I was recently reading a text for my film theory class and I came across some content that I think applies to our class. Let me provide some context. I was reading a chapter on Sergei Eisenstein, a film theorist and filmmaker from Soviet Russia who believed the main purpose of film, and art in general, is to make rhetorical arguments. Film theorists are conflicted on this issue, some agree with Eisenstein but other theorists argue that films exists as an organic object that is "self-sustaining and self-sufficient." I tend to agree with Eisenstein that films coexist with the viewer to make rhetorical arguments. The author of this text (J. Dudley Andrew) defines rhetoric in terms of film-art as the "examination of discursive situations in which one party wants to convey something to someone else for the purpose of influencing him or at the very least enlightening him." (I particularly like that the term 'enlightening' is used in a definition of rhetoric). I like to think of the rhetoric-film relationship as an important part of our society. In other words, I believe the purpose of films ought to be to either reaffirm societal ideologies, or challenge societal ideologies. For example, classic populist films like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" reaffirm societal ideologies by celebrating American ideals, and films like "Dr. Strangelove" challenge societal ideologies by attacking the American Cold War ideology. The rhetorical arguments in films, however, are not limited to American political theory. Today in class we watched a documentary that discussed gender in the media. The different ways that films treat gender is a rhetorical argument. Feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey has even argued that films typically juxtapose active male characters against passive female characters whom are primarily used as eye candy or voyeuristic objects for the viewer. This brings me to my main point. I recently saw the controversial film "Zero Dark Thirty" and the film's protagonist is a woman, whom is both aggressive and professional - qualities that are typically associated with masculinity. Therefore "Zero Dark Thirty" (which was also directed by a woman) not only challenged the American war on terrorism ideology, the film also challenged the ideology of women's roles in society.
What do you guys think about the film as rhetoric debate or women's role in films?