Looking at gender roles through the big screen
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 23:03
Movie theaters are inundated with romantic comedies. It’s hard to get away from the he/she loves me, loves me not, loves me plot line. But how many people actually stop to examine what these romantic comedies are saying about gender roles? In what ways are films reflections of society and in what ways are they projections? These are just the kinds of questions that Sarah Hagelin likes to tackle.
Hagelin’s interest in feminist cultural studies was sparked at a Catholic university when she was an undergrad.
“I graduated from Gonzaga University in Spokane, which is a Jesuit University, but their religious studies department … had a lot of amazing, basically feminist theologians—these awesome feminist nuns, often from Ireland,” she said. “It really changed my views of what it meant to do religious studies and what it meant to think about women and gender in that way.”
Now, as a professor, Hagelin is looking to impact the way her students look at gender through film. “We are looking at romantic comedies from the sort of screwball era of romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s through contemporary romantic comedy, but what I’m pairing with that are readings that are basically about the sort of popular cultural discussion about gender, about marriage, about sexuality,” Hagelin said.
A similar theme can also be found in her book that’s coming out this summer, Reel Vulnerability: Power, Pain and Gender in Contemporary American Film and Television.
“[The book] is on gender and popular culture in the last 20 years. It’s looking at representations of the body and thinking about how we have thought about the concept of vulnerability and the way we thought of the female body as especially vulnerable. So I’m trying to kind of challenge that,” Hagelin said.
Feminist culture studies and films are two passions for Hagelin, but her life doesn’t revolve solely around those two topics. She has a wide variety of interests.
“I’m interested in music. I love food I love cooking. I love Denver for that reason. There’s amazing things going on in the restaurant scene here. I’m also a big hiker and kayaker,” Hagelin said.
Hagelin is also a self-proclaimed political junkie. “I made people come over to watch all of the debates, [and I] had a huge election watching party,” she said.
In the classroom, Hagelin’s goal is to get students talking and she’s not afraid to let the discussion stray from its plotted course. “One of the things I really try to do is stay open to the intellectual direction the class wants to go,” Hagelin said. “You have to be present in the moment. I think that that is far more important than anything else you can do as a teacher because 50 percent of our work is emotional.”