UO student, recent grad win first Peabody Award for viral video

A University of Oregon student and a recent graduate have won the first ever Peabody Award given to a viral video for a piece they created last year that put a spotlight on rape culture.

The video, titled “A Needed Response,” was produced by Samantha Stendal, a junior studying cinema studies and multimedia, and Aaron Blanton, who graduated last summer with a degree in cinema studies and now works for a video production company in Seattle.

“It’s just incredible to me we received this honor because it’s a really big deal,” Stendal said. “It shows people really want to continue this discussion on rape culture and this message of respect.”

“It’s kind of weird to be honest with you,” Blanton said. “It’s an amazing and complete surprise.

“We submitted it without much expectation of hearing anything back and suddenly we’re cast up in company with ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘Breaking Bad.’ It’s beyond amazing that something we created that’s such a different animal can get attention based simply on what the message is.”

Blanton got the call Wednesday morning from the head of the Peabody Awards, who said he was impressed how the video used the power of social media to disseminate an important message.

“He said it was a damn fine piece,” Blanton said.

Samantha Stendal. The Peabody Awards, founded in 1943, celebrates the best of television, radio and web storytelling. In their comments about “A Needed Response,” the judges said: “Short, simple and spot-on in its critique of rape culture, the ingenious PSA by two University of Oregon students takes just 25 seconds to makes its point that real men treat women with respect.”

Peabody Awards Director Jeffrey Jones said judges liked the piece because it was peers Aaron Blanton.talking to peers, and because of its simplicity and directness and its message about rape culture.

"All those things together made it a powerful statement," he said.

The video was one of 46 recipients of this year's Peabody Awards out of more than 1,100 submissions. Sixteen board members deliberate on the finalists and all decisions must be unanimous.

Shot and edited in two days, “A Needed Response”  has been watched more than three million times since it was uploaded to YouTube in March 2013.

Stendal got the idea for the video in response to a notorious rape case involving high school football players and a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio. She was troubled and upset by coverage of the case, particularly commentators who expressed sympathy for the football players and who suggested the girl was to blame because she drank too much.

Stendal called Blanton to help her produce the video, and they recruited two friends, Justin Gotchall and Kelsey Jones, as actors.

In the video, Gotchall talks to the camera while Jones lies passed out on a couch behind him.

“Hey bros, check who passed out on the couch. Guess what I’m going to do to her,” he says.

He leaves the room and returns with a pillow, a blanket and a mug of water.

Looking back to the camera, the young man says, “Real men treat women with respect.”

The 25-second video quickly went viral, generating more than two million views in two weeks.

Stendal and Blanton said they are preparing travel plans, along with Gotchall and Jones and members of their families, for the 73rd Peabody Awards ceremony on May 19 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Ira Glass, creator of “This American Life,” is hosting the event.

Tim Christie