FILM REACTION PAPERS


INSTRUCTIONS: This paper allows you to use your sociological imagination, which is the process of considering environmental influences to better understand people's experiences, behaviors, and choices as related to the family and relationships.

For this paper, first decide what you think is the main point you want to make about the film; this is your paper's thesis. Then choose three of the concepts listed below to discuss what you feel are the important themes of the film that support the thesis of the paper (choose from the list of films shown below the concepts). *Towards the bottom of this page is an example of a Film Reaction Paper, written by a student who took this class. The student earned an "A" on this paper.


Each paper should be set up like a 5-paragraph essay:

1) First paragraph: Introduces the main ideas in the paper and offers a 'thesis statement' -- ie, what is the main point of the paper?

            a) Second paragraph discusses the first concept as shown in the film. The discussion in this paragraph needs to support the main point of the paper (the thesis).

            b) Third paragraph discusses the second concept as shown in the film. The discussion in this paragraph needs to support the main point of the paper (the thesis).

            c) Fourth paragraph discusses the third concept as shown in the film. The discussion in this paragraph needs to support the main point of the paper (the thesis).

2) Fifth paragraph offers a conclusion to the paper, summing up the main points, connecting it back to the main point/thesis of the paper.

3) For each paragraph, the assignment is NOT to simply mention the concept and then move on. The ENTIRE paragraph needs to be about that one concept using examples from the film, and all of it needs to connect back to the main point of the paper. One way to help yourself focus on the particular concept in each paragraph is to have that concept be part of the topic sentence.


*In terms of length, papers need to be a minimum of 1800-2000 words. (Laulima will also indicate the word count once the paper is pasted in the box.)

A list of the films is located below the concepts.

TO USE IN THE PAPERS: No need to define the concepts in your papers; just use them correctly to show understanding. At least 3 concepts per paper need to be used, and more is okay, too!

1. Dominant cultural values:  Dominant cultural values and beliefs are those that are widely shared among a community, group, or culture. They influence many judgments people make, as well as the support that may be given to a particular cause, individual, or group. Beliefs and values are formed throughout the course of life and may change over time. They contribute to a group's sense of who they are, as well as a group's global view. The primary influencers in the formation of values and beliefs include social, political, economic, and religious institutions; kinship; and customs and practices. Examples:  The American Dream (ie, the belief that in this country, if you work hard you can achieve a comfortable standard of living); sexual double standard (ie, it's okay for one gender to do, but not for the other); compulsory heterosexuality (ie, the expectation that being heterosexual is 'normal' -- so much so that the laws in this country have generally supported that kind of marital relationship over same-sex unions).

2. Mores:  Societal norms or rules that are enforced by members of a community. They can exist as both formal and informal rules of behavior. Formal mores or rules mean that the society has created actual laws to enforce them, and informal mores mean no laws have been created to enforce them, but the penalty is more social, where people get very upset if you do it (or don't do it, depending). For instance, being homosexual (in some families, especially with regards to their religion), being unfaithful in a marriage, abandoning one's family, etc.

3. Social devaluation:  A situation in which a person or group is considered to have less social value than other individuals or groups. For example, in the US society we tend to 'devalue' people living in poverty, where we see them as 'lazy' and to blame for their circumstance (even though the percentage of families living in poverty have a family member who is working full-time, and sometimes more than one job).

4. Self-conceptA knowledge representation that contains knowledge about us, including our beliefs about our personality traits, physical characteristics, abilities, values, goals, and roles, as well as the knowledge that we exist as individuals. Sociologists believe that a person's self-concept is strongly influenced by their environment -- ie, family upbringing, religion, peers, and the media, for example. Here, for example, a person may see themselves as overweight, friendly, athletic, kind, hard working, and independent. Sociologists believe a person's self-concept is influenced by how they believe others see them. So if we think people like us, for example, we might develop a positive self-concept. Related to the family, if we think our parent(s) love us and have confidence in us, we might therefore develop a positive self-concept.

5. Socioeconomic status:  A combined measure that, in order to determine class location, attempts to classify individuals, families, or households in terms of factors such as income, occupation, and education. How does a family's socioeconomic status affect their experiences -- specifically the experiences of children? This is a key consideration for sociologists. For example, if someone is raised in a wealthy family (a high socioeconomic status), their life experiences and opportunities will likely be much different than someone raised in poverty (a lower socioeconomic status).

6. Socialization: The lifelong process of social interaction through which individuals acquire self identity and the physical, social, and mental skills necessary for survival in society. For example, the family provides primary socialization, and then socialization continues throughout our lives. Sociologists put emphasis on socialization in the family, as that is where we first develop our sense of self and our understanding of society, and it's the place the determines our basic opportunities in life.

7. Gender socialization:  The aspect of socialization (see above definition) that contains specific messages and practices concerning the nature of being female or male in a specific group or society. For example, families tend to socialize male and female children differently when they give them different toys, clothing, and chores, and when they have different expectations of them such as rules regarding curfew. All of this teaches children that we think males and females are different. This is changing to some extent, although we still see differences in the ways in which females and males are raised.

8. Role expectation:  A group’s or society’s definition of the way a specific role ought to be played, and Role performance:  how a person actually plays the role. A person's role performance may be different than the role expectation. For example, we expect parents to provide love and security to their children (role expectation), but their role performance may differ if they have the disease of drug addiction (or some other reason).

9. Ethnocentrism: The attitude that one's own culture is superior to others, that one's own beliefs, values, and behavior are more correct than others; and that other people and cultures can be evaluated in terms of one's own culture. It is common to be ethnocentric, as there is a tendency to understand the world only from the viewpoint of one's own culture. For example, when we judge the norms of another culture (or subculture) as being inferior to our own, we are being ethnocentric.

LIST OF FILMS: Choose from the list below:

*Remember, whatever film you choose, you'll need to approach the discussion in terms of the family and relationships.

*To aid in your paper discussions, be sure to use the content from related chapters -- this will help you!

*Especially with the shorter films (some are very short!), take some time before you begin writing to really think about the film and the deeper meanings. In fact, you might want to just watch it, and then not even write the paper until the next day, after you've had time to think and look at the list of concepts. Different meanings of the film will come to you as you let it simmer ....

* I like all of these films; each one is unique. I would recommend watching all of them, even if you don't choose to write a paper about them. Please enjoy!

1. The Boy Next Door

2. Tashi and the Monk (I love this film!)

3. A Tale of Two Women

4. My Mom and Dad

5. Sisters

6. Skin (Powerful!)

7. Skin (This is a different film than the one above with the same title -- and it's also powerful! Please note that strong themes exist in this film.)

8. Raising Thomas

9. A film of your choice that is related to the family specifically

*When submitting papers to Laulima, you will not be attaching files: simply copy and paste your text from Word in the box provided on the Laulima page.


This is an example of a Film Reaction Paper, written by a student who took this class. The student earned an "A" on this paper.



Marriage Material
     The film “Marriage Material,” is a look inside the relationship of two people, Andrew and Emily, who because of a simple gesture of friendship are forced to take a serious look at their relationship. In this case, it’s the unexpected consequences that come about when Andrew and Emily offer to babysit their friends’ seven-month-old son for the day. At first babysitting is a novelty for both of them, actually more for Emily than for Andrew. Andrew seems ambivalent about their babysitting adventure.  Emily is curious about the cost of having and caring for a baby, and when her friend divulges that “babies don’t cost that much,” it intrigues her. However, Andrew seems more interested in just getting through the day and handing the child back to the parents.  For Emily, it is the time she spends with the baby that she discovers her maternal, nurturing instinct has been awakened and feels her biological clock has begun to tick. It is this new revelation that has her contemplating the idea of marriage and starting a family—with her boyfriend, Andrew.  On the other hand, the vibe from Andrew is he sees the child as nothing more than a distraction to his everyday routine, the reason that is keeping him away from his computer and his writing.  Andrew is a man self-absorbed in his work.  He is happy with the status quo, but Emily is now longing for something more. It is their different reactions to the experiences of the day that causes them to question their life together and the possibility that neither one of them might be “marriage material.” This short film does a fairly good job of showing how social devaluation, dominant cultural values and even self-concept play a role in our daily interactions, as well as the choices we make. It is these choices and interactions that affect not only us, but the people around us. It is through the eyes of Andrew and Emily that we see how these concepts are played out throughout the film in sometimes verbal and silent interactions.

     It is apparent that Emily is entranced by this child and the thought of having her own family.  She delights in all aspects of mothering from the feeding of the baby; to bath time even to nap time…unfortunately, it is apparent Andrew does not feel the same urge to be a father. He is a so absorbed on the computer with his writing, that the baby and to a certain degree, Emily are nothing more than an annoyance. A few days after their friends leave Emily is sent a photo of the baby. When she goes in to show Andrew a photo of the baby, Andrew is on the computer and basically ignores her. When Emily inquires if he enjoyed having a baby in the house, his only reply was, “yeah, it was good to see them.” She is so desperately trying to find a way to approach him about her feeling on having a baby, but he just turns back to the computer; seemingly bored with the topic.  Again, when Emily is telling Andrew about how little it cost to have a child, that even someone as poor as she can afford it, she just wants him to validate her feelings…instead, he says nothing, puts back on his headphones and turns back to the computer. I think his behavior is a form of social devaluation. I think because Andrew does not place the same value on marriage and family that he tends to look down on those who feel differently.   

     The scene where Emily and Andrew are in bed, and she has engaged him into a discussion about marriage is one of the most powerful scenes of the film.  This is the point where you can clearly see that their cultural values are not the same.  You can just feel the tension building between the two of them as the conversation continues. Emily keeps urging Andrew to talk about getting married and starting a family until he finally blurts out that he’s not interested in marriage. I felt that this was the spot in the film that showed just how divided they were not only on the social institution of marriage, but their dominant cultural values as well. The fact that it is important for her to be married before she gets pregnant, gives an insight to values that were probably instilled in her as a child. The fact that Andrew sees the life they have as just fine the way it is and doesn’t want or need marriage/baby says a lot about how he feels about her. Andrew and Emily have been in a relationship and living together for at least four years, yet they are on completely different pages when it comes to where they want the relationship to go. A good visual image of just how far apart these two are is the collage of photos of Andrew and Emily dangling from ceiling fan. You see photos of Andrew and photos of Emily, but no photos of them together as a couple.

     In the beginning of the film it seemed as if Emily had a positive self-concept; however this changed throughout the film. The first glimpse of this was when she confided to her friend about the “tug of her uterus.” Emily wants to have a baby, but she’s afraid to voice her desire to Andrew for fear of rejection. This is further explored in the scene from the bedroom, where Emily finally expresses her desire for marriage.  It is during this tension filled conversation that Andrew, feeling cornered about expressing his own feelings, snaps at Emily. In a demoralizing rant, he goes off on how Emily never stops talking, she never allows him to talk. He continues on further, saying that no one can talk when she’s around and even though he has publicly chastised her about this, she still has not stopped. This might explain why Emily has a poor self-concept. Maybe Andrew thinks if he can make her mad enough, she’ll drop the subject of marriage—but she doesn’t.  Andrew’s answer of not wanting to get married hurts Emily, it is not what she was expecting and is clearly a blow to her ego. You can just feel her hurt and rejection as she asks him, why he doesn’t want to marry her.  She’s got to be feeling that it’s her fault that Andrew doesn’t want to marry her. The sense of sadness that Emily feels as turns over to go to sleep is very evident. The next scene cuts to where Emily is working out on the floor. It poses the question, “is she working out because she likes to work out?” or “is she working out because she has body-image issues?” We know she has a trust issue by the way she says that since Andrew travels all the time, it would make her feel better if he had a ring on his finger. However, do these trust issues stem from her childhood or has Andrew done something to break that trust?

     Marriage Material allowed the viewer to look at the complexities of a relationship through the lives of two young people.  We could see how things as dominant cultural values, social devaluation and a person’s own self-concept can lead to a breakdown in how we communicate. To me, I felt the film was like a three-part play with each act allowing us to look a little deeper into their relationship. Each act connecting to the other to show how one little event can snowball into a much larger event.  In the case of Andrew and Emily, it was something as little as a seven-month old baby that caused Emily to stop suppressing her desire to have a baby. For Andrew, the caring of the baby only proved to be a distraction in his writing.  From watching the interaction and dialog between the two of them throughout the film, it became apparent they did not place the same emphasis on society’s institution of marriage.  In the last few scenes of the film, we see both of them outside doing yard work. They are still together, but somehow there is a great divide between them. Something has changed for both of them.  There is a sense of defeat in Emily, a kind of sadness. She knows that Andrew is not “marriage material,” so where does she fit into his life.  Andrew must also re-evaluate his feelings for Emily. Can he change his values to fit hers, does he even want to?  Initially, I thought based on the description of the film, “a couple agrees to watch a friends’ baby,” that it might have some light-hearted moments…two inexperienced twenty-something’s trying to care for a baby. Instead it was the complete opposite. It was a great film to watch from a sociological standpoint. It was just sad to watch the breakdown and deterioration of a relationship.


Date Last Changed: January 11, 2019

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