As a Communications Technology teacher there are a number of great pleasures found in my day-to-day. From observing the student joy of production or the laughter of collaboration gone right, it’s truly a unique classroom where all learners readily show what they know within the context of media and the power of voice.
As students progress in their critical and creative prowess, all learning is grounded in the deep study of genre. It’s through genre that the study of media becomes transformative. Genre provides students with a rich cultural window and enriched opportunities to share their own sensibilities about who they are and their perspectives on the world.
This is not a new stance I take but one that I have readily addressed on this very site. With this, the more students watch critically, the more engaged they will become. This doesn’t mean that the study has to be “high brow” but can be one that entertains and provokes. So, as a new semester soon begins in many high schools across Ontario, ignite genre studies with some good old 90s infused theatrical antics.
With Will Smith and Martin Lawrence now in theatres with Bad Boys for Life, there’s a great opportunity to explore the politics of the action genre. At a time where capes and superpowers have shaped the consciousness of action cinema in the mind of young audiences, the idea of what I call the “exuberance of everyday” has been lost. This is the idea that the 80s and 90s action hero, achieved heroics, without superpowers but rather an “exuberant” extroverted signification of self.
Whether it be John McClean in Die Hard (1988) or Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible (1996), the movies and their heroes provide for hyper escape from self. It’s within this framework that 80s and 90s action movies (the most popular of the two decades), can provide ample opportunity to explore culture and individual selves.
Looking to Bad Boys (1995) specifically, the buddy-cop movie is more important that it’s often given credit for.
Let’s explore through the following lesson plan:
As a whole group, shape an opportunity for students to reflect on genre and what they know.
Guiding questions can include:
- What type of movie or television show is your favourite to watch and why?
- What type of movies are the most popular today? Why do you think this is?
Within the context of these questions, the goal is to shape an in-class conversation about film genre within the framework of time and space. It’s important for students to know that genre is more than a category of film, television or music. Importantly, genre is a window into history and culture. As such, to study genre is to understand culture at a particular time. This is to say that genres do evolve or change over time as culture changes and evolves. Also, although genre is shaped by culture, genre can also shape culture. As such the study of genre is layered.
Once you have a conversation about genre with your students, screen the following film in class: Big Guns – Bigger Heroes
After watching the film, have students in small groups share their ideas.
Distribute chart paper and markers to the students. Have them discuss and document three critical takeaways from the film screened above.
The goal is to cultivate knowledge construction within the context of 80s action films.
Now that students have had an opportunity to meaningfully engage with the concept that genre is shaped by and shapes culture, watch the film Bad Boys in class or take your class to a theatrical screening of Bad Boys for Life.
Before watching the film, share the following excerpt with students:
With this excerpt from the text A Companion to the Action Film by James Kendrick, the buddy-cop sub-genre is defined. In the writing, respective films’ race pairing is noted. In regards to Bad Boys, the coupling of two African American leads is pressing. Evolving from the 80s templates such as Lethal Weapon (1987) where blackness is white-washed, Bad Boys featuring of two black police officers is very much a rejection of traditional genre norms. Marcus, a family man and Mike a wealthy bachelor, are both officers that yearn to serve and protect. In doing so, they both exist outside of the institutional norms as “Bad Boys.” They’re aware of their racial identity and find humour in their narrative existence.
With the goal to have students show what they know, encourage learners to dive deep into their understanding of genre and provide a critique of either Bad Boys or Bad Boys for Life in the form of a pod-cast.
Co-construct of the specifications of the pod-cast with your class. Think about length, key outcomes etc. Like a three part essay, the pod-cast should have a: beginning, middle and end.
Beginning: In the beginning, students should define genre and why it is important to study. From genre, students introduce the either film.
Middle: Students provide a summary of the film and key critical points as a genre piece. What did they find compelling? How is race represented in either film? How is either film “meta” in it’s approach?
End: Bring forward a conclusion that reinforces the relevance of either film within a genre context.
In regards to technology, students can record their audio using their smartphones. This can be very low tech. A free program, Audacity can be used to import MP3 files and edit the recording.
Encourage students to brand the pod-cast; make it sound like an “authentic” audio show. Perhaps, including audio excerpts from either film and an formal branded introduction.