JMoreno | PMA Proposal #1: “The Circle”

For my first Persuasive Media Analysis I am choosing to analyze the show ‘The Circle’, which is a television series based on becoming social media famous. Throughout the series, contestants live in the same building but are not allowed to see each other because of the main concept & idea that “anyone can be anyone in The Circle”. Some other shows that relate or are analogous to The Circle are Big Brother, Catfish, or even the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” with the concept of ratings. In addition, it stereotypically represents the minorities as well as LGBTQ+ groups (visually) represented within the show. All-in-all The Circle also hegemonically supports the American ideology of becoming social media famous, because after all, that’s the goal of the contestants in the show. I believe that this show is implicitly supporting the items stated above through their contestant choices & curation. The intro is what inspired me to want to dig into the show because it is where a lot of the ideologies and stereotypes really stick out and are obviously placed. I hope to further my research in this show to see if these issues get fixed or if these ideologies continue to show throughout.

*while watching the intro, think about the typical stereotypes placed onto the races & groups represented as well as how the ideology of becoming social media famous is supported*

Proposal 1: How poor people survive in the USA

For my analysis, I would like to talk about the documentary How poor people survive in the USA, made by DW Documentaries. Many things stand out to me about this documentary. First off, it was made by German broadcasters and other international production companies, so it provides a relatively unique viewpoint for an American viewer. It also does something that many other documentaries do, which is picking and choosing angles and clips to show to persuade the viewer. I want to study in greater detail how the information that they gathered comes together to create an argument and a storyline. I’ll be able to use many things we’ve discussed in class, such as cinematography analysis, editing style, as well as rhetorical elements such as looking into what the documentary may exaggerate. I’m drawn to this film in particular because as an American, it is something that I have an opinion on, although as someone who is not in the situation, I still feel that I am open to influence and persuasion that the film may attempt.

PMA Proposal #1: Cheer (A Netflix Series)

For my first Persuasive Media Analysis, I would like to talk about Netflix’s documentary series, Cheer. It reveals the perspective of each member of the Navarro College cheerleading team. For my explicit argument, there are different types of people placed on the same team, whether they came from a troubled home or they wanted to escape from dark pasts. My implicit formation implied that they are all on the same team because of their matching practice attire and uniforms. I want to learn more about the atmosphere of the competitive college cheer squad, while each cheerleader is being interviewed about their personal lives and the team’s progression. This Netflix series is similar to Errol Morris’ documentary film, Thin Blue Line, due its gritty appearance, but with the actual footage of the Navarro College cheerleaders practicing and performing. I also want the audience, including myself, to learn more about the backstories because I had the experience of being a cheerleader back in high school and here at Austin College. This relates to our class discussion on realism and documentary series. The Navarro College documentary series gives a lot of details about how the school’s competitive cheerleading team prepare for games and competitive cheerleading events.

Here is the trailer of this original documentary series, Cheer.

Proposal : Food Inc.

This documentary uses a myriad film techniques and tools to convince us that the food we’re eating is not only artificially created and processed addictive poison, but also that the enormous organizations that produce these foods commit acts that seem inherently evil. Through various film techniques, personal interviews, and the intense imagery of animal cruelty, the argument is presented to us that the food we eat is horrible for us, and everyone involved in the process. It will be hard to stay unbiased as I watch this film, but I hope my biases will help shine a light on theirs.

Proposal 1: Youtubers and their politics on Disney

The artifact that I wish to discuss is a series of YouTube videos that are made by a set of YouTubers that attempt to push political views on those who follow Disney. Most of these videos attempt to persuade you against current media such as movies or comics that practically revolve around Disney properties like Star Wars and Marvel, using terms such as SJW or snowflake in order to discredit styles of writing or representation in these works. This is meant to slander these forms of media in order to claim these creators are overly sensitive, overly political or possibly racist toward white men. There exist other platforms and social media presences that discourage following this viewpoint as itself being racist. I want to study this due to the spread of negativity and gatekeeping that many of these videos show; these videos also use click baiting to gain views and also twist a narrative that further divides fans into realms of politics, rather than critical reviews. These videos fall in line with the persuasion and identification section of class, as the YouTubers attempt to persuade the viewer into agreeing with their negative views about the writers of Disney while identifying themselves as the voices of reason and logic.

Topic Proposal: Blair witch project

For this Persuasive Media Analysis assignment, I would like to take a shot at the Blair witch project. The overall goal of the film, other than the ultimate death of all those filming it, is to make the audience think that the Blair Witch is an actual thing. This Movie tries to blend fiction in with reality, making the movie into more of a documentary gone wrong rather than what is it, an act of fiction. Most shots are framed in the first person and have a shaky feel to the camera to support this.

I would like to study this film in more depth to better understand the sensation around it when it came out, as it did trick a large amount of its viewers into thinking that the cast died and that the Witch is real. Hence why there are several websites explaining now that the characters are in fact, alive and were not killed by the witch

I think this film will be a perfect way of blending in what we have learned in class with a media, as it uses tools such as sound design and ‘Mise en Scene’ that we have been learning about to create a persuasive and true feeling horror.

2/25: Morris Facilitation

Morris’ article, The Anti-Post-Modern Post-Modernist, is set to be an interview between Errol Morris and Homi Bhabha. Errol Morris, a film director, is a producer of numerous documentary films that are based on non-fictional stories, such as In Cold Blood, Dr. Death, and Thin Blue Line.

One of Morris’ most notable documentary films was Dr. Death. This film talks about a physician who was sentenced to death by electric chair after being suspected for the murder of his private patients. The most interesting part of this article was that Morris interviewed the titular “Dr. Death” and was intrigued with the fact that this physician was claiming innocence, even though there were five witnesses who testified against him. Unsurprisingly, “Dr. Death” was convicted of capital murder, which further intrigued Morris to create a documentary about such a scandal.

The next documentary produced by Errol Morris was Thin Blue Line, but it was criticized by numerous film reviewers because they thought that film was more of a re-enactment of Randall Adams’ conviction rather than an actual documentary. According to Homi Bhabha, an interviewer who grew up in Bombay (home of traditional pioneering documentaries and Bollywood), Morris’ films were described to be non-fiction feature films instead of a documentary, which explained the reviewers’ criticism.

The trailer for Thin Blue Line tells the story of a man by the name of Randall Adams who shot and killed a DFW police officer, Robert Wood, and was convicted of that horrific crime. The true motive for the murder was when Adams got pulled over by Wood, he shot the officer out of fear of being confronted by the officer. So, Randall pulled out his gun and shot Officer Wood multiple times and drove away from the scene of the crime. During the introduction of the interview, Bhabha mentioned that Adams was released from prison after serving more than 12 years on death row. It was very surprising to the Dallas community, including the assistant district attorney, that Randall would be the first on death row to be released from prison because of the film’s release.

In The New York Times, Morris quoted that “if you want to believe some things, then we often find a way to do so, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Believing is seeing and not the other way around.” The film director wanted the audience to believe what they see onscreen, while watching the film. Bhabha described the director’s films to be his “disturbing works of truth, history, and art” because of Morris’ habits of wanting to produce non-fictional features onto the big screen and his idea of using cinema verite (truth cinema). For example, there are actually some people who gave up their limbs in order to collect their insurance policies, while filming Vernon, Florida. Mutilating people to look the part as a person without a limb is one step too far for a film director, which was a long time before many film producers began using green screen and CG effects. As punishment, Morris got beaten by the son of a mutilated person, thus teaching him a lesson.

Facilitation on Nicholas

by Cody Goggins

In the “Domain of Documentary” written by Nicholas, he brings forth Documentaries in order to examine them. To see what they are made of and how they are driven, viewed and used in our society. With Documentaries, they are given three formal definitions to be used and interpreted.

The first being Documentaries as an institutional practice. Essentially stating that in order for a filmmaker to get their point across by any means necessary. Even if that means manipulating the evidence in order for them to create the best possible argument. This can be seen in Katie Couric’s gun control documentary where she posses a question during an interview with several pro-gun people and there is a palpable silence in the room before the scene cuts and a revolver is being loaded. This was an example of recontextualization as in the original before editing one of the interviewees responds almost immediately. Now, it’s a recontextualization as if she allowed the interviewee to answer in her documentary it would’ve opened the door for a discussion or argument in this case but since she didn’t it was never allowed. Which in turn got her point across which is the whole point of documentaries as an institutional practice.

The second definition is through text; Corpus of Texts (as the text calls it). It revolves around informational Logic. Thus requiring a representation, argument and/or case about the purpose of the film whether it be about gun control, food shortages in 3rd world countries or teenage pregnancy and its consequences. With that being stated on how documentaries are structured in that sense it would lead to the actual documentary in 4 steps for the whole thing. 1st being the establishment of the documentary (what it’s about), discussing what it’s about in its current context in the world, the background of it, and then the conclusion where a solution is offered towards fixing the problem the documentary is about if there is one to fix at all. A great example of this being the Super Size Me documentary that we watched parts of as a class and the entirety of in our own time.

Then, of course, there are different types of Documentaries. Examples being Band of Brothers could be considered a historical documentary, while a documentary about how Trump won the 2016 election could be an informational documentary. There are many different types or “modes” as the text calls them for documentaries but they can still overlap each other and be compatible with one another. The two examples just used are an example of that. Both historical (although recent history, it is still history for one of them) and both informational. Link below for the Trump doc.

The final definition is through the viewers. How our psychology when watching a documentary and how that is exploited by a filmmaker make a documentary so much more powerful/influential. One such way is to give motivation. Mostly through realism, an example of this being the Beaches during D-day; specifically Omaha Beach. Link below if you haven’t seen the scene.

Moving on another way they do this is through “teach a lesson” within the documentary whether it involves history or anything else. A good example of this being in The Big Short

In short, the final definition for Documentaries is how exactly to affect the audience and influence them in order for them to learn from the documentary. In whatever manner that may be.

As for the core of what Nicholas was getting at; it is all about knowledge. The knowledge that comes from the documentaries we see, no matter where or what format they’re in. What we learn and subsequently “know” and how we use that “knowledge” we have. Where is our “knowledge” from and can we trust it? Knowledge then becomes a source of a guilty pleasure and can be manipulated.

More Thoughts on Bordwell’s Levels of Meaning

To follow up on today’s discussion of meaning, here are some additional thoughts by another blogger on Bordwell’s levels:

1) ‘Referential’ meaning. In order to make any sense of the narrative of a film the spectator constructs a concrete world out of the ‘diegesis‘ – the world presented in the film – and the ‘fabula‘ – or ongoing story – which takes place within it. The diegesis can be either ‘extratextual’ – that is, it refers to a real world existing, or which has existed, outside of the film (for example present day Los Angeles, or the 18th Century Paris) or ‘intratextual’ (a world which exists only within the film, such as  the future world of a science fiction film or the fantasy world of a mythic past). At this level, the audience draws upon their knowledge of film conventions, their fundamental conceptions of causality, space and time, and their knowledge of the real world (recognising, for instance, The Statue of Liberty and why it would be out of place rising up out of the sand of a beach). Understanding at this level is the minimum requirement for comprehension.

2) ‘Explicit’ meaning. The spectator assigns an abstract conceptual meaning, or ‘point’, to the diegesis and fabula they have constructed, and this point may be validated by specific textual cues.  A film might have a particular ‘moral’, for instance, which the protagonist learns as the fabula unfolds. The film could have an overt political message, for instance in the films of Oliver Stone or Michael Moore. At this level the film is deemed to have something to say. Again, this level would fall under the general category of comprehension.

3) ‘Implicit’ meaning. Further ‘up’ the levels of abstraction brings us to the construction of covert or symbolic meanings or ‘themes’. Meaning at this level is taken to be implied or ‘spoken’ indirectly. Implicit meaning is  more likely to be a subject of dispute between critics and spectators, and spectators may draw upon extra-textual evidence – such as interviews or references to previous films by the same writer or director – to support their claims. Generally this level of meaning is consistent with referential and explicit meaning though it could contradict those if the referential and explicit meanings are taken to be ironic (as in Paul Verhoeven‘s Starship Troopers, 1997). Where the former two levels of meaning are constitutive of comprehension, implicit meanings are the beginning of ‘interpretation’ proper.

4) ‘Symptomatic’ or ‘repressed’ meaning. Referential, explicit and implicit criticism assumes the film ‘knows’ what it is doing and the spectator is uncovering intentional meanings. Symptomatic or ‘repressed’ meanings are those the writer or director might not be consciously aware of and may be the result of the psychological (often taken to be psychoanalytical) obsessions on behalf of the creator, or the result of economic, political or ideological conditions in the wider social world. Symptomatic or repressed meaning may run counter to referential, explicit or implicit meaning but this time without irony: as such they are a site of even greater discursive dispute than the previous forms of interpretation. Symptomatic reading is the ‘highest’ form of interpretation – at least as far as critics and academia are concerned. It’s also the most open to conscious or unconscious abuse.

Again, these move from more to less concrete, and the level of the media critic really begins at “implicit” and moves outward. At that level of abstraction, the critic must make an actual argument supported by evidence, as opposed to simply describing what we see in front of our eyes. It also will likely require reference to and incorporation of materials beyond the text: other articles, readings, sources, and sites that help support the argument the critic is making and clarify it.

Keep this in mind as you begin to think about your Rhetorical Media Analysis proposals for next week.

Kracauer Feb.18

Less than two hundred years ago people could only dream of the moving pictures we’ve taken for granted. I found it funny that people expected film to fit the role of a better camera, such as taking still time lapse videos of a flower blooming, focusing mainly on the natural capturing of an event on physical media or the content instead of what form the film presents the content in. They could have never expected the amount of control we express through the properties of film. Kracauer presents two groups of properties pertaining to film; there are basic components that cover film’s role as a means to capture the surrounding world, and there are technical properties to film that concern themselves with our manipulation of the images captured to present another world to audinces that differs from what’s filtered through the lens(Kracauer, pp.144-145). Kracauer believes editing to be an important and distinct technical property of film and I agree, namely because it grants filmmakers the ability to play with the meaning carried behind it. This reminded me of the example discussed in class where the scene of rich, well-dressed oligarchs eating a meal could go from hungry fine dining to voracious and pig-like by cutting to a scene of pigs eating slop from a trough and back to the people gorging on wine and steaks. The properties of film yield two tendencies of the medium, realistic and formative. Early film mainly capitalized on the realistic tendency and focused on the capture of natural movement (Kracauer, pp.145-148). Kracauer gives us the Lumière brothers as an example of this. Their works mainly focused on the capture of movement other than the camera’s, which Kracauer calls “external or ‘objective’, motion” (Kracauer, p.149). Lumière focused little to no effort in telling a story and tunneled into the capture of natural scenes’ movement as his contribution to film (Kracauer, p.146).  Lumière’s popularity soon declined, and Méliès brought something quite different to the scene (Kracauer, pp.145-146). Méliès brought the realm of fantasy to film, with various works featuring landscapes that could never occur or an artistic perspective of something similar to reality (Kracauer, pp.146-148). This is where the two tendencies split. The realistic tendency convinces audiences that the scenes they’re seeing come from the natural world, and scenes are staged in such a way that not only conveys an appropriate meaning as intended by the film maker but captures the essence of being real. Opposed to this is the formative tendency, which reaches into dimensions unique to film and the way film makers can bend away from the realistic tendency and present something distinct from what’s possible to see with the naked eye (Kracauer, pp.148,150). I gathered that the realism tendency does not refer only to the capture of real-world elements, and the formative tendency is not only concerned in fantasy and Kracauer supports this as both are often interrelated and cross over each other in various films (p. 151). A shining example of this is James Cameron’s Avatar. Although it presents us an imaginary future where we encroach on the natural resources of blue humanoid aliens who live on a planet home to bizarre creatures, the world is presented in a way that would mimic a camera capturing it if it really existed. In the video down below, we’re presented by these floating rock structures that breathe life through them. Of course, these rocky tendrils are unnatural, but the rocks themselves are jagged and cracked, and the vines clinging all around them look like they took centuries to grow. Through the use of CGI, this imaginary world was made a reality, and no detail was spared in order to create a sense of ‘realism’.

It looks almost plausible!

This distinction between content and the form it’s presented in is made apparent also in art. I’ve included two trees down below, one tree lives in the realm of realism, and the other comes from the impressionist style. Notice how the realistic tree focuses detail more on the actual content, such as the light bouncing off the water or the individual blades of grass. The impressionist painting contrasts this, by focusing more on detail such as the density of paint and the type of brushstroke used for different elements of the scene. Although these two images present to us the same basic content, a tree in mid fall overlooking a body of water, how we experience them are entirely different. It’s through form developed from countless years of experimentation that artists and filmmakers alike can make an audience feel their intent.