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Rhetorical Analysis of a Disney Film

In class we’ve been examining how authors use certain techniques to make their work more persuasive. We’ve read about rhetorical analysis, including the frames of mind that lend themselves to answering the so what? by making the interpretive leap. We’ve watched Song of the South and practiced making interpretive leaps from observations, and we’ve seen how Miller and Rode analyze both Song of the South and The Jungle Book.

This assignment asks you to extend Miller and Rode’s project in order to analyze a Disney film of your own choosing. As Miller and Rode argue, Disney films are predicated on binaries both implicit and explicit. Of course, all Disney films are built around an idea of good vs. evil; I’d like you to find a more specific binary to examine. You should choose a binary that is based on values, like foolishness vs. wisdom or selfishness vs. selflessness. Your analysis should focus on a pattern you discover in your film that creates a binary, in order to examine the didactic effect of that pattern. If it is relevant, you should also make sure that you contextualize the film as Miller and Rode do, to explain how its placement in history and culture affect how it is viewed.

You will also need to complicate the binary in some way, to show how careful analysis creates contradictions in the seeming opposition. Here you are looking for an anomaly. For instance, you might show how the ugly stepsister still gets what she wants, or how the hero is really selfish sometimes. By doing this, you can examine the grey area between the black/white binary the film sets up.

Your first task is to watch the film carefully and take notes, to determine what main messages, both explicit and implicit, the authors are trying to convey in the film. You might do this by finding patterns of repetition and contrast among your observations. Choose one pattern to focus on, query the pattern to formulate a to what extent question, and then determine HOW the authors create and convey a message by utilizing this binary.

While you may need to do a little outside research for this film, perhaps to find a script of the film online or the spelling of certain characters names, you should not use outside sources to provide your summary or analysis of the film. We will begin integrating secondary sources into our writing later in the semester, but for now, please rely on your own ability to  notice and focus to provide the argument for your project.

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