2012-13 Catalog

Decorative graphic

Offering Description

Afraid to Laugh: The Psychology and Media of Fear and Humor

Fall 2012 and Winter 2013 quarters

Carrie Margolin cognitive psychology , Michael Buse film studies, film production, history
Fields of Study
American studies, media studies and psychology
Preparatory for studies or careers in
psychology, education and media studies.

From Frankenstein to Freddy. From Groucho to Leno. For over 100 years, audiences have screamed in terror or roared with laughter at what Hollywood has presented.

This program will look at the changes in what scares us, and what makes us laugh, over the course of American cultural history from the inception of filmmaking to present day. We will examine the psychology of fear, the psychology of humor, and the language and craft of filmmaking and other media used to convey these human emotions.

We will focus on fear during fall quarter. Audiences in 1910 were terrified by Frankenstein . Phantom of the Opera was a heart-pounder in 1925. Mass panic ensued in 1938 from the radio production of War of the Worlds . What were the cultural and historical factors that made these so fear-inducing? Today, we need much more than monsters or aliens to give us goosebumps. It takes twisted psychological demons and graphic violence to startle and thrill. How has society changed in its response to what is considered scary?

In winter quarter, we will switch to humor studies. As early as 1914, comedians such as Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Kops provided merriment. Slapstick reigned supreme from the 1920s through the 1960s with the antics of The Three Stooges. Comedy branched out with the "Borscht Belt" stand-up comedians during that same era. Comedy continues into present day, from sit-coms to Saturday Night Live , with the acceptance of increasingly "off-color" and "dark" humor.

The program format may include lectures, workshops, films, seminars, guest presentations and group and individual projects. We will focus on clarity in oral and written communication, critical thinking skills, and the ability to work across significant differences.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During