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Themester 2022: Find Yourself In Film

The IU Themester for 2022 is “Identity and Identification”

“Identity is sometimes imagined to be a fundamental aspect of the self—an accounting of who or what one truly is. Anyone who claims an identity, however, knows identity is much more complicated than that. Race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, native language, socio-economic status, and myriad other identities shape our worldview: how we see, how we portray ourselves, and how we are perceived (and received). Identity can and does unite people under the banner of sameness, but it can also divide us from one another, and even from ourselves.”
-College of Arts and Sciences

Most of the time we watch movies to get lost in a different world or to be captivated by a story. What makes this experience even more exciting is when we find ourselves in characters and relate to their stories. Whether it is race, gender, sexuality, nationality, lifestyle, or even personal experiences, it is powerful to see different aspects of our identities on the big screen. Seeing characters that may reflect you and your experiences gives you a deeper level of appreciation that is unique to you. Because of this, our film watching experiences are distinctive to us and the groups with which we identify.

Luckily in the past fifteen years or so, more film studios have expanded the types of stories they tell and the characters they create. Kids of all backgrounds now have role models in film (ranging from superheroes to cartoon characters) that look like them, sound like them, and reflect aspects of their experience. This is not exclusive to racial and ethnic diversity in film but also cultures, behaviors, belief systems, language, and more. It helps viewers feel seen and get more out of the movie-watching experience.

Even when we watch movies with characters and stories that we don’t identify with on the surface, we are given the opportunity to learn and possibly find common ground. While we may not be exposed to every type of personal identity in our everyday life, movies give us the opportunity to break down our assumptions and shine a light on our blind spots.

Here are some films in our collection that center identity and identification:

Paris Is Burning (1990): This documentary explores the New York drag community and ball culture in the 1980s. It also highlights the intersection of discrimination based on race, gender, sexual identity, age, class, disability status, and weight that the LGBTQ+ community faced during this era.

Available both on streaming and DVD.

Poster for the movie Paris is Burning.
Paris is Burning (no date) IMDb. Available at: (Accessed: October 14, 2022).

But I’m a Cheerleader (1999): This satirical romantic comedy revolves around a lesbian high school cheerleader who is sent to gay conversion camp by her conservative parents. While there, she learns about her sexuality and the hypocrisy of those who judge her.

Available on DVD.

Poster for the movie But I'm a Cheerleader.
But I’m a Cheerleader (2000) IMDb. Available at: (Accessed: October 14, 2022).

Coco (2017): Coco is an animated Pixar film about a boy who finds himself in the Land of the Dead in order to find his musical idol and reconnect his family with music.

Available on DVD.

Cover for the movie Coco.

(2017) IMDb. Available at: (Accessed: October 14, 2022).

Crooklyn (1994): Crooklyn is a comedy/drama directed by Spike Lee about the the good and bad times for a Brooklyn family in the ’70s. It contrasts what it was like for an African-American families living in Brooklyn against wealthier suburbia.

It is available on DVD.

Poster for the movie Crooklyn.
Crooklyn (1994). Rotten Tomatoes. Available at (Accessed: October 14, 2022).

Lady Bird (2017): This coming-of-age movie centers around the turbulent bond between a hard-working mother and her teenage daughter who is desperate to start a new life. The central message of this film is to appreciate where you are from and your experiences.

It is available on DVD.

Poster for the movie Lady Bird.
Lady Bird (2017). Wikipedia. Available at (Accessed: October 14, 2022).

Liz Sheldon is a senior studying public affairs. This is her third semester working at Media Services.

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