Sociology Film Essay

Choose ONE of the following films.

Note: I will not read or grade essays written on films not included on the list below.

The Kids Are All Right (2010) / Molly’s Game (2017) / 20th Century Women (2016) / Fight Club (1999)

Keywords: the sociology of popular culture and gender, sexuality, power, feminism, masculinity, consumerism

Do The Right Thing (1989) / Crooklyn (1994) / He Got Game (1998) / Queen and Slim (2019) / Boyz N The Hood (1991)

Keywords: the sociology of popular culture and race, New Black Cinema, the Hood film, power, youth, family, gentrification, employment.

While We’re Young (2014) / The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) / Booksmart (2019) / Mid-90s (2018)

Keywords: the sociology of popular culture and youth culture, age, rebellion, class, sexuality, family.

I would suggest watching various trailers and then begin choosing which film you plan to write on. I’ve included after each list of films a series of “keywords” that will help you get started in terms of academic research. I will post some more tips on how to best conduct academic research in the coming weeks. Academic sources are those that are found on the Ryerson Library website (RULA) or Google Scholar. For example, texts in the library that are available online (a great percentage of books found in the library are also accessible online now) and academic journals (The Journal of Popular Culture, for example) are academic sources. Newspapers, film reviews, blogs and entertainment sites are not academic sources)


Format: 5 pages (double spaced, 12 point font, standard margins) minimum and 6 pages maximum. Do not deviate from your spacing. That is, once you begin your essay the entirety of the essay will be in double-spaced formatting only. Please do not triple space etc between paragraphs. Be sure to indent when beginning a new paragraph. Your essay must have consistent font use throughout your essay. If you must cut and paste be certain it is made consistent with the rest of your essay. A title page is not required: please simply include your name, student number and title at the top of the page and begin writing. Lastly, do adhere to the page requirements: a 4-page essay is 20% below the required 5, and choosing to not use 20% of the space offered you is a waste of opportunity in terms of scoring marks.

Bibliography: You are required to use, consistently and throughout your essay, a minimum of three academic sources and a maximum of five. This is strict. Part of your score is based on your research, and it is up to you to find, investigate, and determine whether a source is applicable. That is, this is a sociology course and as such you need to find sources that are sociological and/or film studies based.

YES: sources from sociology, criminology, film studies, queer theory, feminist theory.

NO: sources from psychology and/or non-sociological journals such as Sex Roles or Psychology Today.

As I stated above, I’ve included a series of “keywords” next to each list of films to help you get started on your research. Finally, not all of the films listed will have academic writing available (film reviews are not acceptable as academic sources) however every film listed is easily researched through its the themes or issues that are most prominent (the “keywords” I list reflect themes and issues). Informally speaking, the bibliography often separates students who enjoy the challenge of research and producing a critical essay from students who see the course as a “bird class” and simply find whatever sources are most easily located and use them once or twice. Be the former, spend a bit of time on RULA (Ryerson Library) and locate helpful sources: there is NO shortage of sources applicable to each film listed, I just spend the morning on RULA ensuring that.

Purpose: You are required to research and write a critical essay examining the film of your choice from a sociological perspective in which you examine the central issues you see as most pertinent. Avoid first-person, avoid flowery celebrations such as “Spike Lee does a brilliant job at _______” and avoid the phrase “I think.” You are writing a critical essay that examines the sociology of popular culture through popular cinema.

Sample Thesis Statement:

You watched a segment from Basic Instinct in which a female, as a suspect in a murder, is interrogated by a group of male detectives. Below is a sample thesis statement from a hypothetical essay examining that film. A thesis statement introduces the reader to your essay and what you plan to examine and argue.

This paper examines Basic Instinct and in doing so considers the role of gender, masculinity and crime films. In particular, this paper examines Catherine (Sharon Stone) as a contemporary and revised version of the “femme fatale” as she is positioned in opposition to Nick (Michael Douglas), the archetypal alpha male detective. With this framework in place, this paper examines Nick as both vulnerable and submissive against Catherine, a strong, dominant and possibly “criminal” woman. For example, aware of his weakness while up against her in the interrogation room, she turns the table of the power dynamic in terms of gender, power and dominance.

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