Fielding Graduate University News

Fielding alumna Melle Starsen presents in the US and the UK with research of stereotypes in media

Posted by Hilary Edwards on Fri, Oct 26, 2012

Fielding Graduate University alumna (ELC '11) Melle Starsen, EdD, presents her doctoral research across the United States and United Kingdom.

Starsen started off 2012 by traveling to the University of Oregon in Portland, OR, Loughborough University in Loughborough, UK, and John Moores University in Liverpool, UK presenting her research titled: "Cool to be cruel: Mean-spiritedness in 21st century children's TV sitcoms"  Starsen cites, "Much has been written about the proven negative effects viewing television violence has on children and yet there is another kind of violent role-modeling embedded in an unlikely place: children’s television sitcoms. This content analysis investigated live-action children’s half-hour sitcoms and discovered the presence of relational aggression and superiority humor, both of which rely on brutally treating other humans as inferior. The television characters seek revenge on each other, intentionally make others look bad or stupid, humiliate peers and parents, and are rarely punished for their mean-spiritedness and cruelty. The children’s sitcoms are behavioral blueprints of lies and deceit, as the characters unashamedly cheat others, defraud parents and other adults, and attempt to make peers and teachers look stupid and in the vernacular of the culture, “clueless.” Further, stereotypes are not only presented as acceptable, but are reinforced by frequent inclusion into the action. This study discovered myriad examples of mean-spiritedness and cruelty on the part of characters in the programs, ranging in frequency from 7 to 31.25 per half-hour episode, averaging 33.75 per hour for programs viewed. The study includes recommendations for parents and educators to help offset the possible negative effects of these programs."

For the next part of the year, Starsen began presenting her next topic: "Hidden messages: Archetypes in Blaxploitation Films" at the 2012 Film and History Conference-Film and Myth in Milwaukee, WI in September. Starsen states: "Many movie critics and researchers have rebuked Blaxploitation films (1970-1975) as sexist, racist, and, most of all, degrading to black audiences and the black community.  However, this empirical study of blaxploitation films has determined that far from presenting a negative image of the black community, many of the entries in this genre do in fact provide embedded archetypes that present consistent messages for black audiences about the need to eschew exploitation of their own people and communities and instead, support education, crime-reduction programs, and community outreach to improve the communities. The films, though accused of being violent and brutal, actually present messages about the need for black communities to stand together and right the wrongs of the past by supporting an almost sovereign nation-within-a-nation."

Starsen presented this research at the Midwest Popular Culture Association in Columbus, OH in October along with a second presentation titled "The metamorphosis of modern television news into 'entertainment propaganda" which she is scheduled to present at the upcoming Media and Politics Conference at the University on Bedfordshire, Luton, UK on Nov. 1-2, 2012.  

Starsen currently serves as assistant professor of communication at Upper Iowa University  which has an international and online presence; teaching television history, editing, writing for media, television production, media law and ethics, journalistic and online writing, and public speaking. Previously an instructor in communication for 10 years teaching screenwriting and speech. Published author with two novels, short stories in academic journals, and articles in national publications and journals. TV producer-director-writer at university PBS affiliate for nine years, producing documentary programs and PSAs. Researched, wrote and acted as location unit manager for American documentary on Dr Who. Journalist and freelance writer for 20 years, with articles in publications such as The New York Times. Wrote screenplay that is currently in pre-production. Appeared as extra in two films. Ten years’ experience acting and doing technical work in theatre. Ongoing research interests include: 1) using media such as film in successful college teaching; 2) importing real-life experience into university teaching pedagogy; and 3) researching and studying the millennial generation, so-called “echo boomers,” and their visually-oriented learning styles and short attention spans. Hobbies include photography, fossil hunting and collecting sea pottery shards from the UK.

Tags: Media psychology, conference, social media, international, human development, learning, research