Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Nicolas Witschi

Second Advisor

Scott Friesner


This project looks at the theme of surrogate families in the first three films of director Paul Thomas Anderson, and shows how these films share a common theme. That theme is how these surrogate families that we create can often become more important and powerful than the families into which we are born. The research is drawn from mostly primary sources. These include magazine, newspaper, and television interviews with the director as well as the audio commentaries and behind the scenes documentaries that are featured on the DVDs of the films. The conclusion of this project found how this theme of surrogate families made itself known through the films. In Hard Eight, this occurs when then aging criminal and gambler Sydney take on a surrogate father role for the lonely John. In Boogie Nights, the world of this group of porn actors and filmmakers create this surrogate family out of a collection of broken lives. In Magnolia, Anderson weaves a tapestry of lonely individuals who form these bonds to heal the wounds they suffered from their shattered family relationships. Anderson, as a relatively new director, has very little major academic work written about him. That is a shame since he is one of the most unique and interesting filmmakers working today. This project will show that Anderson is a filmmaker worthy of the kinds of academic study accorded to the titans of filmmaking.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Thesis Defense.pdf (156 kB)
Powerpoint Presentation