Thursday, November 1, 2012


           Every movie has a message; some are more impactful than others but a message is always there. Sometimes the messages are easier to understand and sometimes the messages are hidden and take some digging to really understand them. In the movie Hitch, the message is very typical of a romantic comedy. It involved a story about a man and a woman who fall in love, face some sort of obstacle that ends the relationship, and then end up together after one of them gives a profound speech.  The main message in this movie though is to just be you because that’s how you get the girl and find love. This movie shows many scenarios where couples are brought together by the date doctor (Will Smith).  It focuses on one couple in particular between a nobody guy and a very wealthy woman. They fall in love, but the woman finds out the man used the date doctor and became angry because she felt like she was played somehow. In the end, she finds out all the things she loved about the man were real and not things the date doctor told him to do. This sends the message of how important it is to be true to oneself because that’s the thing people fall in love with. This sort of message is directed towards women everywhere because most of us love the idea of love and anything having to do with love.  This message appeals to our emotions. In Everything’s an Argument by Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz, they comment that “emotional appeals are powerful tools for influencing what people thing and believe” (38). When women see a happy ending like the one in this movie, it gives them hope for their own lives; that they’ll be able to find love if they just act like themselves.
                But is there a negative side to this message? Is this sending a different message to men? The main job of the date doctor is to get the girl to “get out of their own way” (Hitch,film). He argues that most women don’t notice the great guys all around them because they’re not paying attention.  Smith gives guys all these tips on how to get the girl to notice him; things they wouldn’t normally do. This could be sending the message to men that while it’s important to be yourself, you have to change yourself at first so the girl will even give you the time of day. In the beginning of a movie, a guy takes a girls dog and lays in the road, acting as though he just saved the dog from being hit by the car. The way these two people meet is completely fake and staged.  The main couple of the movie meets because he is her banker and he makes a huge scene in front of her and ends up quitting his job. Normally, this man is very quiet and reserved and would never draw attention to himself. This tactic worked though because shortly after the woman came to his office asking to meet privately to discuss her finances.  She would have never given him the time of day if he hadn’t changed his normal behavior for her. At the end of the movie when the date doctor is trying to help the couple over their obstacle he asks her, “would you have even noticed him?” (He’s referring to the outburst at the finance meeting). The woman admits she probably would have never noticed him if that outburst hadn’t occurred. So as a man watching this, what kind of message does it send? It’s important to be yourself eventually, but not at first. This argument appeals to the logos of men, “arguments based on facts against our feelings and against the ethos of those making the appeal” (Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz 69). This movie says that logically no woman will go for a man unless he does something outrageous.
                The messages in this movie affect people differently. The main message, which is seen as mostly positive to both men and women, is that true love will find you if you just be yourself. But to men this could be interpreted differently because all the relationships in this movie are started by the help of an outside party. While this negative message could be seen, the positive message far outweighs the effects of the negative one.

rating: 4 


Failure to Launch

Every comedy-romance seems to have a cliché about love in its story. The case is not different in the 2006 Tom Dey’s movie Failure to Launch. However, what most viewers do not realize is that most of the times there is a negative message behind the funny love story. In this movie, Sarah Jessica Parker plays the role of Paula; a woman that works to help parents who want their son to move out of their house, in this case the son is Tripp, played by Matthew McConaughey.

Paula works by pretending she has the same interests as her clients so they fall in love with her. Once her goal is accomplished she dumps them. Her strategy seems to work very well and Paula always gets the immature grown-ups to move out of their mom’s house. But as Paula did not expect, in Tripp’s case things did not go as well as she had planned. Paula ends up falling in love with Tripp, but she did not have the opportunity of telling him before he found out. Even though everything goes well at the end and they end up together. The cliché that stands out is “You only hurt the one you love”, this sentence is used several times when people find themselves in a situation where their actions hurt someone that they did not mean to. That is exactly what happened to Paula in this story, she did not want to fall in love with a client and it was mostly likely that would not happen because Tripp was the type of guy who jumped out of relationship when it was getting too serious. But surprisingly enough he started to have strong feelings for her, but when that finally happened he found out he was being played.

Overall, the movie is a good romantic comedy but there is a hidden negative message. Obviously Paula and Tripp’s parents lied to him to get him to move out. The problem is that once Paula found out that her feelings were getting in the way of her job and that she was falling for him, she did not tell him the truth and kept lying. The negative message did not come just from Paula; it started with Tripp’s parents because they were the ones who hired her. As mentioned in class, messages are not always easy to see but it can unconsciously affect the viewer. In this case it can make people think that it is okay to lie to try to get what they want. But this is not message that should in a movie because in this situation the right action to take would be to confront Tripp and talk to him trying to solve the problem.

Out of the 3 elements of persuasion, pathos is the used the most. Even though the movie’s love story is very predictable, it still attracts viewers and it is adventurous enough to engage them in the story. The movie’s target seems to be young adults as it contains a strong language, sexual scenes and several drinking scenes. It was released as PG13 and it makes sense because I do not think that teens would be very interested in the movie since it tells the story of an immature 35- year-old man.

The movie was decently successful however, I do not give a high rate because it was very predictable and the cliché has already been used in several other movies. 

Alice In Wonderland

The film Alice in Wonderland (2010), directed by Tim Burton and produced by Walt Disney, is one of the most nonsensical and bizarre children’s movies of all time. Inspired by dream cliché within two of Lewis Carroll’s novels, the film uses the cliché of the unknown identity. This cliché refers to when Alice enters Wonderland and the Red Queen wants to find her in order to stop her from stealing the throne. This blog post will explain the most prominent message of the film, while also revealing more about the underlying messages within the film that provide an implied thesis.
The idea of Wonderland resembles of the biggest movie clichés of all time, which is the dream world. Another famous example of the dream cliché is in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy wakes up and is told by her family that she was just having a dream. In Wonderland, Alice meets a series of wacky characters that create a series of incongruent events. Nothing makes sense in this world, including the distortion of time, talking animals, and the element of magic. The dream idea allows movies to become nonsensical, wild, and creative. The intended audience for Alice in Wonderland is mature children between the ages of 9 and 15. The main cliché message of Alice in Wonderland is to “live life on ones own terms and not let someone else tell you what to do.” I believe the dream element of the movie helps support this message because dreams are a state of mind where a child can go and not have to follow any rules. Anything goes and they can be anything they want to be.
There are also many problematic messages that are presented within the film; many of these messages can be found in the rose garden scene when Alice encounters the Red Queen. The first problematic message is the negative attitude towards bigger body types. Right before the Red Queen first meets Alice, who introduces herself as “Um from Umbridge,” the shrunken girl eats a piece of the White Rabbit’s cake in order to make herself grow back to her normal size. The White Rabbit tells Alice to stop taking so many bites and not to eat too much of it. Nevertheless, it is too late and Alice grows as tall as the trees. The Red Queen refers to the larger Alice as an “enormous girl.” Alice also tells the queen that she is naked because she outgrew her clothes and that people in Umbridge laugh at her. I believe this sends a negative message to children about larger body types. The message is subtle; however, Alice’s humiliated and sad facial expressions create an emotional connection through pathos. In the book Everything’s an Argument, by Andrea Lunsford, pathos is described as a strong appeal that can create an emotional tie to an audience (52).
Another subliminal message within the rose garden scene is the religious tone. When Alice grows after eating the rabbit’s cake, she grows out of her clothes and is naked. The only thing that covers Alice’s naked body is a bush full of red roses. The naked girl in a garden symbolizes the religious story of Adam and Eve, which teaches the lesson of the “forbidden fruit,” the original sin. During this scene, Alice is being ridiculed and lies about her identity. I believe that this could create a negative image of religion in the minds of children.
The last hidden message within this scene of Alice in Wonderland is the sexual tone created by the red color of the roses that hide Alice’s naked body. According to Louis Giannetti in his book Understanding Movies, “color tends to be a subconscious element in film” (22). He further explains that the color red, in particular, is often linked with sex (23). I believe that there are several sexual elements within Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland. In the rose garden scene, The Red Queen accepts Alice even though she is a naked stranger.
I give the film 2 stars because I believe that many of the undertones and subplots within the film provide subliminal messages that are not suitable for children. These include elements of sexuality, negative body images, and religious overtones. I do agree, however, with the main message of the film that tells children they should think for themselves and be who they want to be. Unfortunately, the way the message is told seems to create negative intentions within the film.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde follows the precedent set forth by the original film and presents several key themes to the audience.  One message that resonates throughout the entire second film is the cliché of “stand up for what you believe in, no matter what.”  In the first scenes of the movie the main character Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) makes a presentation to her law firm on behalf of not only her dog, Bruiser, and his mom but all animals that are being used for cosmetic testing.  As the main character, Elle establishes the movie as what author Louis Giannetti describes, in Understanding Movies: Ideology, as an “Explicit ideological film” because these movies “aim to teach or persuade as much as to entertain…and usually an admirable character articulates the values that are really important” to the audience (404-406).  Elle stands up to her colleagues and states her beliefs.  When she realizes that the beliefs of her colleagues in the workplace do not coincide with hers, she makes a choice that working with people who differ from her on such a crucial issue is not something she is able to do (Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde Film).  The feelings behind Elle’s speech are what allow this clichéd message to have a deeper emotional (ethos) meaning to the audience members watching. 

Similarly at the end of the movie, Elle delivers another speech to get the votes she needs to pass Bruiser’s Bill.  She uses words with emotional connotations and as Anna Lunsford describes in Everything’s an Argument uses “…emotions to connect…” to the audience on a more thought provoking level (44).  Elle’s entire speech is used to convey her emotions to the audience in such a way that they relate to her.  Incorporating emotionally stirring words in her speech, Elle elucidates a point explained by Lunsford that “…words…that evoke certain emotions in people, they [might] move their audiences to sympathize with ideas that they connect to those feelings and even to act on them” (41).  Elle’s continuing plea to the members of congress to remember to “speak up” reinforces the main clichéd message (Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde Film).  Author Louis Giannetti shows that using relatability in “cinema can be a powerful force…” to move the audience to accept the ideas of the movie (404).  This cliché message grabs the hearts and emotions (pathos) not only every member of congress but also every audience member.

In addition to this clichéd message, another message exists that is problematic to the viewer.  The film portrays a fast-paced legislative process that pushes a bill through to law quickly and sends an illogical message to the audience.  Elle arrives in Washington, D.C., starts a new job, writes a bill, has a committee hearing, and acquires two-hundred signatures on a discharge petition to result in Bruiser’s Bill passing as law in only three months.  In contrast, Grace Rossiter (Regina King) who has been working in D.C. as a Chief of Staff for years still is not able to push her bill through during the movie (Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde Film).  This time frame is not realistic because bill writing and amending are time consuming activities that sometimes are not completed before congress recesses for the term.  Lunsford notes that “… [accurate] evidence makes your [the] case plausible…,” and without it or with incorrect information the audience can leave the theater less likely to believe in the film (74).  This idealized view of the legislative process does not match up logically (logos) because passing a bill is very difficult especially in the world of congress where a number of different factors can stop a bill from becoming law.

The sequel to Legally Blonde is geared towards young women between ages fifteen to twenty-five.  They are drawn to theaters to see this film because of the “girls just want to have fun” atmosphere that Legally Blonde films always have to offer combined with the enticement of learning a few life lessons throughout the film.  Although the film distorted and condensed some of the logistics regarding the legislative system, the message to stand up for your beliefs no matter what, is a transcending and overriding theme and thus “passes this film as a piece of movie legislation” to be referred to for years to come.


Blade Trinity

Blade Trinity is a movie also known as Blade III or Blade III: Trinity. It is a 2004 American vampire superhero action film; David S. Goyer wrote and directed it, who also wrote the screenplays to the first two Blade films. The story following on from Blade and Blade II and it is based on the Marvel Comics character Blade, played by Wesley Snipes. Blade: Trinity was Wesley Snipes' last theatrical release until 2009's Brooklyn's Finest. In this film the Cliché is pretty simple “he is come back, Dracula”

In this movie the director state his position on the issue and present the circumstances in which that all the vampires are bad, they lose humanity, they kill people for human blood, they are the sinner of the world, they skulk back to their shadowy schemes and furtive activities, and they are the dark side of human beings. Blade is a hybrid; he has both lineage from human and vampires, what he did undoubtedly are justice, eradicate the evil.

According to Everything’s an argument, “the key to rogerian argumentation is a willingness to think about opposing positions and to describe them fairly.”(Everything’s an argument pg177) When I watch this film, I saw some problems in it, first of all, Blade is hybrid, and he is the only black man in this film, which leads a problem racial discrimination. Secondly, vampires inject the vampire gene on animals, and they treat human as blood bag, it’s a kind of metamorphic animal testing. Last but not the least, which made me really call into question about justice, when the FBI ask how many people the Blade killed, he said 1182. At that time I thought they are all vampires, but the words after these numbers shocked me: “they are all followers, they worked with them (vampire).” So I asked myself several questions, who will kill people without batting an eye? Who transgressed mercy? And who do not even have a little bit pity stirred in his heart. The answer is cold blood Killer. This is what I thought when I stand in the opposite of the director.

In the scene, when the Blade hang a followers on the seventh floor to torture the follower who and where is their boss. Even the follower tells the truth; the Blade still killed him without hesitated. Though the followers did something wrong or break the law, it supposed to according to the laws to decide whether take his life away or put him into the prison. We are living in a legal system society; everything and everyone should bear legal responsibility. Also Blade do not have right to take someone else’s life.

I think Blade Trinity is a good superhero movie at that time, when I first watch this series movie, I never thought I would have the opposite opinions with the director, maybe it is time to change my way to thinking. Generally, Blade is a good warrior, even he killed so many people, and however he has no choice, because he was born with the responsibility to kill the vampires. For the society, he thinks his responsibility is protecting the normal people from the vampire; also preventing the vampires’ purpose.


Clichés can carry so much truth, yet we find ourselves tuning these messages out because they are so overused. We know the sayings, but we don’t take them to heart. Movies with these messages target children because their minds are more malleable and easily impressionable; children will learn these lessons without the biases that come with life experience. In the movie Matilda, one cliché preaches “you can do anything if you set your mind to it.” With perseverance, Matilda trains herself to use her powers for noble purposes, yet even an innocent concept like this can send a mixed message.

One major premise of Matilda is overcoming adversity. Matilda was born into a family that does not accept her and who constantly discredits her intelligence and abilities. Her father taught her at an early age that people, not just children, need to be punished. Her passion for justice empowers her to develop her gift through a series of pranks. Throughout the entire movie, Matilda’s practice and cultivation of her powers serves as an illustration that “anything is possible if you set your mind to it.” In one specific example when Matilda tries to convince Ms. Honey of her powers, Ms. Honey replies, “It’s great that you feel so powerful, some people don’t feel powerful at all… You should believe in whatever power you think you have inside of you, believe it with all your heart” (Matilda film). This quote by Ms. Honey encourages the belief that you can achieve anything if you have the right mindset. Ms. Honey is the only major adult character in the movie that is noble and just, greatly amplifying her ethos and likeability. The audience grows to love Ms. Honey because she is the embodiment of wisdom, love, and encouragement in a bleak adult world. Louis Giannetti highlights this principle in his book Understanding Movies when he states that an actor’s appeal greatly helps win the audience over (406). By having Ms. Honey overtly introduce the idea of “believing in yourself”,  she exemplifies this concept.  On a similar note, Andrea Lunsford and John Ruszkiewicz state in their book Everything’s an Argument that an appeal to pathos is strong and that by manipulating the audience to identify with an experience, you can build an emotional tie (52). Hearing this cliché uttered by a stranger wouldn’t penetrate our hearts enough to make us truly hear; however, by having two well-liked characters in the movie discuss this issue, the audience responds positively because of their emotional attachment. The writers purposefully use ethos and pathos to connect the audience with the cliché, allowing us to truly digest and accept the argument.  

Although the cliché is meant to be moving, it also sends a problematic message. Confidence in your ability to reach a goal is an integral part of achievement; however, there comes a point where reality needs to set in. While Ms. Honey presents an inspiring, heart-warming idea, the concept can be totally impractical. Of course children cannot explode television sets or pick up children with their minds! If a child believed with all his heart that he was a superhero, he still would not be able to fly. Yet a logical appeal is made when we see that Matilda repeatedly succeeds in using her powers. A logical argument consists of two parts: a statement and proof (Lunsford 82). In this case, the statement is the cliché “if you believe in yourself, anything is possible” and the proof is the many instances in which Matilda focuses and is able to move objects. Although it seems unrealistic to adults that people can use their minds to move objects, a child with an imagination may not see this claim as folly and will accept the argument.

Children’s imaginations are so vast and their minds are so naïve that they actually do believe in a magical world that escapes our adult perceptions of reality. I believe that the movie has good intentions in presenting the concept that confidence in yourself is the key to attaining a goal, but some things are truly impossible for man. Although I love that the story is a lighthearted, magical adventure, I feel that it sends a message to kids that they could have powers too. Although the cliché has faults, the writers did a great job of connecting the audience to the cliché.

The Hunger Games

There are thousands of cliché sayings that are spoken on a daily basis. Not only are clichés used in everyday language, but they are becoming more and more prevalent in the films that are made. Who cannot think of a movie where “Love conquers all” or “Family is the most important thing”? Clichés are an integral part of our lives without us even realizing it. In addition to clichés in movies, what people do not realize is that problematic messages are also being sent to them subliminally. One particular movie that is developed off a cliché and yet also portrays a problematic message is The Hunger Games.
The cliché “You can do anything you set your mind to” is evident throughout the entire movie. At the very beginning of the film, Katniss says to her best friend that ,” There's 24 of us Gale, only one comes out” right after she promises her sister that she will try as hard as she can to win for her (The Hunger Games Film). She is not overly confident that she will win, but she is definitely going to try her hardest to survive. She does everything she possibly can without sacrificing her character and values, and in the end, she does win. In Louis Giannetti’s, Understanding Movies, it states, “Filmmakers create sympathetic characters by dramatizing such traits as idealism, courage, generosity, fair play, kindness, and loyalty” which describes Katniss perfectly (406). When she volunteers for Prim, I almost always tear up because it is just so emotional and pulls at my emotions and love for my younger sister. Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz say in Everythings an Argument that, “If you strike the right emotional note, you’ll establish an important connection” (44). Because she is such an incredible character that so many young girls can relate to, it makes the audience want to root for her. And after everything she went through out in the arena, and after all of her struggles and determination to win, she succeeds, which ultimately conveys the cliché to the audience that if you try your hardest and do the right thing, you will succeed.
Even though the cliché of the film is inspiring and uplifting, the problematic message is a bit more serious. The problematic message would be that, “The world’s fascination with reality TV for entertainment is corrupting society’s moral compass”. Let’s set aside the fact that the Capitol watches children slaughter each other annually for their personal entertainment for a moment and go into specifics. One particular scene that stands out to me in portraying this problematic message is when two parents living in the Capitol give their children toy swords to play with and the children are so excited because it reminds them of the actual Hunger Games going on. Since they live in the Capitol and therefore will never be entered into the games, they do not see the games for what they truly are, which is atrocious, sickening competitions that children are forced to compete in. Our society today has not gotten to this extreme quite yet, but it possibly could if people do not start to realize that what they are watching should not be considered entertainment, but pain and suffering. For instance, when Kim Kardashian got divorced, that should have been a private affair for her and her family, yet countless people all over the globe sat around the TV to watch her endure this extremely painful experience. Another example from the real world would be the Toddlers and Tiaras show. These parents are essentially sexualizing their toddlers by dressing them up in inappropriate attire and choreographing sensual moves up on stage for them to do. It is horrifying to me that they are doing this to their children. By doing this they are essentially corrupting the children’s innocence and challenging society’s morals. While neither of these shows are anywhere near the atrocity of having children murder each other, if society does not begin to realize the moral corruption of reality TV, that is where we are headed as a society. Both Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, and Gary Ross, director of the film, are purposefully highlighting this problematic message in the hopes that by bringing it to the audience’s attention, they will change the way people see reality TV. The intended audience range of 15-30 year old females is the same intended audience for most reality TV shows. By presenting this message to the audience of the film, the intent is to get the audience to change their views thereby leading to an improvement of society.
Most films today focus on the cliché of a movie because it is easily relatable and easy to tell in a plotline. What The Hunger Games did was put in an uplifting cliché, but got across a message for the betterment of society as a whole. The filmmakers purposefully put in a problematic message so that just maybe, the audience would learn something from it and think about adjusting the way they view television.



"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you"

Liam Neeson, who is playing the super daddy Bryan Mills, is saying those lines to the kidnappers of his daughter that was taken and sold to prostitution while she was visiting Paris. He is former CIA agent that is wiling to do everything that takes to revenge and find his daughter back. His ethos is boosted with confidence in his voice and profound CIA skill; moreover, he is announcing that there will be no obstacle on his way to find and revenge his daughter. This typical cliche of "overcoming every obstacles in the way" perfectly works for the movie "Taken" directed by Luc Besson. A lot of action and unpredictable plot that reveals criminal business involved in selling people industry promise an interesting movie night. In my opinion, the movie is made for mixed audience. The main actor, Liam Neeson, might be most recognizable with adults because he is an older actor that proved magnificent performance in previous roles, but the topic of the movie might be targeted to both younger and older audience; more precisely teenagers and parents. "Taken" has implied message for the audience that reveals the danger of the criminals in the selling people industry.

According to Giannetti, every film has a ideological perspective that preaches to the audience what is right and what is wrong (pg. 403). The movie "Taken" reveals the underground business of selling people industry and all the horrors that are happing to young girls. It also depicts one of the most common cases that young girls could be taken away and also reveals the identities of the people in that chain, from kidnappers to the very influential and wealthy people who run the business. Kidnappers are identified as Albanians, third world country's criminals who target and take away innocent girls. Afterward, girls are sold in prostitution for very influential and wealthy people. Albanians are the criminals at the low end of the chain that execute the dirtiest part of the "job." This characterization opens up the problematic message that "Taken" might be sending. The movie creates the stereotypes about Albanians in the eyes of the targeted audience: all Albanians are criminals that one way or another are connected with selling people industry in the world. They are responsible in the first place for kidnapping Mills' daughter, and they are the ones that are being killed by the "super daddy"  at the end. In the eyes on the audience, Albanians are, throughout the movie, perceived as negative characters. This characterization might lead the audience's logic that all Albanians, as a nation in general, are criminals and no one should trust them. On the other hand, France, country were most of the action takes place, is still characterized as a beautiful place for vacation with romantic safe charm.

Overall, "Taken" is a very good action movie that incorporates intriguing plot with criminal behavior. The movie elaborately depicts the selling people industry and all of its horrors. Unfortunately, in the characterization of the scenes, Albanians are shown in very criminal and bad light, which might lead the audience's logic to connect those characteristics into reality. My overall rating is 3/5.

Free Willy

In the film, Free Willy, produced in 1993, the importance of family, animal rights, and the balance between right and wrong are explored through twelve-year-old Jesse. Jesse first comes on screen as a delinquent young boy who has lived a troubled life; bouncing from various foster homes while yearning for his mother's return. In Jesse's attempt to act out, he and a group of boys graffiti the marine amusement park that houses a killer whale named Willy. Dwight, the security officer, catches Jesse in the act. Subsequently, Jesse is placed in a new foster home, but this time the young couple genuinely cares for this boy. Dwight decides Jesse can work off his punishment by cleaning the aquarium room. Through this experience, Jesse befriends Willy the volatile killer whale. The movie is shown through the eyes of Jesse. I believe this is effective for the message of treating animals fairly. Michael Smith, writer for the Herald Journal, argues that movies often "feature dramatic narration portraying the animals as reasoning and emotional"(12). Producer, Lauren Shuler-Donner, avoids this by using the boy to express the emotions of both he and Willy.

The cliche of "there's no place like home," is apparent in "Free Willy." This movie explores the importance of family. Willy is tempered because mercenary fisherman remove him from his natural habitat and family. Jesse's mother left him and subsequently, he acts out. Jesse and Willy bond because they feel alone. The final scene shows willy reunited with his mother in the ocean. Jesse finally accepts his new family and runs up to hug them. The negative feelings felt by the audience from Jesse having to let his best friend, Willy, go is overshadowed by the positive message that neither are alone. They have found their way home.

Animal cruelty is a problematic message the film is trying to bring light to. The capture of Willy and his treatment by the amusement park owner evokes empathy and compassion for this wild animal. To him this killer whale is only dollar signs. Jesse and Willy's two trainers are the only people who care about Willy. The scene where Jesse is playing his harmonica to Willy by the tank, slips, falls in the water and Willy saves him by swimming him over to the side puts the audience on Willy's side (Free Willy, 1993). Pathos is an integral part of getting the audience to take the movies message to heart. It creates the emotion of passion for this issue, therefore, the viewers are more likely to help put a stop to animal cruelty. In Everything's an Argument, Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz explain that, "some issues provoke strong feelings and, as a result, are often argued on emotional terms" (48, 2). Jesse fights for Willy to be free from harm and let back into the ocean. The park owner's greed is causing him to take illegal actions by poisoning the tank to collect insurance money. However, good trumps evil in the end.

Overall, the movie sends a good message of trust and family while opening our eyes to the unfair capture and treatment of animals in certain situations. One flaw in this movie is that some people may take away the idea that all broken families or foster children participate in mischievous acts of some kind. This is giving families and children in similar situations a negative stereotyped image. All ages can enjoy this movie even though some of these more subjective ideas may not be caught. Who doesn't love watching whales do tricks?

Because of the universal appeal, and genuine messages this movie conveys, I rate it....


With a blockbuster-sized budget and the reliable hand of Sam Raimi at the helm of the first live action adaptation of Marvel’s flagship character, Spider-Man was expected to be a success from the very beginning. Despite its accomplishments, the film still had to deal with the now-cliché messages that are integral of the comic books. Like many movies, Spider-Man had to deal with problem messages that result as fallout of the cliché.

The cliché message in the film has become a cliché almost in and of itself. “With great power comes great responsibility” have become more than just the wise words of Uncle Ben; the phrase has become a message that is synonymous with superhero movies and has been thoroughly explored in many other genres as well. ‘A protagonist has to deal with the expectations and responsibilities of being a figure of power’ is a synopsis that we have seen all too often, yet Spider-Man approaches the challenge that shows us that you can show an old dog new tricks. (See what I did there?)

In “Everything’s an Argument,” identifying the target audience is one of the most important elements when presenting an argument. So, a key factor in determining whether or not the movie succeeded in overcoming the problem messages is identifying that audience. For a normal superhero movie, this would be males anywhere from 5-year-olds who love superheroes or 35-year-olds that used to read the comics. For a movie with this advertising budget, however, the target audience was more generalized but with a strong emphasis on younger kids.

I believe that the “responsibility” cliché is very important for young viewers and was used well in the film. The whole reason that Stan Lee created Spider Man in the first place was so that young readers could relate more closely to a superhero. This was Tobey Maguire’s first blockbuster movie, so the “essence of the character” had not yet been established by the audience, as suggested in Giannetti’s “Understanding Movies.” This ethos-driven help allowed Maguire to create a real, fresh character that the audience could admire. In the movie as well as the comics, Peter Parker is a teenage boy who deals with the same issues that many young Americans deal with. Responsibility is a trait that we value as Americans, and wish for our children to value. Because kids can relate so closely to Parker, however, this can also cause problems involving other messages.

A major problem message in the movie is stems from the responsibility aspect. When Peter Parker first acquires his superpowers, he uses them only for himself. He tries to make money by wrestling and doesn’t use them for the benefit of others, which leads to the death of his uncle. This message says, “As long as we haven’t messed up yet, we can do whatever we want.” This isn’t what young people should be hearing, especially when they are supposed to be utilizing logos to prepare themselves to work hard for a career. This problem message brings a sense of reality to yet another cliché, “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.”

The other and more important problem message implied in the movie is the idea that “revenge is an acceptable value.” Parker is angered by the murder of his uncle, a pathos-driven desire, which is the primary reason he hunts down the killer and decides to become Spider Man. Should the primary catalyst for our admirable behavior be bloodthirsty revenge? Surely we don’t want kids to think that if they are trespassed against, they should hit back even harder.

These negative messages are present in the film, but the primary cliché overpowers them. Peter Parker is a wonderfully heroic young man that people of all ages can admire. Although our mistakes may not be as serious as the mishap with his uncle, he shows us that anger and a thirst for vengeance can be quenched with justice and integrity.

Rating: 4/5

The Blind Side

“The Blind Side” is a feel good, family movie that is based on the true story of  Michael Oher, a young black teen who came from a troubled family. Michael grew up living in the projects in Memphis, Tennessee with his mother, a drug addict. Michael was taken from his mother and placed into a number of different foster families. He did a lot of bouncing around between families and sleeping on friends’ couches. Michael ended up being accepted into a private Christian school.  It is here that SJ Tuohy befriended Michael one day at school.  This is where the story really begins. The rest of the movie is about how the Tuohy family -- Sean and Leigh Anne, and their children Collin and SJ --  generously opened up their home to Michael and eventually adopted him into their family (The Blind Side, Film). The movie is about the ups and downs that the family went through dealing with outsiders looking in on their lives. “Underdogs almost automatically win us over to their side” (Giannetti p 406). You just can’t help but root for Michael as you watch his transformation, eventually heading to Ole Miss as a highly recruited football player, graduating on the Dean’s List and being drafted into the NFL.

“The Blind Side” is not a fictional story with a hidden agenda about racial or socio-economic differences or “judging a book by it’s cover.”  However, because it is a story of a disadvantaged black youth being taken in by a wealthy white family these undercurrents run throughout.  All sorts of people around the situation -- teachers, people from Michael’s neighborhood, friends of the Tuohys, Michael’s mother, a representative from the NCAA -- are unsure about what looks to them to be an unlikely combination. Will “Big Mike” fit in in the rich white community the Tuohys are a part of? Will the kids at school accept him? What will Leigh Anne and Sean’s friends think? For that matter, what will Big Mike’s former neighbors think?  Can this really work?  Is it wise?

Michael really struggles with the workload when he starts at the private school. There is a scene where his teachers are talking together about Michael and how he is doing in their classes. They all have negative things to say about him, but his science teacher steps up and says that if you step in and help him that he can be successful. This one teacher has faith in Michael and really wants to help him. She is doing the opposite of what all the other teacher are doing which is judging Michael by his looks and not by who he really is. They just assume because of his background that he is going to do poorly. They see him as lazy and unintelligent. The science teacher takes the time to sit down with Michael and do his tests orally. She finds that Michael performs much better when he can explain what he knows about the questions (The Blind Side, Film).

One night as the Tuohy family is driving home from a school event they come upon Michael walking along the road in the cold.  At first they pass him but Leigh Anne quickly tells her husband that they must turn around. SJ recognizes him as Big Mike from school.  Leigh Anne  gets out of the car and approaches Michael. She asks, “Do you have any place to stay tonight?” Michael responds with a head nod saying yes. Leigh Anne then replies “Don’t you dare lie to me.” (The Blind Side, Film) She tells him to get in the car and come home with them. Michael, a little surprised at first, gets in. That night Leigh Anne doesn't see Big Mike as a large, black, homeless teenager the way others may see him.  All she sees is a child who is walking in the cold with no jacket on who needs a place to stay. You would think most wealthy white families would just keep driving, but not the Tuohy family. Leigh Anne has a big heart and she doesn’t judge Big Mike by his appearance. “Filmmakers create sympathetic characters by dramatizing such traits as idealism, courage, generosity, fair play, kindness, and loyalty” (Giannetti p 406) .Leigh Anne is a sympathetic character!

Both of these scenes make me tear up. One of the reasons I love this movie so much is because of the emotions it stirs up.  There are scenes where I am happy, sad, laughing and crying. This movie really hits on lots of different emotions (pathos)! Pathos was used in “The Blind Side” to keep the audience interested. Throughout the movie, it is so touching to see how the Tuohy family truly cares for Michael. When your audience feels for your characters they enjoy the movie more. In the book Everything’s an Argument, authors Andrea A. Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewicz believe that you can use pathos to create an emotional appeal that will make the scene stronger and more memorable for the audience.

There is a telling scene in the movie where Leigh Anne is out to lunch with three of her friends. One of the women asks Leigh Anne, with a smile, “Does Michael get the family discount at Taco Bell? Because if he does, Sean is going to lose a few stores!” Leigh Anne responds, “He’s a good kid.” A friend then jokes saying “Well, I say you just make it official and adopt him.” Leigh Anne quietly answers, “Well, he’s going to be 18 in a few months so it doesn't make sense to legally adopt.” Her friends go silent and seem shocked by this remark. “Leigh Anne, is this some sort of white guilt thing?  What will your Daddy say?” “I don’t need y’all to approve of my choices but I do ask that you respect them,” says Leigh Anne. “I think it is so great what you're doing, to open up your home to him. Honey, you’re changing that boy’s life,” remarks one friend. “No, he’s changing mine,” Leigh Anne replies with a serious look.  Another woman then challenges Leigh Anne by saying, “And that’s awesome for you, but what about Collins? … Aren’t you worried, just a little?  He’s a boy -- a large, black by, sleeping under the same roof.”  “Shame on you,” Leigh Anne answers. (The Blind Side, Film)

Leigh Anne’s friends aren’t the only ones who question why the Tuohys would take Michael in. In one scene Leigh Anne goes to the projects to look for Michael. Leigh Anne runs into some trouble makers who make rude comments to her. Showing her resolve and her genuine concern for Michael, Leigh Anne tells them, “If you threaten him, you threaten me.” When Michael later returns to the projects his friends all ask him if that white women was his “sugar momma” (The Blind Side, Film). They ask if he was sleeping with her.  In their minds why would a rich white woman want to take in a black teenager?   

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is a well-known cliche.  Because it is stated in the negative (“don’t”), this saying implies that people do, in reality, judge others by what is seen on the exterior or at first glance.  We know there are misconceptions made when people “judge a book by it’s cover.”  The whole point of this cliche is to remind us not to quickly judge someone by the way he or she looks on the outside, but to really get to know the person on the inside.   Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy saw a young man who needed help and they stepped in.  Despite the racial and socio-economic differences that might have kept them apart, Michael Oher and the Tuohys truly became one family and each member has been blessed.  Theirs is a heart-warming and inspiring story.  

Giannetti, Louis D. Understanding Movies 12th edition. NJ: Pearson, 2011. Print.

Lunsford, Andrea; Ruszkiewicz, John. Everything’s an argument. MA: Bedford, 200 (The Blind Side, Flim)

How to Train Your Dragon

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover
In the movie, How to Train Your Dragon, there are numerous positive messages that this “Funny and Touching” film has to offer (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone). The target audience is children because the rating is PG, meaning the messages will be soaked up by children’s pliable minds. One cliché that emanates throughout the film is to not judge a book by its cover. This theme is displayed through Hiccup, the dragons, and the intimate relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. There is also a problematic message that it is justified to be insubordinate with parents because elders are blinded by ignorant traditions.
We can see through the movie that the village people make fun of Hiccup for being weak and small because Vikings are large and strong. Several times, in the beginning of the movie, adults gesture to Hiccup’s outward appearance and tell him to stop “all of this” (How to Train Your Dragon Film). After Hiccup gains credibility by taking down the master dragon, an adult points to Hiccup and says the village could use more of “this” (How To Train Your Dragon Film). The moral is that the townspeople were wrong to judge him by his outward appearance at first. In the beginning, the Vikings belittle him as the town joke. He is refrained from fighting with his scrawny appearance. His outer appearance distracts others from realizing his useful talents.
Hiccup's uniqueness will eventually end the war between dragons and Vikings, but no one gives him a chance in the beginning because he is different. However, Hiccup possesses traits that qualify him as a good example to the target audience. This helps children learn from Hiccup. In his book, Understanding Movies, Louis Giannetti states that “Filmmakers create sympathetic characters by dramatizing such traits as idealism, courage, generosity, fair play, kindness, and loyalty” (406).  Through Hiccups courage, generosity, kindness and loyalty the message of the film is made clear; prejudices can cripple a town in decades of erroneous mores. Regardless of his outward appearance, he ends the years of strife between the dragons and villagers. This nods to inner strength and all the qualities previously listed. Villagers finally realize Hiccup has a lot to offer, but only after he saves the day by killing the queen dragon. Through Hiccup, we realize that big gifts come in small packages. Therefore, don’t judge a book by its cover because there is a lot to gain when we accept everyone, no matter how different they may look and act.  
In addition, dragons are erroneously stereotyped as something they are not based on their scary appearance. The judgment passed on the dragons over the 300 years of tradition exposes that Vikings are narrow-minded. The Vikings are convinced that dragons are ruthless and blood-thirsty.  In the book of dragons Hiccup flips through, the descriptions exaggerate the dragons’ lethality. For example, the Vikings believe that dragons will always kill on site. Hiccup discovers that this is not so. Vikings were wrong in their ideas about dragons. Vikings looked at the sharp teeth, scaly skin, big wings, and fire-breathing mouths and assumed all dragons were dangerous. However, through the diplomacy of Hiccup, we learn that dragons are not blood-thirsty. Dragons are only trying to gather feed for their master so they don’t get eaten themselves. After spending time with dragons in a nonthreatening way, a small dragon cuddles up underneath Hiccup's arm. Hiccup at this moment realizes the ignorance of Vikings ways: “Everything we know about you guys (dragons) is wrong” (How to Train Your Dragon Film). Hiccup mediates between his people and the dragon to reveal the dragons as soft and loving creatures that are only defensive when necessary. The village people, especially Hiccup’s stubborn father, are surprised to know that dragons can be their friends. This insinuates that wars can be started for wrong reasons because of wrong judgment. Even though dragons appear dangerous, they are not. This new perspective solves the townspeople’s and the dragons’ problems, as well as helps everyone coexist. This encourages children to get to know people before making decisions about them. The viewers may be impressed to befriend stereotyped or misunderstood kids at school.
Lastly, Hiccup and Toothless’ relationship prove that stereotypes can stiffle the best of friendships. Hiccup is rejected from his own people, but accepted by the one dragon he shot down. This starts Hiccup’s questioning of tradition because he knows at least one dragon is willing to be his friend. The two form a relationship that uses pathos to solidify the message. If Hiccup had written Toothless off as dangerous and blood-thirsty, he would have missed out on the chance to have a devoted friend. Hiccup used his untainted judgment to see beyond Toothless’ intimidating appearance. Hiccup says, “300 years and I am the only Viking that wouldn’t kill a dragon. […] I looked at him and I saw myself” (How to Train Your Dragon Film). Though unlikely, the two become friends and stop the stigma that crippled their two groups. Toothless is an exceptionally devoted friend when he comes to save Hiccup from an aggravated dragon. Hiccup reciprocates the loyalty when he jumps into the water to unbind Toothless. These emotional scenes solidify the argument that outward appearances can be deceiving. Hiccup takes the time to get to know Toothless and makes himself a life-long friend. Kids viewing the movie learn that two individuals from different worlds can be friends if outward appearances are put aside.      
While there are many positive messages in the film, problematic messages can be found as well. A possible problematic message is that the elderly are wrong and stuck in ignorant traditions. This may lead children to justify disobedience to parents or caretakers. We see this theme because Hiccup’s father is the one who rejects his own son for being different, goes into a battle that can’t be won without Hiccup, and changes his whole perspective in the end to be more like Hiccup’s. Hiccup’s own father is crippled by engrained myths about the dragons, treating them as enemies and sport. We realize in the end that the father and all elderly figures in the film were teaching wrong methods.
  The father’s narrow perspective is emphasized when he only sits down to talk with Hiccup after he thinks Hiccup has learned to fight dragons. The father says, “We finally have something to talk about” (How to Train Your Dragon Film). It is sad that the father only has something to talk to Hiccup about when he starts to seemingly become a good fighter. Through this scene Hiccup’s father is portrayed as inconsiderate, a quality that the father apologizes for in the final battle scene after Hiccup rescues the failing mission. Hiccup, on the other hand, is the smart one who saves the day. This may invite children to unremorsefully disobey their parents and take matters into their own hands. The message implied is—when parents get too stubborn and stuck in their ways, kids need to intervene to show them how it is done. This can be problematic for parents teaching discipline and promote rebellion. However, Hiccup never deliberately disobeys his father and does not talk back to his father. Hiccup also goes through dragon training like his father requested. Hiccup still has respect for his father and willingly forgives him. In the end, the relationship between Hiccup and his father is respectful and functional. Therefore, the message is slight and not enough to discredit the positive messages. There is more attention to the emotional connection between Hiccup and Toothless than the negative emotion between Hiccup and his father.  
The movie may send a few insubordination messages, but overall people, and children especially, receive a message to accept people for who they are, regardless of outward appearance and stereotypes. The stubborn Viking village is a perfect playground for teaching children not to judge a book by its cover. Hiccup may be small and clumsy, but he is diplomatic and caring. Dragons may be spikey and scaly, but they are humble and devoted. Traditions of the Vikings may be erroneous, but Hiccup clears up the problem by being different from the rest. Hopefully children will not pick up the message that elders are stuck in their ways and wrong. We can hope that children will not try to defy parents willingly, but will respect elderly who listen and care about them. Mostly, though, it persuades young ones to look on the inside, not the outside.
Rating: 3/5