Thoughts about “12 Angry Men”

In the film 12 Angry Men, you follow 12 jurors as they decide the fate of an 18-year-old accused of murdering his father. What starts as a showing of raucous support for the boy’s obvious guilt ultimately leads to a unanimous vote for his possible innocence at the end of the film. This decision was brought about due to the inclusion of doubt. One juror expressed his doubt with some of the evidence brought forward during the multi-day trial. He did not express any ideas against the possibility of this evidence being correct only that it was possible it could be incorrect. This was a perspective that was not immediately shared by his peers at the start of the film. They had disregarded the importance of doubt in the trial process.

The jurors brought with them into that room outside views, feelings, prejudices and obligations that were influencing their thinking process. There was no room for doubt in their minds. Doubt requires the juror to think through what they observed, heard and felt during the trial. Doubt is needed to make the trial process fair. It allows one side to carry its weight against the other and it allows decisions to be validated due to the burden of proof not being reached. In Death and the Maiden there was no room for doubt. In another, albeit unorthodox, life or death trial, Paulina has already made up her mind as to what she is going to do to Roberto. She allows no room to doubt the possibility of her being wrong. Due mainly to her own “testimony” and eyewitness account as the victim in the trial. All the doubt seems to be in the mind of Gerardo, however he possesses no real power to affect the fate of Roberto. This is different from 12 Angry Men. The jury gives time to each juror to work through the baggage they brought in with them until they ultimately find facts/evidence they can possibly refute.

This outside baggage that is brought in with the jury varies. One juror wanted to make it on-time to a baseball game. Another juror wanted to end the decision quickly based mainly on his views regarding the boy’s race. This raises the question as to whether a jury has nothing to gain or lose from the verdict in a trial. In the Furies, the jury may have to face the wrath of godly forces/ a higher authority. In Death and the Maiden, Paulina, who acts as the judge, jury and executioner, faces the possibility of never receiving closure on an event that affected her and many from her country. The results of a trial could have personal stakes for the jury regardless of the ethical nature of that claim. It could also have wide-ranging effects for many outside parties as well. One of the jurors in 12 Angry Men seemed to have personal claim regarding the decision as the film went on. He was adamant that the boy was guilty regardless of the evidence brought up for his possible innocence, some even proven by his own actions. The reason he felt strongly about this decision regarding the boy stemmed from his own personal problems. We learned early on how this juror had a falling out with his son. It came across in the film as though he was trying to find some form of catharsis by punishing this boy in the place of the son that he felt had spurned him. This juror carried a goal with him that could jeopardized someone’s life. This situation could happen all the time in trials and we simply don’t know or don’t consider/care if they do. To a degree this even happens in Death and the Maiden. Paulina, despite how valid her anger and pain is, may have decided to end the life of an innocent man. Her motive for punishing Roberto, not his guilt is the aspect of importance here. She wanted revenge against the man who raped her. She seemingly willing to come to a conclusion about Roberto before the ploy with the testimony. This can even be seen to an extent in the Furies. The Furies seek to not have their godly position belittled and womanhood be besmirched.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The questions it raised regarding the spectacle nature of a trial and the responsibility of the jury are fascinating to consider. It also left me with a sense of emptiness/uneasiness over the idea of never really knowing the truth in a trial. Doubt is always present regardless of the decision that is made. It has left me with a new perspective on trials and the jury process altogether.

‘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’.

The Development of the Idea of Testimony

For my double blog post, I watched the classic film 12 Angry Men starring Henry Fonda. The movie is a simple one, but not everybody has a taste for classic cinema, so to sum up, it takes place almost entirely in a single small room with 12 men who are jurors in a case. The trial is over and they now have to decide what to do with the defendant, a boy accused of stabbing his father to death. 11 Men initially are completely convinced of his guilt, and one man refuses to say that he is guilty. Because the jury’s decision must be unanimous, a debate ensues and over time the jurors are slowly, one by one, convinced that the boy cannot be declared guilty. The film ends with the unanimous decision of Not Guilty.

I love the movie and think it’s fantastically acted and written, but it’s also deeply tied to the themes we have been discussing in this class. First off, it seems to bear most resemblance among the texts we’ve talked about, with Aeschylus’ The Furies. Both center around murder trials and contain a jury, testimonies, a judge, and other elements we associate with a trial. 

However, our information of the actual trial comes from the reminiscences of the jurors. We don’t actually see it ourselves. We only see their debate. The most debated about subject that we get, by far, is that of the testimonies given. Testimony is something we have talked about a lot in this class, and 12 Angry Men deals with it in interesting ways. 

We see testimonies given in The Furies, and those testimonies are never doubted or even really examined. Everything that everyone says is the truth and we are never given reason to believe otherwise. We dealt again with the issue of testimony in Death and The Maiden, where testimonies are now in doubt because people’s intentions are now severely in doubt. because of severe emotional stress and having a vested interest in one outcome of the case or another, we can never really be sure wether to believe the two testimonies given about the torture and rape that is being discussed. The witnesses may be lying to get vengeance, or to protect their own hide. We see testimony again crop up as a subject in all of our studies about South Africa and the TRC. In exchange for testimony of the truth of past events, amnesty is granted to those who perpetrated terrible crimes, but we see in Country of My Skull that testimonies often conflict even among people who participated in the exact same event. Testimony is unreliable because people have different perceptions and memory itself is often unreliable. 

12 Angry Men takes this a step further. Testimony again is viewed as being unreliable, but for various reasons. The testimony of the boy, saying that he was at the movies when the murder occurred, is instantly doubted for the same reason testimony was doubted in Death and the Maiden, He could potentially be lying simply to save his own skin. The testimony of the woman who ‘witnessed’ the murder from her apartment across the way is in doubt for the same reason testimony was doubted in one of the events of Country of My Skull, the reliability of her perception and memory was in doubt. 

The man who lived on the floor below the murder has his testimony doubted for an entirely new reason all together. When it becomes apparent from the facts that it is EXTREMELY improbable that the man could possibly have heard or seen what he claims to have heard or seen, the question arises of why? Why is this false testimony being given? It is speculated that the man simply is taking his chance to be important. He has no vested interest in this case, one way or another. He stands to gain or lose nothing by either conviction or acquittal. It would seem that this is the ideal situation from which to expect truthful and unbiased testimony. But 12 Angry Men points out to us that even in such a case, testimony is unreliable. 12 Angry Men is a film that repeatedly makes the point that you simply cannot trust testimony as unchallengeable.

This is is a very troubling and disturbing thing when testimony is such a foundational part of our legal system, and even seems to have its roots as far back as the Greeks and Aeschylus. In that text, testimony was never in question. but the class has slowly built on this idea of testimony as evidence until now, in 12 Angry Men, we get a very similar situation played back to us with a lot more nuance. Logical deduction and reasoning take the place of testimony as the way truth is determined. The testimonies are shown to be unreliable by a process of debate and logical conclusion such as “The old man could not possibly have heard the murder because there was a train passing by that would have covered up the sound.” or “The woman could not have seen the murder because it was dark and she was not wearing her glasses.” 

The unreliability of testimony is a central theme in this movie and I think it is interesting how the idea has developed progressively through the texts we have examined in class. 

Not Believing Women in Literature and Film

In the TV series Unbelievable there is a serial rapist praying on women across counties who two detectives spend extensive time and resources to find. This series focuses on women and their experiences with rape and the women who are trying to catch the man who raped them. The first character introduced, Marie Adler, is not believed by loved ones and police about her rape. She is made to feel like her voice doesn’t matter and like she has to keep this tragedy that happened to her a secret. This situation Marie faces is very similar to the one Paulina faces in Death and the Maiden. These stories both focus on a key concept of not believing women. Another play that Unbelievable relates to is The Furies. In both of these works of stories, women play strong leading roles and come together as strong female forces in finding truth and solutions when faced with crime. Whether the motive is to catch a criminal or to build a better system in society, women are seen in both of these stories to be in the driver’s seat solving problems created by men.

    In Unbelievable Marie Adler is the first victim shown to the audience who is dealt a terrible hand in the way she is treated by police. She is harassed and made to feel incompetent by the two officers who convince her that she has made up the rape entirely. Through the series the audience sees her struggle emotionally with a weight on her shoulders she shouldn’t have to carry. As if having to deal with the aftermath of being raped isn’t enough, she also has to deal with not being believed by anyone and feeling as if she must suppress and hide all of her emotions about it. In Death and the Maiden Paulina deals with not being believed by her husband. Due to what is going on politically in this story with their society and amnesty trials, Paulina feels she will never get justice unless her husband’s new high-ranking position could help bring one of her rapists to stand trial for his crimes against her. Her husband leaves her without hope of any justice when it is made clear that he thinks she is wrong and fixated on blaming someone innocent for what happened to her. Marie Adler also feels as if she will never get justice due to the inability of the police to help her. The goal of the police in the simplest of terms is to protect and Marie instead receives callousness and manipulation by men in uniforms who she thought she could trust. Both women are facing a battle in which the system will not bring justice to either of them. Marie struggles with this burden of being assaulted and then deemed a liar for years and Paulina deals with the burden of being assaulted and not being believed by her own husband.

    Unbelievable also relates to the play The Furies where in both stories, women seem to hold the power and strength in problem solving. In Unbelievable, the two female detectives put their heads together into uncovering a serial rapist and finding out who he is. They not only solve this mystery of who the serial rapist is, but they also brought to light that Marie Adler was telling the truth. They uncover this truth that was buried and forgotten about by the two male detectives who had made Marie feel as if she was lying. Their finding and convicting the rapist brings justice to what happened to the victims as well as justice to Marie in feeling solidified in her feelings about what happened to her and how to deal with it. In The Furies, the Furies and Athena seem to play the role of deciding the fate of a crime committed by Orestes. This is a crime against a woman committed at the hands of a man just as in Unbelievable. Orestes commits matricide and Athena and the Furies argue about his punishment, whether he should be sentenced to death or pardoned for his crime. The Furies and Athena put their heads together in deciding what to do in this predicament. These women turn their disagreement of Orestes fate into a compromise where the Furies benefit from a relationship with Athena as she grants them power in their society rather than be outcasts of it as they were before. In both the tv series and play, women are seen coming together to compromise and problem solve for the greater good of other people. Athena and the Furies come to an agreement to work together in helping the citizens of Athens while the two detectives put their heads together in finding a serial rapist and helping his victims get the justice they deserve.

Various Portrayals of Motherless Characters

When thinking about the contents of The Furies and To Kill a Mockingbird, if one were to draw a connection between these two works, odds are that connection would not come in terms of thinking about the effect of the lack of mothers present throughout. However, this is one of the first similarities that I thought of and is the one that I am most interested in exploring. In both pieces, the lack of a mother is a very well-known fact, Athena is known throughout Greek Mythology for her birth from her father’s head with no maternity involved; similarly, it is known throughout Maycomb County that Jem and Scout lost their mother at a young age, leaving their father the sole responsibility of raising them. Not only are these facts well known, but in both pieces, the lack of a mother is used as a form of judgement.

In The Furies, the persecution of Orestes stems from him killing his mother. Orestes claims that he was justified in the murder of his mother because he was doing so as retribution for her killing his father; however, the furies are uninterested in his motives, as the motive does not change the outcome. When Orestes is put on trial for the murder of his mother, Apollo defends him by creating the argument that the only parent a child truly needs is their father. In order to create this argument, Apollo mentions that Athena did not have a mother, stating “…the one named mother is not the child’s true parent…I have proof that there can be a father without a mother, proof that what I say is true…The child of Zeus. She never grew in the darkness of a womb, and no goddess could have borne such a child” (657-666).

Furthermore, due to the jury being hung, Athena is given the final decision on the verdict. Athena decides to acquit Orestes of these the charges brought against him with her reasoning being, “I was born of no mother, and I defer to the male in all things with all my heart…Thus, I cannot give precedence to the woman’s death…” (736-739). In doing this, Athena contradicts the furies argument that it is necessary for individuals to have a mother in their life.

Similarly, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem and Scout are forced to grow up without a mother, as she died when they were young. Much like the furies believed, many citizens of Maycomb County claim that Jem and Scout are at a disadvantage because they are growing up lacking the presence of a mother. There are a multitude of instances throughout the novel where some citizens claim that Scout in particular is being raised improperly because she does not have a mother in her life teaching her how to be ladylike. However, much like Athena, Scout does perfectly fine without the influence of a mother due to the influence of her father, Calpurnia, and some of the women in her neighborhood.

The Furies – Role of the Patriarchy

In Aeschylus’s The Furies, the concept of the patriarchy doesn’t fully extend to the exclusion of female entities in terms of law and politics. While among the gods, Zeus is the father of most gods and his word and will are practiced and held at the highest standard, as said by the god Apollo many times in his argument against the revenge-seeking Furies, some women in this society, and even among the gods, still hold some sort of powerful influence over the idea of justice. The goddess of wisdom, Athena, is sought out by Orestes for shelter and protection from the Furies, who are pursuing Orestes for committing matricide. The retributive justice that the Furies seek in Clytemnestra’s name asserts a high level of respect for women in society, especially mothers, which allows them to use the law and justice system to correct or settle wrongdoings done unto them. The goddess Athena also serves as a judge or mediator in the trial scene of the play, and her word is understood as the final say in the matter of Orestes’ fate. Athena seems to have more authority than the god Apollo does, considering Apollo and Orestes ask Athena for her guidance and judgement. While the women (or female entities) in this part of the drama clearly hold some sort of high authority, it is also clear that the patriarchy is still most powerful in Greek politics. Apollo often times refers to Zeus as the highest power and Athena casts her vote in favor of Orestes based on her relationship to her father Zeus and lack of relationship to any sort of motherly figure. Apollo even goes so far to say that mothers essentially have no role in parenthood, and are strangers to their children, only existing to birth and feed their young. The presence of a patriarchal society is also clear through the anger of the Furies, who furiously defend the concepts of motherhood and womanhood, and are angry and repulsed at the men in this play for holding little importance on the criminality of matricide. At the end of the play, Orestes is found not guilty and the power of the male authority is reinforced through this holding.

Justice is blind: An eye for an eye for an eye?

Being someone who has read only a few Greek playwrights, Aeschylus’s The Furies gave me a vast take on vengeance and tragedy that was unanticipated, but worthy of talking about. There are many things that could be addressed in this playwright such as the blatant gender inequality or the lack of consistency between the characters, but what I was quick to recognize was the series of “normalized” violence that took place throughout this play. Agamemnon sacrifices his youngest daughter, Iphigenia solely so that he can go to war.  Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon is upset at him for sacrificing his daughter, so she decides to stab him to death. Orestes the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemmno, decides to kill Clytemnestra for killing his father. This, among other things in this play is what puzzled me, but made me think about a real-world situation. Our society is set up in a way where in order to feel avenged, we must retaliate against those who hurt us, much like this and other Greek tragedies. 

As you dive deeper into this tragedy,  you start to see the major misogyny taking place when it comes to The Furies and their  way of thinking. The Furies claims that Orestes paying for what he did is justified because he killed his own blood, but Clytemnestra killing her husband for the murder of their daughter isn’t. Apollo, Orestes lawyer argues that Orestes and his mother aren’t really blood and uses Athena as an example of someone who doesn’t have a mother. This scene was very interesting to me because Apollo gives a convincing argument, despite the reader maybe thinking different before. Once again, I was able to relate this tragedy to the real world and how things in society and in a courtroom are never just black and white. This goes to show the most unjustifiable claims can be justified in a court of law. 

For such appalling and murderous acts that took place in this play I thought this play had an acceptable ending. It started with the furies form of justice as revenge, but ended with a legal system being set in place. This proves how important having a legal system is and how without it a society as a whole would fail. Although, vengeance and retaliation is something people will always have a hand in, justice will prevail.

Is justice even possible in the world of The Furies?

The word “justice” is thrown out numerous times in The Furies, by nearly every character, but what it truly means never seems to be agreed upon. There are a lot of legal ideas to unpack in the play, and a seemingly never ending slew of moral dilemmas, but while a verdict is eventually reached, I would argue that the “resolution” of the story is still unclear and unsatisfying.

For one thing, I find it highly circumspect and not impartial that Athena votes on his side simply because of her own lack of experience with having a mother. I also find it hypocritical of the Furies to try to “end the bloodshed,” only by spilling more blood. Apollo is also hypocritical in his derision of the Furies for being involved in this matter where he claims they have no place–what right does he have to mortal affairs that they don’t? Especially when, according to Orestes, he led him to killing Clytemnestra in the first place. Honestly, I see nothing in this play that I would want a true legal system to replicate, but I think that is also because of the fact that it is almost impossible to translate “law” as we understand it to gods and goddesses and mythical creatures. By their very definitions, they are outside of human law, as we clearly see in the text, in how they do whatever they want at any time they want to anyone they want.

The only character I can somewhat sympathize with is Clytemnestra. From my admittedly limited understanding of the events which led up to the start of the play, the sole point where “justice” had been reached was right after she murdered Agamemnon, but before Orestes murdered her. I say “justice” because I don’t know if I fully believe that true justice means more killing, but in her circumstance, I understand why she felt that her husband deserved to die. Some broken version of justice had been reached: her daughter was dead, killed in cold blood, but Iphigenia’s killer was also dead. I don’t argue that Clytemnestra was a murderer, but of the three murderers, she was the only one who wasn’t a parent killing a child or a child killing a parent. In that sense, I agree with the Furies that Orestes’ crime was of a higher caliber than his mother’s. What obligation does someone have to a spouse who literally killed their child? Any marital bond between them was broken the second Agamemnon even considered killing Iphigenia, and demolished when he did.

Gender Power

Like many of the works written in the past, the role of genders matched the real-life roles. However, in The Furies, the characters did not keep their stereotypical roles of this time period in the play at all. In this play, the women had all the power, and the men were there to try and support each other.  

The first example of female power is Clytemnestra talking to the Furies about getting revenge. Through my first time reading through this, I missed the fact that the Furies were female. So, my first impression of this scene was that even as a ghost, a female still had more power than a male because she was able to give the Furies commands in their sleep. But this changed after I realized they were female.

In the end of the play, Athena is given the power to decide the outcome of what will happen to Orestes, is interesting in two ways. The first is the fact that she was going to have the final say if the votes come back a tie. If she has the power to do that, why didn’t she just do that in the beginning? I understand that she wants to give Orestes a fair trial, so the Furies don’t think she doesn’t want to hear what their side of the story, but the outcome was still the same Orestes was spared. The other way I thought this scene was interesting was because of how the play ended. After the trial, Athena and was trying to appease the Furies so they wouldn’t bring havoc to the world. This only happened because the Furies were not able to deal with Orestes the way they wanted to. But this was going to happen with or without a trial because it was Athena’s decision, so the trial wasn’t necessary.

The Furies also had a significant amount of power. They were able to challenge the ideas of both Athena and Apollo and not suffer any major consequences. The most important of the two would be Apollo since he was a male, and it is typically the male who has the power to do this.

Legal topics in The Furies


Within Aeschylus’ play, The Furies, there are many topics regarding law and order and the justice system as a whole that are portrayed. Something we talked about as a class prior to reading this play is the ideology of “an eye for an eye” and whether it is moral. This is seen within The Furies, when Clytemnestra kills her husband Agamemnon because he sacrificed their daughter, Iphigenia. After Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon, their son Orestes takes matters into his own hands, and kills his mother. (So, this situation is actually an eye for an eye for an eye). For the remainder of the play, Orestes is being held accountable by the Furies for committing the act of matricide. 

The concept of “an eye for an eye” is a very interesting one to think about. In some degree, “an eye for an eye” can also be argued as being the basis of the justice system as a whole. For example, those receiving the death penalty as a form of punishment for committing the act of murder alines with exactly what “an eye for an eye” is defined as. When being punished for your crimes is a result of the legal system it is deemed as being just, as opposed to someone outside the justice system taking matters into their own hands, which is deemed morally wrong. Although a complicated topic, “an eye for an eye” is very interesting to think about in terms of within both literature and the real world. 

Another topic that can be examined within Aeschylus’ play The Furies, is the discussion of individual accountability. Within the play, Orestes shifts the blame of killing his mother to Apollo, who he claims orchestrated the crime. This begs the question, who is to blame, the one that committed the act or the one who told the other to do so? This is an issue that is seen in real world situations as well. Although both would technically be culpable in a court of law, which one truly deserves to have the harsher punishment for the crime?  

Overall, The Furies sheds light on many topics in regards to law and order and the justice system. It is interesting reading and discussing these topics because although they are being portrayed in a literary and Mythical setting, they are still relevant to today’s society as well.