- Written by Mike Martin
Jumping the shark
COLUMBIA, Mo 12/1/15 (Feature) -- "The BEST class you will ever take at Mizzou!"
"Her classes will make you a better person."
No. Can't be. Not from all the stuff I've been reading.
"Very helpful....fun, thought provoking and educational."
"One of the finest instructors out there."
"She is not only a great teacher, but a great friend."
"Melissa: If you're reading this, know there are those of us you've affected to our core. Thank you!"
Now hold on!
Mizzou communications professor Melissa Click is anti-American. Why, she tried to shut down the US Constitution during a student demonstration at Mizzou.
She teaches classes on lightweight stuff like Fifty Shades of Grey and Lady Gaga.
And she's facing an assault charge for putting her petite frame in front of a photojournalist and a videographer -- pretty big dudes, from what I could tell -- to hamper their access to a tent city during the CS1950 student protests.
(An assault charge? Really?)
So why all the praise -- over a decade's worth -- for this anti-education, anti-Constitution, lefty Communist pinko?
Maybe Click is getting a bum rap. Maybe the heat of the moment should have cooled after the moment passed.
Tim Tai, the photojournalist, and Mark Schierbecker, the videographer, did good work that day, capturing Click, Mizzou Greek Life director Janna Basler, and overheated student protestors in a slip-up that damaged their credibility.
Click's fiery rhetoric -- "I need some muscle over here!" -- prompted a national conversation about Freedom of Speech and Press.
But the assault charge goes beyond that debate, reminding me of those social media arguments when I have everyone agreeing with me, only to jump the shark with more snark.
Since the Tai/Schierbecker video broke, armchair critics have savaged Click for her "dumbed-down" academic work. But to the people that count -- her students and fellow academics -- Click's research and teaching is rigorous and eye-opening.
"Challenging grading." "Be prepared to work." "Really makes you think," are among comments left on her Rate My Professors page, where she is rates a 4.9 out of 5.
Click is "preeminent," a "leading light," Jonathan Gray, professor of media and cultural studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Guimel Sibingo, in a May story about Click's career. "Her work is politically alive and important."
Like all innovators, Click has found a niche: cultural icons mainstream tastemakers ignore. She publishes research about "those books, movies and artists that people both love -- and love to hate," writes Sibingo.
No gem among critics, Fifty Shades of Grey nevertheless sold more than 100 million copies and made $167 million at the box office. It's a phenom, particularly among women. Scientists study phenoms, so Click has studied Fifty Shades.
For the trolls who think her work trivial, consider the global media industry is poised to rake in $2 trillion next year -- that's Trillion, with a "T". Click wants to know why audiences -- especially women -- are drawn to the industry's biggest money makers, despite the critical diss.
Why, she wonders, are “Fifty Shades or Twilight considered stupid, mindless, dangerous messages for women, but nobody questions what messages Batman or Iron Man send to young boys and men?”
She's discovered social biases "against the things women like," a finding that could influence sales and marketing strategies in that $2 trillion global media universe.
Elected chair of the International Communication Association popular communication division, Click won University of Missouri Graduate Advisor of the Year in 2013. Students and former students sang her praises to Sibingo.
"She’s made my experience at Mizzou so much better than it could have been," said Cristin Compton, who added Click's door is always open.
The professor is also known for opening career doors, a big plus in today's high-debt, low-job post-college employment environment. "Some of the coolest things have been times when she’s been able to introduce me and other advisees to kind of famous people in the discipline,” said Amanda Edgar, a graduate teaching assistant.
Similar comments appear on RateMyProfessors.
"Following my courses, Melissa remained in touch and helped me get into graduate school. I wouldn't be where I am now if it were not for her interest in the students. I will never have a teacher like her again.
"Yep -- she is that good."
-- Mike Martin