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Directions: View a movie or read a book of your choice that deals with human relationships. Some films are discussed in your text. Analyze the film according to the following guidelines.
Submit competed paper
1. Briefly summarize the plot of the film or book. Just give me an idea of what it is about; don’t tell me the entire story, scene by scene. Do not cut and paste this section from a movie review web site or the back of the movie or book. That would-be plagiarism
2. Give a brief character description of the two or three most important characters in the film or book and tell how they fit into the story (age, gender, relationship to other characters, character traits).
3. Identify two (2) communication problems that occur between characters in the book or film.
4. Explain what you learned from analyzing the communication problems in this book or film.
Sample Media Analysis Paper
The title of the movie I chose to watch is “Mean Girls”. This movie centers around a young girl named Cady who was home schooled most of her school years and lived in Africa with her parents who have come back to the United States to live. As she prepares to enter high school she suddenly finds herself thrust into the life of a public-school student with no experience in the so called “real world” and surrounded by many different cliques, groups, clubs and many wannabes. Along with this myriad of different humans whom Cady has never been exposed to comes the difficulty of learning not only the “in” languages or so-called socially acceptable terminology of the land, all the while navigating the unknown social seating arrangements in the lunch room, proper in fashion vogue of the day, as well as the acceptable places to be seen and unseen. Cady initially meets up with two “outcasts” in the school named Janis and Damian who are not allowed to socialize with the perceived in groups on campus. The “plastics” as they are known are your typical popular, pretty, perfect girls who have a serious clique mentally and are oblivious to the rest of the world, so self-centered are they. The Plastics are led by a young girl named Regina who lives her life wrapped in the cocoon of wealth and perfection seemingly looking down at those around her and leading her “in” group of young, beautiful prefect minions. Cady pairs up with her second-hand friends, Janis and Ian, in coming up with a scheme to get inside the clique by pretending to be like them so that she can extract secrets and insider information. This is not a difficult task for Cady because she is already very pretty on the outside however her inside heart and soul is nothing like them. After being around them for a while she begins to dress, act and talk like her new friends as well as allowing her grades to slip and eventually it causes a struggle for the leadership and supremacy of the very in, plastic group. Along with this struggle we are treated to many devious and manipulative schemes in which they try to embarrass and out do the other even vying for the affection and attention of one of the cutest boys on campus. The movie is done in such a way as to shed light and fun about cliques and groups within the high school setting that nearly every teenager is familiar with just by attending high school. Eventually Cady realizes that this is not the world for her and even her prized sought after cute boy in school Aaron comments that Cady is in fact becoming just like them. Finally, a notebook is passed around that discloses some hurtful information about most everyone and causes chaos throughout the school with everyone coming to the realization that there is much back stabbing and gossiping taking place. Eventually the principle decides that these kids need an attitude makeover with the math teacher chiming in agreement that they all have self-esteem problems with everyone being guilty of talking behind each other’s back and all need to learn how to express themselves in healthy way. Eventually everyone is urged to write apologies in which all are read aloud in front of the class expressing some many heartfelt apologies with clear light being shed on the condition of humanity within their school and all releasing the poison within them by their public apologies. This very liberating experience allows everyone to just “be who they are” whether they are athletes or gay, smart, pretty, or nerds, all are acceptable, none is superior. A very poignant message emerges from this purging of the soul and mind and determines that just because you call someone fat it does not make you skinny nor professing someone stupid makes you smart. After this magnificent catharsis, the atmosphere is greatly improved with many lives transformed. You come away from the movie inspired and wishing that every high school campus could experience this transformation and eye opening experience.
The first main character is named Cady who the movie centers around. She is a home-schooled girl entering her first public high school upon her return from Africa. She is approximately sixteen years old with a naive personality, very smart, trusting and friendly to all. Because she has been home schooled all of her life she is not well versed in any of the public-school politics that can ingrain many of its inhabitants such as social cliques, fashionable attire, nerds, etc. She arrives on the school campus completely unversed is what is acceptable as far as in style attire, language etiquette for teenagers the geography and layout of the campus and because of such she is easily influenced by most everyone she comes into contact with. However, she undergoes a transformation in which she inadvertently becomes just like them while trying to pretend to be their friends in order to gain inside information. Cady is confident, self-controlled to a degree, fun-loving, talkative, has broad interests and is reliable.
The second main character is named Regina who is essentially the queen of mean. She as well is sixteen years old, very attractive, extremely wealthy and very snobby. She has established herself as the best of the best in the high school environment and seemingly looks down on all of those around her having established herself as above all. She is conceited beyond imagination having no concept of poverty or empathy for anyone around her. She is indulged beyond thought by her mother who feeds her ego through an endless supply of money and materialism. Those around her follow her as if she were a God allowing her to set the standards and rules for the entire group. Additionally, she has a negative impact on everyone around her and destroys many self-concepts. She is extroverted, spontaneous, independent, social and self-serving, with a highly-inflated ego.
Aaron is one of the main male characters in the movie and is the campus cutie, adored by the girls. Aaron’s persona is one of innocent male even though he is extremely good looking he is not your typical stuck-up jock type and even seems somewhat clueless and gullible at times. He is sixteen as well and is the ex-boyfriend/new boyfriend of Regina through the movie. He is very forgiving and generous in his assessment of Regina and most of the kids and even gives Regina grace when describing her as just a little “up-front” but seemingly harmless. He is the type who is always looking for the best in others and plays the role of peace keeper among his peers. Aaron is sociable, fun-loving, open, conscientious to a degree, and can be accommodating as well, making excuses for others shortcomings and empathetic.
The first communication problem is most obvious with Regina and is classified in this movie as a mean girl because of her arrogant, vain, better than thou attitude towards everyone. Her first obvious communication lapse is seen within her perception of those around her. She has not taken the time to get to know anyone in great depth, and instead judges on appearance alone to form her friendships. The appearance communicational issue correlates with non-verbal communication and in this case Regina is overly prideful and vain with not only her appearance but uses it as well to choose her friends and judge those around her. Regina is sending clear messages to those around her that appearance is of primary importance and places much faith on that judgment from first appearances. This is a weakness and bad habit and as noted, “Most people claim that we should judge others on the basis of how they act, not how they look.”(Adler and Proctor II 268) This correlates with our text in stating that, “Physically attractive students are usually judged more favorably…than their less attractive counterparts.”(Adler and Proctor II 223) The appearance of those within the plastics group is always of upmost importance one girl states to another, “you are wearing sweat pants, it’s Monday and that is not allowed, you cannot sit with us.”(Mean Girls) Judging on appearance clearly contributes to communication difficulties and it is not until the end of the movie wherein everyone is encouraged to look within themselves for solutions to their problems, to stop judging others and coming to the realization that not everyone will be the same and that is a good thing. They solve the problem by getting up in front if everyone and reading apologies to one another and acknowledging that not everyone will be skinny, fat, smart, dumb, athletic etc., and that just being yourself is more important. Another communicational error with Regina is her manner of language and attitude and she boldly calls people sluts, hors while at the same time exhibiting a condescending manner and attitude towards everyone around her. Regina’s pragmatic rules within her group are understood however with the relationships around her it has left everyone feeling like social outcasts and less than human. As noted, “If they bring different perspectives to interpreting it, a problem exists.” (Adler and Proctor II) While the language between Regina and her friends are understood and utilized by all within their circle it is not understood by those outside thus creating a chasm between relationships. As noted, “Those who are not privy to your relationship’s pragmatic rules are likely to misunderstand you…” (Adler and Proctor II 166) The groups of kids do not deal with the problem until the end of the movie when everything has escalated out of control with many hurt feelings and misunderstandings. At that point they all engage in a clearer use of verbal language in which they all write letters and read them aloud to clarify the miscommunication and misunderstanding that has culminated in such a hurtful, dysfunctional atmosphere. The solution used here is seen within the language of responsibility wherein everyone begins to own their portion of fault and seeks to engage in more bridge building relationships. They have all sought to use more “I” language to clear up their relationships and seek to repair the friendships. As noted, “’I’ language provides a more accurate and less provocative way to express a complaint.” (Adler and Proctor II 176) Regina as well has huge non-verbal language issues in which she walks with an attitude of arrogance, high body orientation in which she will intentionally turn her body away from those she feels is less superior to her. As noted, “You can learn a good deal about how people feel by observing the way people position themselves.” (Adler and Proctor II 213) As well Regina’s gestures are seen as highly arrogant and egotistical as she rolls her eyes and lifts her head high in the air giving her an air of superiority over those around her. It is at the end of the movie when Regina is faced with the realization of what her attitude, non-verbal language and verbal language has done to those around her and even states that “I was not aware of the impact of my actions…” (Mean Girls) Regina clearly has high self-esteem issues and has come to regard herself in a much higher regard than those around her. She thinks nothing of making others feel less superior by calling them names or blankly telling them they cannot sit at her table or be a part of her inner circle because they are not judged well enough for her. As noted, “Self-esteem may be based on inaccurate thinking, but it still has a powerful effect on the way we relate to others.” (Adler and Proctor 53) Because of Regina’s inflated ego she has an overly inflated self-esteem issue and has come to regard herself in the most favorable light possible, blind to any realities of those around her. At the end of the movie she engages in a more self-reflective approach as she seeks to understand the turmoil she has created around her. Regina’s over inflated ego and direct negative communication towards others has created low self-concepts for some of the girls around her who she treats as outcasts as well as socially excluding them. Regina has played a large role in creating low concepts in those around her as many young girls are highly susceptible to the way others view them and especially their peers. As noted, “The messages we receive from the people in our lives play the most important role in shaping how we regard ourselves.” (Adler and Proctor II 45) Regina also engages in an exorbitant amount of verbal abuse, continually referring to other people as “an army of skanks”, telling people to “shut-up” and so forth. Many of Regina’s comments are intentional being obvious while at other times it is veiled in humor or mockery and brings about much psychological pain for others around her. As well Regina is known for her very low-context style of language in which she is always direct and uses straight talk when speaking to those around her, never even considering the impact that her language has on those around her. All of the kids in this high school learn a valuable lesson with conflict approach and the value of directly stating your problem in order to seek a solution and being more open to compromise. This was done at the end of the movie with everyone admitting to their faults and errors and handling the situation in a non-combative manner. Regina comes to the realization that her style of communication has been injurious to those around her and has destroyed relationships as well as the all-important self-concept of her peers. Instead they all engage in a more inclusive style of communication by using the terms “I” and “We” to make the communication more a communal effort and not assigning blame.
The communication issues that I gained insight and learned from had to do with non-verbal communication. Even though non-verbal communication most of the time is more difficult to discern accurately and is by nature ambiguous I have become more aware of not just my non-verbal behavior but with those around me as well. I have learned not to immediately judge someone else’s nonverbal behavior until I am certain that I have read it correctly. It is always a good idea to use perception checking when attempting to discern another’s non-verbal communication and the best way to do this is by verbally asking and as noted, “the only way you can find out if these hunches are correct is to check them out verbally.”(Adler and Proctor 207) I personally cannot count the number of times that I inadvertently assumed someone else’s actions by their non-verbal behavior and how many times I have been wrong. Sometimes I have misjudged another by looking at their face and thinking they do not have time to talk to me because they may look tired, when in fact the very look may be just a momentary look of frustration at a completely different matter. I have also become keenly more aware of my own non-verbal communication style and how sometimes my actions can seem arrogant at times with others. I am very shy by nature and others take my shyness and non-verbal communication as being standoffish with an air of superiority. It is motivation to change my style in order not to offend anyone or give them a wrong first impression. Another issue that I deal with in everyday life is with the lady who does my nails. These Asian women come from a high context culture wherein they do not use direct language when dealing with you nor do they engage in much talk, instead preferring to be more private. At first I was a little offended, but once I got to know them and understand their culture better I realized that this is just their style of communicating. As noted, “Communicators can also learn to become more aware of others cultures’ nonverbal clues.” (Adler and Proctor II 210) Another communicational error that I learned from this movie has to do with conflict approach and the utilization of perception checking as a solution. Instead of just allowing issues to escalate without every discussing the issue, it is wise to deal with things as they arise describing your problems and needs to others in order to avoid miscommunication and disharmony. It is imperative to seek a partnership in solution finding and as our text terms it, a “win-win” approach to conflict resolution. The best approach is to try to find a solution that is amicable to all involved instead of having everything your way or no way. As noted, “Collaborators show a high degree of concern for both themselves and others.”(Adler and Proctor II 376) Many times in my own life, especially with my spouse, I will always try to solve a conflict by winning him over to my way and tackling the issue in a negative, manner which always results in alienating him even more and escalating the situation. While the realization that there will always be conflicts is a reality, my approach instead is to seek to find way to resolve the conflict with good communication skills. As noted, “Effective communication during conflicts can actually keep good relationships strong.”(Adler and Proctor II 368) I have also learned that using passive aggressiveness or my partner’s direct aggression is not the most beneficial way of communication to solve issues. Instead it is wise to use more effective communication conflict skills such as identifying the perceived problem and conveying your needs, setting aside time to discuss the issue, taking into consideration my partners side of the issue, finding a middle ground for compromise and putting into practice the solution. Another valuable lesson that I learned was ideas about how self-concept is shaped, formed and cemented in our lives and how deeply that self-concept is shaped by the way others view us. More importantly to be able to instill that value into my children and make sure that they are treating their peers with respect regardless of their perceived status in life. I watched this movie with my daughter in order for her to see some of the lessons at the end of the movie and how hurtful it can be when we treat others with disrespect just because we think we are better and not to be guilty of evaluating others. As noted, “Evaluations like these are the mirror by which we know ourselves.”(Adler and Proctor II 47) In the end of the movie the kids have learned to be constructive instead of destructive with each other and learn to effectively communicate with each other rather than the combative atmosphere they once shared. I as well have learned different methods for creating a positive communication atmosphere and some of the steps necessary to improve the communication climate. This communicational atmosphere is developed early in relationships and can be positive or negative and comes about by both verbal and non-verbal communication and defensiveness will almost always contribute and encumber effective communication.
Adler, Ronald B., and Russell F. Proctor II. Looking Out/Looking In. 12th ed. Mason, Ohio: Cengage
Mean Girls. Perf. Lindsay Lohan and Tina Fey. Dir. Mark Waters. 2004. DVD. Paramount, 2004.