Doing Sociology #6 –Family Troubles in Film

Doing Sociology #6 –Family Troubles in Film

Family relations have long been the basis of good comic, tragic, and dramatic films.  This assignment asks you to examine family dynamics and, more specifically, family troubles, as depicted in a feature film. The following films depict a variety of family trouble: marital issues, divorce, domestic abuse, parental neglect, disabilities and illnesses, sex and dating, pregnancy, death delinquency, financial difficulties.  Other movies cold certainly be added to this list – let me know if there is another movie you would like to choose.  Be aware of ratings and watch only those movies that you are comfortable viewing:

Affliction                                American Beauty                                  Amreeka                                August: Osage County
Boyhood                                                The Descendants                                  The Ice Storm                         In America
In the Bedroom                     The Joy Luck Club                                 The Kids Are All Right          Kramer vs. Kramer
MiFamilia (My Family)        Ordinary People                                   Precious                                 My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Rachel Getting Married       The Royal Tenenbaums                       Saving Face                           The Squid and the Whale
Stepmom                               Still Alice                                                Terms of Endearment           We Don’t Live Here Anymore
You Can Count On Me         What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Choose a movie that is primarily about contemporary family relations and problems, then read the prompts below and keep them in mind while viewing.  Watch the film closely and pay attention to the plotlines, scenes, characters, and dialogues in which family troubles are depicted.  Take notes as you watch the move, you may need to review certain segments several times to do a thorough content analysis.  As part of the process, you will also be doing an Internet search to gather more data about the family problems and their incidence in contemporary society.  Be sure to note the source of your web reference.          


  • Give some background information on the film such as genre (comedy, drama), year released, rating, etc. Why did you choose this film?
  • Describe the family troubles that are the focus of the film. How are these problems manifested in the lives of the family members?
  • How do the various characters deal with their problems? What solutions do they propose through their talk or action?  How effective are these solutions in addressing the family’s troubles?
  • Put the family’s problems in a broader sociological context. In what ways are the individual troubles of family members linked to larger social patterns of problems?
  • Gather some recent data from U.S. Census Bureau, other government or private agencies, or various news sources. How widespread are these problems in the real world?  How are they being discussed and dealt with at a public level?
  • How accurately do you think the family’s troubles, and their possible solutions, were depicted in the film? What kind of a role, if any, do you think the media can play in helping to improve family troubles and associated social problems?

PAPER:  Complete the research activities described above.  Write a 3-4 page essay about the film’s relevance.  What do you think your observations tell us about contemporary American families and the ways in which family troubles are portrayed in film?

Grading – 20 points

– Submitted on time: 2
– Followed directions: 3
– Thorough: 5
– College effort (typed, spell check, etc.): 5
– Thoughtful, creative, sociological perspective: 5