Cinematic "Pigness": A Discourse Analysis of Pigs in Motion Pictures
von Schlemmer, Mark
University of Kansas
Film & Media Studies
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The representations of "others" in film have been contentious since filmmaking began. Fraught with misrepresentations, cinema has been held responsible, and occasionally credited, for influencing cultural practices and helping to shape discourses in American society. This study suggests that the media representations of nonhuman animals also have a profound effect on how Americans think about animals and that these representations warrant examination to uncover the naturalized messages and assumptions that are presented about animals. Explored here are the extent to which these images depict animal-ness - moments of authentic nonhuman behavior or experience that are not simply a reflection of humanity but have meaning for the animals themselves. This study highlights the case of "food animals" - specifically pigs. The disjunction between how we represent them - the narratological roles they fill in animal films - and the way that actual pigs are used in American society is vast and disturbing. One hundred million pigs are raised away from the light of day in factory farms and then slaughtered in each year in the United States, but they are continually presented as intelligent and charismatic characters in our stories. Using critical theory and a discourse analysis methodology, this study is a close textual analysis of the feature films Babe and Charlotte's Web, along with incidental appearances of pigs on television and feature films. It explores how these works invite spectators to construct nonhuman beings as persons and how they present nonhuman perspectives, and then it interrogates the accuracy of the pigness of the characters depicted. The study confirms that these representations portray many characteristics of actual pigs and that certain films present genuine challenges to viewers to examine the contradictions between treating these intelligent and personable animals as both friends and meat.
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- School of the Arts Dissertations and Theses 
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