Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Fall 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication


Cathryn Molloy


This thesis is made up of three distinct articles, two written with the intention of publication while the third consists of a digital story and subsequent reflection on the process of creation. The first article serves to answer the question “Do documentary films inspire activism?” by analyzing data gained after surveying 266 members of the James Madison University community. The results suggest that viewers are moved to emotion when witnessing struggle but that they are moved to action when said action directly impacts their own life. The second article is a rhetorical analysis of the 2013 documentary film Blackfish. Both the director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, and the film as a whole are considered an author and the construction of empathy is explored as the primary rhetorical device. The societal impact of the film is explored as well how the empathetic approach to storytelling contributed to the resulting changes in attitudes and actions towards SeaWorld. The third piece consists of a link to a digital story focused on the experience of the class of 2018 at the University of Virginia. The reflection that follows provides details of the filming process and outlines the rhetorical choices employed and the limitations of the medium.



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