Faces of CNM: Brandale Mills

This new CNM instructor is taking a critical look at how movies, television, and the news represent women and communities of color.
October 11, 2018

Thanks to companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and HBO, there are more shows and movies than ever. In fact, Netflix is going to spend close to $13 billion on programming this year alone. Many of these new shows are smart, inventive, and totally addictive. But others fall into old traps by perpetuating racial and sexist stereotypes.

To make sure CNM students can watch all this programming with a critical eye, new instructor Brandale Mills is teaching an interpersonal communication class (COMM 2221) this term that will equip them to identify and critique these misrepresentations.

“The students here at CNM come from a diversity of backgrounds and as media consumers I want them to be able to say, ‘that representation does not align with my reality,’” Brandale says.

This term Brandale was also selected as just one of 25 faculty members nationwide to participate on the Television Academy Foundation’s 2018 Faculty Seminar Program in California next month.

During the seminar, Brandale will be able to meet cable network programming and content executives from Hollywood to learn more about how they plan to create content down the road. She’ll also be able to share strategies with other professors who are teaching similar classes where students take a critical eye to what they’re seeing.

“That’s really what I’m most excited about,” says Brandale, who’s own doctoral work looked at how African American women are represented in popular media. “I want to see how other teachers are empowering their students to be critical consumers and want to see if I can borrow some of those strategies.”

Brandale’s class here at CNM started with an exercise where students had to identify different kinds of stereotypes in various media and think about how and why those stereotypes persist. She says the exercise made some students uncomfortable, but it also helped them clearly identify these misrepresentations and empowered them to speak up in the future.

In addition to fictional content, Brandale and her class are also looking at the news and critiquing how stories are told by the mainstream media.

“I try to remind students that in this current climate of political rhetoric, so much of what we see on the news is also rhetoric, and not always fact based,” she says. “I also remind that many media organizations are run by people who are not as diverse as our classroom and therefore don’t understand where we come from.”

To help students create a counter-narrative, Brandale has been encouraging students to tell their own stories. With social media, YouTube, and the web at their disposal, she reminds students that they can quickly and easily produce and publish pieces that are more accurate and based in their own lived realities.

“I constantly remind them that they don’t have to rely on traditional media outlets,” she says.