Reflective Essay

Reflective Essay
You will need to choose one or two documentaries from the list below that you wish to
watch, review, and analyze (you’ll probably have to watch it more than once in order to
be able to talk about specific scenes, dialogues, or images, so choose wisely). I’ve tried
to pick films that are considered to be major in the fields of gender and sexuality
studies.
Paris is Burning (dir. Jennie Livingston, 1990)
The Laramie Project (dir. Moisés Kaufman, 2003) [not technically a documentary
but, rather, a documentary-style drama or documentary drama]
The Price of Pleasure (dir. Chyng Sun and Miguel Picker, 2010)
The Brandon Teena Story (dir. Susan Muska
(Links to an external site.)
, Gréta Ólafsdottir
(Links to an external site.)
, 1998)
As you watch your documentary, take notes on things that strike you as important,
interesting, or problematic. Keep track of people’s names and how they’re being
represented. Consider why they’re in the documentary and what they add to it.
Questions you’ll want to keep in mind:
What is the film maker’s intention in making this film? How do we know what that
intention is? Do they say it explicitly or do we infer it from the film’s perspective and
content? Explain how you’re seeing and understanding this.
Does the film do justice to the people and perspectives represented?
Do you think it advances the cause of the people it is representing or are there aspects
of it that you think work against these people? In what ways?
Your final writing on your novel will take the form of a 2-3 page (single-spaced) essay
that takes as its thesis why you would or would not recommend your documentary to
another person as a way of learning more about gender and sexuality in the U.S.. You
will need to use some of the critical concepts and language that we’ve learned together
over the course of the semester –such as ways of understanding gender and the sexed
body, resistance to binaries in language and in representation, the cruelty of normative
cultures, the legitimacy of sex work and labor, cultures of violence and harassment, etc
–in this persuasive essay. Your essay should not try to speak about every aspect of the
documentary; rather, you should go back through your notes and focus on what you
found to be the two or three most compelling aspects of the work. One possible
paragraph structuring for such an essay would be:
● Introductory Paragraph : 1) briefly outline what the documentary is about and
2) end by stating what is the film’s most useful or important contribution to our
understanding of something with respect to gender and sexuality or a broader
concept such as life, love, humanity, charity, hardship, etc. You may use the
first-person voice (“I”) in the Introductory and the Concluding paragraphs,
since you are laying out your subjective perspective on the text’s value at
these points. But you should avoid using the first person in your Body
paragraphs, since these should be your “proof” paragraphs, where you use
quotes and explain their objective meanings, rather than simply your “opinion”
on them.
● First Body Paragraph : Analyze your second most important point, example,
or image from the documentary (for example, a protagonist’s own struggles
as an example for readers on how to think differently about their own lives, or
the protagonist as a positive or negative example for women, or men, or
children, etc.).
● Second Body Paragraph : Now you’ll want to explore your most important
point about the documentary’s value (for example, you might say that despite
the protagonist’s positive example, the film’s own negative or so-called
“subjective” tone argues against this positivity and makes success seem
ultimately ambivalent — which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending
on how you want to argue it).
● Conclusion Paragraph : This is your chance to reflect on the “big picture”
importance of what you have explored and proven in the above three
paragraphs. You should not merely “sum up” or repeat what you have
already said (if you said it well the first time, it doesn’t need to be repeated).
Instead, tell us about what the larger implications of your work’s argument or
impact might be — on how you live your life, on how we all might or might not
want to live our lives, or on how the world is or should be.
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