March 14, 2013
When the Levees Broke: A Rhetorical Analysis
It is nearly impossible to imagine that one day you can be safe in your home and with all of your belongings and the next day a hurricane leaves you with nothing. Unfortunately, the 484,000 people who lived in New Orleans had to experience those unimaginable thoughts first hand in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina. “An entire city was nearly wiped off the face of the earth” (Kellogg) and at least 1,833 people were killed during and after the storm. There are many theories and conspiracies of what happened with the levees and what could have been done better in order to help the residents of New Orleans. Director Spike Lee felt very strongly about the issue and decided to make a documentary in order to give the people of New Orleans justice. By directing When the Levees Broke, Spike Lee gives the audience his personal view on the entire situation dealing with Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath. With his use of video editing and choice of certain interviews, Lee gave not only emotional credibility to his movie but also a logical point of view. The main argument of the documentary was to explain the series of events that occurred during and following the storm, while also getting the inside point of views of some of the Hurricane Katrina victims. Another argument Spike Lee was trying to make
was that there was a lot more to the disaster than just the storm. I do believe that Lee did a good job in getting his point across in his documentary but I do not believe it was a very strong argument. The argument is not very convincing because not everyone’s view was included in the film. It seems that Spike Lee was very biased while making the documentary and had no problem with expressing it in his film. Though I do somewhat agree with Lee’s point of view, I do not believe that it was a very well rounded argument. In his documentary, Lee confronts the underlying problems that occurred at the time of the hurricane such as racial, cultural and political issues. By adding so much information about what was actually occurring during Hurricane Katrina in his film, Lee made a very well put together documentary. Lee’s purpose of making the film was to give the victims their chance to speak out and to show “how the poor and underprivileged of New Orleans were mistreated in this grand calamity and still ignored today” (Chisholm). Lee is a very passionate and outspoken man and he conveyed his message in a way where the victims had the upper hand and could speak on the real issues. Had Spike Lee not been so biased, I think both his argument and documentary could have been excellent. Spike Lee used the Aristotelian appeal of pathos the most throughout his documentary in order to catch the audience’s attention. The way he incorporates certain cultural music and photos of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina make the audience more inclined to pay attention. The collection of photographs Lee features in his film not only let us see what was happening during Hurricane Katrina, they also “add texture and even further weight to these stories” (Kellogg). He does this on purpose in order to make the audience feel sympathy towards all the people who were interviewed as well as those
who passed away due to Hurricane Katrina. The best way Lee kept the attention of the audience was by “allowing the people who lived through the disaster to tell their stories” (Kellogg). The viewer is more likely to pay attention if they are stimulated emotionally and that is what Spike Lee aimed for. He also shows the audience how the “evacuation process separated parents from children as people were loaded onto buses,” by doing this, the audience gets a more in depth view of the disaster and is more likely to feel sad and watch the documentary more. The underlying issue that Lee was trying to explain to the audience was...