ERIC Number: ED246516
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1984-May
Reference Count: 0
Visions of Apocalypse: A Rhetorical Analysis of "The Day After."
Rybacki, Karyn Charles; Rybacki, Donald Jay
To examine the rhetorical vision of nuclear war presented in the television show "The Day After," it is necessary to consider (1) the motives of those involved in producing the film, (2) the debate over the film that preceded its presentation, (3) the effect of the film's message, and (4) how the film's rhetorical structure contributed to those consequences. An examination of public statements made by network executives and others connected with the production of the film reveals a number of motives for airing it. These include ABC's desire to boost its ratings during a critical period and the wish to provide a national dialogue. Critics viewed the film as a free advertisement for a nuclear arms freeze, and faulted it--despite the debate and warnings preceding its showing--for its cursory treatment of reality and as a drama in which the viewer's only motive for watching was to wait for the bombs to drop. Surveys of viewers revealed that the film changed few opinions about nuclear war, as the percentage of viewers who thought that nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union was not likely rose slightly, as did the percentage of those who thought the United States was doing all it could to prevent war. Finally, an analysis of the enthymematic structure of the film, in which the rhetor (the film) makes maximum use of what the audience already knows or believes, reveals that the film was so open-ended it allowed viewers to regard the film as pro- or anti-nuclear freeze, depending on their personal frame of reference. The lack of drama in which agents are included was also determined to contribute to the film's distortion of reality. (CRH)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Day After (The)
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association (34th, San Francisco, CA, May 24-28, 1984).