By Rosemarie Salvatore
In the fall of 2014, I was offered a job as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Communication department of my college, where I am a graduate student. Although I’ve never been sure if I’d make a good teacher, I knew that I would like working in a school setting. Also, my school does not allow graduate students to teach the course like some bigger schools might. I would just be aiding the professor, which meant if he was sick, or needed me to step in for any reason, he might ask me to teach, but they assured me it didn’t happen often.
When I interviewed for the position, I met one of the two possible professors I could get placed with. The other one was not able to be there. The professor that I met was nice and when he told me about his class, a freshman Mass Communication class, it sounded similar to something I had once taken as an undergraduate. So, I left hoping I would get that class.
But, as luck would have it, I did not get that class. The class I was assigned to was a sophomore level Critical Media Studies class. I really didn’t know what that meant – I had never had a class like that before. But I soon found out that it involved screening various TV programs and discussing them afterward in light of various critical theories that we learned about. It seemed too good to be true – a class that was right up my alley!
The professor began by talking about how most people watch TV in a very mindless state – but we, as Communication students need to have a more critical eye. We need to go deeper. He said not to let people make fun of you for your love of TV – it is after all - society having a conversation with itself. It is popular culture. I was stunned! Beauty & the Beast woke me up to all these things – but I never heard anyone say them out loud before!
Shortly after the start of the semester, I met with the professor to discuss exactly what my duties would be. I couldn’t help but take that opportunity to tell him about my love for Beauty & the Beast because it seemed he would understand. I told him that I was one of those “mindless people” that he mentioned – but 1987 was the year that changed everything for me. Two shows that I love premiered that year: Beauty & the Beast and Star Trek: The Next Generation. After that, I never looked at TV the same again – I became a much more critical viewer – a participant in society’s on-going conversation, as it were.
(I didn’t tell him that I, personally, didn’t start watching Star Trek until later, after Beauty & the Beast was cancelled. Star Trek definitely carried the torch of quality TV- but for me - it was Beauty & the Beast that lit the fire.)
After listening to me, he asked if I might want to do a presentation in class on Beauty & the Beast! He thought it would fit perfectly into our class that dealt with the topic of Audience Response. I wasn’t expecting an opportunity to teach to come along so soon! But I knew I had to take it – it was an opportunity to talk about my favorite topic in the whole world – and as he pointed out – to get paid to do it! Luckily, the class in question was not until later in the semester – right after Thanksgiving. So, I felt like I had plenty of time to prepare. I really wanted to do Vincent & Catherine justice. I knew that for many of the twenty-somethings in this class it would be their first time hearing about our show.
I had some help from the BBTV list and I found that it was easier to put a presentation together than I had originally thought. In fact, I had way too much information for a 40 minute Power Point slide show. The professor suggested that I do a handout to go along with the presentation. For each screening that we had in class, he would always have a handout to go along with it. He felt that this was better than asking students to try and take notes during an episode.
The following is the handout that I made. It was an interesting exercise in trying to summarize my whole 27 year experience with Beauty & the Beast. I wanted to emphasize the Audience’s Response, which is probably one of the most unusual in TV history, but I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t sound corny to young people. It’s a bit longer than the other handouts we had – but considering the long and complex history our show has - I’m a bit amazed that I was able to do it in fewer than two pages!
I’d love to hear any thoughts or comments you might have on this.
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