Rutgers University the Believer Film Social Science Questions
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sociological concepts to analyze the movie, “The Believer.” Be sure to provide evidence from the characters’ actions and interactions in the film. Pick a variety of topics; you may pick either question 1 or 2, but not both. You are not required to do these questions. You must pick either 7 or 8.
How is Danny an example of an actor who shows the influence of his socialization. What are his socialization influences? Give evidence of both his internalizing his influences and his reacting against them. Describe the dynamic of the looking glass self in the portrayal of Danny’s character in this movie. Using Gergen’s understanding of romantic, modern, and postmodern (multiphrenic) selfhood, analyze the characters of Danny, Curtis and Lina, and the executive from whom Danny attempts to solicit funds. Give evidence for your analysis. Using the “Act Like a Man Box,” analyze the influence of cultural ideas of masculinity on Danny’s character. Apply Goffman’s dramaturgical perspective to the characters of Danny, Lina and Curtis, etc. Concepts to be used include impression management, front stage and back stage, props, costume, scenery, embarrassment, repair of credibility, etc. Apply Hochschild’s ideas about emotion management to the character of Danny and Carla, his girlfriend, and possibly any others that you notice. Lifton’s idea of doubling that he used to understand Nazi doctors in concentration camps to the character of Danny. Create your own question using sociological concepts from the course and answer it. You must have your question okayed in advance by the instructor.
Here is some attached notes on the movie:Here are some issues that help explain the first scene where Danny follows the Jewish student from the subway and beats him up, demanding that he hit him back. Bible story is the sacrifice of Isaac which is read every year on the Jewish high holidays Danny is obsessed with God’s power He calls the guy he beats up a yeshiva bocher, Yiddish language for a student at a Jewish school; that’s what Danny was in the repeated flashback of the classroom, discussing the story of Isaac. “Is God going to save you?Provide a ram.” Danny says that to the boy he’s beating in reference to the biblical story where God provides a ram in lieu of Isaac for Abraham’s sacrifice. Hashem is used for God by Orthodox Jews instead of saying God’s sort-of name in Hebrew. The name in Hebrew isn’t the name either, but a stand-in for the name. Orthodox Jews might write G-d for God as well. Danny mentions his father’s midrash or one his father told him about, written by somebody else. Midrash means commentary. Judaism is full of commentary in which the biblical stories of reinterpreted over and over and people—including rabbis, both in the Talmud and Mishnah (major books of commentary) and in person/writing today and at all times—disagree on the meaning of the biblical stories and Talmudic commentaries. Danny’s teacher is typical of the fifties and early sixties in being insistent on particular readings of scripture. Back in those days, a typical interpretation of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s command would have been evidence of Abraham’s faith and trust in God. Today the typical interpretation would be similar to, but not identical with, Danny’s: that Abraham failed God’s test, that he should have resisted the command, and that most likely Isaac was traumatized. Danny’s sister, Linda, refers to Danny as betraying “his people.” When Danny says the Jews are not his people, Linda says that Hitler would see him as one. Hitler tracked down anyone with Jewish ancestry, even if they had converted, for the death camps. In the scene with his father, Danny is surprised that his father has turned on the television on a Friday night, which is the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. Danny comments, “Do chickens give milk?” The Bible prescribes not eating milk with meat, actually, “do not seethe/stew a kid in its mother’s milk.” The rabbis interpreted this to include chickens/fowl which do not get mentioned in the bible. In an observant kitchen, there are dishes, pots, and utensils for milk, meat (including fowl), and parve (neither milk nor meat). Parve includes vegetables, fruits, grains, fish, and eggs. Parve foodstuffs can be served with either milk or meat. So, oddly, you can serve chicken with eggs, but not with milk. Many Jews are not observant of the ritual laws regarding eating and keeping of the Sabbath. These would include secular Jews, atheistic Jews, but also Reform, Reconstructionist, and some Conservative Jews. Orthodox Jews and “observant” Conservative Jews would be expected to observe the rules. These rules of kashrut or kosher laws are at the center of the scene in the Jewish delicatessen where the neo-Nazis are purposely ordering cheese or dairy in a restaurant which only serves meat. Some people have interpreted the rules as deriving from health concerns, such as the taboo on eating pork. Most commentators would say that the point of the rituals is not rational (see chicken and eggs), but they function as a set of daily reminders to people to pay attention to ethical issues in daily living. Danny says they are “idiotic.” In his speech to the Nazis and with the reporter, please remember that Danny is constructing a world, not merely exposing truth. It’s the truth as he constructs it. He is constructing a sense of Jews. He says that the modern world is a Jewish disease. He ascribes relativity, abstraction, nothingness to Jews, referring to Freud, Marx, and Einstein, Jews who most people would say contributed to the modern world view. He mentions infantile sexuality, communism, and the atomic bomb. He refers to Jews not having land and says to the reporter that Israelis are not Jews. A theme of the film is the contradictions in Danny’s anti-Semitic position. Let’s not forget that the film is also constructing a reality. Danny says that Jews are sexually women. The point here is to think not what does this say about Jews, but what does it say about Danny. The movie is really about stereotyping, interestingly being done as self-hatred. What does Danny hate about Jews? Over and over we see Danny hating Jews for their weakness: the boy who won’t fight back, and especially the Holocaust victim who did not try to resist as the Nazi soldier killed his son. See the connection: Danny is obsessed with strength, with being able to fight back, and even with “killing your enemy.” The Nazi victimization of Jews in the mid-20th century is a trauma for Danny; he is haunted by the idea of Jews walking without resistance to be gassed in the death camps. Danny is obsessed with the thought of his own potential victimization. He must eradicate his sense of his own vulnerability, his human vulnerability. His social-psychological solution is to externalize the weakness that he fears in his “Jewish” self by becoming an anti-semite. What stereotypes of Jews are mentioned in the film?Does the film do a good job of letting us see through the stereotypes that Danny puts forth? Think about Danny in relation to Goffman’s ideas of front and back stages. How does he make use of costume, props, etc. When is his credibility in question? 2 examples: Think of the scene where the neo-Nazis are trashing the synagogue. Why does Danny throw up after Lina and Curtis ask him to fundraise? What is he embarrassed by? What does he do to repair his credibility? What other scenes can you think of where Danny is potentially embarrassed and has to repair his credibility? Think about Danny in relation to Hochschild’s ideas of emotion management? How does he react when he hears the stories of the Holocaust survivors? The camera gives us a close up of Danny’s eyes as a tear is forming. He wipes his face with his hands and they expresses anger at the survivor who lost his son. Is he surface or deep acting? What happens when Danny sees Carla having sex with Curtis? What lets us know that he is managing emotions in that scene? What other scenes can you come up with as examples of emotion management? Explain. Think of the Act Like a Man Box. How does Danny represent ideas of hegemonic masculinity?
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