Analysis of a Film’s Social Critique|My homework helper

Posted: February 26th, 2023

For your first essay, your assignment is to analyze and craft an argument around one of the texts we’ve watched/read so far: Jordan Peele’s Get Out or Nia DaCosta’s Candyman (2021). DON’T USE OR CONSULT OUTSIDE SOURCES: resist the temptation to do a web search for other people’s opinions/ analysis of your chosen film.

What you choose to argue is wholly up to you, but the crucial component of this assignment is you find both a specific Focus—the parts: one (or more than one if clearly related) defined aspect of the text—and a genuinely Arguable Assertion—the whole: something which 1) can be supported by evidence and 2) isn’t obvious or factual and that can be clearly disagreed with—around which you structure the entire paper. As we’ve been discussing in class, your argument should center around meaning: what this film is arguing about our culture, our country, ourselves (your argument should focus on the US rather than humanity in general).

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While trying to come up with an idea for something to write about, don’t immediately decide upon your Assertion, but instead spend some time being guided by the evidence. Find an element in the work that intrigues or even bugs you, use that to develop your Focus, and then finally use your Focus to develop your Arguable Assertion. My suggestion is to be as specific as possible with your focus. Rather than tackling everything about the text, you should try to isolate a seemingly small element which repeats itself in order to find your Arguable Assertion. Looking very close is often the surest path to surprising yourself and, then, surprising the reader with your insights: this is the ultimate goal for your argument.

Like with the essays you may have had experience with previously, this essay must be structured as an academic essay: containing an introduction, body, conclusion, and, most importantly, a strong thesis which appears as the last line of the first paragraph. Like with these previous papers, you are making an argument, and in order to make any successful argument, you’ve got to provide evidence for your assertions. With analysis, this means your evidence is specific examples from the text. The easiest way to provide these examples is to give us quotations which you directly analyze; effective quotations might simply be a line or even a few words. So, these quotations don’t need to be long or extensive (in fact, you need to be careful to not overload your paper with quotes that overwhelm your own voice), but they absolutely have to be included. For films, specific examples include both quotations of dialogue and descriptions of visuals (shots) from the text. Through quotes, descriptions of visuals, and very brief summary of scenes, you should describe and discuss specific moments from the text throughout your paper.

If you think it would strengthen your argument about the film, you are permitted to quote or refer to any of the readings we have done so far ( Du Bois, hooks, or McDougall Jones), but this is not required.

Note: For reasons I will cover in class, I suggest choosing Candyman rather than Get Out as your essay subject, but it is your choice.

Don’t use sources: As mentioned at the beginning, please resist consulting any outside sources for this essay. The strength of a textual analysis paper is in finding fresh and surprising takes on the text. Sources will lead you in exactly the opposite direction: towards the stale and familiar.

Constructing Your Analytic Essay

Thesis

◦ Every thesis should have two parts: FOCUS + ARGUABLE ASSERTION

◦ FOCUS: The aspect of the film you are concentrating on

◦ ARGUABLE ASSERTION: Your argument as to the MEANING of the film, what you think the author is saying about the U.S., etc.

◦ Basic Template: “By [FOCUS], [Director’s Name] suggests [ARGUABLE ASSERTION].”

Focus ◦ Again, the aspect of the film you are concentrating on.

◦ This could be technical. Example: “Through the use of documentary-style cinematography…”

◦ But it is more likely that your focus will be THEMATIC or concerning a specific set of CHARACTERS or NARRATIVE THREAD.

◦ Thematic Example: “By depicting the connection between cultural appropriation and the legacy of slavery…”

◦ Character/ Narrative Thread Example: “By emphasizing the similarities between Anthony and Brianna’s father…

Arguable Assertion Pt. 1 ◦ This is the tricky part.

◦ An Arguable Assertion must be ARGUABLE.

◦ That means it must be something that can be DISAGREED WITH by a reasonable person.

◦ Imagine (or try if possible) handing your Arguable Assertion to a Random Person who has seen the film but not read your paper.

◦ If this person automatically agrees with your Arguable Assertion without having to hear anymore of your argument, the odds are good that your thesis is NOT ARGUABLE.

Arguable Assertion Pt. 2: What is NOT Arguable

◦ FACTS or a DESCRIPTION of what basically happens or is stated in the film. ◦ Example: “By [Focus], Nia DaCosta suggests that Black Americans are

disproportionately affected by violence…” ◦ Example: “By [Focus], Nia DaCosta suggests that gentrification is a force

destroying low-income communities…” ◦ Example: “By [Focus], Jordan Peele suggests many white Americans consider

being Black as fashionable…” ◦ Example: “By [Focus], Jordan Peele suggests many white Americans desire to

be Black…”

What is NOT Arguable Cont.

◦ An assertion stated so BROADLY that almost anyone who has seen the film would automatically agree with it.

◦ Example: “Through [Focus], Jordan Peele suggests racism still exists.”

◦ Example: “Through [Focus], Nia DaCosta suggests that racist trauma continues to impact communities.”

A Pause for Emphasis ◦ If your working thesis is similar to either of the two examples I’ve just offered,

it must be revised. You do NOT have a true Arguable Assertion. ◦ In particular, watch out for any variations of this thesis: “Through [Focus],

Jordan Peele suggests racism still exists.” ◦ Any reasonable person who sees Get Out understands that the film is

referencing racism in the U.S. So, if your thesis looks anything like this example, odds are good that you do NOT have a true Arguable Assertion. ◦ The Get Out conundrum: Peele’s social commentary is so clearly visible to a

viewer that it can be difficult to find a truly ARGUABLE thesis which can be DISAGREED with by a reasonable person.

Making an Inarguable Assertion ARGUABLE

◦ There’s no single method for this, but most commonly the trick is to be MORE SPECIFIC. ◦ So, if your interest is DaCosta’s depiction of gentrification or Peele’s depiction

of racism, you need to DELVE DEEPER into the subject, and come up with MORE SPECIFIC assertion that could be disagreed with by a reasonable person who hasn’t yet heard your argument. ◦ To repeat, if a reasonable person would automatically agree with your thesis’s

Arguable Assertion without having to read your paper, your thesis is most likely NOT ARGUABLE.

Constructing Your Body Paragraphs

◦ You need to construct your entire essay around ARGUMENT rather than SUMMARY or DESCRIPTION.

◦ The trick here is to use TOPIC SENTENCES to do this.

◦ Your TOPIC SENTENCES need to make ARGUABLE POINTS which support the thesis’s ARGUABLE ASSERTION about what the DIRECTOR is saying about the U.S., etc.

Topic Sentences: What NOT To Do

◦ Your topic sentence should NOT be SUMMARY or DESCRIPTION.

◦ Body Paragraphs should NOT begin like this: “Anthony begins to see the image of Sherman in the mirror.” “Chris’s girlfriend brings him home to meet her family.”

◦ In general, do NOT use a character as the subject of your Topic Sentences.

Topic Sentences: What TO Do

◦ Use the DIRECTOR as the subject of your topic sentences.

◦ Make the topic sentences a statement of what the director is SAYING through her/his/their choices.

◦ Again, every TOPIC SENTENCE needs to make an ARGUABLE POINT which support the thesis’s ARGUABLE ASSERTION about what the DIRECTOR is saying about the U.S., etc.

◦ By doing this, you are structuring your essay around ARGUMENT.

The Need for Concrete Evidence

◦ Every Body Paragraph requires CONCRETE EVIDENCE which supports and proves the Topic Sentence’s ARGUABLE POINT.

◦ Summary of scenes and plot details may be necessary but SUMMARY IS NOT CONCRETE EVIDENCE. You can include it when needed, but it needs to be balanced with concrete evidence.

◦ CONCRETE EVIDENCE means SPECIFICS: Quotes from dialogue or very specific description of the visual (shots) or audio (music or sound effects).

Every Body Paragraph Should Offer Concrete Evidence

◦ As a general rule, you should include a minimum of one short QUOTE from the film’s dialogue in EVERY Body Paragraph.

◦ I’m posting this slideshow to Canvas as a PDF. Please consult while you are composing and/or revising your essay.

 

SOLUTION

In Candyman (2021), Nia DaCosta explores the concept of the American Dream through the character of Anthony, an artist who hopes to make it big in the art world. DaCosta uses Anthony’s journey to demonstrate how systemic racism and inequality continue to prevent Black Americans from achieving the same level of success as their white counterparts. Throughout the film, Anthony’s struggle to achieve his dreams is hampered by the pervasive racism he faces in the art world and society at large. For instance, despite being a talented artist, Anthony’s work is largely ignored by the white establishment, which favors art that conforms to traditional European aesthetics. This is evident when his gallery owner Clive dismisses Anthony’s work as “too political” and “too Black” and advises him to create more “universal” art.

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