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‘Unbelievable’ : Struggles Within Our Justice System

Tradd Stover

‘Unbelievable’ as a film series is wonderfully crafted and details two distinct storylines involving rape cases. In the first, Marie is raped but struggles to remember the details; therefore she is charged for filing a false report. In the second, two detectives work on rape cases from different Colorado counties. These two end up linking as one man has committed the crimes on both sides, finally resolving Marie’s case. This is a broad-stroke overview that I felt could not be left out. Characterization in this series was done to perfection as I was able to connect the details of the instances on screen to real world issues.

Marie is the main protagonist and she grows up a victim for many different reasons: she is in the foster care system, she is abused, etc. She is battered for so long that she is left with no self-worth, no confidence, and no sense of direction in life. That is why after she experiences this horrific assault, she feels like what she says or testifies about will never matter to anyone. It is extremely sad to watch her progress through life alone and desperate, especially in a time when she simply needed one person to believe her. She is run down by detectives to the point that she does not care what happens to her, she just wants it all to be over. The scene where she is in the interrogation room is miserable to watch. I saw two men, who try to come off like they care, running this girl into the ground. Their effort is lazy as they refuse to listen for the truth, simply due to lack of convenience.

Marie’s situation is sharply contrasted by the second strain of protagonists, two hard-nose yet caring detectives. In the second episode, the viewer is introduced to Detective Duvall. She is helpful, strong, and relentless in achieving justice for the victims she is fighting for. She seems to understand the trauma that is caused by something like this and does not dwell on the fact that the victim(Amber) may twist a few details.

This series portrays, to the best of its ability, what it feels like to be someone that no one else believes. Honestly, I had never thought of rape victims in the way that they were portrayed here, or maybe I hoped that it was not this bad. Marie has enough internal struggle already without having something like this happen to her. At first, when I watched the first episode, I thought I had figured the title out. This girl’s testimony is ‘unbelievable’ because her story does not add up, she keeps changing it. However, I learned quickly that the only thing that was ‘unbelievable’ was the behavior of everybody else in her life, especially the detectives.

Marie’s inner struggle is really important in understanding what is taking place throughout the series. She has no-one around her to whom she can go to with an honest mind and tongue. For some of the screen time, I kept wondering why she could not just be honest. I even called my girlfriend to tell her the story because I just could not wrap my head around it. I understood the tolls on her life that her past had created. I also understood how frustrating it was for her when no-one in her life would listen. Yet, I still waited and wished for the detectives to be right about it all, to have been the ones using the right judgement. However, to no surprise, I was wrong.

I do not really know what to compare this to in terms of what he have read throughout the semester. In a way, I kind of see how the rigid but seemingly ‘fair’ system created in “The Furies” comes into play here. In the play, something is ultimately true because other people believe that to be the case. It could be something that is actually as far away from the truth as possible, but because the deciding vote is yes, the verdict is yes. In this instance, the truth is determined by the people in power. Detective Parker uses his status to get whatever answer he needs from Marie, with no regard for the life he is ruining. In contrast, Duvall and Rasmussen use their positions to fight for the weak, to obtain the truest from of justice for the victims.

In terms of what the series does for me as a narrative, I saw it in some ways as a justified rage against the system (which I am usually annoyed by). However, this series is refreshing because it introduces a better way for things to be done. At the end, Marie gets a lawyer who is all for getting her the biggest amount of money from the city as possible. It was beautiful to see how he believed in her and genuinely wanted to help her. Marie’s hope in society and in herself is renewed because of a system that does what it claims to do. Too much in our justice system, that feat is not achieved.

Overall, this is a really rewarding series to watch. Embarrassingly, it made me tear up a few times both out of sadness and anger. I am happy that I chose ‘Unbelievable’.

Crenshaw’s Blending of Race and Gender

I am beginning to find that I reason with pieces such as this more now than I did before or at the start of the semester. The issue brought about in this piece is a conjunction of race and gender (or other identities) that cause one to be even more succeptable to discrimination, or any other misfortune, than any classification would alone. This intersectionality is one that Crenshaw argues has never never been effectively negotiated or understood, even by members of one of the groups.

Crenshaw writes about the ways by which black woman are affected politically, socially, and economically. The idea of a country built and structured around patriarchal ideals coincides here, and bonds with modern racism. Each, of course, are difficult to overcome and require resistance and fight. However, when non-white and womanhood are linked, a new, less identifiable struggle comes to the forefront.

When it comes to the law and how to go about addressing issues such as this one, Crenshaw writes about the importance of establishing group politics, rather than merely identity politics. It seems that she believes that the first step to understanding one’s particular position is to understand and put together each aspect of the individual that yields intersectionality.

Absolutely, this piece speaks to the issues that are represented in TKAM. The idea of intersectionality is important to the law in general due to a justice system that relies heavily upon prejudice to obtain ‘justice’. Crenshaw’s piece was an in-depth description of the way that Tom was treated, and an indicator of the some of the issues that the US still faces currently.

This piece is interesting but is certainly not what I am the best at reading and thoroughly understanding. I do think that Crenshaw makes some excellent points that I never necessarily thought about putting together. For that, I enjoyed the piece and look forward to learning more.

Tradd Stover

The Role of the Journalist : Covering the TRC Hearings

William Tradd Stover

This focuses on a more subtle idea that the text presents: journalism. Since Krog had that position and was forced to deal with the realities that came with it, I wanted to explore this concept a bit in thinking about what a journalist would have gone through.

In Long ‘Night’s Journey Into Day’, the viewer is able to see the stories unfold in front of their own eyes. In some of the shots from the film, reporters are seen crowded around like in any other big case or event, avidly listening and almost misplaced in how they are dispersed. In this book, the reader is given the clear perpective of a journalist during this time, one that has real, complex emotions about what is going on.

As I think about this work being largely made up of a journalist’s viewpoint, I think first about what having that title entails. Usually, at least in America, people hope that reporting will be fair, balanced, and rather objective in most cases. In this case, it is hard to fathom what it must have been like for someone covering the cases and hearing testimonies to do their job ‘properly’ and objectively. There is a feeling of anger toward foreign news people that just want a story and do not have the same sort of passion for what is actually going on behind the camera lens and notepads. It is almost impossible to report on these hearings without some sort of emotion poking through in some form.

Krog is in a peculiar position given that she is an Afrikaner and is forced to deal with her nation’s history of injustice and gruesome behavior. The TRC’s hearings were obviously excruciating for the people involved, and having to report on such a thing is a really interesting and intimidating concept. I imagine that it was difficult for Krog to place herself into a group during this time of attempted reconciliation, being an Afrikaner woman. Was she responsible in some way for these spiteful acts? Was she different because of her womanhood? How could she do her part in giving victims the respect that they deserve?

When I think of all the media present at the hearings, I think of a certain picture that I looked up that really almost gives me chills. It is a photo of Jeff Benzien reenacting what he would have done to torture a black man during the apartheid rule. It is a really jarring sight, and I can not help but to think of all the people in the room that witnessed that. Something like that represents years of injustice and division, and it can be dwindled down to a click on a camera: fascinating.

This post is a little all over the place, but I was really intrigued by so many things. The ideas of journalism as a means of story telling, identity, self-placement, and ownership really struck me.

Contrast Between Personal and Humanitarian Justice

William Tradd Stover

Long Night’s Journey Into Day explores South Africa’s implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and tells four separate stories that piece together to form a rather emotional, complex narrative. Of the four stories, I was struck most by the first one about the Biehl family.

This story sort of introduces to the viewer what the TRC is and what it is meant to accomplish. The film as a whole forces its audience to think about life from all different perspectives, as there are many diverse backgrounds and experiences in South Africa. In this case, Amy Biehl is killed because of pure anger that the activists had for white people. At the time, they did not much care who this white person was, they only knew that they despised the horrors and prejudices of the Apartheid and needed to make themselves known. Little did they know, Amy was fighting for the same change that they were.

Amy’s parents’ response to the killing of their daughter is shocking and beautiful in a way. I would like to think that most people would be enraged if their child was murdered, especially while trying to do something good for others. Her parents, instead, chose to understand where that anger came from and react in the way that their daughter might have preferred. This plays into the complexity of how crimes are perceived in South Africa under Apartheid rule. Obviously, this murder was a crime onto the Biehl family, but the perpetrators’ entire lives had been filled with crimes committed against them by the system. Does that fact justify an act like this? I do not think there is really an answer to that question, and the movie shows this. The Biehls wanted amnesty for the people who took their daughter’s life. They chose to look at the bigger picture and to carry on Amy’s wish for change in South Africa. It could be understood, however, how the victim’s family in another case could want to deny the men’s amnesty.

I was surprised by this first ‘chapter’ of the film because of the nature and victim of the crime. I expected to see only the crimes that those affiliated with the Apartheid committed against those who they deemed lesser. We got those stories as well, but this one was the most effective for me. It alludes to the idea that many, not only those in South Africa, were ready to rid of the apartheid’s oppression. Overall, I see this film as wildly complex because of the nature of each individual circumstance. Can we blame an officer for doing his duty? Can we blame Amy Biehl’s killers for being red-eyed and violent? It is always difficult to ponder questions that have no direct answer.

Haitian Declaration and Constitution : Anti – Slavery

William (Tradd) Stover

I found these two documents really interesting and unique from anything I have analyzed before. I say they are unique because of the cleanly stated, staunch outlaw off slavery that is stated in multiple areas of both pieces. Clearly, those sort of statements do not exist in the U.S founding documents. Rather, America makes claims that can be interpreted in different ways such as labeling all men as free. Well, this raises the question: what is a man?

In the Haitian Declaration, the commander in chief states that slavery is horrific and shall never be practiced again within the first few lines of the work. “Independence or death” is a phrase used multiple times throughout the document. This is interesting because on initial glance, this looks and sounds like something the U.S declaration would say. The idea of being free is relevant, and even crucial, to both nations, but it is simply the connotation of the word “free” that brings about a difference. Haitians want to be free in somewhat of a more literal sense. They want to be free from the chains that have held them down, oppressed, and bloodied their people. On the contrary, colonial Americans want to be free from an overbearing government, one that patriots deem unfair. This similarity in form but difference in context is really interesting and telling of some of the differences between each culture.

The Haitian Constitution is in many ways similar to that of the United States. Most notably, it lists powers that the president, or in this case Emperor shall possess. I noticed that the powers shared between the two are quite similar. The structure of the document is also quite similar to the U.S version in that it is separated into sections with articles. One of the main differences, again, is the clear outlaw of slavery. The second article reads, “slavery is abolished forever’. That is about as clear cut as possible. This idea of what the word free really stands for comes into play once again.

Another blatant and extreme difference is the feelings that these Haitian documents show toward France. The Declaration speaks of “pursuing forever the traitors and enemies of your independence” and “Eternal hatred of France”. There is an incredible theme of revenge here that is much more evident than in the United States Declaration.

These two documents make for an interesting read. I enjoyed comparing and contrasting these from the ones drafted by the U.S. It is striking in some ways how similar, yet fundamentally different these documents are from what I am used to reading and studying. This writing is very powerful and useful still today.

Whiteness as Property

William Stover

I found this to be a really interesting take on an issue that has been discussed quite often recently: the idea of white privilege and white institutionalism. This in- depth description of whiteness and “the others” stands out from other pieces that I have read because of the concept of property. The writer makes a point that I never really considered when reading or referring to the constitution: whiteness is seen as property so that it can exclude and remain to itself. It is something that was sought after due to its implications of wealth, class, and a variety of other characteristics deemed to be pleasant. Certainly, her ideas force me to look at the Constitution in a bit of a different light. It makes me think more deeply about some of the concepts introduced by our founding fathers.

Here, the writer speaks a great deal about the founding of the United States. She speaks of the importance of “natural law” that usually has a rather nonmalignant connotation. However, Harris writes that this idea of natural law was something made up so that whites could be separate from and more powerful than other races, and have the law to back that behavior up. She mentions that whites tend to see natural law as positive and important without understanding that these purposefully implemented laws were used to kick out natives and to put down blacks, all by giving undeserved power to the white race. Harris uses many gruesome examples of colonial theory such as the utilization and exploitation of black women to sort of breed slaves, among other ideas.

Property is associated with ownership, with wealth, with class, and with privilege. It is something that cannot be tampered with or taken because it is inherently “yours”. The law tells us that. From Harris’s work, I take it that she is bothered by the idea that one could be born into a private, privileged group simply because of their complexion and family roots. She points out that because of the protection of whiteness as a form of property, it forces others to be intruders or at least put into a separate, less than realm.

There is a ton of history, some dark, written about in this piece. Given that, it was a lot for me to digest. However, I feel like the ideas presented are fair ones and should be discussed. There is something about the work as a whole that is off-putting for me, and I kind of feel like the writer does a lot of grouping. I am not going to say that she is wrong about anything she discusses (I think she has great ideas), and I absolutely feel more educated about the topics presented, but it was a bit difficult for me to get through at times. Overall, I think the ideas brought forth were interesting, complex, and begging to be discussed.