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John Macaulay

Professor Gregory McClure

Writing 39B: Critical Reading and Rhetoric

5 March 2017

Toying Around: RIP Response to Team Paranormals Movie

In the film The Gift, our group, Team Paranormal, focused on the use of the horror trope

Artifact of Death to create a horror film. The film follows a group of UCI students as they are

haunted and driven to suicide by a possessed toy. This metaphor is used to represent the

overwhelming pressure that is put upon modern day students by their families, by society, and by

the institutions at which they attend. According to Dr. Anthony L. Rostain, the co-director of

Student Psychological Health and Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania, It isnt that one

isnt doing well. Its that I am no good. Instead of thinking I failed at something, these

students think, I am a failure (Scelfo). This quote portrays the psychological pain that modern

day students go through. In the film, this type of stress is seen as students are putting school over

other aspects of normal life. The use of dialog and emotional expression indicate how the

characters are indifferent to the deaths of their friends while only caring about doing well in

school. The film includes many common directing techniques that are used in popular horror

films such as camera angle manipulation, sound effects, and lighting effects. In this rhetorical

analysis of The Gift, I will examine major aspects of the horror genre that support the overall

theme of the film and that represent the metaphor of expectations taking over the lives of young

adults. These themes show parallels to the common feelings of university students struggling to

succeed and ultimately results in the loss of their inner self.


The emotions and the dialog of the characters symbolize the lack of humaneness in

modern day university students. In many instances in the film, the characters shift away from

important topics and discuss information about exams. An example of this throughout the film is

Johns character who shows no compassion towards the deaths of his friends and regards finals

as more important. This portrays how some students today do not show compassion or

importance in anything other than their success in school. This stress on the importance of school

results from higher expectations put on to the students from authority figures such as institutions,

family, and society. Particularly at prestigious universities such as UCI, the expectations for their

students are often much higher. This results in university students being unable to grow into their

true selves because they are tormented by what others want. The toy in The Gift symbolizes this

haunting of expectations by being a stuffed anteater. This works into our audience because it

represents the institution that bears down on UCI students.

The symbolism of the toy creates a parallel to the actions that many university students

take to combat stress. The end result of the haunting by the toy is the student being driven into

suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nationally, the suicide

rate among 15- to 24-year-olds has increased modestly but steadily since 2007: from 9.6 deaths

per 100,000 to 11.1, in 2013 (Scelfo). In just 2016, over 1,000 cases of death by suicide by

university students were reported. The increase in suicides has also shown correlation with the

increase in university students committing self harm. According to a collaborative research study

by Princeton University and Cornell Univerity, About 17 percent of college students report that

they have cut, burned, carved or harmed themselves in other ways...However, fewer than 7

percent of the students studied had ever sought medical help for their self-inflicted physical

injuries (Lang). The stress that is reported as common to students results from financial

struggles, acceptance by peers, and competitiveness. As seen in our film, the students show signs

of insanity as they are haunted and ultimately results in them taking their own lives. These

common struggles are further enforced by modern society.

Modern society creates a metaphorical representation between the toy and the type of

stress seen around university campuses. This theme grows out of the anxieties that students face

while attending and competing at top schools. As seen with all three main characters, the

students are struggling stay composed as the quarter nears its end. With the introduction of

technology, social media, and other societal factors, the main expectations for students at

universities weighs down the ability for natural growth and results in self destructing individuals.

Many students who were previously trophy scholars are now tested in a competitive, university

setting. This is also enforced by the need for social acceptance that has increased due to the

expansion of social media. Gregory T. Eells, director of counseling and psychological services at

Cornell University, believes that social media is a plays a major role in the stress of students.

Eells believes that social media restricts students ability to see others struggling as well and this

psychologically hinders their self esteem. This is shown [expand]

Throughout the process of creating our RIP film, I took on many responsibilities in the

effort to create a well-made finished product. The three main things I contributed to the RIP

project was helping collaborate on the script and story, act as one of the main characters, and edit

the film. As we first started brainstorming for the RIP project, I really enjoyed the idea of a

possessed object haunting students here at UCI. I felt the object would work well as a metaphor

and create a scary haunting if we planned it right. Our group worked together to come up with

the main plot line after all collaborating with many different ideas. One aspect that I took very

seriously was how we were going to portray the toy as a metaphor. We decided the metaphor

should be about the pressures and expectations of university students by families, society, and

institutions. Some of the lines in the script I personally included were I included these lines

to portray how different pressures have caused students to focus solely on themselves and

resulted in them becoming indifferent to other interactions. I was also able to show this theme in

my acting, as my character was one who is very indifferent to the deaths of his friends. While

editing the film, me and Magali collaborated to include as high quality of production as possible.

Major aspects that we needed to focus on was the effects of lighting and sound effects to play

into the eerie vibe of the plot. [expand]

Although my overall experience turned out to be rewarding in the end, I found working in

my group to be very challenging. Some negative things that affected our productivity was the

fact that we all had very conflicting schedules. This resulted in us only being able to meet for an

hour or two per week to plan out and film our project. This also caused our group to be lacking in

organization. Some group members would start writing into the script without informing others

and this ultimately confused the group because the scenes would not fit or would be going

against what our original plan was. Another frustrating factor was trying to pitch ideas with my

group. During our meetings, we would often sit in silence while we tried to think of ways to

further the script. When someone would pitch an idea and others would second it, some of the

group would refute the idea in a rather rude way. While this is okay because we are collaborating

as a group, when asked what that person would like to do, they would provide no insight on how

we should continue our work.


Three sources

Noel carrol impure monster

Symbolism and horror, morrison

Do we cite our own film

Dont know what the toy will be yet: anteater,

Part I: The Rhetorical Situation. Briefly describe the author/audience/text/overall context

relationships, including any metaphorical moves.

Part II: Rhetorical Analysis. Go into a RA of the film, discussing how metaphor is being created

in order to render a message. Things to discuss would include camera angles, scene design,

framing, acting, script, etc. Also include a discussion of any persuasive elements in the film, by

which I mean an account of scary moments, suspense, creepiness or mystery.

Part III: Personal Contribution. As above, but emphasizing your own personal decisions and final

inputs on the outcome that had a direct effect on reception.

Part IV: Group Work. How did that go?