English 300 – the laramie project

In October 1998, 21 year-old Mathew Shepard was found savagely beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming. “The Laramie Project” is the portrait of a town painfully forced to confront itself in the reflective glare of the national spotlight responding with love, anger, sympathy, support, and defiance.

In writing the original play, Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project interviewed approximately 100 Laramie residents, and included their own reactions to the crime and to the interviews they carried out.These interviews served as the basis for the play and the HBO film version we will be discussing in class. The film is structured as if it were a documentary; it attempts to re-enact and dramatize the events that occurred on that fateful night. Kaufman’s objective was to learn through the Laramie residents’ raw responses how the issues of homosexuality, religion, class, economics, education, and non-traditional lifestyles were reflected through this crime.

For your 1000 word written analysis, focus on how the crime against Mathew Shephard defined the culture, not just of Laramie, but of the entire United States. In addition to your analysis of 1998 American values, please consider this hate crime in light of today’s society. How would Americans react to such a crime today? Consider current and proposed legislation (and attitudes) towards hate crimes, gay marriage, gay parenting, and gay rights. You may include a reference to Queer Literary Theory.

You will need to make specific references to the people of Laramie and events that took place after Shepard’s beating, so keep a pen and pad handy as you watch the film. You need to refer to at least 5 specific scenes and people as portrayed in the film. Your grade will be based on the thoroughness of your analysis, the strength of your quotes/examples, and your thoughtfulness and openmindedness! You may write more than the 1000 word minimum, but please keep your analysis under 2,000 words!

Good luck and enjoy!

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