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Every documentary makes an argument, whether implicitly or explicitly, and attempts to
persuade you to believe in a particular position. Does, for instance, the film score use
romantically melodious violins or head jarring percussion (pathos)? If so, when and why?
Are well-known authorities stating their views (ethos)? Does the film use significant amounts
of data or facts (logos)? Is the script emotionally manipulative, informative, or
argumentative? Which of the three appeals does the filmmaker use most often and why? Pay
close attention to the filmmaker’s assumptions and methods of presentation. At the outset, try
and understand as fully as possible what the film is trying to say. Consider both the direct
message it is sending and the image it is trying to create. Try to watch the film carefully
several times. What are its central themes? What is its central conflict? What is at risk and
what creates the tension in the film? Consider also the soundtrack, cinematography &
lighting, the historical background, the film’s organization and character development. Is the
narrative chronological and sequential or does the timeframe shift from past to present? How
does each of these filmmaking techniques contribute to the film’s argument or become part of
the pathos, ethos or logos used in the film? Directions Your task is twofold. You will write
your own analysis of the film’s argument (choose one of the approved documentaries) and
how the appeals contribute to its construction. You will also analyze how two published
reviews represent the film. Although you must be knowledgeable about the film, your essay
should balance your interpretation and analysis with the media sources’ depiction of the film,
its themes, and artistic techniques. Weave together your analysis of the film and compare or
contrast your analysis with that of your sources. You may take a stance about the film or the
essays, but you must support any stance you take with evidence from the film and the texts.
Locate two reviews of the film you’ve selected. You must select articles from the following
types of sources: 1) a reputable film review online source 2) an article from a foreign
newspaper or magazine and 3) an article from a U.S. magazine or newspaper. Your essay will
be more interesting if you seek sources that take varied, perhaps even extreme, stances. In
other words, don’t just use the first sources you find if they all take similar positions. In this
essay, you will also argue which of the sources you’ve selected most effectively and
convincingly argues its points. Of course, you must support your position. You do not have to
agree with the author’s biases or even to like the article in question to argue that it succeeds
as a piece of rhetoric. Remember to analyze both the film and the articles. Don’t get caught
up in arguing for or against the film’s ideas. Even as you argue (in the third person) which
author creates the strongest argument, you are not making a personal statement, but a claim
based upon evidence from the text. You may need to use the rhetorical modes such as
definition, compare/contrast, classification/division, cause/effect, exemplification and
illustration to make your points clear. You will definitely be addressing the presence of
pathos, ethos, and logos in the film and in the reviews. Create a Works Cited page with at
least four (4) entries (including primary sources like the film itself) and secondary sources
(like the reviews).
The documentary is a traditional hybrid type of documentary. It provides a parallel
storyline by incorporating all the elements of different people’s lives into a single narrative.
In addition, several angles are used to film the interviews. It focuses on a group of IT industry
pioneers who have begun to doubt the influence of the social media platforms they helped to
establish (Augustine & Sanju 24). Each interviewee enters the cinematic confessional mode
and "confesses" to the evils of social media. Their stories have been designed to reveal the
origins and functioning of the algorithmic monster that the film says is bent on destroying
democracy and humankind itself when taken together. The central theme of the documentary
is the effects of social media on the human mind. Most of the existing social media
technologies exploit human vulnerability. This is done when these technologies develop
intermittent reinforcement strategies they claim to be positive. As social beings, social media
platforms are a means for people to interact with and stay in touch with friends and family.
The film brings out how social media affects the minds of its users and increases the risks of
depression and suicide.
Another theme in the documentary is addiction. It assesses the manner in which
prominent social media companies use various algorithms to shape their customers and
become addicted to the services offered. The film also clearly shows how these platforms
acquire individuals’ data with the aim of targeting the users with personalized
advertisements. It also shows how these aspects of social media are still unregulated despite
their ethical issues. The theme of attention helps add to the idea of social media addiction.
According to the film, social media organizations gain profit through the collection of
people’s “attention”, which is then sold to the highest bidder. It also states that people should
be aware that if something in the "social media" world is free, then the people using these
platforms are the products.
However, despite the critical lessons that can be gained from the film, one aspect
depicts biasness. While the film boldly depicts how the algorithmic monster molds the
behavior of the typical Facebook user, it also unintentionally reveals the irrational and
distorted nature of the filmmakers and designers. For instance, it avoids handling the issue of
accountability concerning its main characters, who were at some point working with the big
"evil" technology corporations. The film ultimately leaves the audience to make assumptions
about the genuineness of the confessions. Nonetheless, the information presented in the film
has some credibility (McDavid 3).
An article by Nell Minow (2020) supports the main idea presented in the film and the
delivery of that idea. It states that algorithms that are supposed to appeal to people’s attention
and make them buy things, including inaccurate perspectives views about the society,
themselves, and each other, are manipulating and, in some cases, rewiring people's brains
(Minow, 2020). It also argues that even though other documentaries have expressed concern
about the effects of social media on morale, privacy, and democracy, the Social Dilemma
film has a more significant outlook. For instance, while other films include excellent
professionals to elaborate the how and why of the effects of social media, many of the
specialists in The Social Dilemma took part in the making of those platforms. According to
the article, an essential takeaway from the film is that there is a need for social media users to
constantly evaluate what they read online, particularly if it is presented in a manner that
shows a thorough and in-depth understanding of their inclinations and preferences.
Additionally, it states that people should discard the notion that attention extraction model.
This model portrays social media as sociable and accommodating.
The article looks into individual interviewees and their contributions to the message in
the film. One of the main interviewees, Justin Rosenstein, is credited with creating the like
button on Facebook. Although the creation was initially meant to spread positivity, that single
feature has caused more harm than good. In the current technological world, social media is a
determinant of social status. Therefore, the number of likes an individual receives matters,
especially for teenagers and young adults. When they do not receive as many likes as they
anticipated on a post, they ultimately alter their conduct to gain more likes. According to
Minow (2020), this aspect explains why there has been a tremendous increase in certain
mental health issues like self-harm, anxiety, stress and suicide attempts. Furthermore, there
have been Snapchat users who have gotten plastic surgery to look like the filters on the
platform. This issue has been termed "SnapChat dysmorphia." (Ramphul & Stephanie 2018)
On the other hand, another article claims that the film is erroneous and inadequate
because it is one-sided. According to Newnham (2021), the film investigates the impact of
smartphones and social media on our behavior. One of the film's many arguments is that
technology connects individuals while still controlling them. The article critiques the use of
certain words in the film. It highlights the words used to substitute control, such as
"monetizes," "distracts," "manipulates," and "polarizes."
Even though the issue of social media addiction is accurate, the film seems to assume
that it is the leading cause of depression and suicide. However, Newnham (2020) states that
the film should have looked into the direct causes of depression and suicide and how social
media addiction contributes to them. The film criticizes social media effects without
providing solutions or alternative perspectives on the issue. The issue of addiction is more
profound than people seem to think. Hence, deleting all social media platforms will not have
as much of an impact as the filmmakers claim. It mainly outlines how the film is one-sided
and how the information presented is inaccurate and not factual. It highlights the hypocrisy of
the filmmakers. For instance, since the main message is the need to stop using social media,
Newnham questions why the film needs people to share it on different social media platforms
to "raise awareness."
One of the main weaknesses of the film is its obvious bias. The film only looks at one
side of the issue and leaves opposing viewpoints. First and foremost, the filmmakers want
people to spread the word about sensationalist movies on social media before they do
anything to help curb their addiction. In addition, the casting did not include experts in
different fields who have been working on the issue of adverse social media effects.
Incorporating experts with different perspectives would have made the film more effective in
its message delivery. Numerous research and experts refute the film's assertions. It is far too
simplistic and hazardous to assume that social media platforms are to blame for the surge in
teen depression without considering the whole scope of the problem (Newnham, 2020).
In conclusion, even though the documentary has some valid and accurate ideas, its
weaknesses must not be ignored. The film's weaknesses may affect the conveyed message,
making it unreliable.
Augustine, Robi, and Ms Sanju Xavier. "A Critical Study On Netflix Docudrama-‘The Social
Dilemma’." Media, Culture and Society 22 (2021): 24.
McDavid, Jodi. "The Social Dilemma." Journal of Religion and Film 24.1 (2020): 0_1-3.
Minow, Nell. The Social Dilemma. Reviews. RogerEbert.com. 2020, September 8. [retrieved
Newnham, Danielle. Why The Social Dilemma is Wrong: And could actually cause more
harm than good. Medium. 2021, August 27. [Retrieved from]
Ramphul, Kamleshun, and Stephanie G. Mejias. "Is" Snapchat Dysmorphia" a real issue?."
Cureus 10.3 (2018). https://www.cureus.com/articles/11237-is-snapchat-dysmorphiaa-real-issue