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Movie Analysis

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Category: Psychology

Autor: reviewessays 06 December 2010

Words: 3213 | Pages: 13

SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY

MOVIE ANALYSIS

SYED RAZA HASHIM # 4299

JAI HARPALANI # 4351

INDEX

NO TOPIC PAGE NO

1 MOVIE SUMMARY 3

2 LIST OF ALL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS FOUND IN THE MOVIE 5

3 PREJUDICE 6

4 GROUP THINK 8

5 BEHAVIOR AND ATTITUDE 10

6 CULTS 12

7 CHARACTER ANALYSIS 14

MOVIE SUMMARY

The title of American History X is derived from the name of a class Danny is forced to take after writing a controversial essay on Adolf Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf. This film tells the story of Derek Vinyard , An extremely bright and charismatic student, Derek is drawn into the neo-Nazi underground after his father, a Los Angeles firefighter, is shot and killed by a black gang member. He becomes second in command of the Venice Beach neo-Nazi gang, The Disciples of Christ, which persuades young whites to join by promising protection from Mexican and black gangs who are essentially in control of the area. One dreaded night when a group of black carjackers try to jack Derek’s cars, he shoots them down. Derek is later sentenced to three years in prison, charged with voluntary manslaughter. In prison, which Derek finds to his expectation predominately black, he is understandably in need of protection and joins the “Aryan Gang”. During his life in prison Derek comes face to face with many harsh realities which were against his belief perseverance and by the time he is released on parole Derek releases that what ever he had against the blacks was wrong and the person responsible for changing his attitude on black people was, a black man named Lamont, with whom he worked in the prison laundry room. Once his time was over, Derek returns home only to find that his little brother Danny had followed in his hard line, neo-Nazi footsteps. He tries for the rest of the movie to lead Danny astray from this path. When everything seems set in a place and Derek is all set to start life a new, he faces yet another shock, his younger brother gets killed by a black teenager. The film then ends with the closing paragraphs of Danny's American History X report narrated by Danny himself, with his conclusion that "hate is baggage" and life's too short to be pissed off all the time." Some of the major issues that this movie deals with are :-

MAJOR

SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL

ASPECTS HIGHLIGHTED

IN THE MOVIE

LIST OF ALL THE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS PRESENT IN THE MOVIE

 Racism

 Prejudice

 Conformity

 Compliance

 leadership

 cults

 reverse discrimination

 affermative action

 change in behaviour and attitude

 Groups

 Evaluation apprhension

 Group Think

 belief Perseverance

 Peripheral Route to Persuasion

 the credibilty of the communicator

 Self Scheme

 Self Serving Bias

 False Consensus Effect

 False Uniqueness Effect

 Fundamental Attribution Error

 Reconstruction of past attitudes

 Behavioral Confirmation

 Cognitive dissonance theory

 Obedience

 Normative Influence

 Prejudice

 Stereotyping

RACIAL PREJUDICE AND STEREOTYPING

The title for this movie can be quite contradicting to its content. What might sound to be a movie on a boring American history turns out to be one of the most hard hitting movies ever made on Racial Prejudice and Stereotyping. Every scene, ever dialogue has an essence of prejudice in it. The minute the movie starts and Danny enters he uses the phrase “There's a black guy outside Der...breaking into your car” clearly showing that there is a demarcation within the people living in Vince High on the basis of their race. The movie does give us an insight as to why do our central characters Derek and Danny develop a prejudice against the non-whites. Derek develops it because he feels that the latter race shot and killed his father, who was a fireman, while he was putting out a fire in the neighborhood. His prejudice against the non – whites is reflected in his harsh statements such as

Every problem in this country is "race" related. Every problem, not just crime. These problems are rooted in the black community, the Hispanic community, the Asian...every non-Protestant group in our society.

I come in, same score now, first one to eleven. Black boys against the white boys.

We're here tonight cause we got immigration problems spiraling out of control. We got Asians up the a**...taking over our land with their f*****g Yen. Mexicans...flocking into this place like some giant f*****g Piсata was shattered.

Danny, Derek’s younger brother initially develops prejudice against non-whites just because he idolizes his elder brother but as the movie progresses we are able to notice that Danny’s prejudice against non – whites develops to be his own will. When analyzed , we find that Danny’s prejudice didn’t develop because of his own will, but in fact was developed the leader of the neo – Nazi gang by using the FOOT IN THE DOOR TECHNIQUE, by first asking Danny only to video shoot them in their revolts and then by asking him to attend parties and lastly by giving him a solo audience with himself highlighting how his characteristics matched that of his brother, who has now become a hero for the all the whites. The lines that highlight Danny’s prejudice against non whites are:-

I hate the fact that it's cool to be black these days. I hate Hilary Clinton and all of her Zionist MTV pigs telling us we should get along. Save the rhetorical bullshit honey, it ain't gonna happen.

Sweeney's a f***n' nigger on a power trip, Vinyard. That's what he was like when we were there and that's how he is now. It'll never change either. A nigger is a nigger.

Now that we clearly aware of the prejudice that prevails in the movie against the non-whites let us understand what is prejudice, what are its different forms. Prejudice is, as the name implies, the process of "pre-judging" something. It implies coming to a judgment on a subject before learning where the evidence actually lies, or forming a judgment without direct experience. When applied to social groups, prejudice generally refers to existing biases toward the members of other groups, often based on social stereotypes. Prejudice is an attitude, that is its is a distinct combination of affect (feelings), behavior tendencies(inclination to act), and cognition (beliefs).Stereotype is a form of prejudice To stereotype is to generalize Stereotype is a belief about the personal attributes of a group of people. Stereotypes are sometimes over generalized, inaccurate, and resistant to new information

.

Types of Prejudice

 Racism

An individual’s prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behavior towards people of a given race

 SEXISM/GENDER PREJUDICE

An individual’s prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behavior towards people of a given sex

Are Racism and Gender Prejudice Still Prevailing or have the disappeared is a very important question. In 1956 Hyman & Sheatsley, conducted a survey, asking weather there should be separate seats for negro’s in street cars and public buses and majority of the American’s responded positively to this question. Today such a question may land the questionnaire into serious trouble. In another experiment to find out the extent by which gender prejudice is dominant in our personality, William and his colleagues, in a data collected from 27 countries, found that women were perceived as more agreeable and men as more outgoing

Although racial prejudice still exits, but only in the form of Modern Prejudice as ‘exaggerated reactions’ to isolated minority persons gender discrimination still looms large in this world. The western countries left aside, 2/3 rd’s of the worlds uneducated children are girls and if some action is not taken as soon as possible than these staggering figures are definitively to rise.

GROUP THINK

One of the most dominant characteristic of the Disciples of Christ were that none questioned the authority of their leader. They just blindly followed him, some complying to his decision, to what ever he asked them to do thus showing a strong presence of group think prevalent in the group. For instance in the following scene where Derek is shown addressing the group

DEREK: We're here tonight to show the government how we feel about

minorities taking over our country. The treat us like criminals

while they reward them with jobs and f*****g welfare checks. And

it's only getting worse.

Entire Group: (nodding) F**k yeah it is.

DEREK :Are you ready to do something about it?

Entire Group : Yeah !

The group then follows Derek to the local store and the next thing we realize is the store has been completely sabotaged by them. In the dialogues stated above, none of the group members questioned the authority of Derek, None voiced their opinions against him . All just blindly followed him.

The mode of thinking that persons engage in when concurrence-seeking becomes so dominant in a cohesive in-group that it tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action is known as Group Think

Symptoms Of Group Think

 An illusion of invulnerability

 Unquestioned belief in the group’s morality

 Rationalization

 Stereotyped view of opponent

Problems A Group Faces When Group Think is Dominant

 Conformity pressure

 Self-censorship

 Illusion of unanimity

 Mind guards

How can we prevent Group Think

 Be Impartial

 Encourage critical evaluation

 Occasionally subdivide the group, then reunite to air differences

 Welcome critiques from outside experts and associates

 Before implementing, call a second-chance meeting to air any lingering doubts

CHANGE IN BEHAVIOR AND ATTITUDE

In the start of the movie Derek’s behavior towards non – whites is clearly a reflection of his attitude. Although quite contradicting to the theories of Social Psychology were Leon Festinger proved that changing attitudes does not change behavior, our central character tends to prove this theory wrong. Before the death of his father, Derek had no prejudice against the non – whites and in fact had a great respect for his teacher who was black. Post his father death, Derek developed a strong attitude of hatred against blacks and this attitude is clearly reflective in his behavior in the following instances

 When addressing his group members

 When sabotaging the local store

 When asking to play a match between black and white

 When shooting down the carjackers and calling them names based on their color

Nearly halfway down the movie, when Derek is in jail, and he has to comply to work with Lamont, Derek does not speak to him even though Lamont tries his best. Post rape – when he has no one to turn to and is just waiting for the blacks to make a move on him, Derek finds his friend in Lamont. At first Derek is unsure if he should trust Lamont but soon his behavior changes. By the time Derek is released from jail, his attitude is now defined by his behavior. Derek realizes his prejudice against non-whites was completely extraneous. Although a hero of the Disciples of Christ, Derek now tries to correct his mistake by talking out his loved ones into giving away their hatred against the non- whites.

An Attitude is a favorable or unfavorable evaluative action toward something or someone, exhibited in one’s beliefs, feelings, or intended behavior. Attitudes provide an efficient way to size up the world and guides us in how to react to situations. In this movie we can most clearly say that Derek’s attitude is clearly reflective oh his behavior. This is because Research reveals that compared to attitudes formed passively , those formed through personal experience are more thoughtful, more certain, more stable, more resistant to attack, more accessible and more emotionally charged. When stating that Behavior determines attitude many streams of evidence demonstrate that we not only stand up for what we believe but come to believe in what we stand up for. In an experiment conducted by Zimbardo in 1971 to find out whether prison brutality is a product of evil prisoners or malicious guards or whether the institutional roles of guard and prisoner would harden even compassionate people, Stanford students were either designated as guards (Zimbardo gave them uniforms, clubs, whistles, & instructed them to enforce the rules) or as prisoners( who were made to wear humiliating outfits). Experiment had to be called of in six days as after a jovial first day of playing, the guards and prisoners got caught up in their roles. The guards devised cruel and degrading routines while the prisoners broke down, rebelled or became apathetic

Attitudes it appears changed as a result of behavior

CULTS

Disciples of Christ, a name so pious, that for a ritualistic catholic such a name might even intimidate then to join the group, but on knowing the groups reality, might send them into a state of shock. Disciples of Christ was a Skin Head White cult.It was formed by a white man named Cammeron Alexander against the non – whites. He was the biggest writer and distributor of white power literature in LA County. He promoted white power bands, wrote reviews and columns, but even though he was just a dominant force in promoting hatred against non – whites he had a very clean sheet. All his views, his opinions were expressed through his “ Knight in shinning Armor” Derek a charismatic leader, who, the audience perceived as someone though can put their faith in blindly Some of the techniques used by Cammeron to indulge white skins people in his cult was through the process of “Foot in the Door Technique” (as seen in the case of Danny) and by DEINDIVIDUATION (by organizing parties with loud music and free drinks). He targeted people with low self esteem and self awareness to join his group

According to Social Psychology cults are those groups that have a

 Distinctive ritual and beliefs related to its devotion to a god or person

 Isolation from the surrounding evil culture, and

 A charismatic leader, someone who attracts and directs the members, someone the audience perceives as expert and trustworthy)

Techniques used by Cult Leaders to indoctrinate people into entering groups are

 Compliance breeds acceptance :

Cult leaders make initial members internalize beliefs and commitments by making them participate in rituals, public canvassing, fundraising etcetera.(The greater the personal commitment the more the need to justify it)

 Foot-in-the-door technique

Recruitment strategies focus on initial small commitments (such as a dinner, weekend discussions on the philosophies of life etcetera progressing to bigger ones such as joining training retreats, soliciting contributions and eventually converting others).

DEINDIVIDUATION is the Loss of self-awareness and evaluation apprehension. People may commit acts that range from a mild lessening of restraint (screaming during a rock concert) to impulsive self-gratification ( group vandalism & thefts), to destructive social explosions ( police brutality & riots) In a study by Zimbardo, in 1970 , women were made to dress in KKK outfits. When asked to deliver electric shocks to a woman, they pressed the shock button twice as long as did woman who were visible and wearing large name tags. Several research studies conclude that being anonymous makes one less self-conscious, more group conscious, and more responsive to cues present in the situation, whether negative or positive

There are many ways by which a person can protect himself from becoming baits to such cults . They could

 Strengthening Personal Commitment by mildly attacking people’s positions

 ATTITUDE INOCULATION

 BE OPEN, BUT NOT NAПVE

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

RASMUSSEN : Three years ago a local kid named Derek Vinyard gets sent

up for murdering a couple of Crips who were trying to jack

his car. Bob taught Vinyard back in high school and has

followed the case closely.

YOUNG COP :He was a skinhead, right?

SWEENEY :Derek was more like...the skinhead.

The Skin Head, A term that would be used only if a person was so strong and powerful, that at a single call of his countless no of people are ready to take up their arms, a man so powerful, his enemies fear him. Derek Vinyard was a bright college going boy doing his honors in English. His life was pretty much like the rest of us. A Father to guide him , a mother to look after his needs and siblings that loved him. His entire life changed when one dreaded day his was father shot down while trying to put out a fire in a neighborhood. Derek inferred the killing as race – related and from that day onwards his Self Schema was that only white had right to stay in American and non – whites were just a burden on them. Derek’s Self Concept was defined the leader of a Skin Head Cult ready to drive out the non – whites back to their original places. He even had a very high internal locus of control which is reflected in his statements that “they are now responsible now for cleaning up the mess, which the government has failed to do”. His Self Serving Bias that “Whites are the best race in the world” is well accepted by his entire group. In one scene were the family is sitting and having Lunch with his mother’s boyfriend, Derek displays his belief perseverance by stating that according to him majority of the crimes that take place in the city are because of non – whites and that they are a burden on the society. He even displays Cognitive Dissonance when his father warns him that he should only read the books given to him by his professor and not follow it.

A Charismatic leader, Derek Vinyard was “The Skin Head” of Vince High. A man ready to take any challenge that came up to him, a man so strong both physically and emotionally that when he shot down his enemies he gave himself up to the police with a smile on his face, But as time flew Derek realized his mistake. He felt guilty for what he had done, guilty that he was responsible for the others that followed him. He tried to get his loved ones out of the mess he had put them in, He succeeded partly by getting his brother out of it and when he was all set to start life a new he has to face yet another harsh shock.

" WE ARE NOT ENEMIES, BUT FRIENDS.

WE MUST NOT BE ENEMIES. THOUGH PASSION MAY HAVE STRAINED IT MUST NOT BREAK OUR BONDS OF AFFECTION. THE MYSTIC CHORDS OF MEMORY, STRETCHING FROM EVERY BATTLEFIELD AND PATRIOT GRAVE TO EVERY LIVING HEART AND HEARTHSTONE ALL OVER THIS BROAD LAND, WILL YET SWELL THE CHORUS OF THE UNION, WHEN AGAIN TOUCHED, AS SURELY THEY WILL BE, BY THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE. "