Thesis

Thesis Statement: The series of camera angles, and editing effects used throughout the film gives the audience a hint at what is to come and characterizes some of the roles that characters will play in the future. The camerawork serves as an “aside” (referring to the Shakespearian usage of the word) to the audience of things to come, and what a character is currently thinking; thus giving the audience a better and more full understanding of the movie.

Supporting Point #1: The audience gets a full view of all of the [main] characters at the beginning. By being positioned as the TV while all characters are watching the same program we can tell, from the way they appear, how they will play into the story that is currently occurring. i.e. The Dean is drinking, Coco is smoking weed (as we are led to believe, yet never get a definitive yes), Troy is slouched over and looks exasperated, Kurt is eating an apple and seems to be quite calm, and Sam is recording the whole episode unfold, showing that she has a vested interest in the news as well.

Supporting Point #2: By changing camera angles the audience is able to gather more information that may not be apparent to others in the film, or that is trying to be hidden from other characters. Such as Sam’s apparent nervousness when she is about to give her speech for head of house, or Troy’s bathroom moments to himself where he runs the water and smokes weed instead of actually showering. Moments such as these go to aid the audience in understanding the characters, as well as see that the acts these characters may put up are only acts and there is something lying beneath the surface.

Supporting Point #3 The usage of characters in the background, eavesdropping, and snooping gives new developments of character to the audience that helps build the plot for the movie. This is seen most clearly in Gabe being behind Sam when she is with Reggie, or when she gets the call from her mother; further showing that Gabe is behind her supporting her and in her corner. Or how Sam eavesdrops on the conversation between the President and Kurt talking about the party, which allows her to come up with the plan to send the invitations out and put her plan into action.

Open your Mind

Rhetorical discourse indicates a rhetorical situation. This is alike to the fact that an answer can only come into existence after a question or problem has arisen. Rhetorics is situational; and there need to be certain things in place before we can deem something rhetorical. As Bitzer writes, “every audience is always capable of being moved by speech”, but there needs to be a situation where that speech can move the students in the first place. In “Dear White People” the issue that arises is one of race relations, and the mindsets of today’s world when it comes to a world of race. We are given four main characters, each of which are black, yet each of which have a different way of going about handling issues of race.

Each character: Troy, Sam, Coco, and Lionel, all pose different ways that they handle being black on campus and in their everyday lives. This contrast of ways of living raises a question that opens up the audience’s minds to rhetoric. Should people be forced to live in a way that is not true to them, which one of these people is living the right way, is Sam justified in her actions or even aware of what she is striving to achieve? All of these questions and more just pour out of my mind whenever I think about these four in comparison to one another. The audience of the film is obviously the people that watch it, but different parts appeal to different audiences.

Now as Bitzer says, rhetoric doesn’t need to be totally fact or based off of an event in order to convey a message. This allows for forms of rhetoric such as satire to develop and enable creators to convey rhetoric in a different way to appeal to a different audience. Now this movie has been labeled as a satire, which it is, but in the movie very real events do arise that can be viewed as well. The satire appeals to an audience of younger minds who may be guilty of thinking in a close minded way, or not thinking about issues of race at all. But, the satire does appeal to an older generation as well; the characters of the Dean and President of the University resemble the mindsets of an older generation. A generation who is more hard headed and maybe not as open to these ideals; and by portraying the characters as such they can begin to show the audience that they may want to reconsider opening their minds to a new way of thinking. One of the best examples of this was the final scene between the reality TV producer and the Dean and President. It perfectly stereotypes the audience that those characters can most closely relate to and shows them how absurd it is to act as they do.

The exigence in the movie is the urgent issues that it is trying to address. This particular film strives to address a couple of the issues, but mainly centers around mindset when it comes to race and racially divided issues. The film tries to address these issues in a form of satire that over exaggerates certain aspects while still keeping some true aspects. My personal favorite choice by the director was to overplay so many issues of race and to show such extremes, but then to also include this over-the-top party that has actually happened on multiple campuses at one point or another in recent history. This point most effectively shows me the urgency of the issue, proving that we, as a generation, need to be more active in addressing issues on campus that concern race. And that we cannot just let the issues lay stagnant or ignore them, turning a blind eye to such issues does not stop them (as shown in the party scene), the only way to stop these problems is to address them head on. Without watching the movie, I would not have come to the realization that by doing nothing I was not helping, but instead I was hurting the issues on campus by neglecting to address them. Now, our campus issues may not be as serious or grave (being especially that this was a satire); but I do now see areas where I can try to do better than I have been. This exigence, or urgent demand to reform our way of thinking is well conveyed in film to the audience, yet the audience still has constraints which may hinder them from listening and considering the message at hand.

These “constraints” that Bitzer talks about can be due to our “beliefs, attitudes, traditions, motives” or a host of other reasons. The constraints are the part of the situation which may hold the audience member(s) back from hearing the message, or may turn the audience member away from the message. People, such as the “older” generation I mentioned earlier, have an constraint that their belief system and attitude towards race hinders their ability to take in the full message of the film. By bringing in these constraints it makes it harder for the message to be taken as it is supposed to be. Even I walked into the classroom dreading watching the movie, because I had preconceived notions as to what it was going to be. It was my belief that the movie was going to be “preachy” and call out white people for being mean and unfair. Luckily my constraints did not fully hold me back as I was able to see that, even though the title may suggest it, the movie was not all about the wrongdoings of white people. Yes, we are a part of the problem, but there are black people and other races going about these issues in a way that is not constructive and helps to keep the issues from being addressed.

The issues that the movie address lie below the surface level. Upon watching the movie a second time, as I did in class, I saw the deeper meanings that were not apparent upon my initial viewing. I, myself, watched the movie the first time believing that what I watched was just a hashing of white people and a way of showing how blacks in the United States were still being mistreated by white people. And while the movie did address issues of race inequality, and mistreatment the rhetoric and satire showed that they were calling for a different way of thinking, instead of just portraying white people as naive evil people. The constraint of having a closed minded view can only hinder or hurt a person’s ability to understand what is truly being shown or argued. It is with an open mind that we must listen to one another, and it is with an open mind that those in positions of power must consider making decisions. This thought is one that I surely hope will come to be reality in the future, but it is not something that I expect to happen overnight.

 

 

 

White Washed

In “Dear White People” the camera work, directing, and filmmaking in general are poised in such a way to convey many messages about the film, and what it is trying to address. The camera angles that vary between characters in order to convey a feeling of either being talked down/up to, or being a fly on the wall and witnessing something that we were not meant to are very well executed; giving us, the viewers, a better view of the plot. The differences of what we see versus what the audience sees in the film also go to show that everything should not be taken at face value. In the movie up till this point we can already tell that the movie “obviously” centers around issues of race and racial conflicts on campus. These issues are addressed and shown in a multitude of ways almost in “skitlike” form as “the New Yorker” article puts it. We see two black people fighting for what they see best for the campus, and striving to prove their points. Sam, a rebellious black woman of her people, sees a problem with the random room assignments, and is striving to segregate the dorms once again so that the previously “black” dorm can return to its former “glory” so to speak.

Whereas Troy is working more to be a man of the people, as opposed to Sam’s careless attitude towards other people’s judgements. The “New Yorker” article describes Troy as a, “big man on campus and the head of the traditionally black residence hall, which is being broken up through the university’s “randomization” of housing.”.  Troy works to appeal to the campus, while at the same time leveraging himself for a future career, as well as to please his father, the dean of the school. We see Troy’s hidden motives when he has a conversation with his father, where they both discuss his proceedings in order to put him in the best position possible for recognition. It seems that with Troy the “big man on campus” act is just to gain the favor of the students. Where as we see Sam truly living out her beliefs, even though they may make her nervous, as we see in the debate scene towards the beginning of the film. However, we also see that Sam has a secret, much like Troy, she is seeing a white man. Her TA and she have a relationship, that from what I have seen so far, looks to be mostly heated and sexual. Yet, we can tell that she is keeping the relationship a secret, because even though she may be enjoying his company, her messages, and overall demeanor would be crushed if people saw this side of her life. On the other side though Troy parades around his white girlfriend as if she was a showpiece. The two are often seen together, and Troy takes pride in the fact that she is white, as we can observe through his scoldings of her trying to “talk black”. Yet, behind closed doors and outside of the public eye Troy and his girlfriend do not have the same heated relationship; rather we see that Troy is more interested in the public aspect and thought of the two together, whereas his girlfriend is much more interested in what Troy has to offer…. sexually.

There is also a continuous theme of media playing into the plot of the movie. Sam, herself, makes movies that strive to stir up reactions and shock her classmates. She runs a radio talkshow entitled “Dear White People” where she calls out white people for their faults and attitudes. Giving herself authority to address issues such as how many black friends a white person must have to not be considered racist. A reality TV producer also is introduced into the film in order to stir up controversy and get reactions that would make for good TV. In addition to Sam’s “beef” with Troy, she also has to deal with another problem, Kurt, the son of the president of the university. Kurt runs his own media outlet, that seems to be a “Lampoon-like humor magazine” (New Yorker). Kurt doesn’t want to stand for Sam rolling over everyone and not being challenged so he steps up and makes it his own problem to deal with Sam and her ignorant and cocky ways.

The movie hints at the fact that his magazine’s annual party, “that’s the talk of the campus and that makes national news” (New Yorker) will be one themed in a way to aggravate and lash back at Sam and her movement. Now this, up till this point, is building to be the climax of the movie, or the final piece of the puzzle. I am sure that whatever the theme is it will follow suit with the rest of the film and stir up controversy and cause a string of reactions. Overall I find the film to be extremely provocative, and controversial; which I think it intends to be. The messages coming from the film, although outrageous do provoke good thought and realization of the world that we are living in, which should be the goal of such a film.

Cavemen are People Too

Geico, back in the earlier 2000s, ran a series of commercials that started the trend of “funny” commercials that they still carry on with today. The tagline that accompanied the commercials was that Geico was so easy to sign up with that “Even a caveman could do it”, playing on the fact that cavemen could even figure out how easy it was to sign up with Geico. In addition to that it hinted that even a dumber, less developed being could see that Geico was an incredible choice and that even they weren’t stupid enough to pass it up.

Dustin Griffin in his writing says that, “The satirist in this view is quite certain of his own moral position, he also assumes such certainty in his readers”. Meaning that their should be a common agreement between author and audience about a specific subject matter, and that satire can stem from there. The satire in the video was based around this idea of cavemen. The satirist in this commercial, Geico, held that everyone believed that cavemen were stupid and less than present man, so by poking fun at them everyone could share in a laugh, while receiving a message about Geico. However, the humor in the video came when we see that cavemen do, in fact, live in the present day world and are very offended that we would think so little of them. Thus going to prove the point that even cavemen, a lesser creature, was offended that the world thinks that signing up for Geico would be hard for them (further showing how easy it was to sign up with Geico). The humor is not just for humors sake however, just as Griffin mentions in his work, there should not be anything done that is without a purpose.

In the particular clip I attached, the commercial centers around the caveman going to a therapist to talk about his issues with the commercial. He is upset that Geico would think to go against his population, and insinuate that they would have a problem with signing up for Geico, again emphasizing just how easy it is to sign up. The therapist tries to comfort him but ends up making it worse by accidentally suggesting that cavemen are lesser, and somewhat agreeing with the commercial, the caveman then quips back saying that Geico was so easy that even a therapist could do it. The entire ad campaign of using cavemen was to get people to sign up with Geico, for car insurance, or whatever else type of insurance they offer (being that I am a young man I have no idea what all Geico totally does). The commercials show the ease with which people could join or switch to Geico; later however, after they had built a base and a name for themselves they changed their focus. They began to focus on how much one could save by switching to Geico, which everyone with a TV will tell you is “15% or more on car insurance”; mainly because it has been beat into our brains for the past ten years or so. It seems as if Geico and satire will be a trend that we can expect to see for a long time coming, seeing as they’ve kept with it so long with the caveman and now their new campaigns as well; it must be working for them.

 

 

Close at Hand

Something that I see everyday, and that I wear almost 24/7 is my Junior class ring from high school. At my school the class rings that the students receive are signet rings that display my school’s crest and our credo:”Laus Tibi Domine”, which means “Praise be to God”. Ever since I was a seventh grader I would look at the seniors and the juniors and immediately recognize their rings. To me the ring symbolized age and maturity, the people who wore them were leaders on campus, and in addition to that they just looked cool. I counted down the days until I would receive one of my own; to me receiving my class ring was a symbol of me “making it” and being able to say that I belong somewhere. The ring was something that was earned, through years of hard work, home work, and perseverance. Yet, upon receiving the ring I have noticed that it conveys other messages as well.

I hadn’t really looked and reflected on what my ring signified, but after reading Herrick I took a different look at the things that I interact with in my everyday life. My ring, and a couple other items are things that I see/interact with everyday, and upon analyzing them a little more I began to see what Herrick was talking about when he referenced symbols. These symbols, according to Herrick, were said to have a deeper meaning to those who interact with it; a message or theme that lies below the surface level. My signet ring is gold, I had the choice between a bunch of different metals, but the gold just looked the most classic to me; it bares the crest and credo, as I said earlier, but there is more to it than just that. On the inside of my ring it has my initials and the year I graduated, showing that I was a part of this institution, and part of an even bigger family. For six of the greatest years of my life (my high school started in seventh grade, I did not take six years to get through just high school) I went to St.Louis Priory High School, and the lessons and values that I learned are all kept near and dear to me within my ring. I wear the ring because I like what it stands for, in addition to the maturity I thought it stood for I now see it as a reminder. Similar to the cross I have worn around my neck since second grade, my ring symbolizes morals that I construct my life around. I keep the morals taught by my faith close around my neck, but my ring stands to remind me of the growth and the journey that I took through high school.

The ring symbolizes where I have been, and serves as a reminder to me about all that I did while at Priory. When asked about my ring the words from my headmaster at the Junior ring ceremony come to mind, “You are now a representative of Priory, you are going to be leaving before you know it, and you need to know that you will always be with us, and we will always be with you”. In addition to choking up the Mothers in the crowd this statement hit me like a ton of bricks; I loved high school more than most of my friends did, most likely because of how formative it was for me. I continue to wear the ring even today, though some of my peers have stopped; because I like that the ring serves as a reminder to make good choices, because not only do my choices reflect on me, but they also reflect back on my parents and everyone else who has helped me in my journey along the way to where I am now.

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Rhetorics

What is rhetoric? If one were to mention rhetoric in a conversation I would assume I know what they mean. However, if I were to be asked to define rhetoric I am not sure I could have given a sufficient definition or explanation. I had always dismissed learning about what rhetoric was; I thought that because I knew what a rhetorical question was I knew what rhetoric was, through reading however I learned that rhetoric was more than just a sarcastic way to inform someone.

Through analyzing the assigned readings I came to have a closer understanding of rhetoric. Rhetoric is a use of language to impart knowledge or inform people about a specific topic or event. Rhetoric has a series of concepts that it embodies that enabled me to grasp what rhetoric strives to do. The rhetoric concepts are: ethos, pathos, logos, arrangement, audience, and rhetorical situation. Now ethos, pathos, and logos were all words that were used in my Sophomore Classical Civilizations course, and I realized that I was able to make it through the entire course without knowing a thing about them. Upon further reading I found that ethos is the “controlling factor in persuasion”, pathos is “the proof of emotion” or the appeal to the values of the audience; and logos is the proofs based in logic and reasoning. These three are all main aspects of rhetoric, and explain how rhetoric is conveyed to the audience. The other aspects, though important, are less commonly taught. Arrangement refers to how the text is organized, audience tells about the people who are written to, and how to go about capturing their attention; and rhetorical situation is the situation that has called for rhetoric to be needed in the first place.

Rhetoric is used to impart virtues on the audience. Specifically: honesty, knowledge, rationality, tolerance, judgement,  and intellectual courage. The virtue of honesty teaches that one should not hold too tight to their preconceived notions, and to be open to one’s best understanding of what is true. Knowledge strives to make sure that one is informed about the subject that is being discussed or argued, and that if they even if they are well informed one should listen carefully and study the matter in order to obtain more knowledge. Rationality teaches reflection, evidence and reasoning before one should make an argument; tolerance teaches people to be open to other people’s opinions and arguments, especially if they differ from your own. Judgement/wisdom asks that those involved pick and choose their battles, and urges them to reflect and understand what is worth arguing to them (something my Mother has often talked to me about). And intellectual courage urges those to speak their argument even if their opinion is unpopular.

Rather than give definition however, Herick approaches rhetoric in a different way. The reading by Herick goes a bit further into the topic of rhetoric. Instead of defining what rhetoric is by breaking it into definitions and pieces Herick addresses rhetoric as a whole. He talks about how almost anything that we encounter in our lives can be rhetoric. He refers to “symbols” and says that a symbol is anything that conveys to a person some sort of meaning/information. These symbols, whether it be a person, place, or thing all are “usually” a part of a larger system; and this larger system is conveying a deeper meaning to us through these symbols. This argument allows Herick to make rhetoric seem like a much bigger part of life than I, for one, had ever assumed it to be; after reading his work I felt like the world around me was more connected.

Multimedia rhetoric is not disconnected from rhetoric, rather it is a different way to communicate the deeper meanings and virtues that rhetoric strives to deliver to its audiences. However, instead of being spoken or written, multimedia rhetoric conveys its message through photos, videos, or any other various media outlets/sources. The internet gives great outlets for these messages as well, whenever you watch a Youtube video, or read an article that your annoying Aunt posted on Facebook you are receiving a message. Multimedia rhetoric has adapted to reach a wider audience in a shorter amount of time, but still being able to convey a strong message. An added bonus to this form of rhetoric is its permanence; once something is on the internet it there for good, this is something we should have all learned by now. So now the message will live on the internet forever, for future generations, viewers, and audience members to view and learn from.

While I believe that multimedia rhetoric is a great and powerful way to convey a great message to its audiences because of its permanence, I also see this as a downfall. These symbols are meant to convey virtues and a positive message that will better society and people as a whole; that being said, there is almost always people who will use misuse a new resource. Sure, the internet is a great and easy way to get a message out; that being said it is also very easy to do the same with a bad message. In 2016 already we have seen massive events where multimedia is polluted with false, misleading, or bad information. Whether it be a bad message, or a message with good intentions that has been manipulated, the internet is a place where things can get twisted. My concern lies in the fact that multimedia is a rapidly growing, and relatively new form of communication, and more and more ways to communicate are coming out almost monthly. Will all of this change and uncertainty it is easy to misread, or misinterpret things that we see; my hopes is that the world will prevail and be able to use multimedia outlets as a way to spread a good message rather than a bad one. But only time will tell.

IIIIIIIIIIIIM HOOKED ON A STORY

 

 

 

Suspense is the key to a wonderful narrative. Suspense builds and teases the audience, that feeling of not knowing something grips a reader/listener and makes them want to know more. The same thing is true with a relationship in my opinion. A relationship, in the beginning at least, needs some air of mystery that keeps the other partner wanting to come back for more. Now there is a line between confusion and suspense/intrigue; confusion, while mildly intriguing quickly loses its “fire” and excitement. Whereas suspense keeps one on the edge as they try to get as much information as they can. Now this is not to say that you should always be holding back from your partner in a relationship, but in the beginning I feel that it is best to leave something to be desired, in order to let the attraction grow. But, that is neither here nor there and a conversation for another time.

Good suspense is not always built by the story alone, sometimes suspense can be created by extraordinary characters or actors. Alan Rickman was a master of suspense, his cadence while delivering performances tantalized the viewers and left them falling over as they tried to grasp for the next line he may deliver to propel the movie forward. I could listen to Alan Rickman read a grocery list and be very interested in it, thinking to myself, “when is he going to talk about vegetables, do we need vegetables, oh God he is so unpredictable!!” Needless to say I am a fan, and enjoy good suspense, and that is exactly what I got from the narratives we listened to for homework.

In “A Day in the Life of Nancy” I found myself on the edge of my seat as the story played out before me. Every time that she answered one of my questions another would soon follow, adding to the suspense and keeping me listening to her story. Questions such as, “Why is the knife under the couch? Why would there be a knife under the couch? How will her sister have changed? Maybe she could be the one that has changed? Is everything going to be alright between them?” danced around in my head, and were ultimately all answered as the story came to an end. Yet, I am not a huge fan of a full understanding at the end of a story, what I mean by that is there is something to be said about a few unanswered questions at the end of something. With examples like the television show “Lost”, or the movie “Inception” both of these ended with questions still unanswered, and it drove people mad; which isn’t always a bad thing. I have always enjoyed being able to fill my mind with “what ifs”, but that is just me.

Then Sedaris came along and told his story. Now, Sedaris did not have the huge moments of suspense that “A Day in the Life of Nancy” had, but he did do a great job of intriguing me enough to stay with him. I became more obsessed with waiting to see what the couple on the second train would say next; what horribly stupid statement will leave their mouths next. This in and of itself created a different type of story that was equally, if not more, enjoyable than the one I had listened to earlier. It incorporated an element of humor that was lacking in “A Day in the Life of Nancy”, an element which I have a very big fancy for in particular. Sedaris delivered his story in a sort of dry, slow pace, that really accentuated just how ridiculous this couple was behaving. Yet again we came to a end conclusion, as most stories do, where our questions were answered and we departed on our search for more entertainment.