Use of visual rhetoric in relation to Morality

Visual rhetoric in relation to Morality 1

Useof visual rhetoric in relation to Morality

Theterm visual rhetoric comes from the combination of two powerful wordsvisualandrhetoricthe latter being a method of using language either in spoken orwritten form in a manner that is meant to be persuasive. AnthonyBlair (2004), therefore, defines the term visual rhetoric as a modeof communication that applies the use of images in order to createmeaning to the end user. This image may also be used to construct anargument. To make his argument more solid, Blair goes furtherdistinguish the difference between a visual rhetoric and a visualargument. He argues that, rhetoric and argument have been correlatedsince antiquity and, therefore, people assume that arguments are apart of verbal phenomena. Well, that is not the case.

Moralityis another aspect that needs to be analyzed. Most, if not all peoplepay casual attention to this philosophical concept that we refer toas morality. There is the erroneous assumption that moralityexamination is to be left in the hands of philosophers, despite itcovering all areas of human conduct that normally examine theinteraction between one human being and another. (Spark NotesEditors, 2002). Morality being a governing factor in our lives, itdetermines issues such as our attitude towards parents, politics,our families, spiritual lives, after life aspects among others.

Thisessay requires us to give an analysis of the movie SinCity,where we are to examine the use of visual rhetoric in relation tomorality. SinCity isa film directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller that detailsfour separate stories of characters that are both moral and amoral,ruling over a fictitious metropolis in a bid to affect change. Whatmakes this film distinct and different is its use of color andlighting, depiction of unrealistic situations and the narrativestructure of the film. Just as Anthony Blair (2004) suggests, aperson has to assent to the pressure of the vector of influence forpersuasion to be a cause of behavior change.

Thefirst and most extensive use of visual rhetoric in the film is theuse of color and lighting. Almost 90 percent of the movie, black andwhite is the primary color, with most characters remaining as samethe background. The aim of this is to give the viewers the impressionof darkness or evil taking place in the city. This film tries todepict the neo-noir style that these kinds of movies try to show. Lowbackground lighting and long shadows add flavor to this rhetoric bymaking the film feel more like a piece of an old detective movie fromthe early years, despite it being less than a decade old. Mostsymbolism is through the use of color mostly in grayed settings,making the viewer to see minute details that he/she would not haveseen had the creators used bright colors.

Thereare areas of the movie that are not in black and white making thefilm not to be a pure neo-noir film. Color is very selective in thisfilm, for example, only one of the characters by the name Goldieappears as color in her scenes. There are no other characters thatshow up as color apart from the objects. Color appears in a specificway, allowing the viewer to make a statement that helps him/her toanalyze the most essential parts of the film. Just as Ronald Barthes(1970), suggests an image is supposed to offer three messages alinguistic message, coded iconic message and a non-coded iconicmessage. This film offers all of this in its use of visual rhetoric.It is important to note that despite, the film being color selective,there are aspects that can never change. For example, blood willalways be red in color irrespective of it being on a person’s torsoor amputated arm. This use of color gives the film adds more glamorto the picture a fete that is hard to find in other similar films.

Levin(2008) suggests, “In order to see what light meant at the time, onemust pay attention as to how darkness is to be understood.” Anotheruse of picture idea in the film to depict visual rhetoric is thedepiction of environments in a way that is not realistic. Locationsand the city in the film are very stylized and non-realistic. A goodexample would be the prison cell that the main character is lockedin. With one large bulb hanging from the ceiling, the prison cellrepresents itself as more of a bird cage as compared to a normalprison cell that other films would show. The use of a blackbackground with nothing of the prison being shown is a clear way toshow the viewers a more realistic aspect towards the film. This useof unrealistic depiction of the world makes the film feel morecaptivating. Making the world look real in the movie, through the useof bright colors would hinder the film`s appeal as characters wouldbe depicted as blood thirsty and perverted due to some of the X-ratedscenes.

Thesetting of this film is of total deprivation, making it totallyimmoral. Some of the rhetoric questions that are raised in this filmare very intriguing. For example, is it okay to save an innocentperson`s life at the expense of an evil one? If an individual killsanother to achieve justice, should he/she sow the consequences ofthis action? When you listen to the characters in the movie speak oftheir actions you wonder whether they distinguish right from wrong.Basin City culture is full of corruption, where imprisonment is onlywrong from the character`s point of view. All characters seem to beflawed by immorality by the virtue that they are living in an immoralworld. This film does not depict right or wrong as characters`actions are determined by their drive to survive. It is clear from aviewer’s perspective that all the women are portrayed asprostitutes. Men control their independence, with the majority of thecrime directed towards women. (Sin City, 2005)

Inconclusion, this film is immoral and hard to watch for the lighthearted individual. Sin City tries to posit a kind ofenvironment where evil is a necessary tool in the society. Corruptionand murder are the daily routines. The creator, however, uses a verypeculiar style to tell his story as opposed to the old fashioned waysof storytelling that we are normally accustomed to in big budgetHollywood films. We are normally used to having films told in apre-determined order, but Sin City is a film in its ownleague.


FrankMiller`s Sin City[Motion picture on DVD]. (2005). Dimension Home Video .

Barthes,R. (1970). L`empiredes signes.Paris: Flammarion.

Anthony,B. (2004). The Rhetoric of Visual Arguments. In DefiningVisual Rhetorics(pp. 41-61). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Levin,D. (2008). ModernityAnd The Hegemony Of Vision(ISBN-10: 0520079736 ed., pp. 32-62). University Of California Press.

SparkNotes Editors. (2002). SparkNote on The Prince. Retrieved March 24,2015, from