Rhetorical Criticism – Final Reflective Blog Post

English 301: Rhetorical Criticism was one of the three English classes that I took this semester at Longwood University. I had it expected to be like my other English classes and that we would be doing a lot of reading novels and discussing their importance. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that English 301 would provide a different type of curriculum. This class allowed for the students to dive deeper into the rhetorical criticism of popular culture and explore why it is important to study. English 301 has allowed me to develop an understanding of how we behave and believe things based on entertainment’s underlying messages that are analyzed through several rhetorical perspectives.

At the beginning of the semester, our class was able to learn about the historical and contemporary definitions of rhetoric. Aristotle was a big influence on the development of the art of rhetoric. He was considered to be the “Father of Rhetoric” that helped to define rhetoric in a way that we use it now. He defined it as, “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” He also introduced his modes for persuasion, ethos, pathos, and logos, which help persuade others to believe a particular point of view. A more contemporary definition of rhetoric that can be found in a dictionary is, “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.” Although we learned this information in a lecture style, I felt that it was easy to grasp because of how its discussion was open to the class, and students could comment on things based on what they had learned in previous years.

Although all of the rhetorical perspectives helped me to have an increased awareness of how rhetoric functions, the dramatisitc rhetorical perspective was the most beneficial. I felt that our textbook The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture gave very detailed explanations and examples for this perspective. It also helped to define act, agent, agency, purpose, and motive so that they could be applied towards a type of pop culture to find underlying messages and reach the goal of a dramtistic perspective. The goal is to figure out what motivates people to do things in a certain way and how is it justified. This perspective stood out to me the most because it also broke down step by step how to figure out why we are affected by famous movies like She’s the Man. When I did Blog Post #4 I felt that I dug deep into a movie that I would normally watch without any kind of analyzation. This blog post also influenced me to write Critical Essay #1 and connect all of the rhetorical learnings that had been done so far in the year.

English 301 has opened up my understanding of how rhetoric acts persuade us and shape our identities. This understanding was mostly found through the blog postings that were done throughout the year. Each perspective that was analyzed introduced a new way that rhetoric acts change us. The Neo-Aristotelian analysis that was done for Blog Post #2 represented the usage of the five canons. Learning about the canons was one of the first times that I realized the impact that movies and speeches could change society. When an audience is watching or reading something, they began to take what they are processing, and they add it to their own lives. If you were to compare an audience that watched an uplifting movie about confidence versus a movie that diminishes confidence you would see that the groups tend to believe what they see and will incorporate it into their daily lives. I think knowing about the perspectives has changed how I process things when I read or watch entertainment/news. Analyzing the material, I am digesting now is easier and I have stopped believing that everything I see is “socially correct.”

As a rhetor, I found that this course has helped me to understand the effect of my words in writing and speech. I can create blog postings on movies that my classmates may not have seen but get them to understand what the underlying messages were. I am also able to create persuasive information by following a describe and interpret form of analysis. One major time that I had to use persuasive speech was when giving presentations for class on my blog postings. I felt that I had to be able to deliver the information in a way that fit my audience and be able to express my points in a concise and comprehendible manner. Being a rhetor has helped me to realize that words are food for the soul and brain. If you give out words of wisdom those who listen can consume it and relate it into their lives, but if you give out words of ignorance than those who listen will consume it and have a more negative relation on their lives.

Looking back at my experience in English 301 I have realized that I gained an abundance of knowledge on rhetorical criticism. I can explain its origin, find relations between its functions, understand its persuasion, and explore my effectiveness. Knowing and learning from these experiences I can now move on into my Professional Writing concentration with tools and strategies on analyzing future material. I will be able to persuade an audience more effectively and hopefully give out words of wisdom.

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Post #8: Media-Centered Perspective

I am going to be analyzing the TV show Gilmore Girls through the media-centered perspective with a focus on the dramatistic perspective.

Rhetorical Situation 

Gilmore Girls was a 2000s comedy TV show that was set in a Connecticut town, Stars Hollow. It focuses on Lorelei Gilmore and her daughter, Rory. The show begins when Rory is in high school and Lorelei works at an inn, but it continues on through their lives as the series goes. Lorelei had Rory when she was 16 and because of this the two are very close and have a mother-daughter bond that can be seen as unusual. The purpose of the show is to show a parenting style that wasn’t very common at the time and to show the ups and downs that you may encounter in life.

The episode that I will be focusing on for this analysis is “Raincoats and Recipes” (season 4, episode 22). In this episode Lorelei is having family and friends come to a test-run of her new inn. One of the people who attends is Rory’s ex-boyfriend, Dean, who is now married. They go back to Rory’s house and end up sleeping together. Lorelei then comes and catches them and is very angry with Rory for doing this to herself and to Dean’s marriage.

Describe and Interpret 

The act: Rory sleeping with her ex-boyfriend when he is married.

The agents: Rory and Dean are the characters that are involved in the “Rule-Breaking” behavior. They both knew what they were doing and did not stop to think about how it would have consequences

The purpose: The purpose is usually an explanation to why the act was done. In this episode Dean tells Rory that his marriage is failing and he still loves Rory. Rory also still loves Dean and she chooses to believe him, even though he has not made any plans to actually leave his wife.

The motive: The motive is what makes the act justifiable. The TV show tries to make this act justifiable through mortification. Rory is punished because she cannot be with Dean, even though she loves him, and her relationship with her mother gets ruined for a few months. In the end Rory confesses her guilt and cuts things off with Dean because he did not make an effort to leave his wife. This allows her to be accepted back into society.

Media Ecology Theory

The media ecology theory focuses on how media affects human perception, understanding beliefs, and behaviors. I think this episode does a good job of trying to use media to let people see the negative consequences that will come from certain decisions that are made. It also highlights the understanding of why the act was committed and why the motive allows for the act to be justifiable.

Potential Implications

This episode does a good job of showing the consequences of actions. Most shows will focusing on making love always win, but Gilmore Girls portrayed the reality of what happens when you break rules and do not stop to think of the people you are going to be hurting in the process. Throughout all 7 seasons this TV show likes to show a less fairy tale side of life that is actually very realistic.


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Post #7: Feminist Perspective

Ocean’s 8

Rhetorical Situation

Released in 2018, Ocean’s 8 became a movie that helped women to feel like they are capable of anything. It is an American heist comedy that stars well known actresses like Sandra Bullock and Anne Hathaway. Ocean’s 8 is about a heist that took 5 years to plan and will require a specific team of 8 women to be executed. The plan was created by Debbie Ocean, sister of Danny Ocean, when she was in prison due to trusting a man that turned his back on her. The target of the heist is a necklace that is worth more than $150 million dollars and it will take place at the Met Gala in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Describe & Interpret – Liberal Feminist Perspective

The analysis of this movie works well with the Liberal Feminist Perspective because it involves women working in a traditionally male dominated area. When most people think of heists and criminals they usually assume it is males who are involved. This is because these are “dangerous” territories that people assume women would never dabble in due to how women are seen as “fragile” and “innocent.” Ocean’s 8 completely turns this assumption around when staring an all female cast to play the roles of the heist team. These women also work in “women-dominated” areas outside of the heist. Some of the jobs of the women consisted of fashion designer, stay at home mom, and movie stars. Having these more feminine jobs, but being able to complete a heist gives off a message of how ALL women are capable of being big and bad.

A specific scene that really captures the idea of women being able to be a part of a male dominated area is when Debbie Ocean is going through a department store and finds a way to steal a bunch of items and then finds her way into a hotel room that she does not have to pay for. These kind of actions are very atypical for women because of the calculation that is involved and how it is very risky. Debbie Ocean uses this to her advantage by pretending to be this innocent women who is just shopping and doing mundane things.

Potential Implications 

This movie helps women to feel empowered and it teaches them to empower other women.  Throughout the movie you will notice that the women never belittle each other. They may get angry or agitated, but they never follow the stereotypical roles of cat fighting and making the other women feel beneath them. A review by Roger Bert says, “Ocean’s 8 is about the power of women standing up for themselves, sticking with each other and making the impossible happen.” This movie had quite the impact it intended. It showed how women can be powerful without tearing down those around them.



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Post #6: Neo-Marxist Perspective

The Hunger Games

Rhetorical Situation 

“The Hunger Games” is a movie about what was once North America. It is set far into the future and North America is now separated into 12 districts that is maintained by the Capital of Panem. It maintains its hold on these districts by having tributes selected, a boy and a girl. These tributes must go into an event that is called the Hunger Games. This an event where you essentially try to kill all other opponents until you are the last one standing.

This movie focuses on a specific year where in district 12 Katniss Everdeen volunteers so her younger sister will not have to fight. Chosen with her is Peeta Mellark.  The movie is mainly about the survival of these two and trying to fight back against the capital. Throughout the movie you also grow very attached to the characters because they begin to fall in love and you want this romance to last outside of the movie, but only one winner is meant to walk out alive.

Goal of Neo-Marxist Perspective 

According to the textbook, “Neo-Marxist perspective helps expose how material conditions and economic practices shape dominant ideology regarding taken-for-granted assumptions about who “ought to be” and “ought not to be” empowered.” This allows for those who are reading one of these perspectives to have an “us” vs “them” perspective.

Describe and Interpret 

When someone is watching “The Hunger Games” they could easily decide who is the model and who is the anti-model. You would feel as if you are on the districts side because the capital is taking money and lives in order to establish power. This creates the “us” vs. “them” illusion. The movie would make the viewers want to be more like the hero Katniss and less like the Capital’s president. An analysis of this movie is interesting because it is geared towards a younger viewing audience who might not understand the message of “us” vs. “them.” Younger generations focus more on how Katniss is this strong capable women figure and they do not tend to pay much attention to the capital and how they can be related to real life.

Potential Implications 

This movie has an effect on individuals because it allows the viewers to see the capital and relate it to the government or the upper class societies. It brings out the message that anyone can defeat these higher statuses, especially women. This movie always stood out to me because it talked of how the only thing greater than fear was hope.

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Post #5: Symbolic Convergence (Fantasy Theme Analysis)

Rhetorical Situation

The Notebook is a movie that was released in 2004 and changed how people viewed love stories. It is set in the 1940s in South Carolina and features the two main characters, Noah Calhoun and Allie. They fall in love, but Allie’s parents do not approve of Noah due to his lack of wealth. Noah then goes to serve in World War 2 and it seems that this is the end of their love story but the couple reconnects many years later. It is a heart wrenching love story because of the obstacles the couple endures. It is also an interesting movie because the story is being told by Noah when he has grown very old. He is telling the story to Allie who no longer remembers the love story or him due to having a memory loss illness. 

Throughout the movie there are many quotable lines that are still around today but one that has stuck with me is the, “If you’re a bird, I am a bird” line. This was said when the couple was enjoying a day at the beach before Noah goes to war and they feel as though they are one in the same. It’s memorable because of the strong feelings of endearment behind it. This saying was brought up because, Allie, was talking about if she could have once been a bird in the past. She talks of reincarnation and she hopes that is a bird.

A Fantasy Theme Analysis 

The goal of doing a FTA is, “to identify, understand, and interpret those converged symbols” (Sellnow 110). This analysis is trying to dig deeper at how something like the say, “If you’re a bird, I am a bird” has stayed relevant and a symbol for a stronger meaning. This saying has allowed something like true love to stay light and positive and to be spoken of with catchy phrases. This line is also said by Noah which catches the audiences attention because it is the main male character showing strong emotions. It is him saying how powerful their love is. Along with being a strong indicator of the love he has, the saying has become humorous too. People on the internet claim how because of this movie they want to be a bird.


Although this movie is 16 years old this is still a very relevant piece of popular culture. It is considered a, “classic chic flick movie.” People turn to this movie when they want to feel the ups and downs of a love story and I do not think that the hype behind this movie will die down anytime soon.

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Post #4: Dramatistic Perspective

Rhetorical Situation

She’s The Man is a romantic comedy that was released in 2006. It is about Viola Hastings who is a high schooler that loves playing soccer. She has a twin brother, Sebastian, who also plays soccer at a private all boys school. Sebastian decides to secretly go to London to tour with his band and is going to be skipping school. When the girls team for Viola’s school gets cut she decides to take matters into her own hands. Viola decides to dress up as her twin brother and attend his school to make a point that girls can be just as good as the boys.

Goal of Dramatistic Perspective 

To figure out what motivates people to do things in a certain way and how do we justify our actions. This analysis specifically looks at the actions that conflict with society’s behavioral norms.

Describe and Interpret 

In order to complete this analysis I am going to break apart the different elements of the rule breaking behavior.

The act: This is the rule breaking behavior inside of the film. For She’s the Man this act is when Viola dresses up as her twin brother in order to play soccer at his private all boys school. She does this without telling her family or brother. It is considered rule breaking because it is outside of society’s behavioral norms.

The agents: This element talks about the characters engaged in the rule breaking behavior. For She’s the Man the agents are Viola and her friends Paul, Kia, and Yvonne. Her friends are the ones who help her to complete different actions throughout the film and to keep her cover when people get suspicious.

The agency: This is the different tools, means, and techniques employed to accomplish the rule breaking behavior. In this movie the agency could include the costume that Viola wears to become disguised as her brother. Her friends helped her to get this costume and perfect it so that nobody would see her. The agency for this movie also include the different ways her friends help her keep the boys at the school distracted because without this than her cover could have been blown.

The purpose: The is the explanation offered as to why the act is being done. For this movie it is because Viola wants to prove to everyone that gender does not play a role in how well something is done. Just because you are a girl that does not mean you are less capable. She is also trying to help her brother not get caught for going away to London to be on tour with his band.

The motive: The motive is what makes the act justifiable. For She’s the Man the motive falls into victimage. Viola’s able to blame her high school for cutting out the soccer team due to gender. She is fighting against something else that was being deemed as normal. Viola is a comic hero in this film because she was doing something that didn’t require any punishment to be accepted back into the society.

Potential Implications

Potential implications of this movie are girls will begin to see that they are not less capable of something because they are not a boy. It will bring more light on the issue of gender roles and how people perceive what girls can and cannot do. This movie also shines light on forgiveness because in order to complete her act Viola had to betray a lot of the people close to her. These people choose to forgive her despite what she has done.

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Post #3: Narrative Analysis

Rhetorical Situation: 

Room is a very uplifting movie that was released in 2015. It starts off about a woman who was kidnapped and put in a shed where she has been held captive for 7 years. She has a little boy and she must nurture him and help him to grow the best she can, but he thinks that the world exists just in that small room. In order to escape, Joy and her son formulate an escape plan to try and trick the kidnapper. The movie then transitions to being about the after life of the kidnapping. Joy has to readjust to life and is being attacked by the press and her son is experiencing the world for the first time. 36 hours into the real world and the pair are trying to make life “normal” again.

Goal of Narrative Perspective: 

The goal of analyzing a narrative perspective,”identifies arguments proposed as morals through storytelling.” You can find the morals of the movie through certain different themes that are presented. Some of the themes of this movie include:

  • Sacrifice
  • Motherhood
  • Determination
  • Perseverance

Describe and Interpret 

Room is set during 2010 in Akron, Ohio. There are really only a few locations used in this movie since half of it is set inside the shed that Joy and her son are held captive in. Joy’s motherhood is expressed by the use of setting because she has to decide how she is going to raise this boy to let him feel like he is living life to the fullest. There is no handbook for how to raise a son especially not in a circumstance like this.

Joy and her boy, Jack, are both round characters because they are not what fits into the social norms of the culture. Jack has long hair and there is much controversy when he leaves the “room” because everyone says that since he is boy he needs to have short hair. Joy also is round because her actions do not fit what is considered to be predictable. She has trouble adapting to the world when she is back in it because she has been gone for so long. You can see both of the characters perseverance in this movie when they continue on through all the difficulties they are facing. Joy is able to fight through the circumstances to create this “normal” life for her son even though she is stuck in captivity. Jack also shows this theme when he is trying to explain to the police where he came from and who his mother is. He has to escape when this whole time he never even knew he was captured.

The determination of Joy and Jack after they are free from the “room” is very important to look at. When they have escaped everyone assumes their lives are easy but there is even a part in the movie when Joy is talking to her mom and says, “you don’t even understand what is going on inside my head.” The two pair have to deal with the mental damage as much as the physical. Just  their bodies are free does not meant that they are mentally recovered. Both of them have to fight and be determined to get through their trauma every single day after their escape.

Potential Implications

The implications of this movie is that it speaks truths about never giving up. You must fight everyday with determination and sacrifice to get through the challenges that life presents. This movie is meant to show people that miracles can happen, but they won’t happen if you do not put in your side of the effort.

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Post #2: Neo-Aristotelian Analysis

Millie Bobby Brown’s MTV Award Speech

Millie Bobby Brown is a 15 year old actress who is mainly known for her role in the hit TV show, Stranger Things. In 2018 she was awarded MTV’s Best Performance in a Show and decided to make her speech impactful to all of the audiences that were watching it. Her speech was broadcasted live on TV, but she gave the speech from her hometown due to having an injury and not being able to travel.

She uses, “Since I know there are many young people watching this, and even to the adults, too — they could probably use the reminder” as an opening for the delivery of her message about bullying. Brown is addressing all of the audiences who watch the award show and wants for this message to be heard beyond that. Her impactful message was, “There should be no space in this world for bullying, and I’m not going to tolerate it and neither should any of you. If you need a reminder of how well you are and to rise above the hate, message me on Instagram.” This message was mainly meant to fight back against the twitter users who had made her the target of a homophobic meme.

Millie Bobby Brown stepping up to the people that have started to destroy her credibility was a major moment for her. She gained a lot of recognition for this speech because she gave the younger generations a voice to stand up for themselves.

The Five Canons

The invention of Millie Bobby Brown’s speech is focused around two subjects which are her acceptance of the award and thanking her producers, cast members, etc. and the message that is revolved around bullying. Brown opened up her speech thanking everyone for voting and allowing her this opportunity but, she also is rebuilding her credibility by associating her name with this award (ethos). Towards the end of the speech, Brown uses pathos by connecting with her audience and touching on a subject (bullying) that can affect everyone who watches the award show.

The arrangement of the speech is well organized. Brown starts off by talking about a light topic and does not get into the heart of her speech until the end. This allows those who are watching to be left with this powerful message as she signs off from her video. At the beginning of the speech she also states how she wishes she could be at the award show with everyone to receive the award. This starts off the speech by connecting her with the audience to create a unified feeling.

The style of this speech was very laid back and casual. Millie Bobby Brown approaches her subjects in a light hearted manner to back up her point that, “there should be no space in this world for bullying.” When talking about the bullying she says that her fans can message her on instagram. Using this kind of language allows for the younger generation to feel connected to her through social media. She also signs off the video by blowing a kiss to her audience. This creates a more casual feeling to the acceptance and brings in a sense of friendship and love.

This speech will be memorable because it discusses a very relevant topic to everyday life. Whenever you see bullying or experience it yourself after watching this clip you are going to remember Brown and what she addressed. She also uses a positive upbeat energy to make this speech memorable because audience members won’t dwell on a video that made them feel negative.

The delivery of this speech was very engaging because the camera only shows the top half of her body. Using this close up angle creates a more personal and meaningful feeling when watching her. She also moves around a lot which makes her speech feel less like she is reading it off a card and does not make it seem like she is acting like a robot. Brown’s voice throughout the speech was also very clear and steady so it allowed the audiences to have more understanding of what she was saying.

Overall Results

This speech spread like fire on the internet and became very popular. Her message was heard loud and clear by all that had seen the award show or just by those who saw her speech clip. The accounts that had tried to discredit her by putting her in homophobic memes were deactivated. Millie Bobby Brown used this speech as a great example of how to kill people with kindness.

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Post #1: Introducing this Blog!


My name is Grace Girdley and I am a sophomore at Longwood University. I am currently majoring in English with a concentration in professional writing! The creation of  this blog is for my English 301: Rhetorical Criticism class and I will be using it to analyze and discuss different kinds of pop culture, film, and multimodal texts. I have taken a Technical Writing class in the past that helped me develop more knowledge in rhetoric and hope that it will benefit me as I dive into these posts. I also want to let readers have the chance to see how rhetorical criticism plays a part in things they interact with almost every day!

Anyone will be able to benefit from this blog because it is going to be relevant to all age groups, but it is mainly for my professor Dr. Guler and my classmates! Although there will be different posts that can be relevant to others because they may be a college student or just because they enjoy the context of this blog! I hope that whoever is reading this can sit back and enjoy what they read!

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Hey there!

Welcome to Grace Girdley’s Rhetorical Criticism Blog! Click on a post under the “Recent Posts” menu to dive into some different collections of thoughts.

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