English 102 Summer 2020
Research Essay Assignment: Cinema, Self, and Society
When we began this section of the class I asked you to pick a favorite movie, say why you like it so much, and then ask what your choice might say about you and about our society. That is, I wanted you to reflect on yourself as a self that exists in a social context or nexus. So, I am asking you to write a six (or more) page essay on the movie you have chosen. I am absolutely not asking you to simply write a movie review. I am asking you to make a deeper reflection, using the readings and also doing some research and using sources you find in your research in your essay. Reference Librarian Teresa Maceira has set up our Research Guide page, which will be of great use to you. You must find and quote at least two peer reviewed (or a close equivalent) sources in your essay, in addition to the readings I have provided (should you wish to use them). You must quote from a minimum of three sources in your essay.
The readings make a number of important observations about cinema and ways of interpreting the “meaning” or “social significance” of a film, and I expect that you will want to identify, explain, and use some of the points raised in the readings as guides to understanding you film choice. The section on Batman discusses movies as signs (plus archetypes, repetitions with a difference, and metaphors) that reflect a wider social context. Ray speaks of the thematic paradigm of Classic Hollywood (and American Cinema) that was “particularly designed to appeal to a collective American imagination steeped in myths of inclusiveness,” relates that to a much wider and deeper understanding of American culture (“mythology”), and uses the outlaw/official hero dichotomy to draw some fascinating claims about “the general pattern of American mythology: the denial of the necessity for choice. . . . By discouraging commitment to any single set of values, this mythology fostered an ideology of improvisation, individualism, and ad hoc solutions for problems depicted as crises.” Ray establishes the importance of the formal paradigm: the ability to disguise the fact that film is an “’intensely decision-based’ medium as an apparently natural one, concealing the pattern of choices that constitute style in any art form,” and the ideological implications of that disguising, especially concealing “the necessity for choice.” He emphasizes that one mechanism for this concealment is “the conversion of all political, sociological, and economic dilemmas into personal melodrama.”
So, using the readings and your research, write a 6 (or more) page analytical essay about your chosen film. Obviously part of that essay will be a description of the movie (Cinema), of its impact on you and why you chose it (Self), and then your understanding of the wider social implications/context/reflections/meaning of the movie (Society). Please type the essay double spaced and use the MLA format. The Works Cited page does not count as one of your 6 pages. The essay is due July 16, earlier if you can. If you need my advice or assistance, want to send me a draft, you know what to do.
Some words of advice.