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American History X Film Analyis

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American History X is a film that shows the modern struggle between blacks and whites in America. The film’s focal character is Derek Vinyard. After his father is murdered in a black neighborhood, he becomes the leader of a group of young white supremacists, the DOC. After viciously murdering two black men for trying to steal his truck, he spends three years in prison. After serving his time he is a reformed man. He no longer has his racist views and wants desperately to put his old life behind him. Danny, who idolizes his older brother Derek, is going down the same path his brother went when Derek gets out of prison. Derek confronts his old friends and ultimately succeeds in getting his brother to get out of the same group that hampered his life. However, Danny has already made enemies and is killed by an inspiring member of a gang.

This movie show examples of some ideas touched upon in class. The first of these ideas is the concept of ideological racism or the belief that society looks at the physical characteristics of a person and links them to either a place of superiority or inferiority based on these characteristics. In American History X, the white supremacists viewed the African Americans as being inferior based on the color of their skin. The term “nigger”, used extensively by the supremacists in this movie, is traditionally a word used to make black people feel inferior. A more concrete example is when Derek rants about black people at the dinner table. He says that black people have no idea “of community or civic responsibility”. He also goes on to say that “1 in 3 black males are in some phase of the correctional system”. These points show how Derek believes that black people are inferior in terms of how they behave.

This movie also has good examples of the concept discussed in class known as “the other”, which means that you hate anybody other than you or people like you. A good example of this concept is when Derek and his gang are in front of the grocery store and are about to vandalize the place. Derek makes a speech on how the grocery store used to be owned by a white man who used to hire white workers, some of who were in the mob. The store went under and a Korean man took over and hired Mexicans because they work for less money. Because other people besides white people own and operate the store it is now a target for their cruelty. Derek hates these people and ransacks the store because the person who owns it is not one of them.

Yet another example of a concept that was taught in class was the idea of Anglo-conformity or the belief that everyone should strive to be protestant and Anglo-Saxon. When asked by Seth about who he hates, Danny replies that he hates anyone that “isn’t white protestant.” He calls these people a “burden to the advancement of the white race.”

He hates people that don’t conform to his idea of what a perfect person is, white and protestant.

There were a few stereotypes of blacks that were discussed in class and a few that were not. There were two references in the movie that were talked about in class. The first concept has to do with sexuality. In one of the deleted scenes Seth and Cameron were talking about the reasons that white girls love black men. Seth goes on to say that it must have something to do with the size of their penises. The white supremacists also refer to the black people in the movie as monkeys, a term that can be related to the concept of animality.

There were also stereotypes that were not discussed in class about the black race. There are mostly black people in jail, saying that majority of the people who commit crimes are black. They also say in the movie that only black people smoke weed, another stereotype, and that black people are on welfare. These stereotypes were not discussed in class but were very evident in the movie.

The black race as a whole was viewed in mostly a negative light with some shining glimpses of positive action. There were many portrayals in the film that showed the black culture as being negative. There were many portrayals of black people in gangs. One of the most emotional moments in the film is when an inspiring gang member kills Danny but only after he has realized that his white supremacist ways were wrong. Gang members also killed Derek’s father and tried to steal Derek’s car. All of these instances showed African Americans in a negative light.

Another negative manifestation of black people as a whole was when Derek was in prison. In every prison scene, majority of the people there were black These scenes show the idea that black people are more likely to commit violent crimes than other races. This concept puts a very negative image on black people and their culture.

There were, however, two very positive images of black people in this movie. These come in the form of Dr. Sweeny and the guy in charge of the underwear. Dr. Sweeny hated white people when he was younger but learned that this belief was not the answer. After he got out of the gangs, he received two PhDs and was probably the strongest influence in Derek getting out of prison and changing his life. This all manifested in one scene where Derek cried to Dr. Sweeny and told him he wanted to change. He had an epiphany during that scene and after that the hatred was gone.

The man who did the laundry also had a big influence on Derek getting out of prison unscathed after he parted way with his white supremacist friends. Even though Derek was spiteful towards this guy at first and said nothing to him the guy looked past Derek’s exterior, saw the man he was on the inside, and helped him out.

I do not believe that the director had a biased opinion in the making of this film. He portrayed blacks in mainly a negative light but I do not believe he was trying to be biased. Instead, I believe he created this movie with a purpose of showing an accurate picture of the struggles between White and Black America that exist in this country today. His addition of Dr. Sweeny as one of the strongest characters in the movie helped me to believe that there was no prejudice on his part.

As far as the actors are concerned, there is a definite feel of bias at the beginning of the movie. Because Derek’s father was shot by gang members he develops a hatred for the whole black race and all minorities for that matter. Because of the actions of a few, Derek construes the whole race to be a waste of humanity. This prejudice that he harbors is unfortunately passed on to his little brother, who is going down the same path. Luckily for Derek, he realizes the error in his way and gets out while he still can. Danny realizes the error of his way too but is killed before he can do anything about it.

On the whole, I do not believe that any group was well represented in this film. This film shows the negative conflict between White America and Black America. There are not many instances to show the good qualities that each group represents. Instead, they show the good qualities of some representations of the two groups, like Derek and Dr. Sweeny. Even though the movie did not do the best job of showing a positive image for African Americans as a group, it did a really good job of showing the purpose of the movie, to show the racial tensions that are here today and the strength of character that is needed to overcome them. Besides the overall positive outlook on life, it was a great movie.

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