Cultural Analysis Paper

Objective: The purpose of this paper is to recognize and understand the choices (visual, aural, etc.) made in the creation of a cultural commodity. By observing and writing a given item using the cinematic terms we have discussed in the course, you will come to a better understanding of the object, its “message”, and its larger role in the cultural discourse.

Assignment: Write a thesis-driven essay in which you examine an everyday item or items (a building or set of buildings, a public space, a store interior, product displays, etc.) of your choice from a cinematic perspective. You may not use a TV show or film as the object of study for this paper. What “message” does the item send through its use of mise-en-scene, framing, colors, sound, etc.? How can the theories of cinema help us to understand the larger forces in society that shape our responses and ideas?

Briefly describe the item(s) and the context it inhabits in no more than 125 words; please include a picture of the item (or a link) in the Word document as well. The majority of your paper should be an analysis of any key elements — mise-en-scene, camera angles, etc. — both in isolation and overall, that make your chosen item especially significant. Your cultural analysis must utilize the specific terminology associated with the construction and composition of a film; review the terms associated with “mise-en-scene”, “color”, and other terms from the course readings so far.

Anything that you write about your item must support the central argument in your paper (which is your thesis).

Suggestions for beginning the paper: After choosing which item you want to write about and doing an initial “screening”, replay or review the item several times as you think about the following items:

Visuals: Make notes on everything that stands out about the visuals (color, mise-en-scene, framing, lighting, angles, materials, etc.). If there are people involved, consider their gender, race, age, etc. For now, focus only on the item(s) you have chosen and gathering data, not on formulating your interpretation.
Sounds: If sound is a part of your item, make a note of the sound track. Is there a speaker / singer? If so, what is the person’s gender, race, age, etc.? What kind of music is used? Does the music change? Are there other sounds? If so, what is their purpose?
Once you have gathered your data about the item, work to formulate your interpretation and a thesis. Create a thesis that identifies what the item(s) is “saying” and what elements are most important in forming that message. Consider the following questions:
Do I know who created this item (or items)? (If you don’t, that’s okay)
What cinematic elements are used to attract my attention?
What values, lifestyles, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, the item’s “message”?
What is the item (or items) “saying” or “selling”? How well does the message match the item?
Why is this message being sent?
When you write, your thesis should point out what you think the overall meaning and / or impact of the item is and which elements create that message. The paper should be organized in a logical manner. Be sure to have clear topic- and concluding statements for each paragraph, and to include a conclusion that synthesizes the paper and presents a final thought on the item.

Criteria for Formatting & Submission

Your cultural analysis should:

Be typed, double-spaced, with no changes to the margins
Be in Calibri 11 or Times New Roman 12 font
Be spell- and grammar-checked
Include your name, but do not put your student ID number on the paper.
Include a title
Include a picture (or link) of the item you have chosen to analyze
Be at least 750 words long; you may go over 750 words if needed, but try to not let the paper get too long
Include a word count at the end of the paper; the word count should only refer to the essay portion of the paper and should not include the “Terminology Utilized” section, title, or your name
Include a “Terms Used” glossary that describes, in your own words, any film concepts or cinematic terms utilized in your essay. It is like a “Works Cited” page, but it should instead be focused on defining the cinematic terms you use in your essay. This section does not count towards the 750 word-count requirement for your essay.
You do not need to include outside references in your essay unless directly quoting from one of the course readings.

I have uploaded a Sample Cultural Analysis Paper. Please take a look! Thanks!

Readings that you might needed:
Yale Film Analysis Guide

Color in Storytelling

Main Film Genres

The Art of Silence