Speak Up! Messages in Music Videos

The objective of this lesson is for students to identify social, cultural, and political issues in music videos and write their own narratives for a music video that addresses a social, cultural, or political issue that is important to them. Many artists in the music industry create videos for simple entertainment. However, some also create videos to relay messages to their fans. The messages vary, but they are all based on important issues in today’s world (Side note: although one of the videos is in Spanish, students will still be able to understand the message).

A Year in Review: The 2012 Rap Up

The objective of this lesson is for students to research important events and milestones that happened in 2012 and write a rap that summarizes these events.

This past year, many important milestones and events occurred ranging from the re-election of President Barack Obama to the final installment of the Twilight franchise. While there have been countless positive milestones, there have also been devastating events in this past year such as the Aurora movie theater shooting, Hurricane Sandy, and the Newtown elementary school shooting.

Do You Buy the Hype? Tackling Consumer Culture with Macklemore

In this lesson, students analyze Macklemore’s songs “Thrift Shop” and “Wings,” which are both songs that call for people to eschew label-conscious, consumption obsessed culture, and ask themselves the question: How much do we care about brand names and designer labels? How much of my life is focused on consuming, and how much do I create?

Jay-Z: Agent to the Stars

Using Jay-Z’s newest business venture as an example, students learn about the business behind professional sports by acting out a contract negotiation.

The Totalitarian Hunger Games

Students take a critical look at the government in The Hunger Games to better understand the concept of a totalitarian government and draw connections between The Hunger Games‘ government and real world governments.

MLK and Malcolm X: The civil rights movement and the X-Men origins

The American Civil Rights movement inspired many people, including Marvel Comic’s mastermind writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. They have created some of the most powerful superheroes in the comic universe but did you know some of these characters were influenced by actual real life heroes in history? Lee and Kirby used the iconic civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X as the inspiration behind the characters Charles Xavier aka Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto, the creators of the X-Men. Rather than fighting aliens and criminals, they fought against the oppression mutants faced on a daily basis in society, albeit by different methods. Much like MLK Jr. and Malcolm X, Professor X chose a non-violent approach and Magneto took more of a defensive stance against violent oppression and prejudice.

It’s presumed in comic book lore that Magneto is a villain but Stan Lee had a different perspective when he created the character. Stan Lee says about the metal warping mutant, “I did not think of Magneto as a bad guy. He was just trying to strike back at the people who were so bigoted and racist. He was trying to defend mutants, and because society was not treating them fairly, he decided to teach society a lesson. He was a danger of course, but I never thought of him as a villain.”

Even in the film adaptations of the X-Men series, Michael Fassbender who plays the role of Magento, admits the iconic figures were inspiration for their on-screen portrayals.
It came up early on in the rehearsal period and that was the path we took, says Michael Fassbender, These two brilliant minds coming together and their views arent that different on some key things. As you watch them you know that if their understanding, ability and intelligence could somehow come together it would be really special. But the split is what makes them even more interesting and tragic. The Hero Complex, LA Times

“After Ever After”: Analyzing Fairy Tales in the Modern World

In this lesson, students will use the YouTube sensation “After Ever After” as inspiration for writing their own realistic accounts of classic fairy tales and what might happen after their “happy endings.” They will incorporate research of current events to support their stories.

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Marvel Civil War: Whose Side Are You On?



Captain America 3: Civil War was just released. Since Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has carefully started to shift the story towards one of the greatest conflicts in comic book history, Marvel’s Civil War. In a sure sign that comics were getting awesome again, Marvel built in a story arc where the Avengers fought each other. This has happened before in comics, usually because one superhero gets mind-controlled by a villain. In the Marvel Civil War, though, the Avengers were instead fighting because they had different interpretations of rights. Both sides’ views were supportable by some interpretations of the Constitution. But would either have stood up in court? If the Avengers had taken their differences to court, instead of to the streets, which way would it have gone?

Which side are you on? Try the quiz below to find out!

The Plot of the War The Marvel Civil War was told in seven comics, released from 2006-2007. It takes place after most mutants have been killed, or have fled in secret to Xavier’s school. Having dealt with mutants, the United States government turned their attention to superheroes. The government wasn’t a big fan of superpowers. Untrained superheroes kept stepping up to villains in crowded areas, getting themselves and others killed. In one case, a couple of new superheroes tried to fight Nitro in a mall, leading to the deaths of over 600 people. In addition, superheroes, especially the Avengers, were also interfering in politics. Nick Fury was fired because he led a coup against one of the United States’ allies (in fairness, that ally was an evil cyborg). Finally, the government decided to act. Congress passed the Superhero Registration Act, forcing all superheroes to take off the masks, register their abilities, and work for federal law enforcement. They hired Tony Stark (Iron Man) to help enforce  the law. Captain America violently resisted. Both sides escalated in force.


The Arguments

The pro-registration arguments, supported by Tony Stark and Mr. Fantastic, include:

  • Superheroes cannot veto a Congressional decision
  • Regulation of use of powers will be required by law
  • The government may restrict the rights of some to protect the rights of many

The anti-registration arguments, supported by Captain America, include:

  • Privacy protects superheroes and superheroes have a right to it
  • The majority should not legislate against minority rights
  • The government should not restrict rights in the present because of possible events in the future.

Do either of these arguments carry legal weight? This lesson below explores the legal precedents at play.

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Dystopia in Pop Culture: Fiction or the Future?

The most frightening fictional dystopias are recognizable extensions of our current world. 

Dystopias have become a staple of popular entertainment, and despite predictions to the contrary, they show no sign of tapering off. Yet most of us have only the vaguest sense of what a dystopia is.

For starters, a dystopia is the opposite of a utopia. A utopia is a pretty old concept; Thomas More created the term in 1516 to describe a perfect society. “Dystopia” is a more recent term, dating to the 19th century: it comes from the Greek ”dys” meaning “bad” and “topia” meaning “place”. While a utopia is an ideal civilization, where everyone has their needs met, a dystopia is a society that is essentially harmful. The central arc of dystopic fiction almost always puts the hero in conflict with the government or the group of people in charge.

The most frightening fictional dystopias are recognizable extensions of our current world. These worlds answer “What If” questions about the future with the most pessimistic of responses.
What if the earth runs out of oil?

What if we stop having as many children?

What if the government used reality TV as a form of propoganda?

What if there was no law and order?

What if we lived in a military run state?

Dystopian fiction imagines the worst-case scenarios for our future. However paranoid these imaginings may seem, they also expose important truths about our current reality.