Panel 1

Projecting Mercy Concerns: Film Adaptations and Social Justice

Joe Arnold (English)
Core Values in an Unlikely Place: The Godfather Part I
Mentor: Dr. Christopher DeVault

This study uses lenses grounded in criminal justice, economics, and history to examine how Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather sheds light on issues of immigration, non-violence, and poverty.  Noting that the mafia violence that pervades the film partly springs from the poverty, racism, and abuse Italian immigrants faced in the twentieth century, this presentation will bring light to the dire situation that poor immigrants are frequently faced with.

Casey Birkicht (English & Film Studies)                                    
Unraveling Gender Stereotypes in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Mentor: Dr. Christopher DeVault

This project uses analyses grounded in sociology, religious studies, and history to examine how Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra are restricted by and challenge repressive gender roles in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Victorian horror novel Dracula.  It contends that both characters are turned into vampires and thus can be seen as a man’s Achilles heel, but they also make strong points against stereotypes and prove to be the stronger characters in the movie.  Specifically, Mina is able to overcome her place in society as a foil to her husband and his friends in their battle against Dracula and the dark, and thus becomes a character that can spark their humanity through her sacrifices and love.

Stephanie Russell (English)
The Help: Exposing Racial and Social Injustice Through Film
Mentor: Dr. Christopher DeVault

Russell frames her analysis of Tate Taylor’s adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett novel The Help through the lenses of history, social work, and sociology.  She examines how the publication of Skeeter’s book The Help within the novel and film exposed northern trends to a southern community and provided assistance to those in need through reaching out to them and understanding a perspective that was unknown to many people.  Russell thus demonstrates how Skeeter’s book changed southern society and uses this change to reveal how literature has the power to expose and defeat racial injustice.

Robb Tigan (English)
Beneath This Mask there is an Idea: V for Vendetta and the Mercy Concerns
Mentor: Dr. Christopher DeVault

Tigan bases his examination of James McTeigue’s adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic novel V for Vendetta in perspectives grounded in history, criminal justice, and psychology. He argues that even though the film is very violent, the protagonist V’s central message that “people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people” enables the novel and film to promote nonviolence.  He reveals the antagonists of the film to be clear examples of absolute power corrupting absolutely, and he reads V as someone who takes no pleasure in the destructive actions he feels he has to do, which ironically makes his violent actions seem nonviolent.  He thus concludes that V’s becoming a symbol for the oppressed people in England enables the novel and film to promote nonviolence over big power politics.