Is #notcool cool?

The other day a friend tweeted me with a link to a new blog, with a hash-tagged title of #notcool. What’s the deal? This is description provided:

SEE IT, SNAP IT, SHARE IT!
See something #notcool? 
Snap a photo, and post it here!
It’s easy: take a picture of the ad or poster and show us that it’s #notcool (hold up a sheet of paper with Not Cool written on it or use your favorite photo editor). Then post your pictures here. 
Fight discriminatory, sexist, racist, misogynistic, overtly-sexualized and offensive images in the media by showing them for what they are: not cool.
Speak out and spread the word.

When I first read the “mission” of this blog, I was amped. Finding advertisements that perpetuate stereotypes through hypersexualized and hyperracialized images of (mostly) women and people of color is one of the most fascinating and “fun” activities (I say fun because there are so many and some of them are so incredibly ridiculous that it really does start to feel like you’re playing a game of “I Spy”). 

So the premise of the site is for people to find digital copies of magazine advertisements, presumably open Microsoft Paint (or a comparable basic art/editing program) and spray paint “NOT COOL” across the image. At first I thought, HELL YEA! People are doing media literacy and they don’t even know it! I was pumped that people were seeing these images, and not just flipping through the pages of a magazine.

 

But as I started scrolling through readers’ posts, I recognized many of the advertisements (I used a number of them for my thesis), I realized that there is something MAJOR missing here. Besides the graffitied photo, the only other text was who had submitted the image. Where is the analysis?? Readers are not critically engaging with these media texts, and explaining why the images and messages are noteworthy (and in the case problematic).

I would really like to see the 5 Critical Questions being asked:

1. Who is the author and what is the purpose of the message?

2. What techniques are used to attract your attention?

3. What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented?

4. How might different people interpret the message differently? 

5. What is omitted from the message?

Accompanying the images with answers to these questions has two benefits:

1. Participants are engaging in critical thinking and analysis with the type of media texts that they are bombarded with on a daily basis. My hope is that they start to ask these questions of all kinds of media texts (newspaper articles, songs and music videos, tv shows, blogs) more often. 

2. Although these analyses and critiques may be happening on a small scale, participants are taking a stand against these kinds of images and messages by being active participants, not passive recipients, in the media saturated world they live in. 

So what would #becool is if we push back a little and use our voices to start a new kind of conversation.