HIST 1103 Fall 2018
Representations of American Culture 100 Points
DUE Monday November 19, 2018
Your assignment is to write a paper (4-6 pages) examining a movie, miniseries, short subject, or
fictional book’s portrayal of a particular time in American history, and with the help of at least
two (2) outside sources critically analyze the film. In four to six pages, the paper should attempt
to address the following issues of the film:
When was the film made?
What era does it portray?
What themes are present in the movie, and how well does it convey them?
What can the movie tell about the era in which it was made?
What can the film tell us about the popular perception of the era that is being portrayed?
How accurate is the movie, compared with the information obtained in your source
7. How successful is the movie in conveying its chosen subject?
8. How can history as a backdrop to tell a story, and how can events be used in order to
facilitate the telling of a story or push a modern message?
There are any number of ways this assignment can be done. The most straightforward way might
be simply selecting one movie and two secondary sources, but, it is also perfectly acceptable (if
not encouraged) that students can select an early movie and a later movie about similar events or
themes, to discuss changing perceptions. So, for instance, if one were interested in the retelling
of the Normandy Landings on June 6, 1944, one might watch The Longest Day (1962) and
Saving Private Ryan (1998), and compare how a thirty-six-year difference shapes the telling of a
similar story. Another option might be to choose movies such as Mississippi Burning (1988) and
Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013) to describe the Civil Rights movement. For fictional movies in
the list, such as On the Beach, Fail Safe, Dr. Strangelove, or Wargames, the objective would be
to examine more what these movies tell about Cold War society and fear, and examine how these
movies are representative of the time and society that created them – with analysis of their
historical accuracy focusing more on analysis of the society of the time. Please note: in all
cases, you must use two secondary sources.
Within the paper, students should address the questions presented above, citing numerous
examples from the film and contrasting that with similar examples from the relevant sources.
The paper should discuss the themes presented in the movie, their historical accuracy, and the
effectiveness that the movie conveys them. To some degree, this paper is also a movie review
going beyond the historical accuracy of a movie and describing how effectively the movie
communicates with an audience. As examples, papers over Lee Daniels’ The Butler should
describe the effectiveness that the movie shows the changing nature of the Civil Rights
Movement or how effectively it shows white racism during the 1930s-1960s. Please note that the
movie selected (should students wish to depart from the provided list) must be about
AMERICAN history – hence any movie selected not on the list must be approved by the
Acceptable sources are scholarly works (they must include footnotes!) and journal articles
obtained through the OSU Library system. If a website is to be used, you must obtain
permission from the instructor to use a website! Any website used that is not approved will
result in an automatic failing grade for the assignment. There will be NO approvals of websites
such as Wikipedia, Answers.com, etc. Websites must be scholarly works to be approved, and
only then at the discretion of the instructor.
If a student wishes to use a movie or short subject not on the approved list, they must seek the
permission of the instructor. However, there is a good sampling of movies and shorts on the list
provided, many of which can be streamed from the internet (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and
even YouTube carry full movies), purchased at movie stores, or rented through the OSU or
Stillwater Library or Video Rental outlets (Hastings, Red Box, Blockbuster, etc).
The paper, beyond addressing the prompt and using citation, must be proofread, follow the rules
of academic writing (see the Reading Yesterday, Writing Today handout), and avoid
typographical errors, spelling errors, contractions, first person, run on sentences, and use correct
grammar and punctuation. The paper must have a clear thesis statement (an argument, as in [for
example] “the Civil War was an irrepressible conflict because...” or “the Civil War could have
been avoided if…” Your essay must use paragraphs (three to five sentences) and evidence to
support the thesis, and have a strong conclusion. If you need assistance, do not hesitate to see
either the instructor, TAs, or go to the OSU Writing Center in Morrill Hall, Room 104.
Your paper must be a minimum of four pages, and should not exceed six full pages (on the rare
chance it does, it is perfectly fine). The paper should be in Times New Roman font, 12 point,
with 1” margins. You will need to adjust the margins manually by using the Page Layout Tab
of Microsoft Word. The paper must include footnotes, and you must cite all of your information
to avoid the appearance of plagiarism. We will discuss this in class, however, the Reading
Yesterday, Writing Today: A Student Guide to the Study of History at Oklahoma State University
will be helpful in explaining how to properly footnote sources. The rubric lets you know how
you will be graded, so before turning in your paper please review the rubric to ensure that your
paper successfully meets the criteria.
Possible Movie/Miniseries Choices – This is not a complete list, and was last updated in
The Alamo (1960)
The Alamo (2004)
Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory
Gods and Generals
Young Mr. Lincoln
North and South
Blue and the Gray
Hell on Wheels
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
The Grapes of Wrath
The Young Lions
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Big Red One
The Longest Day
John Ford’s The Battle of Midway
Wing and a Prayer
Saving Private Ryan
A Bridge Too Far
Judgment at Nuremburg
Pork Chop Hill
Band of Brothers
The Right Stuff
From the Earth to the Moon
Ghosts of Mississippi
Fail Safe (either version)
The Color Purple
On the Beach
Goodnight and Good Luck
Full Metal Jacket
The Day After
Charlie Wilson’s War
Gangs of New York
Black Hawk Down
Road to Perdition
We Were Soldiers
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Battle for Haditha
Hyde Park on Hudson
The Godfather Part I
How the West Was Won
The Godfather Part II
Tora Tora Tora
Men of Honor
Great Gatsby (either version)
Grading Rubric for Term Paper
Automatic F Penalties
Does not meet minimum four full pages ____
No citations ____
Does not follow prompt ____
Point Deductions (at the Discretion of the TA/Instructor)
Improper Margins or Font ____
____ Thesis (10 Points) – Does the student have a clear, concise thesis?
____ Uses at Least 2 Secondary Sources. (20 Points) – Does the student uses at least two books,
with multiple citations from each?
____ Discussion and Critique the Historical Nature and Accuracy of the Movie. (45 Points) –
Does the student adequately discuss the themes, tropics, and topics discussed in the movie, what
they say both about the events portrayed AND the time the movie was made, as well as discusses
the accuracy of the portrayal of events?
____ Academic Writing, Organization, and Polish (25 Points) – Does the student follow the rules
of academic writing? Avoid first person, contractions, grammatical errors, etc?
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