After watching O Brother, Where Art Thou, you will write a Short Essay responding to the following tasks:
Discuss what makes the character of Everett a hero based on American cultural values. Below are some traits to get you started thinking about Everett McGill as a hero that reflects American values:
-Concerned with beauty to the point of vanity
-Loyal, even at great personal risk
-Clever and intelligent
-Outwardly cynical, but demonstrates belief in the supernatural in desperate situations (though he denies it)
-Friendly, helpful, inclusive, compassionate
-Talented singer and performer who becomes an overnight superstar
-Outlaw with a heart of gold. Anti-authoritarian
-Nostalgia for tradition, but also tries to look to the future
-Modern values regarding race
-Persistent, despite repeated obstacles
-Interacts with important historical figures
-Sophisticated, but more simple/down-to-earth than he wants people to believe
-Trying to achieve the American Dream (aka rags-to-riches through a variety of get-rich-quick schemes)
-His confessed sins: “Pride and sharp dealing”
By no means is this an exhaustive list—students often notice things that I’ve missed and come up with much better ideas, so if you’ve got something better, please use your ideas instead. Think of this list as a starting point, and pick one or two things that stick out to you to explore the idea of what makes Everett a heroic figure for American culture. What do these traits tell us about the Coen Brothers’ view of America? Why give him these qualities? Use specific examples from the film to explain your answers to those questions.
Using the material you analyzed in Task One, answer the following question: What are the Coen Brothers saying about American myths and values in O Brother, Where Art Thou? In short, what are the Coen Brothers saying about the US as a culture? Does the film promote American cultural myths and values? If so, how and why? If not, explain in detail how the film challenges or questions American myths and values.
This response should be 2-3 pages long (400-600 words total, not for each task).