When did your organization launch and why?
The Media Education Foundation (MEF) was originally founded in response to a controversial incident involving Dr. Sut Jhally, a Communication professor at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, in 1990. Dr. Jhally had created a film titled “Dreamworlds: Desire/Sex/Power in Rock Video,” which featured over 160 clips from rock music videos, with the intention of helping his students analyze visual images in television and advertising. When MTV discovered the tape, they issued a “cease and desist” letter to Dr. Jhally for copyright infringement. The resulting media coverage from the incident sparked a public debate about the free speech rights of media critics, which inspired Dr. Jhally to establish MEF as a non-profit organization dedicated to creating videos that examine mass media and popular culture through a critical lens.
What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?
MEF produces and distributes educational documentary films with the goal of inspiring critical thinking about the social, political, and cultural impact of American mass media.
What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?
The organization’s main focus is producing and distributing films that help spark critical thinking and discussion about some of the most pressing – and often contentious – issues of our time.
MEF is especially well-known for our videos on the impact of dominant media representations on cultural norms and the organization’s ideas about race, gender, sexuality, and class. The films in the MEF collection are intended to make an impact within the academic space, and MEF produces and acquires films with an educational audience foremost in mind. As a result, the films are routinely shown in classes, used in workshops and trainings, added to curricula, and screened on campuses.
What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?
MEF has a few new films that came out this year that cover a wide range of topics, from the hidden partnership between Hollywood and the Pentagon (Theaters of War) to an exploration of the political and cultural impact of the NFL, America’s most popular and influential sports league (Behind the Shield).
What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?
The majority of the films focus on news and entertainment media and how it affects the way we view the world. MEF also has some exciting new media literacy titles in production right now, including a follow-up to Further Off the Straight and Narrow, which will look at queer and trans representation in television.
Why is media literacy important to your organization?
MEF believes in the power of film to help spark discussion about some of the most pressing and complicated issues of our time, in one of the last independent spheres left in our society: the classroom. The aim is to inspire students to think critically and in new ways about the hyper-mediated world around them.
Anything else you want our readers to know about your organization, your mission, or your staff?
Join MEF’s email list! It’s the best way to stay updated about all of the new releases, ways to tie the films into current events, and special offers.
The views and opinions expressed in the Organizational Spotlight blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of the Organizational Spotlight blog is to highlight our Organizational Partners and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.