Author

Nicole Coates

Degree Type

Thesis (Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Communications

First Advisor

Rebecca Hains

Abstract

This thesis project examines the 2012 film Cloud Atlas and how the film’s portrayals, through its unique use of an ensemble cast, challenge our understandings of socially constructed differences. This analysis examines the thematic significance of the actors’ appearance changes throughout the film as they play characters of different genders, ages, races, and classes. It also considers how these changes provide commentary on contemporary society’s views of these social groups. Central topics of analysis include the characters portrayed, the time periods in which their storylines are set, and the characters’ connections to one another. It also critiques the filmmakers’ choices, however, acknowledging the voices of groups that identify problematic elements, such as performative diversity and its use of yellowface—prevalent issues which deserve recognition. This thesis further explores these themes through an additional video essay component, available on Vimeo, discussing the paradox of the film’s positive intended messages versus its problematic use of an ensemble cast. This thesis’s goal is to provide a bridge that connects the film’s embedded message with our understanding of race, gender, and other social strata. It explains why the story helps to amplify the connections between the movie’s plot and society’s understanding of our many differences. By connecting the key elements and events of the film, this project provides insights regarding the film’s disconnect between the intent and the execution of the story and its message on screen.

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