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Striking Back at Empire: Politicizing Media Genres

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Kara Keeling, University of Chicago

University of Pittsburgh (Virtual due to Covid-19), February 18th-19th, 2021
Hosted by the Film and Media Studies Graduate Student Organization (FMSGSO)

The University of Pittsburgh FMSGSO’s 2020-2021 Graduate Student Conference, Striking Back at Empire, focuses on the intersection of politics and media genres, with media defined broadly. As described in detail below, this conference includes presentations on the ways in which political contexts influence media in myriad ways, considering the products of cultural production as political texts. The Film and Media Studies Graduate Student Organization invites you to attend as much of the conference as possible, program of presentations with paper titles and panelist biographical statements all available in the menu to the right. This conference will be held virtually, with panel Zoom links to come on the program. Also, we have a Discord server for the event to facilitate discussion during and between panels. You can find it here.

Politics have always been an integral aspect of media genres. But, given the contemporary world situation, they have perhaps become even more important. Today’s film, television, and videogames exist in a strong interconnection between their 20th-century legacy and contemporary social movements, from both radical anti-colonial, feminist, or environmental perspectives to the alt-right rebellion against the modern world.

The classical Hollywood industry in the first half of the 20th-century was creating, promoting, and adjusting genres as its tools to achieve greater profits and the strategy of the achievement was subjected to different sets of political frameworks, such as concerns about children and presumed migrants’ delinquency or socio-political implications of the Prohibition laws.

But political movements were not limited to a silent background that causes changes in the film industry. The influence went in both directions. In 1983, Ronald Reagan weaponized the popular sci-fi Star Wars franchise for the purposes of Cold War propaganda and labeled the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” Media genres’ content and form inspire modern politics and provide language to different social groups. Today, this mutual dependence is recognized by media producers, developers, screenwriters, directors, and—last, but not least—by scholars. Today genre media and scholarship are weaponized in both ways. Politicians’ neoimperial and neonationalist rhetorics may still persist, but such genre films like Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin’s and Tyler Gillett’s Ready or Not, or Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge, as well as videogames like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Disco Elysium challenge the oppressive discourses from below.