From April 12 to 15, the annual Society for Cinema & Media Studies (SCMS) Conference convened in Denver. It was the first in-person SCMS Conference since 2019. Many faculty and graduate students from the Department of Communication Studies attended to present their research and learn from other media and film studies scholars from around the US.
Six graduate students and five faculty from CSU either gave presentations or moderated sessions at the conference, in addition to several CSU alumni. Their scholarship covered topics ranging from pedagogy to TV shows like Bridgerton and The Vampire Diaries to historical and international cinema and even to YouTube vlogs.
Here are some highlights from their time in Denver!
M.A. student Madison Barnes-Nelson gave the presentation “Legitimating ‘Teenage Girl Traumedy’ on Hulu’s Pen15” and stopped by the conference bookfair to pick up a copy of Race/Gender/Class/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers (Routledge, 2023), in which her chapter on “Female friendship and intersectional allyship on Brooklyn Nine-Nine” appears. “My presentation was about representations of intimate body-related taboos of teenage girlhood on the Hulu comedy series Pen15,” Barnes-Nelson said.
She previously attended the Western States Communication Association conference (WSCA) but feels that SCMS is different “because of the research focus on media studies and industry studies.” Barnes-Nelson will pursue a Ph.D. this fall in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Ph.D student Meredith Laurel gave the presentation “Defining Generation Z: How Euphoria and Its Paratexts Fight to Control a Generational Identity Narrative.” Laurel’s research is interested in the suasory character of television and film and the way these communication technologies shape our social and political environments.
Ph.D. student Emma Lynn’s presentation at SCMS was “All That Glitters Is Not Diamonds: Quasi-Color Consciousness and Sexual Violence in Netflix’s Bridgerton.” She examined how Bridgerton’s narrative and casting process seems to portray racial diversity in a traditionally white genre, but falls short, “falling into representational pitfalls and erasing Black men as victims of sexual violence.”
SCMS was Lynn’s first in-person media studies conference, and she valued the opportunity to connect with scholars in her research area.
Ph.D. student Kira Marshall-McKelvey gave the presentation “Motherhood, Negative Affect, and Beauty in the Vlogs of RawBeautyKristi.” She enjoyed meeting in person people whom she admires and cites in her research.
CSU’s College of Liberal Arts gave Marshall-McKelvey an Excellence in Teaching Award this year, citing her “ability to create an outstanding educational environment in her classroom.” In the fall, Marshall-McKelvey will join the faculty of Syracuse University as Assistant Teaching Professor and Basic Course Director in Communication and Rhetorical Studies.
Ph.D. student Riana Slyter chaired the session “New Perspectives on Gender and Genre” and participated in a seminar on the practice of ungrading. “Ungrading is moving away from metrification and really focusing on student growth,” she explained.
Slyter enjoyed presentations from other CSU students and faculty at the conference. “Our media studies faculty and students are doing some amazing work… It was really impressive to see how engaged and excited people are in the work our faculty and students are doing,” she said.
M.A student Kirstin Taylor’s presentation was “Bewitching Black Womanhood: Representational Practices on the CW’s Fantasy Fare.” Taylor looked at Black female characters from CW shows The Vampire Diaries, Legacies, and Roswell to examine “how their representations of Black womanhood reinforce and/or defy discriminatory pitfalls in televisual storytelling,” she said.
SCMS was Taylor’s first academic conference. She noted how her, Barnes-Nelson’s, and Lynn’s presentations all came out of the same media seminar course, adding that “their presentations were engaging and sparked great questions and discussions.”
Hye Seung Chung
Professor Hye Seung Chung, winner of CSU’s prestigious Scholarship Impact Award this year, gave the presentation “Censors as Audiences, Audiences as Censors: Screening Sex, Politics, and Labor in 1981” and chaired the session “Beyond Parasite: History of South Korean Cinema, 1960s—1980s.” The session “was a great opportunity to get together with other renowned Korean film experts such as Dr. Jinsoo An of UC-Berkeley and Dr. Youngmin Choe of University of Southern California,” Chung said. “We were pleased to share our expertise on historical Korean films with the audience and helped to expand their understanding of Korean cinema.”
This was Chung’s tenth SCMS. Though the conference has grown over the years, she noted that it has “become a more diverse conference where exciting new scholarship by both emerging scholars and big names is showcased side by side.”
Professor Scott Diffrient, winner of CSU’s College of Liberal Arts’ Distinction in Curricular Innovation Award this year, gave the presentation “‘This One Has a Different Ending’: Finality, Futurity and the Promise of Historical Unfixity in Illang: The Wolf Brigade” and chaired the session “Case Studies in East Asian Film Remakes, from Japan to South Korea.” Diffrient argued that the 2018 sci-fi action thriller Illang, itself a remake based on an earlier book adaptation, deserves reevaluation considering recent world events. “From stalled US-North Korean nuclear talks following President Donald Trump’s summit meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un and Pyongyang’s subsequent ramping up of missile tests, to the rise of an aggressive style of international relations in China known as ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic… the sociopolitical context of the last five years has shifted considerably from that of the film’s initial theatrical run,” he explained. The session Diffrient chaired was based on his forthcoming coedited book East Asian Film Remakes, which will be published by Edinburgh University Press this July.
Diffrient has attended over a dozen SCMS conferences, and “this year was far and away the best in recent memory in terms of the quality of the presenters’ papers/talks.”
Associate Professor Evan Elkins’s presentation was “Middlebrow Taste, Audience Metrics, and Centrist Politics: Conceptualizing Mass Culture in the Streaming Era.” He researches the cultural politics of digital platforms, media industries, streaming media, and globalization. His first book, Locked Out: Regional Restrictions in Digital Entertainment Culture, was published by NYU Press in 2019.
Associate Professor Kit Hughes gave the presentation “Maryland Public Broadcasting’s Consumer Survival Kit: Struggling to Make It in the Free Market” and chaired the session “From Revolutionary to Regressive to Retro: Educational Media’s History Lessons and Alternative Futures.”
“My presentation used Consumer Survival Kit (1973-1979)—an avowedly apolitical Nixon-era inflation-minded consumer program—to imagine how public media infrastructures and programs that focus on viewers’ shared economic interests and experiences—whatever their class positions—can offer a path forward to imagining and creating a sustainable and just world,” Hughes explained.
This was Hughes’s eleventh SCMS conference, and she found it “a lovely reminder of the many communities necessary for sustaining creative and intellectual work.”
Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies Nick Marx gave the presentation “I Think You Should Leave and the Algorithmic Absurdity of Sketch Comedy on Netflix” and chaired the session “Global TV Studies: Platforms, Audiences, Ratings.”
Marx investigated Netflix’s strategy and the conflict it causes in their comedy programming. “I considered how I Think You Should Leave is an exception to this strategy by being avowedly apolitical, basing its humor in more mundane human experiences,” he said. The session he chaired included two Ph.D. students from his alma mater, the University of Texas-Austin.
Marx has been attending SCMS since 2010, and he “appreciated the camaraderie and the feeling of everyone being back together in person.”