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Lecture discusses diversity portrayed on screen

Posted on 11.06.2013

Brian Johnson and the Diversity Lecture Series held a lecture entitled “Reel Diversity” on Oct. 22 in UIndy Hall A.  Johnson is a professor at Bloomsburg University, co-author of  “Reel Diversity: A Teacher’s Sourcebook” and an ordained minister.


Speaker Brian Johnson talks about diversity with UIndy students during his presentation on Oct. 22. Johnson used film clips to talk about how Hollywood prompts us form assumptions about other people.

Johnson took a different approach to engaging the students to understand the difficulties of cultural diversity. Through a series of jokes, movie clips and a PowerPoint presentation, Johnson discussed the importance of cultural diversity and what students should do to change the social stigmas in society.
“Movies teach us about who we are,” Johnson said. “I want to help expose you to some of these things Hollywood does to help us consider ourselves.”
Freshman athletic training major Connor Windmiller said that the lecture was thought-provoking.
“I thought the lecture was a very fun and great way to discuss the issues of diversity,” Windmiller said.  “It kept me extremely engaged and laughing.”
Johnson began his presentation by sharing some of the comical racial stereotypes he has observed in the typical horror movie, asking different audience members their thoughts on the matter.
“When you start talking about diversity, sometimes people get tense,” Johnson said.
He challenged the audience to rethink the meaning of diversity and asked the audience why it seemed so difficult to talk about difference.
“Diversity simply means different,” he said.
Johnson argued that communication is a huge barrier and one of the main problems in discussing the topic of diversity. He used the example of teens not even being able to communicate while in the same room.
“We have lost the art of having really good dialogue in our culture,” Johnson said. “I see you guys texting each other, and you are sitting right across from each other.”
Johnson used scenes from cinema to illustrate pivotal points of his lecture. He used scenes from approximately 10 films, including “Kingdom of Heaven,” “Rush Hour,” “Avatar” and “Step Brothers.”
Johnson used the film clips to emphasize his points, while conveying to the audience that all film is political, and the messages are not in the films by mistake. He shared with the audience that every film follows a formula, and the messages in each film are the “assumed norms” for their audiences.
Johnson pointed out how films shape our perceptions of diversity, but he also challenged the audience to help change our view and to embrace each other’s similarities and differences in order to create a more effective society.
“The more you understand about your own culture, the more likely you are to find a connection with someone else,” Johnson said.
As Johnson discussed understanding one’s own cultural identity, he said that diversity includes not only race, but also sexual orientation, gender, religion and social status.
Johnson emphasized to the audience that diversity is not something that should separate people, but bring people  together to create a more united society.
“Have you ever heard a conservative talk about a liberal? Doesn’t it sound like a disease you can catch? We don’t talk well across differences,” he said.
As Johnson came to the conclusion of his presentation, he challenged the audience to think about two questions: “Who do you think you are?” and “Will you alter the world?”
Johnson concluded the lecture by having each person turn to one another and say, “I cannot be the best me I can be, until you become the best you you can become.”


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