Film Genres: Who Can Save Us? The American Social Problem Genre

Course Details
FILM 160
Jennifer Horne
Academic Year: 

Topic: This course explores recent American entertainment products that purport to offer solutions to current social problems. The Social Problem Film has long been tied to beliefs about how stories might have a positive impact in society, and its formula remains a key ingredient of many visual and sound media sub-genres (e.g. the bio-pic, the crime drama, most film and radio documentary, and works of animation aimed at young viewers, and the teen pic). Diving into this history, we will study the genre's cycles in films, television and radio programming, educational media, and other forms of "public service" media use including dramatic podcast programming. The course features a wide variety of material: for example, recent feature films by Clint Eastwood; the social-problem comedy Juno; dramatic and documentary television series (The WireMaking a Murderer); the "Afterschool Special" phenomena; and social-problems in radio and podcast form (This American LifeSerial). Drawing upon cultural theory and theories of film/media, students will be asked to make a critical assessment of the genre and to take part in theorizing its future potential.