|flickr photo courtesy of sylvar|
In the name of my Visual Literacy class, I was 'forced' to re-watch American History X. Okay, let us be honest...it is one of my favorite movies of all time. I love that anyone can learn from it, and that the subject matter is of extreme importance in our society. Plus, there aren't that many movies starring Ed Norton that I don't like.
The message that I thought director David Fincher was trying to convey, was a message that hate can follow us anywhere - that it can consume lives, and that there is a universal karma when answering hate with hate. The director provides evidence of the fact through Derek's (Ed Norton) life. He lost his father to hate, he retaliated with a hate filled heart, and eventually his little brother was killed. However, the only one that committed a hate crime was Derek! However, even in losing his brother, the audience is meant to understand that Derek never re-embraces a lifestyle of hate. Also, the fact that the narration of the story is done by his brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), indicates that the hate we retain can also infect many of those around us.
The depiction of all races in the movie is somewhat accurate. However, outside of the prison, we are only really shown interactions that are drenched in hateful dialogue. I do feel like the movie does a wonderful job accurately portraying the kinds of cooperation that need to happen in prison. I imagine that there are many jobs to be done in a prison, and it only makes sense that there would be a lot of racial intermingling. Most of the racial interactions occur in various situations, but I feel like the director really captured the essence of what prison life is like by showing how the gangs inside of the prison interact.
The movie has reinforced my understanding of symbols in Visual Literacy. There are many symbols of hate in the movie, and those symbols adorn Derek's body in the form of tattoos. These tattoos, much like the effects of hate, change how a person looks to other - and they are very hard to get rid of. Visually, we also see a change in Derek's demeanor as he abandons hate. He was once confrontational and rigid, but after abandoning hate, he becomes very friendly and greets everyone with open arms - understanding the damage he has done.
The director used very dark images to portray the hatred in the movie. The hateful acts almost always occur under the cover of darkness. The grocery store attack and Derek's violence both happen in the darkness, as well as the meeting of the hate group. Similarly, the director also uses humor and light to portray an abandonment of hate. Derek and Lamont have quite a few humorous interactions that assist in both men abandoning their hatred -- though Derek's was far worse. Finally, the director uses the shock value of the violence of Derek's crime to really drive home the idea of the ugliness of hate.
I feel like this is a very important movie to show to an audience of an appropriate age. We must inform our youth of the dangers of hatred, and this movie does an excellent job of that.
Here is an interesting resource, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is a map of America that depicts where hate groups are in America - with a few details about them.