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“Babel” and “Super Size Me”: Documentaries Analysis Essay


Intercultural Film Analysis

The film Babel (2006), directed by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu portrays the problems and ultimate failure of intercultural communication, demonstrating the Biblical story of the resurrection of Babel indicating human hubris to build a tower that will reach heaven (Anker, 2013). God devised a way to stop the man by creating diverse languages that man would communicate in; thus, hindering all means of communication and thus stopping the construction process. Thus, the film Babel utilizes the metaphorical implication of its name to demonstrate the diversity in language throughout culture creates bafflement and confusion in communication.

This essay analyses the film in connection with the depiction of communication – verbal, non-verbal, perception, and intercultural communication. The film provides a striking contrast between the cultures of the high-tech Tokyo life with the desolate deserts of Morocco, providing a plethora of sight and sound to match these diverse images (Iñárritu, 2006). The biblical story of Babel represents the failure to construct the tower due to human alienation from one another due to cultural and linguistic otherness. Babel presents not only a situation where human communication through cultures fails miserably but also the futility of such communication that eventually may help in creating a bond between the people but at a great cost.

The story of the film presents the contrast between rural and urban life through different cultures. When a traumatic even interrupts normalcy, confusion consumes human beings, which disrupts the encompassing silence persistent in the muted intercultural communication. The film is set in three countries – the United States, Japan, Morocco, and Mexico (Iñárritu, 2006). The movie is presented in a non-linear cinematic style that stresses on the confusion created through disrupted communication. The story of the film unfolds four unrelated stories that are eventually connected through various strings. Yasujiro presents a hunting rifle to his Moroccan guide before returning to Japan.

He lived in a high-rise building with his deaf and mute daughter, Chieko, whose mother committed suicide in her early childhood. An American couple travels to Morocco on a luxury trip to reconcile their marital differences after the death of their infant son. Amelia is the Mexican woman who has taken care of the two young children of the American couple, Debbie and Mike, in San Diego and lived there for sixteen years. Arrangements have been made for Amelia to attend her son’s wedding in Mexico when Rachel’s sister takes care of the children and the Moroccan guild had sold the rifle to a farmer named Abdullah who entrusts it to his two teenaged sons with strict instructions to use it only to ward off preying jackals to save their hearing.

When Youssef fires the gun at the tourist bus, Susan is shot in the neck and starts bleeding profusely. The Moroccan guide diverts the bus to his village to provide some medical care to Susan. It becomes evident that Susan has to be taken to a hospital, but chaos is created due to the miscommunications between the different parties such as the fellow passengers, the villagers, the local authorities, and the American Embassy. The film shows the creation of a pandemonium of ill communicated information and distrust as the fellow passengers start fighting with Susan’s husband for not willing to move Susan. Susan, in the end, is airlifted to the nearest hospital where she is operated. In another instance, the Moroccan police identify the cartridge of the gun and trace it back to the Japanese hunter, who is then accused of harboring terrorist activities in the country.

The authorities trace the culprit as the two brothers when Ahmed is wounded while Youssef surrenders. In the United States, the situation unravels in tandem as Richard asks Amelia not to go for her son’s wedding, as Rachel could not substitute as a babysitter. However, Amelia decides to take the children with her to Mexico. When they were returning from Mexico, Amelia’s nephew Santiago engages in a verbal tussle with the American security forces. Santiago leaves Amelia and the children in the middle of the desert, and the next day they see each other in an ensuing ordeal. The authority learns about Amelia’s illegal immigration status and is deports her to Mexico.

The fourth story that unfolds is that of Chieko, who is evidently an angry young girl who is disturbed due to a life of frustration and discontent. Her frustration becomes evident through her inappropriate attempts to become intimate with strangers as a vent to her frustration.

The verbal communication that has been depicted in the movie demonstrates the incoherence of interaction (Morgan & Armfield, 2013). Richard’s attempts to explain to the embassy seem futile during the communication between the co-passengers. Richard’s frustration with the Moroccan system becomes evident when he lashes out at the police officer about their “fucked upcountry”. Clearly, from the point of view of an American, what the Moroccans were doing was evidently not enough. Further, the other passengers of the bus considered the accident as a terrorist attack and viewed the villagers with distrust. The creation of “us” and “them” become evident in the movie. Even in Japan, Chieko complains to her friends that the other teenagers consider them as “monsters.”

The futility of human communication in a cross-cultural situation is demonstrated in the film (Anker, 2013). The inability to communicate satisfactorily in the film described earlier shows how traumatic events unfold and obstruct human life.

Nonverbal communication has acquired a strong position in the film, especially due to the absence of verbal communication. Chieko, a deaf and dumb teenager, relies completely on sign language to communicate. However, her character becomes apparent when she shows her aggression in the baseball game or her apparent sexual frustration that she expresses through unwanted advances made to the dentist and the young police officer (Anker, 2013). Her loneliness and pent up anger become evident when she realizes that the young boys were interested more in her friend.

Cultural differences create a difference in perception and communication. Intercultural communication faces a gap, which cannot be filled with any form of communication. The perception of the European and American tourists in Morocco towards the people and the land is evident. Susan throws away the ice doubting the quality of water. This shows an ingrained distrust towards the Moroccans. When the doctor came, Susan is again plagued with the same sense of distrust. Again, the immigrant officials, due to their distrust of the Mexicans, hold Amelia and Santiago. The film evidently demonstrates that cultural differences create a gap in communication created due to preconceived perceptions.

The film also presents an idea of the communication process and disruption that is created through cultural differences. Rituals and customs of Mexican and Moroccan culture are depicted through the rituals of marriage and medicine. The film critically demonstrates the differences in cultural practices that may develop into a greater hindrance to communication.

Persuasive Film Analysis

Introduction

Supersize Me is a documentary directed by Morgan Spurlock that aims at showing the adverse sides of fast food consumption on a regular basis. Spurlock documents himself over a period of a month when he consumes fast food from McDonald’s consuming about five thousand calories every day with very little exercise. Due to this regular consumption of fast food, he gains a pound every day by the end of the month (Spurlock & King, 2004).

At the beginning of the shooting of the movie, Spurlock is a healthy man with average weight and size. However, over the period of a month, his health gradually degenerates. The emphasis of the movie is to demonstrate the growing number of obesity among average Americans and the unawareness of the negative effects of overconsumption of fast food. The movie shows the general ignorance of average consumers into the health effects of fast food and raises questions on the corporate responsibility associated with the health issues of the consumers. Spurlock interviews various people to demonstrate the adverse effect of fast food consumption on the general health of people to present logical reasoning while makes a strong emotional appeal to the audience through a portrayal of disgust and humor to make an emotional appeal. The main argument presented in the documentary is the adverse effect of fast food consumption on the health of the people.

Type of emotional appeal

The documentary uses many emotional appeals to present Spurlock’s arguments. The aim of the emotional appeals, like those demonstrating the harmful effect of tobacco or cigarette smoking, tries to insight a feeling of disgust among its audiences. For instance, the film shows that on day two of the filming process, Spurlock consumes a large amount of fast food, but only to puke the food right after he finishes eating it. The film shows the vomit outside the window, instantly inciting a feeling of disgust among the film’s audiences (Morgan & Armfield, 2013). The emotional argument presented to the audience is that a supersize meal is impossible for an average person to consume. Further, Spurlock documented hair in his yogurt, indicating the unhygienic preparation process of the food. Spurlock filmed all the food that he consumed in the thirty-day period.

The strongest emotional appeal presented in the film was the surgery of the gastric gland in the film accompanied by classical music as background score, inciting greater disgust among the audience. The filming of the surgery directly shows the audience how fat looks like inside the body and how much fat is present inside the system of an obese person. The classical music playing in the background intensifies the emotional appeal.

Spurlock documents the whole thirty-day period on him, and his informal style of speaking and communicating helps create a rapport with the audience who can easily identify with him, increasing the emotional appeal of the film. The narration is informal, humorous, and light-hearted, increasing the reliability of the narrator to the audience. The documentary is full of emotional appeal aiming to incite a feeling of disgust among the audience, making them aware of the direct side effects of overconsumption of fast food.

Logical Appeal

The documentary uses anonymous interviews with students from primary and secondary schools to point out that the opinion of different people about the problems related to the overconsumption of fast food. The interviews were related to the kind of food consumed by the interviewees in restaurants and what they think should be the interval of consumption of fast food. In an interview with students from primary school, Spurlock asks them to recognize famous figures like George Washington and Jesus Christ, whom they fail to recognize, but most of them recognize Ronald McDonald and know a lot about him. When students of secondary school are asked to define calorie, none of them are able to define it correctly, which is revealed in an interview with the experts. Thus, the interviews chart the popularity of fast food among young Americans even when they are unaware of the possible health risks of overconsumption of fast food.

Successful Use of Logical Appeal

The documentary successfully uses a logical order and connotations. Whenever Spurlock is shown ordering food from McDonald’s, the day and the date is always indicated on the screen. The numbered days on-screen indicating the day of the shooting provides a perspective to the audience. This provides the audience to understand the progressive movement of the movie. Further, Spurlock is shown undergoing various medical examinations beginning with regular checkups and moving on to various other period checkups. All these checkups are accompanied by specific information regarding Spurlock’s weight, and cholesterol level is indicated on the screen in order to demonstrate the real picture to the audience. As Spurlock’s health becomes worse with every passing day and reaches a critical condition by the end of the thirty days, the documentary evidently concludes the harmful effects of fast food. The film also documents the emotional depression that sets plagues Spurlock due to the deterioration of his health. Spurlock shows erratic mood swings and shows signs of fatigue. Thus, the documentary successfully shows the adverse emotional and physical effects of fast food consumption.

The film uses statistics to provide support to Spurlock’s claims throughout the movie. The film provides sales data from McDonald’s from Manhattan, New York area, and data on the advertising spending of the products. For instance, during the expert interviews, the interviews are stopped in order to present statistical data to support the arguments presented in the interviews. Further, the film also provides the availability of healthy alternatives to provide the side effect of the overconsumption of fast food. It also provides alternatives to fast food available in restaurants. Thus, the film successfully shows that meals consumed in fast food restaurants are definitely harmful tot eh human body.

Strength/Weakness

The movie successfully presents the argument of the movie through interviews and experiments. However, the movie also shows in an interview with Don Gorske, who is an avid consumer of Big-Mac and eats at least two burgers daily. Burgers consist of the major food intake of Gorske. However, he does not consume side and drinks with his burger, which reduces the intake of calories considerably. The strength of the movie is its strong appeal to the emotional disgust of the audience by showing the immediate side effects of burgers and the combination of the goal with the logical appeal of the people. The presentation of a number of statistical data validates the argument presented by Spurlock, making the documentary more reliable.

Conclusion

The documentary logically shows how fast food consumption can be harmful to health and the emotional state of the consumers. Further, the emotional appeal presented in the movie is to the feeling of disgust of the audience.

References

Anker, E. S. (2013). In the Shadowlands of Sovereignty: The Politics of Enclosure in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel. University of Toronto Quaterly , 82 (4), 950-973. Web.

Iñárritu, A. G. (Director). (2006). Babel [Motion Picture]. United States. Summit Entertainment. Web.

Morgan, E. L., & Armfield, G. G. (2013). Human Communication in Action. London: Kendall Hunt Publishing. Web.

Spurlock, M., & King, M. (Directors). (2004). Super Size Me [Motion Picture]. United States. The Con. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 12). "Babel" and "Super Size Me": Documentaries Analysis. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/babel-and-super-size-me-documentaries-analysis/

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""Babel" and "Super Size Me": Documentaries Analysis." IvyPanda, 12 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/babel-and-super-size-me-documentaries-analysis/.

1. IvyPanda. ""Babel" and "Super Size Me": Documentaries Analysis." June 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/babel-and-super-size-me-documentaries-analysis/.


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IvyPanda. ""Babel" and "Super Size Me": Documentaries Analysis." June 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/babel-and-super-size-me-documentaries-analysis/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. ""Babel" and "Super Size Me": Documentaries Analysis." June 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/babel-and-super-size-me-documentaries-analysis/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) '"Babel" and "Super Size Me": Documentaries Analysis'. 12 June.

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