Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can offer children in this media-saturated age is the ability to dissect content so they aren’t led astray by slanted presentation. A key element in this type of media literacy is perspective.
So what is perspective really? According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “a mental view or prospect.” That’s kind of dry. Personally, I prefer understanding perspective by analyzing the old poem, “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” (http://www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/blind_men_elephant.html)
In this poem, blind men feel an elephant and describe what the animal seems like to them. Since they each feel a different part of the elephant, their descriptions (and perspectives) are very different.
Teaching Perspective in Media
When one educates by teaching through film, one challenges students to see the world differently. Encouraging students to discern the perspective of a film helps them filter the way they process the film.
Is the film shown from the viewpoint of the protagonist? If so, how would the story change from the perspective of the antagonist? A wonderful example of this is the 2005 children’s film “Hoodwinked,” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443536/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl) which tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood from the viewpoints of Little Red Hiding Hood, The Wolf, The Woodsman and Granny.
Another matter of perspective students might want to analyze is the film-making itself. This type of media literacy includes questions such as: what’s the camera work like? Are the scenes dark? Light? Distant or close-up?
In “Schindler’s List” the director uses the girl in red as contrast to the black and white in the rest of the film to make a point. It highlights the perspective of tragedy in the film. In the 2012 version of “Les Miserables,” the director uses many close-up shots so the viewers get true perspective of the emotional pain the main characters were feeling.
Benefits of Understanding Perspective
One of the best parts of teaching students perspective in media literacy is that it can also help them identify with others. When a teacher is teaching through film and teaches perspective, it helps students see the world in a new way–through someone else’s eyes. As educators, our goal is to broaden a student’s mind. We can do that with film. As the famous author says, “It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” George Eliot, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life