Tanner Diercks Professor Domini



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Tanner Diercks

Professor Domini

English 250

19 September 2012

Assignment 3: Rhetorical Analysis

In the textbook The World is a Text by Jonathan Silverman and Dean Rader, Stephanie Zacharek, in her critical review entitled “Avatar: Dances with Aliens”, repeatedly criticizes James Cameron on his latest powerhouse film “Avatar.” Stephanie Zacharek is a film critic famed for her brutal reviews of films and other media variants. Zacharek’s essay contains harsh language, belittling insults, and a clear overall distaste for James Cameron as a filmmaker and as a person.

Zacharek starts her attack by making the claim that while Cameron’s CGI and special effects technology isn’t “quite like anything we’ve seen before,” (344) his newest film is certainly not worthy of “making history” as one might put it. Zacharek’s essay appears to be a simple review of the movie “Avatar,” but upon closer inspection, one can easily see that she is bashing James Cameron directly. From the comments about the bad acting, to the cliché storyline; every one of her points comes down to a full frontal attack on James Cameron himself. Zacharek even goes so far as to directly insult Cameron by saying “If only Cameron… had a sense of humor about himself, which he clearly doesn’t… Cameron—who is no longer king of the world, but emperor of the universe—has to make it clear he’s addressing the grand themes” (345). If the blatant sarcasm in the second half of that statement wasn’t enough to see how much Zacharek dislikes Cameron as a person; a few lines above that, Zacharek states that “Clearly, Cameron has looked everywhere for inspiration – nature, art, the spencer’s gift catalog” (345). This, once again, sarcastic statement implies that Cameron stole his inspiration from not only past films, but apparently from modern party decorations as well.

Zacharek holds the same language and organization throughout the entirety of the essay. Insulting Cameron is clearly the underlying goal from start to finish. The first paragraph is sarcastic and insulting. The second is a bit more reserved because it is an extensive summary of the film itself. But it remains sarcastic and judgmental none the less. Zacharek writes “Their goal is to mine a special ore – its name, “Unobtainium,” is one of the only truly witty jokes” (345), yet another example of just how judgmental she can be. In the third paragraph Zacharek’s language takes an interesting turn when she turns to praise the special effects in the movie by saying “The movie was made, and is designed to be seen, in 3-D… the technology and not the story is the big selling point here”(346). This less intense tone lasts for all of about three sentences, then in the next 3 paragraphs Zacharek returns home to bash Cameron and the film once again. After reading the nonstop onslaught by Zacharek, the final paragraph is like taking a breath of fresh air after being held underwater for the longer end of a minute.

Zacharek backs up her arguments, very distastefully, with an extensive list of insults and negative opinions on the movie as if her thoughts on the movie were fact. Zacharek’s tone and language is consistently sarcastic and judgmental. “James Cameron’s Avataris a very expensive looking, very flashy entertainment…and features some of the most god-awful dialogue this side of Attack of the Clones” (345). Zacharek writes for general readers, but mostly for the film critic community. Other critics praised the movie for its strong points, which to give some credit to Zacharek was, was mostly the technology.

Another critic from the New York Times named David Edelstein wrote his own review of “Avatar”. In his review on nymag.com, Edelstein covers many of the same points as Zacharek. He even makes Zacharek’s same point about how the film is “An attempt to rewrite (and reanimate) history with a barely disguised lefty parable of Native Americans versus capitalist imperialists” Edelstein’s article is posted to rottentomatoes.com, and he gives the movie a “Fresh Tomato,” meaning the film is a must see. Edelstein praises Cameron for his ground breaking special effects, and seems to understand that the movie was made for the scenery, technology, and not for the acting or storyline.



Stephanie Zacharek excels at finding the weak points in films and exploiting the film and its creators for her viewers’ enjoyment. Zacharek throws around insults and sarcastic comments to get a quick laugh from readers. She writes in an unprofessional and distasteful way, because it is easy to attack the weak points of a film. It is hard to give credit to the strong points of a movie, even if the movie is a powerhouse for only one reason. Zacharek’s writing is sleazy and she should be removed from the critical community all together.

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