Representation and Persuasion in Independent Online Documentaries - A Case Study of two Films from the Anti-Vaccination Movement

University essay from Malmö universitet/Kultur och samhälle

Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to examine how two independent films represent their claim of a connection between the MMR vaccination and Autism. It investigates how the filmmakers use common documentary practices to advocate their case and by which rhetorical means they attempt to persuade the audiences. Furthermore, it examines the filmmakers’ central role when they involve themselves as social actors. Approach: It is a case study of the two films Vaxxed and Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis, directed and produced by Andrew Wakefield and Polly Tommey. A qualitative content analysis applying a social semiotic point of view was performed, identifying the technical and rhetorical semiotic resources put in use. Results: Through the analysis, it became definite that the films make significant use of respected documentary practices and that they, on some levels, successfully persuade their audiences. The films’ argumentation is diluted, however, as the thesis identifies logical fallacies in a significant part of their persuasive messages. Additionally, the thesis criticizes the filmmakers’ participation as social actors when they feature in the films. Conclusion: It finally concludes that online distribution has changed the context in which independent films are created as it allows radical thinking to have a far-reach. Thus, it finally suggests the need for a greater focus on how documentary films are used for manipulation and propaganda. The research contributes to the field of media in the context of social developments as it concerns the consequences of the development of distribution within independent documentary films online.

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