Rhetorical Criticism – Final Reflective Blog Post

Having minor in professional writing and rhetoric, I had a clear concept of rhetoric going into this class. Since we started out by talking about the Neo-Aristotelian perspective, I was very comfortable because I had learned these concepts in other classes. After building up that foundation, we moved to perspectives that were more focused on social media and popular culture. As we learned more about different rhetorical perspectives, I began to notice that many, if not all, popular culture artifacts contain rhetorical arguments in them. By completing this course, I am much better at understanding different rhetorical perspectives and can point out rhetorical arguments in popular culture artifacts.

Throughout this course, we explored historical definitions of rhetoric. We started the class by looking at the Neo-Aristotelian perspective of rhetoric from our textbook, “The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture”. Having already taken a history of rhetoric class, I was already familiar with historical definitions of rhetoric, including Aristotle’s definition. This chapter provided a foundation of what exactly rhetoric is and how it is used, which was a nice refresher.

This course also delved into contemporary definitions of rhetoric and they are seen easily through the Symbolic Convergence perspective. With the Symbolic Convergence perspective, a rhetor must consider the fanbase of an artifact. The community of people that enjoy and talk about an artifact can be just as complex as the artifact itself. This community has an overall effect on the rhetoric of the artifact because it is linked to it by fan connection. This perspective causes a contemporary rhetorician to consider factors outside of just the artifact itself.

I have gained an increased awareness of the relationship between the nature and functions of rhetoric because I have learned how rhetoric is everywhere. It is not just in speeches and advertisements, where it is expected to be seen and where I have seen them in other rhetoric classes. Rhetorical statements are being made in children’s television shows, flyers, and movies. Our textbook analyzes the rhetorical statements in a poster for deodorant that barely has words on it. That helped me understand that rhetoric can come in any form and rhetorical arguments are constantly being made by so many popular culture artifacts.

This class allowed me to investigate and understand how rhetoric acts to persuade us and or shape our identities. I understood that advertisements persuaded consumers to buy their company’s products. I knew that they were showing customers that the company had something that they needed and the customer needed to buy it to be happy. This also was similar to how magazine convince readers to look or act a certain way in order for the reader to be better or happier. I didn’t realize that movies and television shows do the same thing, but instead of outright persuasion, they persuade by example. They persuade by showing a character that is desirable and this makes the view want to look or act like them. I didn’t fully understand this until I wrote my critical essay #1. When I had to write about the implications on my topic, I realized that I had to write about exactly was a view would get out of the topic.

I explored my own effectiveness as a rhetor throughout this course. Throughout the course, we were required to present our topic ideas to our class as well as provide online presentation. For the in-person presentations, I realized how much my delivery mattered. I was aware that I needed to sound confident if I wanted my audience to believe in the information I was presenting. I also noticed that I needed to make sure I clearly explained my ideas to the audience so they could properly understand the ideas that I wanted to share. For the online presentations, realized that my delivery would be lost so I needed to clearly communicate my ideas through text.

This class helped me learn important skills for my major because I am an English major with a minor in professional writing and rhetoric. I constantly write papers about books and movies. Going forward, I will be able to use the different perspectives I have learned during this course to analyze texts in a more in-depth way. I still need to work on my delivery as a rhetor. I sometimes have a hard time properly communicating my ideas to an audience because I know that I understand the concept I am talking about, so I assume my audience does as well. I needed to focus on explaining my ideas in more detail and not assuming my audience knows what I know.

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Post #8: Media-Centered Perspectives

I will analyze the TV series Full House through the media-centered perspective with a focus on the feminist perspective.

Full House is a family-centered sit-com that ran from 1987-1995 with 8 seasons. The show is about Danny Tanner trying to raise his three daughters, DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle, after his wife dies in a car accident 6 months after Michelle is born. Danny’s brother-in-law, Jesse, and his best friend, Joey, move into the house with the family to help Danny raise his daughters. Throughout the 8 seasons, the audience sees the family have the ups and downs that come with having children.

A lot of the comedy of the show comes from the men of the household not knowing what to do in situations that involve the daughters. There is a scene where both Jesse and Joey are struggling to change Michelle’s diaper. Throughout some of the harder situations, like when DJ is heartbroken over a boy, Danny wishes her mother was there to help. Looking through the feminist perspective, we can see that the men’s incapability to do domestic tasks sends that message that men are not traditionally equipped to take care of children. To an audience, the underlying message that is demonstrated is that men must learn to take care of children because they are not naturally equipped to do it, while women are naturally born to nurture children. This is an unfair point that the media is implying by saying that men aren’t naturally good caretakers while women are.

The show does, however, send the important message that a non-nuclear family does not equal a dysfunctional family. While the family does not have a mother figure, the family does have very strong bonds between one another. The video clip I provided above shows Stephanie being upset that she doesn’t have a mom and she doesn’t feel normal because of it. DJ reminds her that even though her family isn’t considered normal, she still have a family that loves her very much.

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Post #7: Feminist Perspective

I will analyze the movie Grease using the cultural feminist perspective. I know I can deep dive into this topic much more (and I most likely will because I want to do this for my essay #2), but these points I’m making are only the tip of the iceberg.

Grease is was movie based on a musical by the same name. The musical’s first performance was 1971. The movie came out in 1978 starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. The movie follows two teenagers in the 1950s, Sandy and Danny, who meet over the summer and end up going to the same school. Sandy must now get use to how Danny carries himself at the high school and around his friends, which was very different from how he acted during the summer. Danny must now try to mesh his two worlds together without seeming like he has changed.

The movie perpetuates stereotypes such as girls wear pink and like dresses while boys wear leather jackets and don’t show emotion. Female characters like Sandy, Frenchy, and Marty are all seen wearing conservative dresses that hit at their knees or below. The colors they wear are pinks, whites, and pale blues or yellows. Their outfits are very soft and feminine. Rizzo’s girl group is even called the Pink Ladies.

Danny and his friends are dressed as stereotypical greasers- which is a group that was typically known for being very tough and cool in the 1950s. They have slicked back hair, smoke cigarettes, and wear leather jackets. Danny’s friends make fun of and physically hurt each other to show a form of comradery. There is one scene where Danny and Kenickie hug and they quickly walk away from each other because they are embarrassed of showing affection.

These stereotypes are way less subtle than they are in movies that take place in the modern era. Since the plot takes place in the 1950s, they play of the gender roles more because gender roles were more ridged in the 50s.

There are a few characters that don’t abide by these stereotypes and they are punished for it. Rizzo wears shorter dresses and more form fitting outfits as well as having very short hair compared to the other girls in the movie. She is gossiped about when she is worried she is pregnant and Leo calls her easy. Jan is another Pink Lady. She dresses the part, but isn’t taken seriously because, unlike the other girls, she is loud and enjoys eating. She is seen as comic relief by the group. Another character would be the teacher that teaches auto shop. She’s super cool and has a good relationship with the greasers, but all femininity is striped from her. She is portrayed as very masculine, so she is given no feminine qualities as if to say that you can’t be a bit of both. She is portrayed as a one-dimensional character that is just a masculine woman.

I loved the songs from this movie but even as a kid watching this, the message never sat right with me. As an adult, I know why! If we focus on the main character, Sandy, she is changing how she dressed, talks, and acts to be with Danny. Danny tried to change for Sandy, but he puts in much less effort and doesn’t follow through with the change. The message its sending, on top of reinforcing gender stereotypes and roles, is that women need to accommodate to men to be attractive in their eyes. And that’s not good! It doesn’t matter how catchy the songs are!

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Post #6: Neo-Marxist Perspective

I will use High School Musical for my Neo-Marxist Perspective.

High School musical is a movie made 2006 about two high school students balancing extracurricular activities while trying to be involved in a musical showcase.

The model of this movie is Gabriella. She is known as the smartest student at the school. She is apart of a group of students who are preparing to participate in an academic decathlon. Aside from intellectual activities, she enjoys singing but her has stage fright. She is a very shy character around others. She dresses plainly, typically wearing muted colors and solid colored pieces.

The anti-model is Sharpay. She is the popular girl who is the co-president of the drama club at the school. She is has her heart set on becoming an actress and intends to improve her craft while at East High. Sharpay tries to crush Gabriella’s chances of participating in the showcase because she is afraid Gabriella will become more popular than her. Sharpay also comes from a very rich family that owns a country club. She shows her wealth by bragging about it as well as dressing extravagantly. Compared to her casually dressed peers, Sharpay makes a statement with her outfits. She is typically dressed in bright pink with many accessories.

Sharpay creates an “us” vs “them mentality because of her determination to keep Gabriella and Troy out of the showcase. She believes that Gabriella (a “nerd”) and Troy (a “jock”) do not belong in her realm. Sharpay and her brother, Ryan, use their wealth to make their performances very flashy and Sharpay doesn’t think Gabriella and Troy belong in a place like that.

With the Neo-Marxist Perspective, it is clear that the movie displays that need of the upper class to oppress the lower class. The richer individuals in the community don’t was the lower class to have the opportunity to enter their spheres  and thus, but keep them out. Although, Gabriella is able to enter to showcase on talent alone, Sharpay still tries to keep Gabriella out.


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Post #5: Symbolic Convergence Theory Perspective

I will be using the Symbolic Convergence Theory Perspective to analyze the TV show Friends.

Image result for friends

Friends is a show that details the lives of six friends living in New York. The show was created in 1994 and ran for 10 seasons over the span of 10 years. There is a shared group consciousness and rhetorical vision reality link surrounding the show which is easily seen through people today still wearing t-shirts with the Friends logo on is as well as plenty of fan websites for the show.

The characters of Friends are Phoebe, Monica, Rachel, Ross, Joey, and Chandler. They are seen as the heroes and the villains are varies characters that pop up in each episode like Ross and Monica’s mother or Chandler’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, Janice. The show is usually structured with A and B plotlines focusing on one or two characters in each plotline accompanied by other characters helping them. At the end of the episode, the plotlines usually converge into one and are solved. The show evokes an emotional reaction from the audience because of the attachments they form to the main characters. These attachments are made because of the character’s distinct personality traits. For example, Monica is the obsessive neat freak and Joey is the loveable ditz. This also plays into the show’s fantasy types. In most episodes, Joey tends to meet a woman and starts off his conversation with her by saying, “How you doin’?” and Ross always begins talking about his and Rachel’s relationship by yelling, “WE WERE ON A BREAK”. Friends also has symbolic cues like when Phoebe sings the song she wrote called “Smelly Cat”. The fanbase of Friends enjoy the predictability of the characters. The audience is able to put each character in made up situations and guess how they would react.

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Post #4: Dramatist Perspective


Mulan is a Disney movie made in 1998 that follows the narrative of a young woman named Fa Mulan in China during the Han Dynasty. Mulan’s father is drafted into China’s army because the Fa family has no sons. Seeing that her father is unfit to fight in battle because of his age, Mulan disguises herself as a man and fights in her father’s place.

The act is that Mulan is being treated in a tent after she was shot trying to save Shang. Shang and the rest of the group discover Mulan is a woman and Chi-Fu tells Shang to kill her for her crime. Mulan is explaining why she broke the law.

Mulan was about to preform this act by cutting her hair, dressing like a man, stealing her father’s sword, and running away from home.

The agent is a young woman named Fa Mulan who dresses up at a man to fight in a war.

The scene is in the mountains during a war. Mulan is being treated in a tent after she was shot trying to save Shang. Shang and the rest of the group discover Mulan is a woman and Chi-Fu tells Shang to kill her for her crime.

Mulan tells Shang that her purpose for breaking the law was to save her father from being killed in battle. In this case, her purpose would be a high calling. She was willing to break the law to protect her father.

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Post #3: Narrative Perspective

I will be analyzing the music video for Rick Springfield’s song Jessie’s girl from a narrative perspective.

“Jessie’s Girl” was released in 1981 and recorded by Rick Springfield, an Australian musician. This song is about the narrator having a crush on his friend’s girlfriend but not telling either of them about it. The goal of the text is to convey the emotions of the narrator, since he is bottling up his emotions and not telling either of the other two characters in the narrative.

The narrator of this artifact is a man, portrayed by Rick Springfield in the music video, who has a crush on his friend’s girlfriend. The narrator says, “Jessie’s got himself a girl and I want to make her mine”. But he also tells the audience that he is keeping the crush a secret by saying, “I play along with the charade / There doesn’t seem to be a reason to change” and “I wanna tell her that I love her / But the point is probably moot”. His distance from the relationship is shown through physical distance in the music video (0:08). The narrator is in the foreground narrating while Jessie and his girlfriend are in the background talking to each other.

The list of events in the narrative are the narrator introducing the problem, various scenes of the narrator being around the couple but not being too close to them, a scene where the narrator is reflecting on his crush in his bathroom and he sees his crush in the mirror, he then breaks the mirror with his guitar, and in between all of these scenes there are scenes of the band playing the song.

The casual relations are when the narrator talks about his problem which leads to various scenes of the narrator not being too close to the couple. Then the scene where he sees his crush in the mirror, which leads him to break it.

The other scenes are paradigmatic. There are scenes when the camera focuses on the musicians of the band playing music, which it not affected by the narrative. The scenes with Jessie and his girlfriend seem to be flashback examples that prove the narrator’s point.

The intended audience is teenagers. Springfield choose to convey this message with music paired with the video. At the time this text was released, music videos were very popular among teenagers considering MTV aired the same year as this song.

The moral conveyed is that keeping things a secret from people will eat you up inside and also don’t have a crush on your friend’s significant other.

This artifact may communicate to teenagers that if they have a crush on someone, they should tell them, which may not always be a good idea in all cases. In the song, the narrator doesn’t tell Jessie or his girlfriend because he is afraid to lose his friend.

Music video:




Jessie is a friend, yeah

I know he’s been a good friend of mine

But lately something’s changed that ain’t hard to define

Jessie’s got himself a girl and I want to make her mine

And she’s watching him with those eyes

And she’s loving him with that body, I just know it

Yeah ‘n’ he’s holding her in his arms late, late at night

You know

I wish that I had Jessie’s girl

I wish that I had Jessie’s girl

Where can I find a woman like that

I play along with the charade

There doesn’t seem to be a reason to change

You know, I feel so dirty when they start talking cute

I wanna tell her that I love her

But the point is probably moot

‘Cause she’s watching him with those eyes

And she’s loving him with that body, I just know it

And he’s holding her in his arms late, late at night

You know

I wish that I had Jessie’s girl

I wish that I had Jessie’s girl

Where can I find a woman like that

Like Jessie’s girl

I wish that I had Jessie’s girl

Where can I find a woman

Where can I find a woman like that

And I’m looking in the mirror all the time

Wondering what she don’t see in me

I’ve been funny, I’ve been cool with the lines

Ain’t that the way love supposed to be

Tell me, where can I find a woman like that

You know, I wish that I had Jessie’s girl

I wish that I had Jessie’s girl

I want Jessie’s girl

Where can I find a woman like that

Like Jessie’s girl

I wish that I had Jessie’s girl

I want, I want Jessie’s girl

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Post #2: Neo-Aristotelian Analysis

The artifact I will be using for my Neo-Aristotelian analysis is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2016 Tony acceptance speech.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a composer, actor, songwriter, playwright, and activist who created and starred in two award-winning Broadway musicals, Hamilton and In the Heights. Miranda gives his acceptance speech at the Tony Awards in New York City after winning a Tony award for best original score for his musical Hamilton. The award show took place at 8pm on June 12, 2016. This was the same day of the deadly shooting that took place at a gay night club called Pulse in Orlando, Florida at 2 a.m. The speech is being given directly to the attendees of the award show, which mainly consists of other famous people, but the speech is also given to the people who are viewing the broadcast of the show.

The invention of Miranda’s speech focuses on two main subjects which are his appreciation for his wife and his support for those affected by the Pulse shooting. He shows his appreciation for his wife when he says, “My wife’s the reason anything gets done, she nudges me towards promise by degrees”. This proof appeals to ethos because the audience sees that he loves his wife and accredits her to his successes. Miranda talks about the shooting by calling it a “senseless acts of tragedy” and showing his support and condolences by saying “love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside”, referring to his support for the LGBT community. This proof appeals to pathos by talking about a tragic event that took the lives of many that happened less than twenty-four hours ago.

Miranda’s arrangement consistent of talking about his own personal love, then to the Pulse shooting, and finally talks about love in a broader sense and how it related to the LGBT community. He builds from his personal experience to talking about how the shooting affects the lives of the people. He then says that among the pain of this event, “Remembrances that hope and love live longer”, which brings him to his final point that no matter what gender you identify as or who you love, it is still love and it is important. Miranda starts with a personal subject and then builds into a most broad subject that others can identify with.

Miranda makes the stylistic choice to have the majority of his speech in the form of a sonnet. This choice pairs with the fact that his speech is about love considering most subjects of sonnets are love. The word choice also goes with his theme of celebrating love with musical terms as well as poetic language.

The speech is memorable because of its structure and the emotion that was used in the delivery. Award acceptance speeches are not typically in the form of a sonnet or a poem at all. They are mostly about thanking the people who have helped them along the way. Miranda’s speech achieved that piece by thanking his wife, but also mentioned a tragic event and recently happened. This speech was also memorable because of how much emotion Miranda put into his delivery.

The delivery of the speech was so impactful because of the amount of emotion that was put into his speech. His voice wavers and cracks while delivering the speech and he walks away from the microphone as if he was about to cry.

The effect of the speech on the audience was immediate. While Miranda is delivering his speech, the camera pans to the audience to show they are filled with sympathy for the victims of the shooting and some are close to tears. Once the speech has concluded, Miranda receives a very enthusiastic round of applause.


Here is the transcription of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s speech:

“I’m not freestyling, I’m too old. I wrote you are sonnet instead:

My wife’s the reason anything gets done. 

She nudges me towards promise by degrees. 

She is a perfect symphony of one, our son is her most beautiful reprise. 

We chase the melodies that seem to find us  

until they’re finished songs and start to play. 

When senseless acts of tragedy remind us 

that nothing here is promised, not one day. 

This show is proof that history remembers. 

We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. 

We rise and fall and light from dying embers. 

Remembrances that hope and love live longer. 

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside. 

As sacred as a symphony, Eliza tells her story and fills the world with music love and pride.

Thank you so much for this.”

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jehrbUGdlE (starting at 1:44)




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Post #1: Hello world!

Hello and welcome to my blog for rhetorical criticism of pop culture!

My name is Sara Holdsworth. I am a junior English major with a minor in professional writing and rhetoric at Longwood University. The purpose of this blog is to analyze and provide rhetorical criticism about pop culture for my ENGL 301 class titled Rhetorical Criticism of Pop Culture. I will  be writing about texts in pop culture such as movies, comics, advertisements, and viral videos with an emphasis on multi-modal texts. My primary audience is my professor for this class, but people who are avid users of the internet may also benefit from reading these posts as well. The context of this blog is that I made it for the class I am currently in and I will be posting based on prompts given to me.

I hope you all enjoy my blog and my future posts! 🙂


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