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Constructivist Theory for Emily in Paris

Pardon my French; this movie was an effin' waste of my time! This was somehow the initial reaction of a few people I conversed with about Emily in Paris.


As for me, I reckon for the second season and spur on how each character would redeem themselves.


In fact, given such miniseries like this, the ball is in our court. We can kill two birds with one stone by watching (leisurely) and asking (cognitively).

It is about time to encourage people to be meticulous with what they watch. If there is a famous quote “you are what you eat”, it goes the same with “you are what you watch”. In Jonathan Rothwell's article in The New York Times, he presented several studies that proved the direct relation of watching television to the development of the person. This is one of the pressing reasons for the need to train our young ones to question what they watch and not just accept, chew, and swallow everything, especially that vlogs (video blogs) are mushrooming across social media mainstream.

Being critical doesn’t always mean negative. Similarly, the analysis doesn’t need to be always presenting the observation or evaluation of the movie critic, viewer, or enthusiast. With the proliferation of social media, everyone has the power to create myriad interpretations of the show presented to them or they watched. From the characters to cinematography, from novel to TV series, everyone has the license to critique from language to culture based on their schema and interests. One critique style that is always left out is the production of questions, also known as Constructivist theory. Therefore, this article would try to incorporate the art of questioning in its Constructivist Inquiry Model using Emily in Paris.


The Constructivist Inquiry Theory

Constructivist theory was popularized by Jean Piaget (cognitive), Lev Vgotsky (social), and Ernst von Glaserfeld (radical). But before them, Socrates (the Father of Western Philosophy) had already introduced this scientific philosophy.


This started during the ancient years when Socrates raised questions to people around him. As he was defying the status quo, his students were impressed and saw its fruitful result. From this, many people admired him and considered him the most intelligent person; however, he was not easily flattered by this and questioned the appraisal. This incident affirmed all the more his intelligence. While many followers honored him, some more powerful people persecuted him because they felt insulted being questioned.


This short narrative can best represent the nature of asking questions which until now is pervasive. In this modern time, many people are still not open to formulating and receiving questions – they’re uncomfortable asking questions and they get offended when asked. Ergo, many people preferred to be passive, stale, and barren. Some people are even comfortable for being so.


Although our society still has a love-hate relationship with the nature of asking questions, it’s about time that we use our modern approach and be more receptive. Asking questions can prove to be a fundamental cornerstone in building a just and humane society because it caters open communication.


Why?


Because Constructivist theory simply refers to every individual's liberty and ability to create knowledge from their experiences. This means all of us have the freedom to be more creative with the information that we receive; thereby, communication becomes meaningful when the communicators are actively involved in deciphering one idea's connections to another. In a nutshell, everyone owns knowledge.


Having said this, constructivists encourage the learners or recipients of information to question and make the information more significant for them and others.


Let me take my stand from here by saying that we have to start reforming our education system by teaching our students sustainable ideas - realistic and not theory bound alone. Let’s start by motivating them to be independent and confident yet conscientious thinkers. The first step is to invigorate them to ask effective questions, especially with the proliferation of YouTube videos and Netlfix shows.


Asking Emily in Paris

The latest Netflix miniseries that is creating noise and selling like hotcakes is Emily in Paris. Since this show interests a lot of Millennials and Gen Z, at the same time, recently fashioning mixed reviews, teachers can use this as a medium to encourage learners to question either to estimate its quality or to realize its purpose. Concurrently, teachers can inculcate appreciating arts values on a different level - generate quality questions about the show. This way we become an instrument of abolishing the stigma that "just because we ask, we don't appreciate".


We always critique a show by analyzing perspectives according to what we know or based on tradition. This kind of style, although indulging, can backfire and discourage both students and novice writers. Therefore, we have to educate them that we can also critique a show from the perspective of "not knowing and then asking" or "wanting to know more therefore ask". We have to start training them to be inquisitive and to go outside the box. "Emily in Paris" can be one of the best shows, especially for students or writers who haven’t been to Paris, who want to enrich their cultural knowledge, or who might want to study or work abroad.


Remember, not because one is asking questions, it makes one empty-headed or half-baked. In fact, it is harder to formulate questions than to simply state the obvious. Formulating questions can be cognitively demanding. This can be proven by Bloom's Taxonomy that was inspired by the Constructivist Inquiry Approach which supports higher order thinking skills. In line with this, we can pattern some meta-analysis approach of asking questions to the list summarized by Mary Ann Corley and Christine Rauscher. Their article enumerated causal, hypothetical, extensional, personal, evidential, and clarificatory types of question.


1. Cause and effect questions:

a. What important values can we get from the film that can make this world a better place?

b. If Emily were fluent in French, what could replace that twist on language barrier?


2. Hypothetical questions:

a. What might have happened if Emily is a professor of English language subject? Would her colleagues treat her the same?

b. What if it is the other way around (Emily is Parisian who has to work in America)? What are the possible cultural adjustments that Emily will undergo?

c. How likely is it in real life that Mindie (a senior) will be replaced by Emily (a young assistant) for a big project shown in the show?


3. Linking or extension questions:

a. During the taping of Emily in Paris, do they drink wine at work during lunch break as it is part of the Union Law?

b. If so, why did they not show that they were drinking wine in the office during lunchtime to show another distinct characteristic of French culture?


4. Questions that ask for more unique ideas:

a. What inspired Darren Star to create this TV series?

b. What made Lily Collins the perfect actress to play Emily?

c. Why did the airing of the second season take time?

d. Why did the characters don’t have kids despite the implicit sexual topic?


5. Questions that ask for more evidence:

a. What part in the series can be considered as shallow?

b. Which scene can be said as a trademark of French culture?

c. What is the best way to maximize time in France while working?

d. What must be added to make the miniseries more meaningful?

e. What could be on the mind of the writer when he was writing this?

f. Which scenes are considered clichés?

g. Which scenes are culturally bounded?

h. Aside from fashion, social media, and Paris, what else can Gen Z easily relate to the series?

i. Which scenes are culturally framed?


6. Questions that ask for clarification:

a. Is it true that Parisians are hostile, especially if you go to their country without learning their language?

b. Is it true that Parisians hate tourists who do not even bother knowing their historical spots?

c. Is it true that Parisians love flirting around?

d. Is it true that they love wasting their time?

e. Is it true that they work to live and not live to work?

f. Is it true that during company parties, they do not talk about work?

g. Is it true that some wives would even give other women the license to be their husband’s mistress?

h. Is it true that bureaucracy is dreadful in Paris?

i. Is this Netflix drama being sexy or sexist?

j. Is “Emily in Paris” shallow (that it only talks about fame, sex, fashion, and trends) or ontological (that ordinary viewers can’t easily fathom its deeper underlying structure of reality)?

k. Does this drama trying to tell the viewers that monogamous relationships rarely exist in France?

l. Does French culture revolve around gossip and sex?

m. Do we need to post everything on our social media?

n. Do we need to go with the flow and advertise our lives through social media?

o. Can we work productively and at the same time feed our social media followers or ego?

p. How can they have sex without getting pregnant?


The Accolades of Asking

In a country like the Philippines, asking a question is almost a taboo; if not, it could be a double-edged sword. In the traditional perspective, asking a question would be interpreted as being dumb or disrespectful. Therefore, many Filipinos would prefer to zip their mouth and accept the status quo. I think this is not only evident in the Philippines, but also in some Asian countries as well, like China. That’s why there is a famous Chinese proverb, "He who asks a question remains a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask remain a fool forever." because some wise men would like to encourage their people to ask and be involved.


Moreover, the latest and very zealous advocate of asking quality questions is Warren Berger. He said, “Knowing the answers will help you in school. Knowing how to question will help you in life.” Yeah! We can politely ask because we want to enrich our knowledge and our lives (and not necessarily to humiliate people). In fact, some advocates like Ellie Collier, Irena Nayfeld, Victor Uyanwanne, and Fred Halstead wrote very enriching and inspiring articles that talked about the benefits of asking questions. Their articles enumerated several advantages: building critical thinking, demonstrating interests, increasing engagement, and dealing with challenging situations. Indeed, asking quality questions will not only benefit one person but the entire nation.


In conclusion, we may not always agree with each other. However, it is essential to ask quality questions to enrich ourselves, the communication, and others.


Which Netflix show you enjoyed that you think can generate questions from the viewers?


Credit:

IMP Awards. Emily in Paris Poster (Poster Design by Art Machine).


Citations:

Bloom's Taxonomy and the Different Levels of Questions. (n.d.).


Berger, W. (2021). WHY QUESTIONING? “Unleashing the power of beautiful questions”. Warren Berger.


Collier, E. (2018, December 18). Which scenes are considered clichés? Which scenes are culturally bounded? Hub High Speed Training.


Corley, M.A. & Rauscher, W. C. (2013). TEAL Fact Sheet No. 12: Deeper Learning through Questioning.


Halstead, F. (2018, November 20). 7 benefits of asking powerful questions as a business leader. American Management Association.


Nayfeld, I. (n.d.). Always-On inquiry: Why you should be asking more questions in your classroom. Teach Thought We Grow Teachers.


Rothwell, J. (2019). You are what you watch? The social effects of TV. The Upshot.


Uyanwanne, V. (2016, April 14). 16 powerful benefits of asking questions you should know. Victors Corner.

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