Racing Rhetoric: A Burkean Analysis of Ecodocumentary Rhetoric
thesisposted on 2021-05-23, 18:43 authored by Matthew R.A. Barnes
Ecodocumentary films such as The Cove, An Inconvenient Truth, and Sharkwater have demonstrated the power to influence audience behavior, establish public discourses, and inspire social change. This MRP explores promotional videos for a new ecodocumentary, Racing Extinction (Psihoyos, 2015), which explores the possibility of a sixth mass extinction of species, and what humans may be able to do to stop it. As such, this MRP attempts to discover more about the persuasive process, audience engagement, and how ecodocumentaries can work to enact social change. Using the Burkean concepts of dramatism, guilt-purification-redemption, and identification, this research analyzes the rhetoric of three promotional videos by assessing their dramatistic elements, how audiences may identify with the narratives therein and, to make a statement about their motives. The three videos have been selected to both exemplify the language of the filmmakers, and represent their two distinct objectives: to sell tickets, and to create social change. This research provides an examination of the persuasive tools used by the Racing Extinction filmmakers, and an overview of the levels of audience engagement online. For Burkean scholars, this research begins to fill key gaps in analyzed content. Through analyzing the promotional content for Racing Extinction, I seek to improve the scholarly understanding of the persuasive processes associated with ecodocumentary rhetoric.