Is Beyoncé a feminist? Is she objectifying or empowering herself by donning that skimpy outfit? Why is there that line referring to a famous incident of domestic violence in “Drunk in Love”? What’s up with all her alter egos and nicknames (Sasha Fierce, Bey, Yoncé)?
New Jersey’s Rutgers University hopes to answer all these questions in a new course called “Politicizing Beyonce” in their department of Women’s and Gender Studies. The class will use the performer’s music and career as lenses to explore race, gender and sexual politics in modern America, with “texts” ranging from Beyoncé’s music videos and lyrics to Alice Walker and Sojourner Truth.
Some parents may complain that they’re not paying thousands of dollars in tuition for their kids to study pop culture. But Kevin Allred, the doctoral student teaching the Beyoncé class, told Rutgers Today that he hopes that his course and others like it will “shift students away from simply being consumers of media toward thinking more critically about what they’re engaging on a regular basis.” And indeed, that sounds like a worthy goal.
Plus, Rutgers is far from the first school to examine popular music, TV or movies in an academic setting. Here are some other courses that will make you wish you could go back to school:
- “The Sociology of Hip-Hop: The Urban Theodicy of Jay Z” at Georgetown University
- “California, Here We Come” (on The O.C. and self-aware culture in the 21st century) at Duke University
- “Urban America and Serial Television: Watching the Wire” at Middlebury College
- “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” at University of Southern California
- “Consumerism and Social Change in Mad Men America, 1960-1965″ at Northwestern University
- “South Park and Contemporary Social Issues” at McDaniel College
- “The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur” at University of Washington