision of cultures which would lead to a "coexistence" of difference.

The foundation is also distributing two programs produced elsewhere which are of related interest: "War Zone," a documentary about the verbal abuse women often endure from men on the streets, and "McLibel: Two Worlds Collide," the true story of two British social activists who were sued by McDonald’s for passing out leaflets on the streets of London attacking the company.