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Richard's Story:The Present Referent in'In The Valley of Elah'

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Abstract

In the Valley of Elah offers a model by which we might begin to articulate the humanity of the caricatured agents of war by blurring the line between hero and villain. This film offers a case study in how discourse might humanize strategically with a goal of peace building in mind, making the case for war more difficult and promoting greater tolerance for humanity. Specifically, in Elah, the form of the “present referent” serves as a visual technique which functions to reveal the “humanity” of a specific character, in this case the “warrior hero.” In this way, these “referents” are re-attached to the main character of the film, presenting a referent of family, history, and narrative. Just as the “absent referent” keeps something from being seen as having been someone, Elah asks its audience to view this “other” not as an abstract object, but as an individual human character.

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