Prejudice and How It Is Demonstrated in ‘Remember the Titans’
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Prejudice, as defined in psychology, involves holding a negative attitude towards the members of a group, based merely on their membership of that group. Any group can be the focus of prejudice. A person, who is prejudiced against a certain group, has a tendency to overlook the individual characteristics or behavior of members of the group to whom he/she is prejudiced, merely because they belong to that group. In the film ‘Remember the Titans’ (2000), prejudice is portrayed in several ways, but mainly focuses on the discrimination of the African-Americans. One form of prejudice, which if frequently revisited in the film, is racism. Racism occurs when prejudice and discrimination are directed at people who are members of a particular racial or ethnic group. This particular form of prejudices is the most prominent and makes up the foundation of this film.
‘Remember the Titans’ is set in Virginia, 1971. It explores numerous forms of racial prejudice and discrimination. The opening scenes, particularly the information regarding a white shopkeeper murdering a black man and not being found guilty, emphasizes one of the main themes of this film- racial discrimination. Another incident in the film that supports this theme is the reactions of the T.C Williams High School football team to the news of a new black coach, receiving the position of head coach of their team. One of the players remarked that he wouldn’t play with those ‘black animals.’ His attitude represents the general attitude within the white members of the town, and the belief that the schools should not be integrated.
This film demonstrates the factors that may reduce prejudice- sustained contact, mutual interdependence, superordinate goals and equality of status. Sustained contact is the theory that more time you spend with someone the less likely you are to hold a prejudiced view of them. Mutual Interdependence is the idea that in order to reduce prejudice among groups, the two other groups must somehow be dependent upon one another. Superordinate goals is when the cooperation of two people (or two groups) is required to complete a task that bears equal importance to each party and that cannot be completed by one party alone. Equality of status refers to the groups having equal status in the contact situation, as perceived by members of the group(s) making the comparison.
Sustained contact occurs in the film during the six-week football training camp, that both the white and black team-members attended. Before leaving for the camp, Coach Boone splits the team into two groups- offense and defense. He then pairs up people in each group- a white person with a black person. He then tells them, “Get comfortable too, because the person that I have you sitting next to is the same one you’ll be rooming with for the duration of this camp.” He does this in hope of the team members getting to know each other for who they are, not by the colour of their skin.
Mutual interdependence is demonstrated by Coach Boone teaching the team to be dependent on each other, rather than competing with each other. By pushing everyone to their limits at the camp, the only option they had was to rely on each other for support.
One of the factors that successfully reduced the majority of prejudice within the team was superordinate goals. The goals set by Boone were made purposely unachievable by a single member. The only way for these goals to be achieved is the cooperation of the entire team. As he told the team, their game must be “a team effort in order to achieve perfection” and that “nothing tears us apart, nothing comes between us.” One specific incident that presents this factor occurred when the team was forced to learn about each and every one of the team members of a different race to their own, or they would train three times as much. This ensured that every team member had to take part, and they learnt about each other in the process.
Coach Boone frequently reminds his team “the best player will play, colour won’t matter,” which enforces equality among the players. Boone says that choosing players isn’t a matter of favoritism, and that it “doesn’t matter if you’re black, white or green.” This factor ensures that the white team members understand that there is no hierarchy within the team; that the blacks are not inferior. Boone is focused on ensuring everyone understands that they are of equal importance.
‘Remember the Titans’ is a film that revolves around prejudice, discrimination and the factors that may reduce prejudice. Coach Boone is present as the key person involved in trying to reduce prejudice. Through the use of factors such as sustained contact, mutual interdependence, superordinate goals and equality of status, Boone ensures that unity is maintained between all members of the team. This is done by encouraging them to understand each other for who they are, emphasizing that their skin colour does not matter and making sure they understand that they are all equally important in achieving their goals.
Grivas, John, and Linda Carter. Psychology for the VCE Student. Milton, Qld.: John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2009. Print.
Peter Rainer, Oct 9, 2000 issue of New York , “Remember the Titans”, viewed 10 July, http://nymag.com/nymetro/movies/reviews/3859/
[ 1 ]. Prejudice and discrimination (PG. 340)- Grivas and Carter, 2010. [ 2 ]. Prejudice and discrimination (PG. 343)- Grivas and Carter, 2010. [ 3 ]. Factors that may reduce prejudice (PG. 349- 354) Grivas and Carter, 2010.