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Topics in History: History through Film

Topics in History: History through Film

Topics is a course at Southport High School taught by Kevin Sanders that analyzes major events from United States and world history through Hollywood films that attempt to portray those events. Students investigate historical documents and other sources to determine if a film is historically accurate.

The goal is for students to develop deeper understandings of the historical discipline while generating questions about the way the world is around them, along with watching classical films that have graced American and international screens.

Student: Brooklyn Koesters

Film Reviewed: The Great Gatsby

In the novel and film The Great Gatsby, many people find representation through the two main characters: Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway. While many groups of people can be represented through media, it seems to be harder for those who fall into minority groups. Nick and Jay become the best of friends after some small interactions they have with each other due to Nick moving in the West Egg. The West Egg is a part of New York City, which this story takes place in. With Nick and Jay living so close to each other, it builds a great relationship between the two, but many people see their relationship as representation for the LGBTQ+ community.

We are first introduced to Gatsby through Nick Carraway. How he first talks about Gatsby makes people wonder about how they really feel about each other. He speaks on how he disliked everyone when he was in New York, and nothing could phase him, except for Gatsby. Throughout both the film and novel, Gatsby and Nick are almost always together. With these two always being together causes their relationship to be so much stronger compared to the other friendships presented in the film.

The Great Gatsby shows representation for those who identify within the LGBTQ+ community. The chemistry that Nick and Gatsby show toward each other provides a valid idea that makes people feel seen. For example, Nick only gave one compliment to Gatsby the whole time they were friends: “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” Although this was the only quote Nick ever said to Gatsby, it seems that he was always talking about him. With the novel and film being narrated by Nick, it allowed him to say many things about Gatsby that could be taken into the perspective of love. He takes the time to compliment his features to others; here is an example: “His smile was one of those rare smiles that you may come across four or five times in life. It seemed to understand you and believe in you just as you would like to be understood and believed in.”

Queer film theory focuses on how a majority controls the film industry, leaving very little representation for minorities. This theory believes that most movies are made by straight people who limit or compromise queer perspectives. The Great Gatsby falls directly into the idea that is presented in this film theory. Representation has become a huge thing people look for within films, while it is not seen as much from big well-known Hollywood films, people still interpret the actions from characters into something else. Although people find representation through Nick and Gatsby, that was not the intention behind the film itself.

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