Behind the Candelabra (review)

Behind the Candelabra - LiberaceAcclaimed director Steven Soderbergh and HBO Films teamed up to for the biopic Behind the Candelabra.  Based on the 2013 novel by Scott Thorson, the movie recounts the relationship Thorson (Matt Damon) had with famed American pianist, Liberace (Michael Douglas) from the late 1970s to mid 1980s. Matt Damon and Michael Douglas create two multi-dimensional characters in what could best be described as some of the actors’ finest work, and one of Soderbergh’s finest features.

The whirlwind romance begins in 1977 after Liberace and Scott are first introduced through a mutual friend named Bob (Scott Bakula).  Liberace is taken by Scott’s youth; Scott is taken by lavishness and excess – and personalized affection, something vaguely known to him as a child raised in foster care.  Together, they navigate a pleasant, loving world that gives way to rage, jealousy, and opposing downward spirals – one born of lust, the other from drugs.

Visually, from its period appearance (1970s, 80s) to its opulent costumes and visual makeup effects, Behind the Candelabra is wondrous.  It’s a stunning and “candid” glimpse into the famous, secret life of an American celebrity, and it constantly asks us to consider Liberace’s sexuality.   Was he or wasn’t he?  It’s the question hanging on to every cinematic moment – from the winks and smiles to the nuanced glances and touches, to the overt sexualization of Damon’s physique, to the mink coats and opal rings.  Soderbergh and Thorson’s suggestions are clear, and the performances are equally convincing.

Behind the Candelabra is a great character study.  As Scott Thorson, Matt Damon does great work.  Damon (and the screenwriter) arcs the character by embracing naivety and subtly, and slowly transforms his innocent, gentle attitude into one marked by aggression and paranoia.  He’s an innocent boy and devoted companion who becomes a spoiled brat and drug addict under pressure to maintain his youth and beauty in the eyes of Liberace.  As Damon’s character physically and emotionally struggles, Michael Douglas delivers and maintains Liberace’s vivacity.  Douglas’ flamboyant performance is strong already, but moments of weakness – of lust and desire, sorrow, or confrontation – enhance the portrayal and show a mere mortal behind the glamorous facade – a mortal who rejects aging through his obsession with youth and beauty .

Damon and Douglas aren’t the only actors to deliver – the supporting cast features Dan Akyroyd as Seymour Heller and Rob Lowe as Dr. Jack Startz.  As Heller, Akyroyd excels as Liberace’s no-nonsense talent agent and Rob Lowe gives a transformative, almost robotic  performance (in a good way) as plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz.  Due to prosthetics, Lowe’s face appears stretched as tightly as possible, making every part of his performance unsettling, in an a way sci-fi-horror fans are accustomed to.  Appropriately, this alien-like character is a catalyst for the rift between Liberace and Scott.

Behind the Candelabra is a well-acted and visually appealing portrayal of Liberace and Scott Thorson’s relationship.  How substantive Thorson’s claims are about his life with Liberace is unknown, but it’s an interesting consideration and pleasant movie all around.  Behind the Candelabra runs runs 118 minutes, is rated TV-MA, and airs on HBO.

Grade:  A

Coming Soon: Diva Dream Matches

DivaDreamMatches

In the coming weeks, I’m going to begin presenting Diva Dream Matches.  It’ll be a list of bouts that never happened and that I think people would pay to see.  Some are contests fans have been clamoring for, others are the result of my own fantasy booking.  Regardless, these bouts would have main-event appeal and would generate interest in the women’s wrestling product.   The criteria for each post will be:

1.  The Bout:  Match type, competitors, championship

2.  Competitors:  Name and career synopsis of each competitor

3.  Platform:  Would this match take place on RAW, Smackdown, or PPV?

4.  Booking:  A play-by-play of how I think the match would/should develop.

5.  Winner:  Here is your winner…

6.   Likelihood:  Is the contest likely to ever happen?

7.  Missed Opportunity:  Was it possible for WWE to book this match?  When?

The Great Gatsby (review)

The Great GatsbyBlitz Review:  I wasn’t expecting much from Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby adaptation, but I was pleasantly surprised, with both the visuals and soundtrack/score.  DiCapiro was fantastic, and that idealistic world was a romanticized spectacle.

Notable Qualities:  Art Direction, Cinematography, Acting, Soundtrack/Score, Costume Design, Directing, Original Song (“Together” – listen below), DiCaprio’s performance.

Grade:  A+

Follow the link for my As Seen By exclusive, full review.

The Great Gatsby (film review)

Listen to “Together,” as performed by The XX.  My favorite song from Gatsby that plays over one of my favorite scenes.

#SaveElephants

elephantDawn breaks across the savanna of Tsavo-East National Park in Kenya, Africa.  A family of twelve elephants stirs in the morning sun.  The humidity begins to climb and a mother nudges her calf.  The little one flaps his ears and trumpets, awake.  At dusk and dawn, the iron-rich soils of this untamed land are illuminated – red.  This day, the calf, his mother, and his family would have basked in the sun, and dusted themselves to stay cool; by dusk, they’d have become Kenya’s “red” elephants.  Instead, their flapping ears and morning rumbles were silenced during a downpour of lead.  Ambushed by poachers, blood from their ivory-stripped bodies poured into the ground on January 10, 2013.

The incident in Tsavo-East is one of the worst concentrated murders of elephants in Kenya since the 1980s, highlighting an alarming trend.  Throughout the past decade, poaching incidences have risen, matching the increased ivory demand from the Asian black market.  Ivory’s soaring profitability means poachers will, by any means necessary, invade any territory to gain access to elephants – and ultimately their ivory. On May 6, 2013, twenty-six elephants were slaughtered in an area known as the “Village of Elephants,” in Dzanga-Ndoki National Park – a protected sanctuary in the Central African Republic.

View the “Village of Elephants” massacre article on National Geographic (Graphic Photos)

The attack coincides with the country’s current political unrest and was so significant, that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) evacuated its conservationists.  As a result of the increased attacks in protected sanctuaries, many leading wildlife organizations, like the WWF and National Geographic, have called for increased attention to elephant conservation.  On May 7, Richard Carol, the WWF-US Vice-President for Africa Programs released a statement: “Urgent help is needed to prevent a wholesale massacre of elephants.  WWF is committed to supporting efforts to protect the irreplaceable natural heritage of the Central African Republic at this critical time.”

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While Carol’s statement makes elephant conservation seems like an issue for the global community, as opposed to a local concern, Susan Gallagher of the St. Louis Zoo said, “You can help by contributing to an organization that supports elephant conservation in the wild, like the International Elephant Foundation (IEF), [by] supporting companies that realize the increased demand for palm oil is fueling destruction of the rainforest habitat of Asian elephants, [or by] writing letters to decision makers about the need to conserve elephants.”

Learn more about the International Elephant Foundation (IEF)

In 1900, African elephant populations were believed to be near 10 million, while their Asian counterparts were believed to number around 100,000.  By 1989, their numbers had plummeted – African elephant populations had decreased to approximately 600,000 and Asian elephant populations dwindled to around 50,000.  These steep population declines led to the “Ivory Ban” of 1989, which was enacted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  The ban outlawed the international sale or trade of ivory.  Subsequently, populations began to stabilize and climb.

Today however, population estimates are lower still.  Gallagher said, “Asian elephants are facing extinction in the wild.  Between 35,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants are estimated to remain in the wild.  [We] take seriously [our] responsibility to conserve this species – to improve the welfare and protect Asian elephants in Sumatra and other countries in Asia.  We also support conservation and protection efforts to benefit African elephants in Kenya.”

African elephant populations are estimated around 450,000.  Gallagher stated the St. Louis Zoo has provided over $1.5 million for elephant conservation to the IEF, in the last five years.  It’s through contributions like this that Gallagher asserts, “[We] care about elephants, both here and in the wild, and [we] share a common vision – a vision that includes elephants in the world’s future forever.”

Click here to learn about the St. Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute and Conservation

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The #Virtual300 Survival Guide

survival guide

Okay, listen.  Nobody said you had to be a “techie” to produce good news articles, op eds, or blogs (which could be a mixture of both) – but if you’re going to survive the wild land of Virtual 300 – then I’d suggest reviewing this TOP 10 list, to increase your chances.  Lurking in the jungle all around you will be due dates and an assignment fiend known as Jill Falk – so beware!  Now, let’s survive – shall we?

10:  Time Management Tips – Kaplitz Blog - time management is of the utmost importance.  Unless you find a way to manage your time perfectly, you’ll run the risk of falling behind – so pay attention to deadlines and secure your interviews, data, and all multimedia, in an amount of time you know will be conducive to producing a good story.  Trust me, when you compound the work-load of Virtual 300 with your other coursework – time will be of the essence, and at least twice this semester it got away from me.  Brainstorm story ideas very early in the semester and make those your “milestone stories.”  Make one be your story one or two, and save others for story five and seven (or eight, if you’re a grad. student!).  This gives you a goal to work toward – and it’s never a bad idea to begin planning those interviews as soon as you develop your ideas.  Speaking of the interview process…

explorer29.  Future of News is Social - In 2009, Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post lineage) identified the future of news as being a completely social experience.  The sooner you accept that the content you’re creating should inspire conversation and be “share-able,” the better off you’ll be. There’s no way around microblogging or doing things “the old way.”

8. 13 Tips for Effective Interviews - Okay, the text will give you examples and tips for interviewing – as will the link I provided, but there’s one big thing to remember here – generally, for the stories you’ll be creating - your interview subjects don’t owe you anything.  So the best advice I have for you?  Be polite, and friendly, and tough, but stay  conversational and approachable, even if this is a “hard news” story.  I promise you that your content will reflect the experience.

7.  State of the Media - familiarize yourself with the “State of the Media.”  Their reports identify key trends/shifts in the journalism world.  You don’t have to know everything on their site, and you don’t have to pretend that you do – but just be aware of what the major paradigms are in the media world (ex. Second-Screen Phenomenon, look how the WWE is using: WWE Active) – recognize them and become familiar with them, to avoid falling behind (Jill Falk has this whole “rabbit hole” idea that you’ll come to understand and appreciate – but be warned, “rabbit holes” could effect your time management!).

explorer6.  Video Editing - Video and news and journalism are interconnected in our digital age – and it’s one of the big options for multimedia (in Virtual 300, it counts as two forms) that you can add to your stories.  But unless you have video editing software already installed on your computer – or unless you know how to use the Avid lab at Lindenwood, you may want to check out this list of the “Top 10 Free Best Video Editing Software for Windows” (unless you have a Mac).  On the topic…

5. How to Create and Edit Video? (video) - this link offers you some basic information on how to be effective at capture, edit, and host video.

4.  10 Ways Twitter is valuable to Journalists - this blog author explores the many ways twitter can be used effectively by journalists…. trust me, you’re gonna want to read this – and you’re gonna want to be “tweet happy.”

3.  The Essence of Journalism - The Nieman Reports offer a brief article exploring the essence of journalism.  I think this is one of the most succinct and useful tid bits of information I read – about the practice of journalism itself.  Pay particular attention to their five tips for writing or presenting a story – and infuse those tips into your work.

explorer32. Photography Tips - we are visual people – that may be an understatement, but you’ll soon realize that photographs only enhance your story – and may sometimes even be their own stories.  Blog owner Patrick Latter is a programmer and photographer who regularly updates his site with amazing photographs and tips for how to capture those moments.

1. ‘Snowfall” by The New York Times - Read “Snowfall” by The New York Times first!  This piece is magnificent.  It will inspire you to push your own limits and boundaries during the semester.  Only you really know what you’re capable of, but I’m certain that after you experience “Snowfall,” you’ll push yourself harder to find out.

With these ten links, I hope I’ve given you something that inspires and helps you on your journey through Virtual 300.  It’s a process – that’s for sure – and it can be overwhelming, but in the end – if you’ve been inspired and you’ve been an effective time manager, and you’ve learned – there will be at least one piece of work you’ll be extremely proud of.  Personally, I navigated the course and produced four pieces I’m really proud of – maybe some of these could even inspire you:  “Never Going Back: the Fight for Marriage Equality” - “The ‘Cruel Mystery’ and Butterflies of Hope” - “#SaveElephants” - “Feminism Fading: the Rise of Social Media”

The ‘Cruel Mystery’ and Butterflies of Hope

Butterfly of Hope

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Imagine your life as an independent adult.  Now think of the decisions you’ve made in this life – where have they taken you, what have you become?  For one woman, this independence, and her decisions led to a career as a paramedic.  She was charged with working the streets of St. Louis, night after night – day after day.  She traveled the city and responded to various calls – a drunk had fallen, a man was stabbed, a child was shot.  Sometimes she prevented death – and other times, it was just too late.  Every time, her objective was the same – to rescue them, to aid their healing, or to ease their suffering – to save them.

Now imagine you’ve been diagnosed with a cruel and mysterious disease, as was the case of this paramedic – she can no longer roam the streets of St. Louis – to heal, to rescue, or to save.  This ability was taken away from her, so she repurposed her independence– to teach and to inspire.

Butterfly

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Charlene Jansen (a 2007 graduate of Lindenwood University), is this woman, and in 1995, her life changed forever.  Jansen said, “I had just went back to work for the St. Louis Fire Department as their training officer and realized that I was having extreme bouts of fatigue, some irritability, and some muscle and joint aches and pains that were not typical of what one would experience with that profession.”

Jansen was diagnosed with lupus – an autoimmune disease known for its difficult detection (an average of three to five years), inconsistent symptoms, and ability to ravage the body and its various systems and functions.  According to Megan McLean from the Lupus Foundation of America, lupus is, “an invisible chronic illness.  Some of the most common symptoms include fatigue and joint stiffness [and] these symptoms can be incredibly debilitating [and] hard to explain to your family, friends, or coworkers.”

Visit the Lupus Foundation of America

McLean said, “We don’t know what causes lupus or how to cure it [but] many symptoms of lupus mimic those of other illnesses, which makes diagnosis more difficult.  Moreover, lupus can affect any organ system of the body, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, blood, joints, and skin.”

Lupus Infograph

For Jansen, the lupus diagnosis came alongside a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, “Initially they put me on very stabilizing medications and that didn’t work.  I ended up going on some chemotherapy.  At that point, they said that if I don’t go into remission, that I could have some very serious, debilitating health consequences within ten years.”

Jansen said, “In 1995, I worked for the St. Louis Fire Department as a training officer, could easily get on an ambulance and take care of individuals, walk stairs, stand for long periods of time.  I can no longer work on an ambulance.  I can no longer walk up steps without extreme difficulty.  I can no longer stand for extended periods of time.  Those things that [I] did before are things I cannot do now.”

Hope Butterfly

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According to McLean, “Lupus research remains underfunded relative to its scope of devastation.  A sustained, coordinated and well-funded federal research effort on lupus would lead to a better understanding of what causes the disease and could help lead to the discovery of safe, more tolerable and effective treatment or lupus.”

What is the Lupus Foundation doing about Lupus?

McLean mentioned that in March of 2011, the drug BENLYSTA was approved by the FDA as the first new treatment of lupus in 50 years, but according to Jansen, the treatment wasn’t as effective as its engineers hoped.  So where does this leave people like Jansen?

Jansen said, “What I want to happen is for there to be a greater awareness for lupus – more research into that – and I just think that’s going to take a voice to compete against some of the other diseases out there.”

The Lupus Foundation of America is currently petitioning Congress to increase funding to the National Institute of Health (NIH) to expand medical research for lupus.  Unless funding increases, McLean cautions, “people with the disease will continue to suffer its [lupus’] devastating effects.”

Add Your Name to the Petition

Blade Butterfly

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These effects, for Jansen, lead to frustration when others doubt her abilities, and inspire only one fear, “I fear my loss of independence.  I don’t fear death, I fear being a burden on my family.  One of the things that’s so hard with lupus [and rheumatoid arthritis] is that there are very few outward signs that are going to indicate to an individual the severity of illness, and so often times when you say ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I can’t do that,’ frequently you just see that doubt in someone else’s eyes.”

A resilient Jansen said, “What I did – since I couldn’t rely on being a paramedic anymore, which was the best job I’ve ever had in my life – I went to school – got my Master’s degree – and I teach paramedics.  I feel like I have to continue to do this, because if I sit at home, I think that’s truly the beginning of the end for me.  I think it would be really easy to cave into this disease process and not try at all.”

With her husband, David Jansen, by her side, she will continue to try – to live, to teach, and to inspire.  David Jansen said, “I know it’s going to be rough – but we’ll grow old together [and] make the best of what we have – we have each other.”

Charlene Jansen plans to begin coursework for her PhD, to continue instructing her students at Mineral Area College, and to enjoy life as it comes – day in and day out.  She’s independent, and she’s making decisions, but the life she’s saving now is her own.

 May is Lupus Awareness Month

#Virtual300: A Course Review

Article: Fading Feminism

Article: Fading Feminism

It’s my last semester of graduate school.  I knew the semester would be hectic and the workload had potential to be immense.  By design, I knew I wanted to have at least one more writing course – that’s where “Writing for Converged Media” (“Online Journalism) aka #Virtual300 came in.  I’d entertained the idea of taking this class once before, but was advised against it by my former advisor – either because they didn’t think it would be beneficial to my degree, or because they didn’t really understand the course content.  Whatever the reason, under new guidance I signed up, and what’s done is done.

There were five objectives: 1) to understand the various methods of digital publishing using text and multimedia elements, 2) to be proficient in the use of social media and blogs for journalistic endeavors, 3) to know the power players in online journalism, as well as industry trends, 4) to fully incorporate multimedia elements into online stories, and 5) to use WordPress.org as a content management system (CMS).

The first and fifth objectives complimented one another nicely.  By using WordPress.org as a content management system, we began to understand one method of digital publishing.  A behind the scenes look at the site allowed us to learn things from “new post” generation to creating photo slideshows and embedding multimedia (video, audio).  Through chapter presentations by our peers, we learned about the various platforms and techniques for capturing and editing video (quality deemphasized), sound, and photographs.  In addition to the “how to” aspect, we learned about where to host these multimedia pieces (YouTube, Flickr, and Sound Cloud) free of charge.

In the first session, social media presence was emphasized.  During this time, we took a moment to learn about who the power players are in the journalism industry.  By clicking “follow” on twitter, we were able to see content from the industry leaders – and it became clear (through having a constant flow – i.e. Associate Press, New York Times) why they led.

Article: Lindenwood's Curious Gender Studies Affair

Article: Lindenwood’s Curious Gender Studies Affair

We were directed to begin building our social media presence using twitter, tumblr, and our own Word Press blogs.  We used our blogs and two micro-blog accounts to share our content across the web.  By doing this, our stories were published somewhere and had the opportunity to go viral – in essence, this was portfolio building and a necessary concept for us to understand.

Visit Virtual300 for more exclusive content

The stories we shared were required to incorporate three multimedia elements, in addition to text and three photographs.  In theory, the amount of multimedia per article would complement journalistic storytelling online.  In reality, the amount was distracting and made the process more difficult than necessary.  Combined with time constraints, I feel that quality may have suffered in the stories themselves, or the media pieces presented with them.  Sure, it’s one thing to create a visual and interactive experience for the reader, but I don’t feel it should come at the expense of quality; something I think should be top priority.

Article: Never Going Back

Article: Never Going Back

Perhaps the quality-time-amount of media situation could be remedied if the course were offered in a room equipped with sound and video editors, in addition to properly functioning internet connections.  That said, even with the pressure to produce, I am proud of all of my work this semester, but perhaps my article on marriage equality was my proudest achievement.  I was able to secure an interview with an unlikely source and tell a story that was both relevant and mildly controversial.  Not to mention, it was successfully received.  I can’t see the “stats” for Virtual 300, but can attest that the article received 30 Facebook shares from my personal blog – an accomplishment if you ask me.

Read “Never Going Back: The Fight for Marriage Equality”

State of the Media: Digital Development

state of the mediaIf you were to judge the state of the media from the 2013 report, you’d think an obituary for news organizations, particularly newspapers and television news, was imminent. Where might you read such an obit though? I suppose the news would break on Twitter, then be developed into a full Yahoo article or YouTube video that would then be shared across Facebook. Then again, why would tech or social sites like Google or Facebook report the news at all – and that’s when you make a realization: Despite the decline of advertising revenue to news organizations, they’re not going away.

Click here to visit State of the Media’s site

Google and Facebook may be leading with digital advertising sales, but they’re also expanding the market for them. What this does is drive down the cost of digital advertising – so at some point, revenues will stagnate and decline – right? The 2013 State of the Media (S.O.T.M.) Report illustrates and projects digital advertising growth for the immediate future, thanks primarily to digital developments and mobile devices.

Within the report, it’s noted that people are consuming more news than ever, on more platforms, but there’s a problem. News organizations can’t afford to keep up with the various platforms – nor can they secure advertising revenues at the same rate as the tech/social majors. What we’re left with is a desire for more news, with more immediacy and better interactive/visual packaging, and less operational staff to provide the coverage. Sounds like a contradiction – but what it really is, is an opportunity.

The report has revealed two key opportunities for news organizations. One is the “Second Screen Phenomenon,” which is where a person uses a second device (smartphone or tablet) while watching television to build a stronger connection, or to interact socially with what they’re seeing on TV. The other is organization specific content that’s only accessible once the digital subscription fee is satisfied.

second-screenThe “Second Screen Phenomenon” is explicitly stated as an opportunity because stations airing/reporting the news may direct viewers to their sites (or apps) for supplemental programming (i.e. guest interviews, additional segments). This is where the second opportunity arises. It’s briefly mentioned in the report that news organizations are shifting away from advertisements generating the bulk of their revenue. Instead, digital subscriptions and “pay walls,” web pages that block content until digital subscription is satisfied, are morphing into the primary revenue generators.

What is the Second-Screen Phenomenon and How is it Used?

In an industry trying to reposition itself, where do the journalists fit in, and what role will they play? It’s simple, news organizations are trending toward having less employees. As a result, journalists need to adapt, by being able to produce more content as quickly as possible, while maintaining the integrity of the organization, and delivering the packaging readers want. This means journalists will need to have (and improve) their skills in writing, audio editing, video shooting and editing, and photography.

If journalists can find a way to churn more content with better quality – I think this will create another opportunity. Word of mouth is always going to be the most powerful advertising tool – so if one subscriber is moved by a story, or its images, they’ll want to share the story – and if it can’t be viewed without first being paid for, then revenues may increase. I’d like to not have to, but I think pay-per-view articles may be in the future.

The YouTube Premium Channel Subscription Plan

As a news consumer this would be bad news, unless the quality of packaged stories justified cost. Think of National Geographic. When a consumer buys a Nat. Geo. Magazine, they’re paying for quality reporting/writing and stellar photos. The articles are sometimes even complimented with online video or television specials. National Geographic stories are interactive in print, yet they’ve also embraced everything from television to social media. The name conveys quality. That’s where news has to improve.

As media business employees, we have to embrace these changes and test which avenues are going to work best for us – and to be honest, that may vary with every single topic, story, or form of media. But I know one thing – I can tell the difference between work I’ve loved and work I’ve just done to do, so can readers. If what you’re doing feels like obligation, they’ll turn away from you. It’s important to try producing the highest quality always. It’s not easy, but neither is reviving something that’s dying – and that’s what’s happening with news outlets.

#SLAM Media Report

wwe logo

My end of the term research paper, #SLAM: What News Media and Journalism could learn from Professional Wrestling, has been turned into a web experience and is now available.  Follow the link below to check out #SLAM and share it using the title hashtag if you like it.

#SLAM Media Report

Ciao, ciao for now,

Bobby-james

Lindenwood’s Curious Gender Studies Affair

LU

Earlier this year, Lindenwood University announced the implementation of a Gender Studies program minor.  Despite being known as the Lindenwood College for Women until 1969, the university hadn’t offered a degree program in women’s or gender studies until now.

Learn More About Lindenwood’s History

Gender Studies program founder, Dr. Heather Brown-Hudson said, “This University still didn’t have a course of study that was gender related – that was women specific – that was to do with any oppressed people – there was nothing.  We were one of the only institutions in the bi-state area that didn’t have any course of study like this.”

A National Census of Women’s and Gender Studies Programs in U.S. Institutions of Higher Education, 2007

Main DriveDr. Brown-Hudson said, “We [the proposal committee] didn’t think we were going to have any roadblocks.  The only roadblock that was brought up was that if we talked too specifically in the title of the program – if we insinuate that we’re talking about sexuality – it might give red flags to the administration.” According to Lindenwood’s public website the university is committed to providing an “integrative liberal arts curriculum” as well as supporting “academic freedom,” both attributes the university claims to have provided for over 185 years.  However, refining the title of Lindenwood’s newest program would suggest a more conservative approach and practice by the university.

To this end Dr. Brown-Hudson said, “They are [conservative], but my goal was not to instruct the instructors or instruct the administration, or change their mind – I wanted to offer this as soon as possible for my students, and I wanted to teach all the same contents, whether it was called men have sex with men or gender studies, which is general and safe, I didn’t care…I wanted to get this done, get this passed.  I have zero regrets about it.”

Gender Studies Infographic

The process to implement the new program, in terms of bureaucracy, was fairly rapid.  Dr. Brown-Hudson stated the progression from start to finish was completed in approximately one year. She said, “We proposed it and it was accepted right away.  I think it was just due.”

As Lindenwood continues to expand and add new programs, the dangers of disinterest and insufficient staffing could be key determinants of a program’s success or failure.  As recently as 2011, the School of American Studies Dean, David Knotts, cited those exact problems for a struggling graduate major.  When asked if Gender Studies may be subjected to a similar fate, Dr. Brown-Hudson said, “As far as the minor, absolutely not – that’s why we started with a minor.  Yes, I would have loved to gotten the words ‘Gender Studies major’ in the catalog and rushed hastily…but I didn’t want to do that.”

CatalogWhile Dr. Brown-Hudson’s ultimate goal is to develop a Gender Studies major, she’s currently concerned with maintaining the initial interest the program has generated.  She’s founded a Gender Studies Club that plans to advertise the minor by hosting a “Gender Bender Dance.” Despite the fun, lighthearted nature of a proposed dance and club, she said, “We’re very serious about challenging our students…When your standards are higher, they [the students] meet them or they drop.  I’d rather have fifteen students willing to work hard…I can’t lower my standards or dumb things down.”

The program’s formation coincides with watershed moments like marriage equality and topical discussions like equal pay for women.  Dr. Brown-Hudson said, “I made sure this was going to be a global study of not only gender, but of race, class, sexuality, and history combined with philosophy and religion.  I don’t think it [changing legislation] would render the course of study irrelevant or anachronistic…that doesn’t negate the importance of understanding the struggle, because it was not isolated struggle – it was ongoing – it spanned generations.”

Dr. Brown-Hudson noted that students minoring in Gender Studies would be better prepared to for positions with companies or organizations concerned with marginalized people (i.e. Planned Parenthood, women’s shelters). She said, “This course of study provides you with all the benefits of a general liberal arts degree…it builds a foundation with transferable skills and confidence.”

The Gender Studies minor is listed in the undergraduate catalog with two required courses: A Global Introduction to Gender Studies and Gender Theory.  The intro course introduces key issues and movements, while the theory course explores those theories associated with key issues or movements.  Dr. Brown-Hudson concluded, “What I’m devoted to doing is offering what I think is needed that we don’t already have in the humanities curriculum, and that is Gender Studies.”

View the Gender Studies Program or Contact Dr. Heather Brown-Hudson