Film History Essay

1699 words - 7 pages

In David Halberstam’s The Fifties, the reader is presented with a very insightful look at all the many social changes of that time period in American History. To many of those who may have lived during this era white Americans in particular, it was considered to be a “slow-moving” decade although America itself and its economy was doing very well. There were no wars, sure there were some threats of war, there just wasn’t an actual war that included troops and casualties. But what many did not realize in this decade as Halberstam describes it, it was a decade seeming slow-moving on the surface but it had a much deeper social climate change fermenting underneath it much of which ...view middle of the document...

This quote came from someone who, before my research, I had never known existed, he said, “White was the color of alienation while Black was the color of unity and moral truth”, these are the words of Shelby Steele an American columnist and author who coincidentally to the subject of this paper, was born to a black father and white mother. Shelby’s quote is a great depiction of the general message that is conveyed in the films we viewed in relation to the course one in particular being, Mississippi Burning (1988).

There are many things that have been said about Mississippi Burning, some things positive and some things negative and although the relevance of my personal critique of the film may not be of much importance in this essay, it is however, a concern to note the films interest in its depiction of segregation and the “passive blacks” of the south during that time. In David Halberstam’s book, The Fifties, he references the civil rights movement starting in 1954 and ending sometime in 1968 particularly in the south (pg.) This, couldn’t be further from the truth. 1954 is the starting point for a more media and commercially involved movement. However, the earliest documented representation of a “live” civil rights movement was in 1896, represented by the landmark case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 in which the supreme court upheld the “separate but equal” racial segregation law as constitutional doctrine. The Plessy v. Ferguson case was particularly important in terms related to this essay because this was the beginning of the “fight” for blacks and equality in the south which had no presence in Alan Parkers, Mississippi Burning.

As I previously stated, there were both negative and positive critiques of the film, the depiction of the “Passive Blacks” in the south clearly being one of the negative criticisms, it is such due to its inaccuracies and misrepresentation of blacks of that time and area, undermining the true civil rights movement which included numerous amounts of enraged blacks who were much more proactive in the fight to improve the state of equality in the south. The image of the “Passive Blacks” in the film was met with the portrayal of FBI agents, “Rupert Anderson” and “Alan Ward”, descending upon the rural town as heroes to assist the otherwise weak and helpless blacks when in reality, the FBI and the justice department only reluctantly protected civil rights workers and protesters and reportedly witnessed beatings and other acts of hate crimes without intervening. This was a further disturbance and distortion of the real historical events that had occurred. As a justification, Parker defended the film by reminding critics that the film was to be appreciated as a dramatization and not a documentary this, however, was refuted by one...

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