Girl Power

I had already watched this entire tv show before it was a choice for this prompt which was exciting as I knew I could now have a reason to rewatch this amazing show and dig deeper into the meaning. Although this was a gruesome watch, in the end displayed an important message of empowerment, something I didn’t notice when I watched it the first time around.

This show begins to explain the all too common issue our country faces everyday of serial rapists walking the streets freely. The viewers are first put into the show by being told and shown that a young troubled girl, Marie, gets raped by a masked man in her apartment. After clear signs of her being uncomfortable and scared, it seems as if she is almost coerced into retracting her statement by two male detectives as her stories and past are a little off putting. At this point, they completely shove Marie to the side and even charge her with false statements, something she could go to jail for. Immediately, the audience understands the dramatic irony being played out as we have to watch the scene take place over and over again in Marie’s mind.

The most interesting aspect of this show to me was power in each female characters presence and motive. This is shown particularly when we are introduced to the two lead female detectives, Karen Duvall and Grace Rassmussen, begin to search for the same rapist, due to many separate incidences happening very close to them. We learn that within the system, rape cases are more often than not pushed to the side because of homicide cases, something a lot of people deem as more important or catastrophic. Although this is a common speculation in the real world also, rape victims, in most cases, seem to be more traumatized for the rest of their lives than those of the family and friends of homicide cases. Although this is not always true, there is still some accuracy behind this.

Finally, when many women are group together as all violated by the same man, the two powerful detectives work together to find the horrific man behind all of these twisted crimes. Although they are pushed to the side numerous times by different detectives, police officers, and FBI agents, all who are males, they continue on only to find many more victims of similar crimes.

We continue to hear about Marie’s story as although she is suffering through many criminal court system due to this false charge, she is put on probation and everything in her life begins to fall apart. The saddest part about this show is that it takes the last episode for anyone to even believe her. She tells her mandatory therapist that this all happened to her and other girls everywhere because “if the truth is inconvenient, […] they don’t believe it”. However, unknown to her at the time, there are two powerful and successful women trying to find her and give her the truth that no one wanted to believe.

Although this show and message is not trying to discredit every male presence that enters the plot, and that is not what they display. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of female intuition and what it means to do the right thing, even if it isn’t the most convenient or popular. Even after they have the man in custody it is found out that he may have many more pictures of victims on a hard drive that is password protected. Instead of truly caring about this issue, the state prosector gives up and acts like he almost doesn’t care because he is getting what he wants out of the charges.

In the end, The serial rapist is charged with the maximum sentence of 300+ years in prison and will never walk as a free man again. Just as important, he eventually asked to be interviewed to “explain himself” but requests a male interviewers as, ironically, “women make him uncomfortable”.

Although this show is a great display of powerful police work and the intuition of women, the most prominent theme of each episode is the strength within each victim, like Marie. Although these women will never be the same, they each have their own story to tell and life to carry on with. It takes an extraordinary person to be put in a horrific situation like this and come out stronger, and many women of this show did. As Marie was wronged for many things while in the system, she decides she will no longer just take what is given to her and decides to sue the state for these injustices. although they do not go to trial, she is given a great amount of settlement money that allows her to move on and leave her current life. She eventually talks to detective Duvall and explains that although his maximum sentence was great, and the money she recieved was needed, she confides in her that the most important part of everything was knowing that there were two women, from different parts of the country, looking out for her, when no one else was. This female power shown through this show was empowering and convincing and allowed the audience to feel a lot better than an everyday story usually would.

To Kill a Mockingbird and the Bildungsroman

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most recognizable pieces of literature to ever come out of the south, and its film adaptation is arguably just as iconic. The characters and the drama is spot on with the original, and Lee herself once said, “In that film, the man and the part met. As far as I’m concerned, that part is Greg’s for life.(Freeland). in regards to Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus. But due to the time constraints of the silver screen, much of Scout’s own personal growth was overshadowed by the drama surrounding Atticus and the trial of Tom Robinson. By shifting the premise of the story from one of self-discovery to a trial drama they both end up telling very different yet equally compelling stories.

In the novel, the events taking place in Maycomb, Alabama are told through the eyes of six year old Scout. Not only does it focus on the racial injustices present in the early 20th century south, it also focuses on Scout’s own personal growth and her fundamental understanding of the world around her and the humanity held by all people. The first person narration of the novel is imperative to the childlike view of her world and is essential to see the personal growth she endures as events unfold. This is something that is lost in the film adaptation and it shifts the frame of the story from that of Scout’s own growth to the nobility of her father Atticus and the misadventures of her brother Jem. The movie opens with a brief narration at the beginning and end, but the first person perspective becomes muddled in much of the ensuing action in Maycomb.

Many of Scout’s formative events in the book are also cut in the adaptation to film such as finding the trinkets in the knothole of the Radley’s oak tree (which was shifted to Jem instead), many of her and the boys’ attempts to contact Boo, the scene in which she and Jem attend church with Calpurnia, and the tyranny of Aunt Alexandra. By making these decisions the movie narrows the focus of the movie to two or three large moments to characterize the racism laying under the surface in Maycomb such as the mad dog and the drama of the Robinson trial.

By isolating the incident of the dog and the trial, the movie chooses to shift the action away from the bildungsroman of the original novel in an attempt to characterize the injustices taking place in the south. The scene with the mad dog puts Atticus-the noble characterization of the southern white liberal- against Tim Johnson who signifies the deep-set racism and mob mentality held by the residents of Maycomb. By shooting the dog he shows his conviction to his values and is characterized as the only person able to take on the racism of the town. By saying to Jem, “Don’t go near him, he’s just as dangerous dead as alive.”(Lee 111), it illustrates that no matter the outcome of the trial the racism in Maycomb will linger after it’s done. This scene is pivotal in two ways in the novel, not only for the symbolic meaning of killing the mad dog but in a very tangible way for Scout and Jem as it rocks the very foundation of what they know of their father and grants them more respect for his methods.

The trial itself is a pivotal moment for the film in which the symbolic racism becomes tangible for the audience. The execution of the trial scene was nearly perfect in its illustration of the ugly face of racism in the south at the time. A quotation left out of the movie that is really striking in regards to the trial is after the death of Mrs. Dubose (who’s story was cut from the film) when Atticus says, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”(Lee 128). This illustrates that true courage is the ability to fight for what is right despite the odds being stacked against one, and this parallels his own struggle to fight against the racism in Maycomb.

The book uses these instances in a much different way, to frame Scout’s growth into her own person. One detail that stood out is that the only people in the movie who use the N-word are the “bad guys”, the Ewells, while in the novel the normalcy of the racism in Maycomb is much more present. Even Scout, in the beginning and middle of the novel casually uses the term not fully understanding the connotations that come with it. Her and Jem’s childlike ignorance fades as they visit Calpurnia’s church and are exposed to another side of Maycomb that they don’t quite understand. Another instance that is missing is much of the children’s interactions with Boo, the relationship in the movie springs almost out of nowhere near the end, but in the book the framework for their relationship is one of the most constant things in the novel.

In the end both the book and the movie aim to tell very different stories with the same characters and beats. While the novel is a story about growth and recognizing the humanity in everyone despite their race or their decisions the movie is more focused around the trial and exposing the rampant racism in the south. Neither is more important than the other in the message that it tells but the book paints a fuller picture of the characters and the events that surround them. In the end, the overall point of both is driven home when Boo and Tom are recognized as the titular mockingbirds.

Freedland, Michael. “I’m the Only Journalist Alive to Have Interviewed Harper Lee – and It’s All Thanks to Gregory Peck | Michael Freedland.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 July 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/13/interviewed-harper-lee-to-kill-a-mockingbird-sequel-go-set-a-watchman.

The Wire: Another Hard Truth About the Justice System

As a Baltimore Maryland native, it’s customary to have seen HBO’s “The Wire”. The series depicts Baltimore City as crime ridden and devoid of any sense of justice; where drugs and other vices flood the streets and the police turn a blind eye. If you have ever been to Baltimore City, you know there are nice parts and not so nice parts. A heavy financial interest is taken in the Baltimore Inner Harbor and other neighborhoods like Federal Hill and Otterbein, but what of the rest of the city. Only a few blocks away from the Inner Harbor you’ll find burnt out town houses, an abundance of litter, and those affected by the heroine epidemic. East and West Baltimore, the areas sandwiching the economic centers of Baltimore, are home to the highest murder rate per capita in the United States. 

HBO’s “The Wire” does a good job of depicting the gritty side of America’s cities. Often times, fictional TV doesn’t focus on crime or injustice in America, going for a more upbeat and cheerier to city living. I like “The Wire” as its filmed in the city; it feels real. I’ve driven on Eastern Ave, played sports in the city, I drive past the prison that displays a big sign “drop the gun or pick a room” on 83 on my way in and out of downtown Baltimore. By filming “The Wire” in the actual places it wants to represent, much stronger feelings are evoked. When I see Barksdale or McNulty, I see someone native to the city, acting as a real person would. I credit this to the realness of the writing and the director’s immersion of the characters into Baltimore life. This works very well for me, as it helps viewers understand the dark underbelly of major American cities, where crime in constant and police presence only plugs some holes. That there is no real solution and the war between law and unlawful is and always will be ongoing. 

Like “To Kill a Mockingbird” details justice in the rural south during the 1960’s, “The Wire” similarly throws viewers into a new environment where a lot is working against the main characters. In “To Kill a Mockingbird” race and society are constantly undermining Atticus and Tom Robinson’s case and justice slips away from those who deserve it. Not everyone can relate to those living in the America’s cities. In “The Wire” bureaucracy and politics slows the police in trying to apprehend Avon Barksdale while Barksdale’s soldiers are fighting against their own adversaries while trying to fulfill their tasks. “The Wire” is ambiguous with its definitions of “law and “justice” like many of our other readings. There is no real prevailing moment

Surely there would be some improvement in the city’s conditions since “The Wire” aired in the early 2000’s. One would hope so, however, Baltimore is still in a sense hopeless. Its last three elected mayors have been removed from office for some sort or crime. Its most recent mayor, Catherine Pugh, was sentenced to three years in jail for tax fraud. Six of her properties were raided by the FBI and the IRS conducted an audit where fraudulent dealings were found. Baltimore City’s helplessness is rooted in its core and its elected officials not only procrastinate on reviving the city but are dealing in their own criminal enterprises. Sheila Dixon, who stepped down from mayoral office amidst a embezzlement and felony theft scandal, is currently the frontrunner for the upcoming mayoral election. The cycle continues. 

I like “The Wire” for its darkness. There is no real sense of optimism, no real sense of progress, and no real sense of victory. Everything comes at a cost and there are no real happy endings. The mood is dark. Much like “Country of my Skull”, the mood is eerily depressing, and each story or arch emits a certain darkness. In “country of my Skull”, personal witness accounts are at the forefront of the book and readers are treated to the authors reaction. This is similar to the perspective of the Baltimore police; when viewers follow their stories, they see murder and horrible drug crimes and witness the reactions of public servants. McNulty and the rest of his unity work out of a dank dark basement using outdated equipment and receive no real funding. They’re trying to scrape what they can together to get their job done. DeAngelo Barksdale and his crew have to deal with addicts and gangsters while trying to protect their only source of income from rivals. They’re kids fighting to keep themselves fed and their families with a source of income. “The Wire” highlights how politics slows down public sector life. Approval from a superior or permission from a judge can take too long and a police target moves on and an opportunity is missed. How life in Baltimore City is devoid of any progress, how the burnt out and abandoned buildings in West Baltimore filmed in 2002 still stand today. “The Wire” is distinctly different than any literature our class has read thus far, yet the underlying themes of “law” and “justice” are at the forefront of the show. “The Wire” has a modern take on law (or lack of) in America, where crime is rampant, and the police are ineffective. There are characters we fall in love with on both sides of the law, characters we sympathize with but at the end of the day the depravity of Baltimore City eats at every one of them and there is no resolution and no happy endings. 

‘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’.

Failings Of The Justice System

After watching Destin Cretton’s film, Just Mercy, many Americans will say that even though this case was from the late 80s, our country still faces many of the same issues. As a viewer, it was hard to swallow many times throughout the movie. From irresponsible policing to coerced confessions, Walter McMillian’s case had it all. It is utterly tragic that a person such as Mr. McMillian had to endure what he did, but there are cases out there, as we find out, that have it just as bad.

One theme of the film is justifying right from wrong. This involves many characters involving Darnell Houston, Ralph Myers, and Tommy Chapman. All three of these men were in difficult positions in their lives, especially for Ralph Myers who was on the brink of reaching death row. Beginning with Ralph Myers, he ended up as the state’s key witness in the prosecution of Mr. McMillian and the 1986 murder of Ronda Morrison. Already serving a life sentence, the county sheriff had threatened to put Ralph Myers on death row should he not falsly testify against Mr. McMillian. As the viewers find out, the two had never even previously met prior to the case hearing. Unfortunately for many inmates, even today, police coercion is an occurrence. Now don’t get me wrong, not every officer or member of law enforcement is involved in this, but there have been situations where this has been the case (Central Park Five, Richard Jewell). After meeting with Mr. McMillian’s lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, Myers decides to reappear in court and recant his previous testimony. Moving on to Tommy Chapman, the District Attorney, the initial prosecution of Walter McMillian was before his time in office. It was for Mr. Chapman though to work on the case after Mr. Stevenson was able to get a retrial. As a viewer, you can see that initially, Mr. Chapman had no interest in looking over Mr. McMillian’s case given the “amount of hurt” he had caused Monroe County. It is not until later on when Mr. Chapman agrees to team up with Mr. Stevenson and join in on the motion to drop all the charges against Walter McMillan. This is indeed a lot to take in and with that let’s take a step back. Mr. Chapman, District Attorney in a deep south state is left to deal with the murder of a young white woman who’s case had been already closed via a jury, is now faced with a bright, young Harvard lawyer presenting him facts he simply can not overlook. As he states various times throughout the film, it is his job to do what is best in the interest of the people in his county. Unfortunately, there are those in the community who do not care to even listen to the evidence and just look at the fact that Mr. McMillian is an African-American male who “looks like he could commit the crime.”On the other hand, Mr. Chapman has the prospect of doing the correct thing. As the film moves on, you see that Mr. Chapman begins to comprehend that Mr. McMillian is no criminal after all. Luckily for Mr. Stevenson, Mr. McMillian, and his family, Chapman comes to his sense and agrees to drop all charges. So while Mr. McMillian ends up with the justice he deserves, many other out there in the system do not. Just look at Anthony Ray Hinton who was wrongly convicted and was on Alabama death row for over 30 years. Again, thank to Mr. Stevenson.

This case can be tied To Kill A Mockingbird. Not only are both based out of Monroe County, Alabama, but both are dealing with similar instances of injustice. On both accounts, the failings of the justice system are depicted, and the ways in which these failings disproportionately affect the lives of African-American men are detailed. Despite the decades of time difference in the stories’ settings, a similar theme prevails: institutionalized racism across the criminal justice system. The immense effort necessary to clear Mr.McMillian’s name is evidence of the residual racial prejudices that continue to exist, even in the decades following the Jim-Crow era. This prejudice is experienced not only by the African-American community, but also by those attempting to clear the names of those wrongly accused of crimes, such as Atticus Finch and Bryan Stevenson. The parallels between the film and the movie are depictive of the inherently racist institutions that still exist in our nation today. In cities across the nation, African-American communities are gentrified into neighborhoods where poverty, and inequitable access to resources run rampant. These communities are the same as those in the movie and novel, which are criminalized simply for the color of their skin, and grossly underrepresented in the judicial and legal system. It is a vicious cycle, in which gentrification leads those without access to legal resources unable to represent themselves, and thus, subject to further inequitable treatment by law enforcement, and the justice system as whole.

American Son – Racial Inequality in the eyes of the Law.

The Film “American Son”, tackles the major themes of racism, injustice and police brutality, by telling the story of an interracial couple, who find themselves stricken with worry, over the fact that their 18-year-old son is missing. The mother, named Ellis Connor, wakes up one night and realizes her son, Jamal never came home, which is unusual behavior for him. She attempts to contact him through his cell phone and he doesn’t answer. She decides to call the police and inevitably heads to the police station, and then calls the child’s father. 

            Once she arrives at the police station she is met with an officer who is blatantly rude, as well as dismissive of the problem.  Refuses to give her any information regarding the case and fails to even try to hide the prejudice’s he has in front of the worried mother. She is suspicious of the officer’s true intentions and assumes that the color of her skin is the underlying factor that is resulting in his obscene behavior. Something that black women in America know all too well.  I felt especially drawn to the story of the mother within this film. Portrayed by Kerry Washington, she played the role of a black mother, frustrated by the inability of the world to listen to her words and take them seriously. We still live in a world in which this scenario continues to get played out. Black people, not just women, within the criminal justice system, or when having ANY interaction with law enforcement find themselves, being demeaned and overlooked. Have their truths be turned away and unheard because of the systematic racism that still runs through the veins of this country. In a way, this story relates to Harper Lee’s to kill a Mockingbird. The parallel between the characters of Tom Robinson and Ms. Ellis Connor, is hard to miss. Major themes that have been displayed in both bodies of work include, the presence of inequality at the social and legal stage. No, these characters do not share the same story but their struggles are similar. Both having to fight to have their truths believed by the public. Both experiencing symptoms of the generational trauma against black American’s. Over 50 years apart. 

            Once the father arrives, the police officer mistakes him for the lead investigator because Jamal’s father is white. Before he realizes he begins to spill out information regarding the case that he purposely, refused to disclose to Jamal’s mother. This is where the film begins to highlight and contrast how the criminal justice system treats white people versus how they treat black people. It becomes clearly apparent that the two parents of Jamal have plenty of disagreements over how their son should be raised and how the world may view their bi-racial child.  Mr. Conner associates Jamal’s disappearance to the fact that he has begun to embrace his black roots. By hanging around other black kids, and wearing cornrows, Mr. Connor thinks that “Ghetto hair and hanging with black delinquents is a big risk.” But Mrs. Ellis Connor describes their son Jamal’s behavior as attempting to figure out who he is, and making sense of being surrounded constantly by white people. She describes an incident in which Jamal explains to her that he feels as if he is the “face of the race.”  The people around him look to him as the only black boy in the room. The poster child for all of their questions, and all of their glares. People who do not share the same lineage, traits or struggles. Something that I often times face, being a black woman at a PWI. Whenever the discussion is brought to race, I have to look around and see that everyone is already staring at me. For anyone, this can be especially hard. It makes you feel as if you are an outsider, it makes you feel like, the world looks at you as this object, and not a person with feelings. Jamal’s father however, does not understand this concept and decides that this is just some “Victimhood Psychobabble”, projected at him by his mother Mrs. Ellis Connor. He does not see his son as a black male, he does everything in his power to not see the color of his son’s skin. But he fails to realize, that not seeing Jamal’s color of skin, is to not see Jamal for who he is, a black male. 

            Unfortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Connor, their worst fears were realized when the true investigator of the case, comes and explains that Jamal was involved in a traffic stop gone wrong. He had been with two other black males, who both had warrants out for their arrest. When asked to get out of the car and wait in the rain, Jamal made one critical false move. His movement away from the car caused the officer to shoot Jamal in the head, instantly killing him.  This story is the ending that many black Americans will face and have faced in this country, and even the world. It is a story that truly depicts the actions of law enforcement, as well as the fears of the parents of those who have begun to be entangled within the criminal justice system. 

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. 

“Sweat” and a Masculinity Complex

The phrase “boys will be boys” is a time-old phrase used to counteract the actions of men. This phrase comes from a culture where it is deemed normal for a man to be unfaithful, rough, rude, among many other unlikeable traits. In Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat,” this toxic masculinity was on full display through Delia’s  husband Sykes and his actions through his cheating and abuse of her. Only two months after they first got married, he began to abuse her and taunt her playing off of her fear of snakes. Him purposely using her fear of snakes as a way to taunt her or control her is a profound form of abuse. This along with the fact he was harsh with her and her choice of work, and was pursuing another woman on the side, Delia made the decision to not be with him anymore and he went to stay with the other woman he was seeing, Bertha. Throughout the story it was evident that he cared more about Bertha, yet he chose to stay with Delia. This is because he knew he had a level of control over her and didn’t want to lose it. Being unemployed, it was like making her miserable and keeping her under his control was like a daily occupation. It is in this masculinity complex, especially for the African American male, to be hard and to have control over his house.

Also within the works of the masculinity complex, is the idea of like a bro-code if you will . This idea is shown through the silence of the other men when Sykes came into the shop with Bertha. Because of town gossip they all knew that Sykes was unfaithful to Delia, and even spoke about how messed up it is, but once he walked into the shop with Bertha, they all grew silent. Their silence isn’t a sign of minding their business because they sit around together and gossip. It is a sign of their conformity to what he is doing, and accepting the fact that this is the way he, and other men like him are, yet they do nothing about it. Sykes and his womanizing ways are looked at as just another form of masculinity by his peers. This behavior should not be made normal for men, yet for years it has been and probably will continue to be. 

Unbelievable

Men and the General Desensitization to Sexual Assault

To say I was surprised by the short series “Unbelievable,”  would be an understatement. This show had revealed the ins and outs of working a rape case from the police side as well as the victim’s. Some of it was hard to watch, and hard to handle, but other parts of it were powerful and brave, and revelaed the amount of strength secxual assault victims have, and will have to have for the rest of their lives. But the key thing I noticed in this show and wanted to talk about is the correlation between men, in the police force as well as regular people, and their treatment and view of sexual assault cases. 

At the beginning of the show, a young girl Marie, had just become a victim of sexual assault. She rightfully called the police right after, and the investigation process began immediately. I counted that she had to recall what happened and make her statement six times to the male detectives working her case. It became apparent that every time she told the story again, they believed it less and less; to the point where they coerced her into lying about it and saying the assault didn’t happen all together. This young girl, who just had a tragedy happen to her, is rushed into recalling as many details as possible from something so scarring and probable to being blocked out of her psyche. Being physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, it would be easy to see just how some details get left out or changed in each recalling of the assault, yet the detectives were so quick to pick apart her story and see some of the inconsistencies without considering why that might be, other than she is lying. Their disbelief of the victim’s story and their quickness to say she is lying instead of seeing her inconsistencies for what they were, a response to trauma, shows that there is a level of desensitization to sexual assault and the stories of the victims. 

After the first episode, the show transitions between Marie’s story and the story of two female detectives cracking down on the serial rapist who also happens to be the rapist that attacked Marie. In pursuit of the serial rapist, they investigate past cases of sexual assault, and speak to those victims for details they might not have remembered from when it first happened. One  of the women they went back to talk to was visibly hostile towards the detectives because nothing had come out of her case which was filed an entire year before. It was when she worked with the female detectives that new evidence of a large knife, which he threatened her with during the assault, was discovered in her garden. Why was it that nothing had come out of this woman’s case, yet there was undiscovered evidence lying around in her front yard? There was an obvious lack of effort from the detective on this case, because like the detectives who worked on Marie’s case, the detective didn’t believe what happened to her because of her questionable lifestyle. The detective on this case was a man. The similarities between the male detectives and their judgements and decisions to not believe the female sexual assault  victim is uncannily similar. It is apparent that these detectives have a preceding thought complex when it comes to sexaul assault cases and the trustworthiness of the victims. Now, there sadly is a level of validity to their suspicions and thought complexes because of the unfortunate cases where women purposely lie about being sexually assaulted, for whatever reason it might be. One moment in the show that kind of shocked me, before I realized there was a hint of truth in it was when the female detectives brought in a male suspect for questioning and he said to them, “It happens all the time now. Girls making these claims. It’s a thing. There’s a status to being a victim.” While yes, this sadly can be a fact, it should be viewed and categorized as what it is, a rarity, rather than the normal. It is the women who have truly experienced rape or any form of sexual assualt that suffere from the fake claims made. When people believe that there are more and more women faking something so horrible happening to them, it causes people to be less sensitive to the topic and to those who truly suffer from it. 

Although I made the correlation to men being desensitized from rape crimes, there is a general numbing to sexaul assault crimes because they happen so oftern. The fact that there is a level of normalcy to this crime is shameful. It was said in the show by the FBI detective, that rape cases are not given the same time and energy as other casses, which is sad. A crime is a crime, and the police officers and detectives who put on their badge and uniform everyday, living out the oath they made, promising to protect people and fight for justice, should apply to all crimes.  Law enforcement agencies are predominately run by men, and can be a factor as to why sexual assault cases aren’t given the time and attention they deserve. I think this show was insightful, powerful, and displayed a true depiction of how impactful sexaul assault can be in a person’s life, victim or authority working the case. I know for me personally, this has truly heightened my awareness of the depth of the struggles assault victims face, and I can only hope it has done the same for viewers everywhere to take any this desestimacion that has occured in our society.  

Philadelphia Review

I decided to watch the movie Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. I watched this movie a couple years ago and forgot how powerful and emotional the message was. Without a doubt I knew this was something that I had to write about. I went back and watched the movie and noticed some things that I didn’t catch the first time I watched it. I decided to elaborate and talk about the emotional factors of this movie and what I gained from it. 

I did research on the movie and found that this was the first movie to fully depict the AIDS crisis. In this movie they were able to take on misconceptions and injustices that took place during the AIDS epidemic. The main character of the movie, Andy (Tom Hanks) is a successful lawyer who everyone in his office loves and a Gay man living with AIDS. One day he is fired over a mishap that seemed to be planned, but Andy realizes that it wasn’t the mishap that had him fired, but the lesions on his forehead which is one of the outward signs of AIDS. At first Andy searches for a lawyer, all 10 lawyers he sees refuse to take his case. One of the most pivotal scenes for me was seeing his face on the crowded street. You can see the sadness and frustration which makes the audience feel for Andy at this moment. Andy then finally chooses Joe (Denzel Washington). At first Joe declines, but then realizes that they may have something in common. Whether its race, gender, or sexuality, no one deserves to be discriminated against. 

This movie took the most unmentionable and taboo subjects at that time and brought them to light to Hollywood and audiences everywhere. As controversial as it was, this movie was able to move a lot of people and I think it was able to help people think differently as well.  What moved me most about this movie was that as Andy’s health was declining, he still pursued his law firm to have them answer for their unethical role in his termination. While I may not be able to relate to this movie, I started to think about the injustices that I or someone else may face; as an African American or a woman in the legal system. I may be faced with things others may not understand, but learning to be open and accepting to people who have different stories than us, can change the way we look at things. Seeing the way Joe wasn’t accepting at first, but came to terms with Andy was really what made this a great movie. While Joe’s lifestyle may have been different, he was able to accept Andy’s lifestyle.   

From a cinematic perspective I think the close-ups of Andy’s face and the silence placed at different parts of the movie was able to make the audience somewhat uncomfortable and maybe even emotional. This movie was able to open the doors for other controversial movies and topics as well as bring light to the LGBT community. The movie also shows a lot of details of the AIDS epidemic and doesn’t let up. The audience is able to see the intimate details of what it’s like to live with disease which makes this even more of a cinematic masterpiece in my opinion. We also get to see things from Joe’s perspective outside of the courtroom and are able to learn that his life is very dimensional. One of the things I loved most about this movie was that I was also able to see the character’s life outside of the courtroom. We get to see Joe at first have a hatred for the Gay community, but later find acceptance for Andy and the community; as well as Andy’s life as a Gay man living with AIDS.  

In conclusion, what I gained from this film is that everyone is deserving of acceptance and to fight for whatever you may believe in. I think this movie did an amazing job of shining light on the AIDS epidemic and prejudice in general. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who is looking for a legal drama as well as a tearjerker. I hope everyone is able to take away something from this movie the way I did.