Informed by theories of media framing, exemplification, and non-fiction film production, this case study used as its sample for textual analysis the typed transcripts from the final cut of Helen Whitney's (2007) documentary film, The Mormons, and the interview transcripts of the 15 key commentators interviewed for the documentary. These theories suggest that (a) media producers condense topics in the media by selecting information that connects news stories to a larger context and imbues them with symbolic value; (b) verbal and visual examples have been shown to be more easily retrieved in memory than abstract ideas and are consequently judged by audiences to be more common in the real world; and (c) expository non-fiction films are organized in ways that convey objectivity, belying their constructed nature. With the aid of NVivo (2002), the themes in each text were identified and compared in order to evaluate which themes about Mormons were given salience in the film and which themes were de-emphasized in the film. It was found that the themes about Mormons' unusual commitment to their faith, as well as the Mormon Church's historical conflict in the United States and more recently with disaffected church members were accentuated in the film; the film did not equally incorporate the themes of LDS Church officials' self-description of Mormon beliefs and social practices. By coupling a close examination and comparison of the texts with the filmmaker's own personal statements about the making of the film, this thesis suggests that Helen Whitney constructed the film through a process that gave voice to minority viewpoints, challenged institutional or ecclesiastical authority, and favored complexity. As a result of these decisions, for example, the film perpetuated confusion about whether Mormons are Christians, the 19th-century LDS practice of plural marriage, and the current treatment of homosexuals within the LDS Church.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



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framing, exemplification, non-fiction film, documentary, case study, textual, analysis, Mormons, Latter-day Saints



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Communication Commons