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InstructorKaser
English120
[Date]
ARhetoricalFilmicAnalysisof
ParaNorman
sUniqueStanceonBullying

Overview

StopmotionanimationstudioLaika(
Coraline,TheBoxtrolls
)releaseditssecondfeature,a
uniqueblendofchildrenshorrorandcomedy,refinedasasocialissuecommentary.Thefilm
earned$107millionworldwideona$60millionbudget(
BoxOfficeMojo
).WrittenbyChrisButler
andcodirectedbyButlerandSamFell,thefilmfeaturesyoungNormanBabcock(Kodi
SmitMcPhee),whosegifttocommunicatewiththedeadandhisconsequentobsessionwith
horrormoviesmakeshimthetargetofexclusionandbullyinginhisfictionalhometownofBlithe
th
Hollow,Massachusetts.Asthewitchcrazedvillenearsthe300
anniversaryofvanquishingan
evilwitch,AgathaPrenderghast,Normansdeaduncle(JohnGoodman)passesthedutyof
appeasingthewitchtoNorman.Normanissurprisedtolearnthatthedutyconsistsofreading
afairytalebyAgathasgraveontheanniversaryofherexecution.Thelocalbully,Alvin
(ChristopherMintzPlasse),divertsNormanfromfindingAgathasrealgrave,whichunleashes
thewitchsenragedspirit,alongwiththereanimatedcorpsesofthepeoplethatcondemned
hertodeath.Accompaniedbyhissister,
stereotypical,boyobsessedcheerleader
Courtney
(AnnaKendrick)hisnewfriend,thescarylittlefatkid,Neil(TuckerAlbrizzi)andNeil's
stereotypicaldumbjock

brotherMitch(CaseyAffleck),Normanendeavorstosavethetown
beforeAgathadestroysit.


Theanalysisperformedon
ParaNorman
revealsthefilmmakersdense,layeredapproach
to
storytelling
,uncharacteristicformostchildrensmovies.Suchrepresentsthefilmmakers
(notablythewritersanddirectors)effortsatnotonlyentertainingtheiraudienceofchildrenand
adults,butalsoattemptstochangeattitudesaboutbullying.Specifically,thefilm,viadialogue
andplot,sendsthecomparativelycomplexmessagethatfearinhibitsthemosteffectivesolution
tobullyinghonestandrespectfuldiscoursebecauseitcausespeopletobehaveaggressively
andstupidly.Forexample,dialogueconveysthefilmsthemeduringthescenewhichNormans
grandmothersagelyadviseshimtonotletfearchangewhoyouareconsequently,duringthe
plotsdramaticresolution,NormansavesBlitheHollowfromthewitchsimplybytalkingtoher
asanotherhumanbeing.Thefilmalsodemonstratesusesofcolor,humor,horrormoviemotifs,
andanemotionallymatureplottoachievethefilmmakersobjectives,demonstratingadense
applicationofvisualandtextualrhetoric.

Influences

Threegenresintersectin
ParaNorman
,

enhancingitssocialissuecommentary,including
comedy,childrensanimation,andhorror.Aswithanyliterature,multipleinterpretationsare
possible,but
ParaNorman
ischieflyasocialissuecommentary.Suchagenrehasthemost
influenceon
ParaNorman
,concerningtheplotandtonethathelpconveythefilmstheme,one
involvingideasregardingfear,dialogueasproblemsolver,stupidity,andaggression.

Fear,theemotioncentraltohorrorfilms,vitalizes
ParaNormansp
lotandtheme
(citationneeded)
.Keepingto
thissectionsfocus,thefilmmakers,whilelimitedfrom
makingatrulyfrighteningfilm,suchas
Sinistero
r
ItFollows,

consideringtheiraudienceofchildren,includeseveral
referencestoclassichorrorfilmstobuildasenseofthe
genrefortheiradultaudience.Intheleftimage,Neil,wearing
ahockeymask,isanallusiontoJasonVoorheesfromthe
Fridaythe13th
films.Priortothisshot,NeiltextsNorman
NormanstextmessagealarmisnoneotherthanJohn
Carpentersmusicalthemefromtheclassicslasherfilm
Halloween.T
hefilmmakers,theDVDcommentarytrack,also
pointoutotherhorrorfilmallusions:Normansuncle,Mr.
Prenderghast,appearsanddisappearssuddenlybehindabush,anodtoascenewithserial
killerMichaelMyersin
Halloween
NeilsdeaddogsnameisBub,whichisthenameofthe
tamezombieinGeorgeRomeros
DayoftheDead
(8:4318:3818:45)andzombiehands
eruptingfromthegravealludestoSamRaimis
TheEvilDead
(citationneeded
)
.

Inadditiontohorror,thefilmsatirizesfearandstupidity,employingcomedicelements.
ParaNormans
colortonesofbrightgreenandrichpurpleevokethecolorpalatefromTim
Burtonssupernaturalcomedy,
Beetlejuice
.Saturatedinsimilartonesistheopeningscene,a

purposelybadfilmthatambivalentlyparodies80szombiemovies.JudgingfromtheDVD
commentary,thefilmmakerscherish70sand80shorrorfilms,butacknowledgethefaults
presentinsuchfilms,notablysexism.LikemanysocalledBmoviesofthedecade,
female
characterswereoftentreatedassexualobjects,existingonlyforthevoyeuristictastesofthe
filmsteenageviewers
,dramaticallypointedoutbytheactressin
ParaNormans
openingscene
posingherbehindinsquareviewofthecamera.

Havingconstructedauniquetonefromthefilmsmanyinfluences,
ParaNorman
weavesreality
intoitsfantasticalworldviaaserioussocialproblem:schoolbullying.

Beingastopmotion
animationfilmthatrequiredmuchprecisework,
ParaNorman
wasconceivedin2009(needs
citation)andreleasedin2012,aperiodthatcoincidedwithincreasingreportsofsuicidesby
bullyingvictims.Theissueofbullyingin
ParaNorman
isalsoapersonaloneforthefilmmakers.
InoneoftheDVDbonusfeatures,YouDontbecomeaHerobyBeingNormal,leadanimator
TravisKnightpositsthat
ParaNorman
isthestoryofthepeoplewhomadeitLaikas
communityofartistswerethekidswhogotshovedin[their]gymlockers.DirectorSamFell
addsthatIdidntlikeschool.Ididntquitefitin.While
ParaNorman
takesastanceonthekinds
ofschoolbullyingbothaudiencegroupsmayhavepersonallyexperienced,itsstanceisalso
influencedbyreligiouspersecution,particularlytheSalemwitchtrials.Inthefollowingsection,
theissuesthat
ParaNorman
addressesareexplained,connectingthedifferentstrandsof
contextthatshapedthefilm.

Issue

ParaNormans
plotandthemedealwithschoolbullyingthefilmmakersaddalayerofemotional
densitytobothbyincludingadramaticturningpointinvolvingtheexecutionofan11yearold
girlbyacourtofPuritantownspeople.

Thewidespreadavailabilityofsocialmediahasexacerbatedthelongstandingproblemofschool
bullying,resultinginpublicizedsuicidessuchasAmandaTodds,aCanadianteenagerwho
hungherselfinOctober2012afterbeingrelentlesslybulliedbypeersviasocialmedia(Dean).
WhileToddstragicsuicidetookplaceafterthefilmsreleaseandthefilmmakesnoovert
connectionstoFacebookorTwitter,thefilmmakershavetappedapolemicissuemanyof
ParaNormans
intendedviewersface.

AnAugust2011U.S.DepartmentofEducationdocumentreportsthatduringthe20082009
schoolyear,nearly30percentofstudentsaged1218werebullied(1).Accordingto
antibullyingactivismwebsite
BullyingStatistics,
childrenwhoarethetargetofbulliesaretwoto
ninetimesmorelikelytoconsidersuicidethanthosewhoarenot,with10to14yearoldgirls
beingespeciallyvulnerable(par.35).Additionally,inthedirectorsnativeEngland,halfofall
suicidesinvolvingyoungpeoplearecausedbybullying.Evenacasualviewingofthefilm
showsviewersthatwhatmanyviewastraditionalbullyinghassinisterconnections.

Bullying,accordingtothefilmmakers,hasstronghistoricalroots.
ParaNormans
dramatictwist
revealsthattheevilwitchisan11yearoldgirl,AgathaPrenderghast(Normansancestor),
whomacouncilofsixPuritantowneldersexecutedmerelybecauseshesawghoststhesame
giftNormanpossesses.ConsideringthatBlitheHollowisafictionalMassachusettstown,the
twistisnodoubtanallusiontotheSalemWitchTrials.
TheSalemWitchMuseum
offersa
summaryoftheeventsleadingtoandfollowingtheordeal.EchoingBritainsPendleWitch
Trials,onJune10,1692,aSalem,Massachusettscourtledby
WilliamStoughtoncondemned
BridgetBishoptodeathforpracticingwitchcraft.Inthefollowingthreedays,Stoughtonand
companyexecutedanadditionalthirteenwomenandfivemen.Inadditiontothenineteen
peoplewhowerehanged,150peoplefromSalemanditssurroundingareawere
imprisonedonemanwascrushedtodeathandsevenpeoplediedwhileincarcerated(Par.
48).

ParaNorman
sfilmmakersinterpretabuseofsocial(notablythejusticesystem)andphysical
powerasbullying.Comingtotermswiththefilmmakersviadialogueandplot,bullyingin
ParaNorman
isdefinedasusingsuperiorsocialand/orphysicalpowertoharmanotherperson
becauseofthemorepowerfulpersonorgroupsfearandstupidity.LikethePuritancourt,the
moderntownspeopleandmanyofNormansclassmatesreactsimilarlyoutoffearborne
stupiditytotheachildcommunicatingwiththedead.

ParaNorman
canbeviewedasachildrensfilmorcomedyorhorror,dependingonones
backgroundandperspective.However,viewingthefilmasasocialcommentaryblendsgenres
intonotonlyauniquecocktailofafilm,butclarifiesacomplexmessagethatisbothgraveand
humorousatthesametime,oneintendedtoinfluenceaudiencesattitudesonbullying.

RhetoricalObjective

Asmentioned,
ParaNorman
weavesmanygenresworkingtogethertoinfluenceitsaudience,
includingfamilyanimation,comedy,horror,andsocialissuecommentary.Intermsofthefilms
plot,visualdesign,andcharacterdialogue,itconsistently(butnotexclusively)pointstoastance
onbullying,andsorepresentssocialcommentarymorethanothergenres.Aswithmostfilm
socialcommentaries,
Paranorman
swritersanddirectorsaimtoinfluencesocialchange
therefore,theirprimaryrhetoricalpurposefallsunderthegeneralcategoryofpersuasion.

ParaNorman
takesauniqueandsomewhatcomplexstanceonbullying.Thethemeofthefilm,
weavingthenotionsofitsokaytobeafraidsolongasyoudontletitchangewhoyouare,
peoplecansolveproblemsbyjusttalkingaboutit,(citationneeded)andAggies
transformationfrominnocentchildintovengefulwitchtoinflictpainonthosewhohurther,
together,canbestbe
summarizedthusly:theproblem
ofbullyingcanbeimprovedif
peopledontallowfeartoturn
themintomonsters,preventing

problemsolvingdialogue.Thethemerepresentsapersuasivestancethroughtheuseofseveral
persuasive
cuesinplot,dialogue,andvisualdesign,mostnotablythedramaticreveal:the
witchthatthreatensBlitheHollowturnsouttobeawrongfullyexecutedlittlegirl.Byadding
suchdramaticemphasistothetheme,eventhoughsomechildrenmaynotbeableto
synthesizeacomplexidea,thefilmlikelymakesastrongemotionalassociationwithAggies
death,herreactiontoit,andbullying.

Inadditionto
ParaNormans
emotionalresonance,thefilmisintellectuallycomplexinits
purposes.Thefilmmakerswanttoentertain,tostirlaughter,andtofrightenandenlightenits
audiences.Pointingtothecomplexityofthemessage,useconventionsfromthegenresof
horrorandcomedytoaccentuateitssocialcommentarytheme,maintainingatightnarrative
focus.Inthesectionbelow,thefilmmakersapproachtogenreisdiscussedinmoredetail,
connectingtheunwrittencontractthevariousgenresrepresenttothefilmmakerseffortsat
influencingviewersattitudesonbullying.

Genre(s)

Thegenreofsocialcommentaryinfilmprovidesaframeworkbywhichfilmmakerscaninfluence
audiencesperspectivesononeormoresocialissues.
ParaNorman
screativeteam

keepsa
tightfocusonthefilmsmessagetoinfluencechildrenandtheirparentstorethinktheirapproach
totheproblemofbullying.

Comedyisadeceptivelycomplexgenre.Morethanmerelyincitinglaughter,comedycanhelp
audiencesdealwithanxieties.Thesubgenreofsatireisoftenused(butnotexclusivelyso)to
pointoutsocietalproblems.
ParaNorman
mocksthestupidityofschoolbulliesandcrowd
mentality,underliningthefilmsmessagesinvolvingfearandstupidity.Asmentionedabove,the
filmislikelyfrighteningtoyoungerchildren,butforolderaudiences,itbuildsanassociationwith
thehorrorgenreinsteadofoutrightscares.

Thefilmmakersblendhorrorand
comedyinsomescenes,suchasthe
zombiesinitialattack.Whilehidingin
NormansunclePrenderghasts
nowvacanthouse,NormanandAlvin
attempttofleetheundead.Alvin,the
schoolbully,showshimselftobean
ineffectualcoward,makingasceneof
screechingandtryingtohidebehind
Norman.Otherhorrorcomedyblends
satirizebulliesandbullying,excluding
someofthemoreweightytwistsinthefilm,asdescribed.Thefilmmakersintendedtheplots
allusiontothereallifehorrorsoftheSalemWitchtrialstolendgravitastothetheme,makingthe

socialissuecommentarypointedinatleasttheaudiencesminds(andperhapssensitiveand
precociouschildren).

Viewers
LaikaStudiosand
ParaNorman
sproducers,theagentswho
financedthefilm,wantedtomakeareturnontheir$60million
investment,aswellasthefilmsdistributioncompany,Focus
Features.Consideringitsmarketing,PGrating,and
toneddown
ParaNormans
primaryaudienceostensibly
includesyoungpeopleagedfivetoeleven.However,the
marketingorganizationWeiden+KennedyindicatedthatLaika
studiosbroadens[its]audiencebeyondkidsandmomsbyshowingwhatmakes
ParaNorma
na
moresubstantial(whileequallyfun)familymovie(par.1).
ParaNorman
isaimedatboth
childrenandadults,theformerbeingtheprimaryaudienceandthelatterthesecondary
audience.However,withasmanyappealstobothaudiencesasfoundinthefilm,amore
accurateinferencemightbetoclaimthat
ParaNormans
producers,thepeopleresponsiblefor
financingthefilmandgainingareturnontheirinvestment,drovethecreativeteamtomakea
childrensfilmwhilethewriteranddirectorsaddedlayerstoplot,dialogue,andthemeforadults.

Toengageitschildaudience,
ParaNorman
appealstotwobrandsofcomedy:scatalogical
humor,suchasNormansunclePrenderghastexplodingoutofatoiletandthesameuncles
corpseslobberingNormansface,andslapstick,suchasthesceneinwhichtheprotagonists
fightoffadetachedzombiearmwhileracingdownamountain.Innuendosaboundforadults,
includingthemanyhintsatadolescentsexualactivity(alsoanallusionto80sslasherfilm
motifs).

Inregardstothefilmshorrorelements,theinclusionofghosts,zombies,andGROWNUPS!
sufficestoinstilfearinyoungchildren(citationneeded).Asmentioned,thefilmcannotgomuch
furtherintermsofhorror,buttoassociatehorrorwithbullyingintheadultmind,thefilmmakes
allusionstoseveralrecognizablehorrorfilmicons,includingJasonVoorheesfromthe
Fridaythe
13th
franchise.

Insum,
ParaNormans
filmmakershavemadeseveraldirectappealstothefilmsaudiences,
rangingfromthecomictogenrebasedallusionstograveturnsofplot(nopunintended).The
filmgarneredmostlypositivereviewsfromcritics,withanaverageratingof7.3/10andan87
percentfreshratingonRottenTomatoes.comfrom164professionalreviewers.Generally,
criticsrespondedfavorablytothefilmshumorandtheme,suchascritics
[fillinfrom
resourcesfound]
.Audiencesratedthefilm3.7/5(nearlyidenticaltocriticsnumericalratings)
onthefilmsRottenTomatoes.commetric,with72percentofnearly82,000peopleclaimingthat
theylikedthefilm.Whileaudiencemetricisimprecise,withlikingbeingvague,itdemonstrates
thatthefilmhadsomeimpactonitsviewers.

Pathos

Filmisavisualanddramaticmediuminwhichcolor,story,actorsperformances,andsound
worktogethertomakeamovieemotionallyimpactful.Beingachildrenshorrorcomedy,
ParaNormans
toneisgenerallylight,appealingtotheaudience'ssenseofhumor,weaving
emotionallychargedplottwiststoaddseriousnesstothetheme.Sincethemostemotionally
impactfulplottwist,therevelationthatthewitchisan11yearoldgirlwhowasexecutedbya
councilofsevenadults,otherinstancesofappealstoviewersemotionswillbediscussed.

Since
ParaNormans
theme
consistentlyrevolvesaroundbullying,
whichisitselfaformofisolation,the
filmmakersframedseveralshotsto
showthedegreetowhichsomber
11yearoldNormanwas.Intheimage
left,notethemiseenscene:Blithe
Hollowmiddleschoolstudentsare
positionedintheforefront,allfacing
away
fromNorman,whoispositioned
inthebackground,clearlythetiniest
humanelement.Consideringthefilmstheme,emphasizingphysicaldistanceandvisualspatial
sizedifferenceshowsinasubtlebutdramaticwaythatNormanisutterlyalone.

Thecolortonesof
ParaNorman,
consideringitsdarkplottwist,
remainfairlybright:richviolets,pastelandneongreens,warm
orangesandredsacolorpalateofvibrantcolors.Further,the
filmscharacterdesigns,exaggeratedinmany,suchasMitchs
massivetorsoandtinylegs,Normansfathersstretchedhead
andpointedgut,andAlvinscomicallytrolllikeappearanceadd
alayerofcomicsurrealismtotheemotionaltextureofthefilm.
Additionally,thezombiesdesignmakesthemlookboth
monstrousandpathetic.

Theactorsvoiceworkisalsointendedtoconnectwithaudience
membersincertainways.AsthedirectorspointoutintheDVD
commentary,Normansgrandmother,voicedbyElaineStritch,
avoidssentimentalizingheradvicetoNorman,thusavoidinga
sappytone,whilekeepingasenseofsincerity(citation
needed).Stritchsapproachtothecharacteraddssomegravitas,helpingthefilmsaudiences
acceptthemessagethatfearisinnocuoussolongasyoudontletitchangewhoyouareand
problems,specificallybullying,canbesolvedwithdialogue.

ParaNormans
climaxaccentuatesthesocialcommentarymessage.Norman,takinghis
grandmothersadvicetotalktoAggieinsteadoftrytodefeatherwithforce,confrontsthewitch

andisviolentlyassaulted.Crashingsoundeffects,arisingtempoinJohnBrionsmusic,violent
neongreens,andmonstrous,chaoticexpressionsonAggiesfacelikelyinstillasenseoffearin
thefilmschildaudienceandasenseofurgencyinitsadultaudience,creatingforboth
suspenseoverNormansfate(i.e.,willhedie?).ResistingAggiesviolentassaults,Normanat
lastconvinceshertolistentoreasonbypleadingwithhertorememberthatshewasnotalways
amonster,abully.NormanandthenowhumanAggietalk,simplyastwochildren,atthetree
whereAggiesayssheusedtoplayandlistentohermothershappystories,thetreewherethe
townsfolkfoundherandcarriedherawaytobeexecuted.RecallingthememorycausesAggie
toglowandthreatentobecomeamonsteragainand,seeingwhatshemightbecome,sobsand
runstothetree.Normanconsolesherwithasoft,emotionallysinceretoneofvoice,Sometimes
whenpeoplegetscared,theydoandsayterriblethings.Ithinkyougotsoscared,youforgot
whoyouare...yourejustalittlekidwhowantedpeopletounderstandher(1:181:19).SamFell
addsthatNormanstalkwithAggieistherealclimax...allthehellhewentthroughwastoget
himhere,togetthroughtoAggieasarealperson,andgettinghertomoveon.Codirector
ChrisButleraddsthatthescenewasemotionallyepic,Ithink,demonstratingthefilmmakers
design.NormanandAggiesitdownatthebaseofthetree,Aggielaysherheadonhisshoulder,
andafterthreehundredyears,departsthephysicalworldtobewithhermotherandfamily.
Followingtheemotionalclimaxofthefilm,Normansfamilywitnessesthecursedzombies
similarlyfadeaway,revealingthemselvesastheghostsoftownspeople,validatinghisgift(the
samehisancestralauntAggiepossessed).

Comic,tragic,andinsomewayshorrific,pathossaturates
ParaNorman
s

appealstohelpthe
audiencebecomeemotionallyinvestedinthefilmandtakeitsmessageseriously.

Logos

Sinceoneof
ParaNorman
sintendedaudiencesconsistsofchildren,thefilmmakerscraftedthe
socialissuecommentaryovertly.itmightbesaidthatmanyparentsrequireandobviously
statedmessagelesttheymissit.Whenfilmmakerstakethetimetosendamessagetotheir
audiences,theydosothroughtheme,whichisconveyedthroughstory,plot,music,and
dialogue.

ParaNorman
sthemeisnotjustoneisolatedbitofdialogueorvisualcue,butasynthesisofa
fewofeach,bestsummarizedastheproblemofbullyingcanbeimprovedifpeopledontallow
feartoturnthemintomonsters,preventingproblemsolvingdialogue.Asdiscussedinthe
pathossectionabove,thefilmmakersusedtragic,
horrific
plottwiststoaddgravitastothe
theme.Intermsofconveyingthetheme,
ParaNormans
filmmakersgenerallyuseddialogueand
story.Normansgrandmother,aspreviouslymentioned,announcedpiecesofthefilmssocial
commentarymessageinconversationswithNorman.Otherpiecesofthethemecamethrough
eventsinthestory,asubtleandquickvisual

parallelism
,
foreshadowing
notonlythedramatic
revelationbutconnectingittothethemeofbullying.Thescreenshotsbelowshowthepresent
burnawaylikepaper,uncoveringbeneathAlvinscliqueoffellowbulliesduringtheschoolplay
rehearsal(intheDVDcommentary,ButlerandFellexplainthattheplayisanarrativedevice

intendedtogiveaudiencesbackgroundstoryinahopefullyfunandinterestingway)strange,
scarygrayfacesscowlingatNorman.Theaudiencelaterlearnsthatthesearethepeoplethat
sentencedAggietodeath.

Thefilmscentralmessagehasbeenvariouslydescribedasadultsdontnecessarilyknow
better(Wilson)andunmaskingofthevirtuousviolencethatsendsthemessagethatif
someoneisamonsteroranalien,itisokaytokillthem(Flood).Connectingtheplotasa
wholetokeyscenesin
ParaNorman
showsbothinclusionoffilmcriticsNatalieWilsonand
DerekFloodsobservationsandmovementbeyondthoseisolatedideas.Asdiscussedinthe
genreandobjectivesections,
ParaNorman
blendshorrorandcomedymotifstomakeits
complexmessagemorepalatableandapproachable.Thefilmweavesseveralseemingly
disparateelementstogethertomakewhatthefilmmakershopeisastrongstanceonbullying.
Tomakethatstanceandthestrategiestheyusedtoachievetheirrhetoricalobjectivesmore
effective,thefilmmakersemployedseveral,oftensubtle,appealstocharacterandcredibility.

Ethos

Unlikeacademicpapers,filmsusemostlysubtleappealstocharacterandcredibility.Whileit
maynotbeapparenttothefilmstargetaudience,Laikahasareputationasaprogressivefilm
studio.Knownforproducingthepreviouscriticallyacclaimedand,successful
Coraline,(
based
onthebookofthesamenamebyrenownedcontemporaryfantasyauthorNeilGaiman),thefilm
hasafewmomentsthatamainlyleftleaningadultaudiencemayappreciate.

Causingsomecontroversy(Medina),attheendof
ParaNorman,
stereotypicaldumbjockMitchrevealsthatheisgay,muchto
Courtneysdisappointment(citationneeded).Therevealhadthe
dualpurposeofnotonlyappealingtoamoreprogressiveminded
audience,butalsototoywithstereotypes,asitpreviouslydidwith
turningthebullyAlvinintoanallyandegocentricblonde
cheerleaderintoahero.Anotherappealtoapoliticallyleftbrandof
ethosincludesanallusiontoenvironmentalismintheformofa
ghostpigeon,havingchokedtodeathonasixpackring,picturedin
thescreenshottotheleft(nopunintended).

Anothertidbitforleftleaningaudiencesisthefilmscritiqueof80s
horrorconventions,notably,therampantsexisminfilmssuchas
the
Fridaythe13ths
eries,
ReturnoftheLivingDead,
andtheir
plethoraofBmovieimitators.Theopeningsceneof
ParaNorman
depictssuchaBmovie,withazombiechasingayoungwoman.
Themovieispurposelyhorrible,withascenewheretheyoung
womanuncomfortablyholdsupherposteriorforafewlingering
seconds,pointingtotheridiculousnessofmakingthefemalebody
in70sand80shorroranobjectforteenagemalevoyeurs(which
hasreappearedinMichaelBays
Transformers:Revengeofthe
Fallen)
.

Returningtotone,thefilmdemonstratesacertainintegritythatthe
filmmakersemploysothatitcanbetakenseriously.Inadditiontothedramaticheftofthe
revelationaboutAggieandhercomingtotermswithherdeath,ButlerandFellaimedfora
certainactingstyle:noneofthisisaboutdoingrealism,itsaboutdoingnaturalism(Perkins,
par.11).Inotherwords,amovieaboutghostsandzombiesdiscardsastrictadherenceto
reality,butitscharacterscanseemauthenticandnatural.Normansfather,forexample,showed
hostilitytowardNormansgiftofspeakingtothedeadthroughoutthefilm,butslowlybeginsto
acceptNormansgift.Duringthefilmsclosingscene,Normansfather,Perry,nervouslyasks
Norman,Isyourgrandmahere?towhichtheboynodstowheresheissittingPerrythenturns
towherehethinkshisdeceasedmothershouldbeandawkwardlysays,Hi,mom.IntheDVD
commentary,FellandButlerexplainthatPerrysstillnotsoldontheidea[ofNormansgift]...that
hesmovedon,butnotunrealistically(1:241:25).HadPerryhadacompleteattitudechange,
thefilmmayhavelostsomeofitsnaturalismandplausibility,asseenintheaftermath,where
Courtneyhasrevertedtothetypicalboycrazycheerleader,Alvinistryingtoimpressgirlsby
lyingabouthisandNormansfriendship,andNormanremainsisolated(citationneeded).

Finally,itisworthnotingthatofallthereferences
ParaNormans
creatorsmakethatenhance
themeorworkwithgenre,thereisatoneofsinceritythatcomesasaresult.Inadditionto
alludingtoseveralaforementionedhorrorfilms,Butlerexplainsthatotherinfluences(andpeople
ofhisgeneration)grewupwatching...
TheGoonies,Ghostbusters,ScoobyDoo
shaped
ParaNorman
(Perkins).Partcomplexgenreconstruction,partlovingtributetochildhoodhorror
andsupernaturalmoviesandtelevision,partappealtoanaudiencessenseofnostalgia,many
elementsin
ParaNorman
functionformanyminorpurposesfallingunderthefilmmakersmain
rhetoricalobjectives.

AnalysisSummary

ParaNorman
representsyearsofworkandcarefulcraftingtomakeafilmthatisbothfunnyand
poignanttoitsintendedaudiences.Whetheritislikeableorrhetoricallyeffectiveareconcerns

thatlieoutsidethescopeofthisanalysis,but
ParaNorman
takesauniquestanceonan
importantsocialissue,onethat,accordingtothefilmmakers,haspersistedforthreehundred
years.WriterdirectorChrisButlerandcodirectorSamFell,andthehundredsofcraftspeople
workingforLaikaStudios,haveusedhundreds,maybethousands,ofelementsinthefilmin
manywaystoaffectthemessagethatfear,stupidityandbullyinggohandinhand.

WorksCited

ParaNorman.
Dir.Butler,Chris,andFell,Sam.Perf.KodiSmitMcPhee,TuckerAlbrizzi,Jodelle
Ferland,AnnaKendrick.Laika,2012.Bluray.


ScreenshotofBirdChokingonCanHolder.
ParaNorman.
Dir.Butler,Chris,andFell,Sam.Perf.
KodiSmitMcPhee,TuckerAlbrizzi,JodelleFerland,AnnaKendrick.Laika,2012.Bluray.

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