What I loved most about this course was not necessarily the new information I was exposed to, but the new mindsets. As a 20-year-old woman, by now I think that I’ve pretty much solidified my own beliefs and opinions about most things that I am constantly exposed to: Food. Family. Friends. Social Media. TV shows. In fact, on most things, I think it’s safe to say that I already have some kind of opinion, with some sort of mental justification as to why I think what I do.
As the quote goes, however, I believe that “opinion is the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding.” Anybody can have an opinion. It’s easy—I think it’s almost human nature. But this class taught me that everybody has different opinions and different viewpoints, and being exposed to those differing mentalities, coming to terms with them, debating them, coming to agreements (or agreements to disagree) can help us to learn and to grow as individuals. I know that when we read or listen to things, most of the time we are already reaffirming our own beliefs. Coming to this course three times a week to listen to what other people have to say and challenging my own way of thinking has opened up my mind to worlds of possibility and inquiry that I have never considered before, whether it was from the scholarly literature of media and cultural studies, the discussion of my peers, the thoughts of the professor, or my own personal research.
Before, I thought that Barbie was an example of unrealistic beauty ideals for women, until Mary F. Rogers talked about Barbie as an icon of drag. I liked that Ellen didn’t talk about her sexuality in her show, but didn’t know why until Candace Moore interpreted Ellen’s interpretive dance. I knew that reality TV shows were an artificial and unrealistic reflection of reality, but I didn’t know what that meant for class and gender until Michael J. Lee and Leigh Moscowitz analyzed social and economic division in the Real Housewives of New York City. I hated the new The Last Airbender movie as a diehard fan of the animated show, but hadn’t considered how race and Asian culture played into it until Lori Kido Lopez factored it into conversation.
Mostly, I loved this course because at the end, it reminded me of my own family—sitting around a dinner table as we all settled into a safe place for discussion, with people I truly grew to care about. I honestly think that this is the way we can solve most of the world’s problems—through productive conversation in places where we feel safe enough to voice our authentic opinions and thoughts and where nobody is targeted for their beliefs. I am so happy I had the chance to be part of this experience this semester, and know that as a result of taking it I am a more open-minded and thoughtful individual. I am incredibly thankful to everybody in the course and the professor for this opportunity and hope that more students have the chance to experience the same.