Resources to Explore the Political and Cultural Trends of These Times

The recent presidential election forced a number of ugly and troubling political and cultural trends to the surface — including the sexist backlash against feminism, the consequences of unchecked white privilege, and the political uses of fear-mongering, race-baiting, and toxic tough-guy masculinity. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We’ve gone through the entire MEF collection and handpicked some clips that, taken together, provide crucial insights into our national zeitgeist and how we might think our way forward.

Please share these free clips with your students, colleagues, and friends. And please consider using the full films they’re drawn from in your classes. If there’s a title you’re interested in that’s not yet in your library’s collection, follow the links below for ordering information.

In times like these, we at MEF hold firmly to our mission of creating documentary films that inspire critical thinking about the social, political, and cultural impact of American mass media. We hope that our films continue to be springboards for thoughtful discussion in your classrooms, on your campus, and in your community.

Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture

Tough Guise 2, based on the work of cultural critic Jackson Katz, examines how progressive social movements have threatened traditional white male authority and unleashed a political backlash against feminism, multiculturalism, and so-called “political correctness.” The film provides crucial background for understanding the allure of Donald Trump’s tough-guy persona and the massive gender gap that’s opened up between white male and female voters.

The Purity Myth: The Virginity Movement’s War Against Women

The Purity Myth, based on the bestselling book by Jessica Valenti, looks at recent attempts by conservative political leaders to roll back women’s reproductive rights. In a wide-ranging analysis that moves from the abstinence movement to right-wing attacks on Planned Parenthood and Roe v. Wade, Valenti locates the resurgent movement to control women’s sexuality within the larger political backlash against feminism and women’s equality.

Mean World Syndrome: Media Violence & the Cultivation of Fear

The Mean World Syndrome, based on the work of the late media scholar George Gerbner, offers fascinating insights into the politics of fear. The film surveys years of audience research showing that the more media people consume — including news media — the more likely they are to harbor irrational fears of violent crime, terrorism, and racial and ethnic minorities. It also shows how political leaders have exploited these fears, tapping into anxieties about immigration, urban crime, and Islam for electoral gain.

White Like Me: Race, Racism & White Privilege

White Like Me, based on the work of bestselling author Tim Wise, explores white attitudes and voting patterns since the Civil Rights movement. Digging deep into polling data, Wise argues that the political attitudes of large numbers of white voters have been shaped by a combination of unchecked privilege and deep-seated racial resentments. Along the way, the film sheds crucial light on the widening gap between the voting preferences of white people and people of color.

The Empathy Gap: Masculinity & the Courage to Change

In The Empathy Gap, filmmaker Thomas Keith examines the personal and political fallout of toxic masculinity, arguing that regressive ideas about manhood short-circuit men’s ability to empathize with women. In one especially timely section of the film, Keith takes dead aim at the amped-up, hypermasculine image President-elect Donald Trump has cultivated over the years, and explores how the sexist attitudes he’s tapped into have made American politics hostile territory for women.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 4, 2016. It has been updated for accuracy and clarity.