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An introduction to the issue of racism in flags

Introduction 1In 1989, in Clanton, Mississippi, Jake Brigance, a young white local lawyer, is hired to defend Carl Lee Hailey, a black father charged with the murder of the two white men who savagely raped his ten-year-old daughter. This is the plot of Joel Schumacher's A Time to Kill, a Hollywood-made courtroom drama on race relations in Mississippi, adapted from John Grisham's first best-seller and autobiographical novel. Yet, while clinging to the filmic codes of the courtroom drama Papkeboth films play different cultural works regarding both race and the South.

But by the mid-1940s, and most importantly in the 1950s and 1960s, the South had become the location where central characters defeated the region's institutional and collective racism in movies such as To Kill a Mockingbird and In the Heart of the Night 1967.

Hollywood then provided a different stance both on racism and the region. As she put it [t]he South has always provided a reservoir of images and narrative resources used by Hollywood to respond to certain national needs. Jackson, does not of course stand in the dusty blue overalls that Tom, the black defendant of To Kill a Mockingbird, wore facing the judge next to Atticus Finch.

Yet, though wearing a red tie on a white shirt, he similarly stands next to Jake Brigance, his an introduction to the issue of racism in flags defense lawyer, whose costume strangely resembles Gregory Peck's in the 1962 movie adaptation.

In addition, Atticus Finch's liberal heroism was built by the combined efforts he put to defeat southern racism in court and to bring a moral message to his son and his daughter at home. Therefore, the 1990s reenactment of the Atticus Finch-heroism reinforced the conservative values of the father-figure as a central element of the family structure.

The examination of how the film depicts the two southern white men who rape the black little girl will lead to discuss the portrayal of the region. This first negative characterization is concomitant to the construction of the white liberal lawyer figure. However, despite the dichotomous categorizations of these figures, the acquittal of the black man in A Time to Kill leaves critical viewers with an ambiguous racial message that must be addressed eventually to understand how white male heroism is built through the film's positive images of manhood and fatherhood.

Yet, movies after movies, it has been shifting from an Old South to a New one Dutrieux 207. But it distinguishes the two issues, by associating racial violence with the two white rapists on the one hand, and racism with the rest of the county's white community, on the other.

The film depicts the two men as rednecks whose violence, spurred by drug and alcohol abuse, is racist, ignorant and gratuitous Laurent 88. As Allison Graham put it in Framing the South: Hollywood, Television, and Race during the Civil Rights Struggle 2001 the irrationally violent redneck is the indispensable convention of Hollywood's white redemption tales, the character whose essential, class-bound criminality is offered up, movie after movie, as proof of the inherent goodness of all other whites.

Several filmic devices used to insist on the two white men's negative cinematic presentation go further than John Grisham's description of the two rapists in the novel's first pages Grisham 1-5. After a long still shot on the County's quiet country landscape, the pick-up truck of two men visually disturbs this quiet visual moment: The quick pace of the editing an introduction to the issue of racism in flags the close-ups on the drug they use while driving madly throughout the country, contrast sharply with the soundless images of the little girl in the black grocery store.

The close-ups on the grocery list that she attentively follows insist on the idea that she is not just a child, but somebody's daughter. This cross-cutting effect is meant to bring a vivid contrast between the slow, quiet routine of the black characters and, on the other hand, the careless lifestyle and racist violence of the two rednecks, as they throw bottles of beer on the roof of a black inhabitant's house or on a basketball hoop while two black youngsters are casually playing ball.

The surprising look of the black inhabitants confronted with their gratuitous violence, their clothes or the close-ups on the four packs of beer that they buy at the same black grocery store are opposed to the wide long shot on Jake Brigance's house, at the precise moment when the latter walks out to go to work, followed on the house's porch by his lovely wife and daughter, and his dog.

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Thus, the film's two rednecks are cast in some form of racial marginality, because they disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in the black part of the County. By the moment one of them throws a can of beer on her head, the viewers can only see the girl through shots on her body parts.

They are visually encouraged to understand that after the passage of the two rednecks, Tonya has gone from an innocent black daughter grocery shopping to a dehumanized body. The latter are meant to suggest the progression and the inevitability of the rape. While the audience can hear her constantly calling both her father and her mother during the rape, they can also hear the insults and death threats of the two rapists.

The scene concludes on the rednecks' failed attempt at hanging the girl to a tree, whose branch breaks under the small body's weight. Thus, the rape scene is graphically staged so that the audience is visually disgusted by the physical presence of the rednecks on the screen after the rape. Therefore, when Carl Lee Hailey storms out his M16 on his daughter's aggressors in the city's court hall, a slow-motion shot of the shooting scene seals the cinematic punishment of the two rednecks.

A sticker of the Confederate flag on the pick-up truck's rear window stands behind most shots on the two men's faces in the introduction scene; the flag is as well in the background of the out-of-town bar where Clanton's black sheriff arrests the two men.

If there have indeed been changes in how race issues or the South had been depicted in Hollywood movies from Gone With the Wind 1939 to To Kill a Mockingbird 1962this has also implied changes in the depictions of Hollywood's favorite locales, especially Mississippi. This secures the cinematic idea that such racist violence can only erupt and be solved in the South, meanwhile providing the context in which white male heroism can be built to the audience.

Before the trial's final summation, Carl Lee Hailey both defines and explains that racial line to Jake Brigance, meanwhile normalizing it: We ain't no friends. We're on different sides of the line.

I ain't never seen you in my part of town. You don't know where I live. You think you ain't because you eat in Claude's…and you're an introduction to the issue of racism in flags TV talking about black and white. But the fact is.

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When you look at me, you don't see a man. You see a black man […] You don't mean to be, but you are. It's how you's raised. During the first scenes, the still shot on Jake Brigance's house in a middle class neighborhood invites the viewers to notice the contrast with the distanced houses of the black inhabitants, or to ponder at the fact that Tonya had to walk miles throughout the country to go to the nearest local grocery store.

Similarly, the track-out at the end of the religious service Jake Brigance attends with his wife and family-in-law shows an exclusively white upper-middle class population in a plush church, which contrasts with the service in the following scene that only black inhabitants attend in a more modest church in another part of town. There are no white inhabitants witnessing Carl Lee Hailey walking out of his house bringing the shattered body of his daughter to the ambulance. Likewise, there are no black characters in the bar where the sheriff arrests the two white rapists.

A black customer is indeed sitting at the counter of the restaurant in between white characters, and two black middle-class men sit an introduction to the issue of racism in flags the middle of the shot, surrounded by other white customers sitting at their own tables.

Yet, the shot is too quick for the viewers to see without a pause. This very structured and conventional organization of the placing of the extras in the shot contrasts with the same quick wide long shot of the scene at Claude's, a more modest restaurant in the black part of the city, where only black customers are seen. The only poor whites are the two rednecks and those that are connected to them.

  • My grandmother filled me with stories of my Great-Great-Grandfather who fought for the Confederacy and helped to raise her;
  • Like the Confederate cross of St;
  • The revolt succeeded beyond anyone's expectations;
  • Her program offers an alternative set of images and stories about the American south, focusing on its rich cultural traditions and its strong sense of community.

Because none of the black characters commit gratuitous violent crimes, this dichotomous portrayal of race and class in the film's introduction leads to conclude that the two rednecks' social class indeed justifies both their racist violence and criminal behavior.

Thus, both figures serve the same purpose of satisfying and reassuring a national movie audience on the film's race message. Rosenstone claims that historic drama generally put individuals at the forefront of historical episodes, because the individualization of societal issues allows filmmakers to avoid addressing historical trauma on a collective basis, but rather to focus the viewers' attention on the personal solution or redemption of the central characters Rosenstone 165.

Like Rosenstone, Joseph Crespino brings a similar reading regarding race or southern movies: If racism exists only on an individual basis, then racial reform can occur only through individual moral reform—not through social or structural change that might challenge the legal, economic, or political status quo.

Crespino 26 27Contrary to To Kill a Mockingbird, which insists on the influence of the spontaneous mob in the perpetration of racist violence and lynching in the 1960s Mississippi, the racial violence that erupts after the double manslaughter in the movie A Time to Kill is individualized. Jake Brigance's summation in the film differs from Atticus Finch's.

A Time to Kill willfully leaves aside the pessimistic end of Harper Lee's novel or movie adaptation, concluding on Tom's death, only to focus the story on the white hero's individual construction: This is the strangeness of Atticus Finch's career: Crespino 26 28Through close-ups on the faces of Klan members, Klan membership is then estranged from a white supremacist ideology that could be shared by the white inhabitants of the County.

Instead, it is associated to characters that are either mere idiotic followers or motivated by criminal revenge. Although the viewers can watch Klan members foment different violent plans, they quickly learn that the Klan's influence has weakened and that most members are scattered in different counties throughout the state. In addition, the perpetration of this violence on screen is depicted as a single man's act, rather than by an organized group of men.

The Klan is definitely eliminated from the city when the black sheriff handcuffs the three inhabitants who had joined the organization. But, the most surprising element of A Time to Kill's Klan members is that they only unleash their violence against the film's white characters. The members of the organization are quickly estranged from the plot's ending as they are portrayed as being more interested in the black cause in the South than in Carl Lee Hailey or his family's sake.

In A Time to Kill, the individualization of the white hero in the unfolding of the plot inevitably implies the filmic instrumentalization both of black characters and of racial tensions in the state as Roger Ebert's review of the film rightfully sums up: In order to manufacture Anderson and Ward as independent heroes realizing the potential of a system of law, they need to be portrayed as taking the initiative in solving the murders and defying the white society that condoned them.

The individual quality an introduction to the issue of racism in flags their initiative would be lessened if the actual, documented work of the Justice Department on this case had been shown. In 2000, historian Daniel Blake Smith remembered how he was asked to rewrite his script of a film project on the Greensboro Four.

And there were no. Thus, the script needed a much stronger adult role which could be cast by a well-known black actor. Smith 39 32This explains why, despite the ambiguous treatment of the American criminal justice system that the movie ends on, it is of course not possible for Joel Schumacher's summer 1996 blockbuster to conclude on the conviction of a black father who killed the two white southern racist men who raped his ten-year-old daughter, or on the conviction of a part played by such a renowned black actor as Samuel L.

They go through a revelation that they afterwards bring their entire community to, as illustrated by Jake Brigance's summation: At the beginning of the film To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch already had what movie reviewers back in 1962 called a liberal charm Crespino 9. Although the wise middle-aged and experienced white lawyer is also present in A Time to Kill, the redemptive mission is left to Jake Brigance. An introduction to the issue of racism in flags younger and played by Hollywood newcomer Matthew McConaughey, Jake Brigance's southern charm, his duty as a white liberal lawyer and role as a father must all be built.

The film's viewers can easily appreciate Jake Brigance as a likeable naive and arrogant apprentice because they are convinced that by the end of the film, he will go through a moment of personal consciousness and become truly aware of the real meaning of the mission he has to carry on.

The movie's plot may have been appealing to a national audience both influenced and divided along racial and class lines by the media spectacles of recent trials and their verdicts. A Time to Kill was indeed released four years after an all-white jury acquitted the four LAPD police officers who assaulted the black driver Rodney King in 1992, and two years after a mostly black jury found O.

Simpson not guilty of the charges pressed against him during his criminal trial in 1994, while a mostly white jury found him guilty during the civil trial. The premeditated double murder is given much visual importance. The scene is shot as a rehearsal, since, the day after, the camera repeats the same shot angles as viewed during the night scene, this time filled with the city's inhabitants.

Therefore, the gun shooting occurs in the crowded court hall, under the baffled eyes of all the characters that had come to attend the trial of the two rapists. The slow motions and the close-ups on Carl Lee Hailey's face as he shoots the two rapists, or the vertical tracking shot displaying the two bloodstained bodies lying on the floor cannot escape the film viewers' attention.

The multiple intra- and extra-diegetic witnesses of this public execution make it obvious that the black character is guilty, thereby focusing the viewers' interest on how the white lawyer will an introduction to the issue of racism in flags the final acquittal of the black man by an all white-jury in Mississippi.

They read about and watch courtroom trials without critically reflecting on them. Americans are at ease with literary and cinematic courtroom trials, and they can use them to clarify their values, reinforce their moral standards, and even shape their identities Papke 478.

In the film, the rape is narrated by Jake Brigance himself during his closing argument, not by a southern white woman trying to address the black male brute stereotype. The camera progressively zooms on his face, as he tries to hold up his tears when narrating the rape.

The climax is when he tells the jury that, willing to get rid of the sole witness and victim of their crime, the two rapists threw her body over a bridge in a canyon, a last action which the viewers cannot see at the beginning of the film, during the rape scene. He concludes by inviting the jury to imagine that the little girl is white. Thus, the novel's strategy goes further, because it also forces the white members of the jury to address collectively the signifying construction of black men as black male brutes.

Baynes 558 43When the strategy is considered from an adaptation process, another reading can be brought out. The movie concludes on an unquestioned color-conscious jury and justice system, as the only strategy that prevails is the fact that the jury can only individually feel sorry for the victim because they're imagining her being white.

Combining the analysis of the summation's strategy to the film's treatment of gender can as well provide another reading on manhood and fatherhood.