Monday, January 09, 2006

"Boy"

There are two things about this film which interest me the most; the first is that while we get many different characters and deal with very real and in depth issues of race, we never get clear insight into the characters motives, also the language the writer plays with. Yes, we know the town of Sparta is a racist town, the white folk hate the "niggers","jungle bunnies", "and "monkeys"; hell, they even keep a cotton plantation staffed with black field laborers along with modern machines just for old times sake. But even with the blatant racism the writer does not use racial terms carelessly. The one term that stands out with special meaning is "boy". Throughout the film the white townsfolk and cops refer to Tibbs as "boy" a term which shows him that they think of him as incapable, less than a man, and that they are more important, better even. However, as the story progresses, we see the chief cut Tibbs more and more slack, when he finds out he is a detective, he say "Woods, did you question this man before you arrested him?". It is also keen to point out that the only other black role, the mechanic, is the only other character who calls him man, and illustrates black brotherhood by laughing off the idea of Tibbs staying elsewhere. But Tibbs, had made it clear earlier that this, for him was not about race, he said to the chief "they (the future black factory workers) are not my people, they are yours!". Tibbs is obviously offended by the racism he encounters, but answers with defiance and ability, never dealing it back out, it seems it was all about his personal pride, even the slap from the plantation owner. This is the only motivation one can infer from Tibbs, there is no dialogue from him explaining anything. But back to the "boy" thing; the key moment in this was when he finally broke the case in the chiefs office, and the chief sits up and calls calls him by "man". This is the moment that the chief, who made it clear that while he defened Tibbs at times, never saw him as equal; this is as close as he gets, finally respecting him as a man, perhaps not racially, but as an officer. before he only saw him as "some expert or something", clearly showing no respect, but more of a curiosity, like a beared woman.

1 Comments:

Blogger AraBella said...

I agree with how effectively the word "boy" was used. One moment that the word "boy" was used remarkably well to show the fact that this was a term to be applied only to someone found to be clearly below you (as a human) was when the chief is arguing with Sam. The whole argument about Sam's guiltiness as the murderer comes to an abrupt end when the chief makes one final comment in which he calls Sam (a white man) "Boy." Sam goes silent.
Awesome.

11:57 PM  

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