Monday, January 09, 2006

Understanding Mr. Tibbs: "In the Heat of the Night"

I feel compelled to write about Virgil Tibbs in this blog, but first I want to say a few other things about the film.

First, I loved the Ray Charles music; I think it added a lot to the significance of the African Americans in the film--from Virgil to the cotton pickers and every man, woman, and child in between. Also, I did not think the movie was slow. In fact, this wasn't my first time seeing it, and I still enjoyed it. However, I always think they make too many of the white characters (the males) look alike. I think it can be confusing, especially since so much of the film takes place in the "night," it's already hard to make out faces, details, etc. I don't have a solution to this problem, though, because a good old boy is a good old boy I suppose...

Anyway, moving on to Virgil. I think one of the most poignant moments in the film is when Virgil tells the men that the officers in Philadelphia call him Mr. Tibbs. Although we rarely hear Virgil referred to by any name other than his first, it really is important to remember that above everything, Virgil is accustomed to being treated with the same respect and courtesy as his white counterparts.

So then I have to wonder, why does Virgil put up with the abuse of the south? The most fundamental answer, and perhaps the least problematic too, is that Mr. Tibbs is an expert in homicide and he wanted to solve the case. Okay, fine. But if you start to entertain the idea that he was the prime suspect in the case from the get-go, then that opens a whole new can of worms. Is Virgil solving the case because it's the right thing to do and because he wants to achieve justice and yada yada yada, OR is he more concerned with proving how far off the officers' and chief's original charges were and how incompetent the entire police department is in a town of know-it-all racists? I tend to side with the latter, but maybe that's just me.

I like Mr. Tibbs. He is intelligent, polished, and handsome, but he is also critical, spiteful, and arrogant. Maybe it's the balance between his "good" and "bad" cop sides that makes him likeable, or maybe he's just the best out of a crowd of detestable men.


Blogger AraBella said...

quick comment: I loved your last sentence about being "the best out of a crowd of detestable men."

12:52 AM  

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