Essay #1 – Assignment Sheet
“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”
~ Albert Camus (philosopher/author)
“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.”
~ Roger C. Schank (cognitive scientist)
For this assignment, you will choose a film that you believe is part of our culture’s attempt to process a certain experience, idea, event, change, tragedy, triumph, process, or struggle. Film is the dominate art form through which modern issues are explored for a popular audience. For example, after the events of 9/11, movies and television shows began to focus on terrorism as well as the conflict in the Middle East as a way of considering collectively the concepts of morality, war, fear, responsibility, and hope. There are all kinds of ways that movies attempt to deal with popular fears. Planet of the Apes, from 1968, dealt in fairly overt ways with race, religion, and nuclear war. The vampire revival of the late 1980s and 1990s is frequently attributed to society’s processing of the AIDS crisis – think of how illness is spread and the overlap of blood/fluids and sexuality. The zombie revival of the last decade is often connected to our modern apocalyptic fears and stresses. Here’s what Max Brooks (author of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide) has to say about this idea:
We’re living in very uncertain times. People have a lot of anxiety about the future. They’re constantly being battered with these very scary, very global catastrophes. I think a lot of people think the system is breaking down and just like the 1970s, people need a “safe place” to explore their apocalyptic worries. They can’t read stories about real plagues or nuclear war. That’s too scary. That’ll make them turn away. Zombie stories give people the opportunity to witness the end of the world they’ve been secretly wondering about while, at the same time, allowing themselves to sleep at night because the catalyst of that end is fictional.
And from a different interview:
You can't shoot the financial meltdown in the head – you can do that with a zombie. . . . All the other problems are too big. . . . [Y]ou can't picture global warming. You can't picture the meltdown of our financial institutions. But you can picture a slouching zombie coming down the street.
This is far beyond what you need to do in your essay, but I want you to start looking and thinking more deeply. I want you to be active readers when we get to literature – and that starts with being active viewers for this assignment and active thinkers in all situations.
I would caution against simply using the topics I’ve explored as examples above; rather, you should choose something that has meaning and resonates with you. From there, you should explore all the potential films about that subject before narrowing your selection to a specific film for your argument. The cultural topics are nearly limitless; they range from the financial crises, to...