Academic writing favors complexity. Often, rather than attempting to reduce a topic to a simple idea, academic writing tries to complicate it, to see multiple perspectives, potential contradictions, to move beyond the obvious. We can see this in the excerpt we read from bell hooks’s book Reel to Real. She describes the act of viewing movies as involving a series of tensions. While movies may seem real, she writes, “giving audiences what is real is precisely what movies do not do” (1). We go to movies to be entertained, but hooks notes that we also “learn stuff” from movies, and “Often what we learn is life-transforming in some way” (2). She argues that films themselves contain what she calls “multiple standpoints,” and they may mix “revolutionary” and “conservative” standpoints in ways that make it “hard for audiences to critically ‘read’ the overall filmic narrative” (3). Nonetheless, hooks insists, we viewers of film are “usually seduced, at [least] for a time, by the images we see on the screen. They have power over us . . .” (4). That is, despite—or perhaps because of—the complexity of film, it is important to “to understand and ‘read’ . . . what the film tries to do to us” (4) precisely because it can have such power over the way we think and feel.
Write an essay in which you test out hooks’s ideas by analyzing a specific film through her lens. Think about a film you have watched that, as hooks describes, has “power” over you, that seems to have affected you in some way—even if you are not sure what exactly the film might have taught you. Can you see signs of the “multiple standpoints” that hooks identifies? What might the film be trying to say, and to whom? As a way of setting up your analysis and explaining the significance of your paper, you will want to quote from and/or summarize elements of hooks’s essay. Then you will want to test out your ideas by looking closely at specific elements of the film—particular scenes, dialogue, images, plot developments, and so on. Finally, you should try to explain, as best you can, what this particular “film tries to do to us” and how you reached that conclusion.