UMF Discusses Get Out and the Politics of the Oscars

Prior to the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony, UMF hosted a roundtable discussion on Jordan Peele’s debut film Get Out and the discourse the film would bring to the Oscars.

Get Out was nominated for “Best Picture,” “Best Original Screenplay,” “Best Actor,” and “Best Director.” The film ended up winning the “Best Original Screenplay” category, but the main focus of controversy was for its nomination as a comedy film for “Best Picture.”

Hosted by professors Michael Johnson, Ann Kennedy, Dawn Nye, and Sarah Maline, the panel immediately jumped into the controversy surrounding the Oscars and their treatment of Get Out. The comedy nomination sparked outrage among Twitter users, though this is not uncommon. Horror has been an overlooked genre in the Academy, with other horror films being entered in the drama category in years past. Although horror films have been nominated for “Best Picture” throughout the years, Silence of the Lambs was the last horror film to win this specific category in 1991.

Although the panel was met with a small crowd, every member of the audience had something to contribute to the discussion.

“Are you young people still watching the Oscars? Are you watching closely?” Nye asked the audience. Every person offered a response along the lines of “no,” with many opting to follow along on social media, namely Twitter.

“Who decides what is the ‘best picture?’ How do they decide? If my opinion doesn’t matter, why should I watch?” one student inquired when thinking about why younger audiences do not tune in.

Get Out is not the first film to generate this kind of discourse about what constitutes the “best picture;” foreign films have also inspired similar conversations.

“People try too hard to make blockbusters,” Maline said. “They often think to themselves, ‘what will the U.S. find charming about our culture?”

All of these elements lead us to the question at the center of this controversy: what do our Oscar nominations say about the U.S. as a society?

“I think it’s interesting that Hollywood is trying to remain neutral on industry politics,” Kennedy said. “Actors and actresses are chastised for standing up and making things political, but are they really speaking?”

Kennedy referenced the #metoo movement in this regard, noting that “the men stayed silent so women could have a chance to speak. The problem is, they lose nothing by staying silent.”

Johnson showcased a clip from the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony, in which a young woman named Sacheen Littlefeather took the stage in place of Marlon Brando after winning the award for “Best Actor” in The Godfather, to decline the award and instead give a speech on the unfair treatment of Indigenous people in the entertainment industry and in the United States in general as an example, calling it “one of the first instances of politicizing.”

Bringing the presentation back to Get Out, the panel and the audience analyzed various elements of the film that also contribute to this discourse and reflect the tumultuous political air surrounding the ceremony.

“White audiences don’t understand how uncomfortable the humor is,” an audience member said.

The overall consensus of the group’s analysis was that protagonist Chris Washington was an African-American man entering a white man’s world, and that world involved a sense of invasiveness, down to the way his girlfriend Rose’s family commented on his physical appearance and artistic abilities.

“Just the fact that Chris is a photographer, the white characters sort of look at that and assume art is a physical talent and not intellectual,” Johnson said while commenting on uncomfortable (and sometimes unconscious) attitudes the film forces viewers to confront.

“When this [controversy] started, Jordan Peele took to Twitter too,” Johnson said. “He tweeted, ‘Get Out is a documentary.’”

“Film is always political, whether it ignores it or embraces it, both are political statements,” Nye said at the end of the presentation.

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Editing and Publishing Minor

In addition to offering a major in English, the English department also participates in several interdisciplinary minors, including a recently approved minor in Editing and Publishing.

Editing and Publishing Minor

Students in this minor will develop the knowledge and experience to design, edit, and publish work in a variety of genres through a combination of hands-on learning and course work.  They will gain familiarity with the history, ethics, and business of publishing and have opportunities to integrate these with studies in literature, creative writing, and journalism.  Students will gain experience in both digital and print production and be prepared for careers in a variety of fields within publishing.

Required Courses   

ENG 202 – Editing                                            4   credits

ENG 203—Essentials of Publishing               4

ENG 204 – Studies in Book Arts                      4

ENG 396 or 397 – Approved Internship/Apprenticeship                     (2-4 credits)

(ENG 396/397 may be doubled counted with approval of Editing and Publishing and Major Advisor)

Prerequisites:  ENG 202, 203 or 204

One of the following writing courses (cannot be doubled counted

with major requirements):    (4 credits each)                                4

ENG 200 Professional Writing

ENG 201 Public Writing

ENG 150 Creative Writing

ENG 152 Creative Writing for Nonmajors

ENG 210 Fiction Writing

ENG 211 Poetry Writing

ENG 212 Creative Nonfiction

ENG 213 Journalism

ENG 214 Screenwriting

ENG 218 Writing for the Stage

ENG 277 Writing-Centered Topics courses

ENG 310 Advanced Fiction

ENG 311 Advanced Poetry

ENG 312 Advanced Nonfiction

ENG 314 Advanced Screenwriting

 

One course in contemporary literature        4

(may be double counted with major requirements)  

Total credits for the Minor:  22-26

 

Business Communications Minor

In addition to offering a major in English, the English department also participates in several interdisciplinary minors, including the new Business Communications Minor.

Business Communications

The minor in Business Communications is an interdisciplinary program designed to equip students with the knowledge, abilities, and resources that will enable them to communicate effectively across a wide variety of professional situations. The minor includes courses in English and in Business, and is open to students in any major. Students must take at least two courses in English and two courses in Business, including BUS 220 Principles of Marketing. ENG 397/BUS 397 Internship and one additional course in either English or Business are also required.

*Starred courses have pre-requisites not included in the minor requirements.

Required Course:

BUS 220                    Principles of Marketing*                                           4

Four of the following:

 

BUS 277 / 377    Special Topics in Marketing*     4

BUS 320        Consumer Behavior*                        4

BUS 323        Digital Marketing*                            4

BUS 326        Social Media Marketing*                  4

BUS 337        International Marketing*                 4

BUS 375        Marketing Management*                  4

ENG 200        Professional Writing                         4

ENG 201        Public Writing                                    4

ENG 212        Creative Non-Fiction*                        4

ENG 213H        Journalism*                                      4

ENG 277        Writing-Centered Topics Courses*   4

ENG 312        Advanced Creative Writing*             4

 

Experiential Learning:

ENG 396/397 or BUS 396/397: Participation in an internship related to the minor during the student’s academic career (2-4 credits),

*Course may not be double-counted for both major and minor.

Total credits for the minor: 22-24

Other courses may be recommended for students, including ART 112A (Digital Imaging), ART 244 (Creative Imaging), PSY 347 (The Psychology of Persuasion), and MAT 120 (Statistics), among others.

Danielle Conway Discusses the Importance of Compassion in the Rule of Law

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Dean Danielle Conway addressed a full auditorium on the rule of law and why it matters more than ever

Dean Danielle Conway from the University of Maine School of Law was recently welcomed to a full auditorium at UMF to discuss the rule of law and why law matters in society today.

Political Science professor Jim Melcher introduced Conway as “one of the most interesting lawyers I’ve ever met,” applauding her diverse experiences, including 27 years of service in the U.S. Army, Army Reserves, and the National Guard.

Standing before the attentive crowd in a dark red suit, Conway opened her talk by claiming, “one could call my belief in law religious.” Her eyes scanned the audience in momentary silence; “I hope I can convince you to also have strong beliefs by the time I’m done.”

Conway defined the rule of law as restricting arbitrary use of power by channeling it through well defined and established laws. Everyone, from individuals to institutions, are held accountable under rule of law.

“Laws should be enacted by democratically elected officials and enforced by independent judiciaries,” Conway said. “I believe in this process because it will help protect freedoms and rights.”

According to Conway, our society is facing its biggest challenge yet: widening inequality. This can be seen in our discourse and how it is riddled with tension and strife, from LGBTQIA rights to land disputes and indigenous rights. The core of Conway’s argument is that rule of law is ineffective if it does not serve everyone, including those who cannot defend themselves. This means that rule of law should consider both individual freedoms and peoples’ rights, as opposed to one or the other.

“Law drives our society and many facets of it,” Conway answered when asked how rule of law can protect both freedoms and rights without impeding on one another. “[Law determines] where we can be, what technology and resources we can use, etc. Laws use certainty and stability to help create an organized society. Law creates power, and we need to use that power with compassion and sentiment. By not embracing compassion in rule of law, you rob people of the 14th amendment.”

Conway’s interactions with audience questions opened discussion on this point further; the 14th amendment states that all people born and/or naturalized in the United States are thereby citizens of the country, and no state may deprive any citizen of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. Conway shared an experience in which she was arrested in New York for no reason, and her lawyer was able to help her arrange a plea bargain that allowed her to avoid jail time. Such an outcome is rare, especially for an African-American woman.

“Am I protected because rule of law exists for someone who needs it? Yes I am,” Conway said. “Because I have privilege, I now put my money where my mouth is and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.”

“A lawyer’s value is in her power to make the law accessible to those not in the legal system,” Conway argued. “A lawyer who has seen injustice will stand up.”

Conway did acknowledge that it is difficult to view law objectively, and that very few benefit from viewing law as such.

“I’ve met Justices [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg and [Antonin] Scalia. Their belief systems are informed by their experiences, just like my own,” she noted.

Despite her criticisms of laws and their implementation (and law in general), Conway loves the law, going so far as to say that she “romanticizes” it. Law can be coercive and legitimize toxic behaviors such as racism, but when utilized with compassion and sentiment, it can be transformed and become protection for those who can’t protect themselves.

“I am a patriot,” Conway declared as she closed the discussion out. “I believe in what America has been and what it can be.”