1. Read Writing about Movies, pages 55–100, to learn about the different types of cultural analysis.
  2. Select only one film from one of the following Letterboxd lists:
    • If you want to write about a film from the Italian Neorealism module: use one of these films
    • If you want to writing about a film from the French New Wave module: use one of these films
    • If you want to writing about a film from the French New Wave module: use one of these films
    • If you want to writing about a film from the Latin America module: use one of these films
  3. Write a 250-word cultural analysis of the film you selected: what does this film tell us about the society and culture of the film at the time it was made? Answering one of the following two questions and be sure to write at least one paragraph on a sequence that illustrates your overall analysis.
    1. How does the film represent represent certain characters according to one of these cultural analytic dimensions?
      • socioeconomic status
      • gender
      • race, ethnicity, national origin
      • sexual orientation
    2. What genre does this film belong to? Which two characteristics make it so?
      • story formulas
      • themes
      • character types
      • setting
      • presentation and iconic imagery
      • stars

Refer to the sample cultural analysis below for guidance.

Sample Cultural Analysis

Socioeconomic Status and Gender in Gold Diggers of 1933

The film Gold Diggers of 1933 is a backstage musical about the struggles of a group of actresses, musicians, and impresarios to produce a stage musical. Set during the depths of the Great Depression, the film represents the economic struggles of the time and even though the characters succeed in staging their production, the film somberly ends with The Forgotten Man number that confronts the immediate issues of the Depression.

The film depicts socioeconomic status through the characters of Polly, Carol, Trixie, and Fay—aspiring women actresses—and through Barney—an experienced but ultimately broke producer. They are all clearly affected by the Depression and constantly refer to their economic struggles. In the women’s apartment, Barney tells them about a new musical he has in the works. As he sits in a chair, smoking a cigarette, he explains that it’s all about the Depression. There’s a cut to Carol who, with a deadpan expression, quips that “we won’t have to rehearse that.”

Their fortunes improve when they learn that Brad is not only talented enough to perform in the musical, he also supplies them with money for the production. In typical Hollywood fashion, a rich, handsome man comes to the rescue: in this case not with money that he stole, but with money that belongs to his family.

The film also represents a gendered stereotype of the day: the gold digger. A gold digger was a stereotype of a working-class woman who was looking for a man with money to marry—ensuring her financial security and future. As soon as Brad’s family learns that he is performing in a Broadway musical, they send the family lawyer to save him from Polly, who they deem to be a “gold digger.” This stereotype creates a conflict between the family and Brad, but also threatens the production.

Through these representations, we can see how the film portrays socioeconomic status and gender according to the prevailing norms of the early 1930s, in the depths of the Great Depression.