This seminar course examines primarily American representations of friendship in popular film. We will examine the problems of what I will be calling “essence-based friendship,” the Western / Capitalistic / Christian conception of friendship as an eternal, Platonic form. As well, we will interrogate the cultural belief that the friend embodies the essence of virtue by contrasting it with “assemblage-based friendship.” Assemblage-based friendships reject the role of essences while recognizing the extent to which the belief in essences may positively, but usually negatively influence behavior. On this basis, the course will help students identify themes of betrayal, aggression, revenge, gallows humor, insult, social inadequacy, and wish fulfillment in various kinds of friendships to show how the themes and image-patterns of popular cinema suggest that Americans may actually conceive of friendship as a monstrosity rather than a virtue. Focusing on films structured around murder will help isolate these issues as we look at friendships between victims, detectives, killers, and those who would impose "friendship" on others as part of their murderous crimes.