Monday, January 07, 2008

In the Heat of the Night

The first difference I noticed between In the Heat of the Night and the films we watched over break was that the two main cops did not act like partners; they weren’t as much of a duo. There were a couple times when they seemed close, like when the white police chief saved Virgil from the four white boys and when they were at Chief Gillespie’s house and talked, but these instances were far and few between. Chief Gillespie supported Virgil for the most part, although he did not want him to continue working on the case. They didn’t seem to click as well as the cop pair in Lethal Weapon. Also different from the other two films is that this movie did not deal with class, but was definitely more focused on race. Virgil was well dressed, looking more put together than some of the cops, spoke clearly and correct (“whom”) and was reading when the audience was introduced to him. He is the opposite of the stereotypical hood black man figure. However, not only is Virgil an outsider to this town, but he is black and colored people are clearly not welcome in the town. The chief and other cops automatically assume Virgil is responsible for the murder because of the amount of money he has in his wallet. The chief laughs at his name and insists that colors can’t make that much money. The only person who insists on Virgil’s help with the murder is Mrs. Colbert.
Of course, Virgil ends up being right about who committed the murder, but what I found interesting is how he turns the white friends against one another in the end. When trying to figure out the situation, Virgil is confronted with more than a few white guys, but he explains what he has figured out and one white man ends up shooting another, all because Virgil called him out. Similar to Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, Virgil teaches the white cops a thing or two. The chief seemed to be unaware and uneducated about a lot of aspects of solving a murder. It wasn’t until the end of the film when the chief truly seemed to realize that his idea of African Americans is wrong.

6 Comments:

Blogger Danielle A said...

I really like and agree with the point made about black people not being accepted in the town, but had resulted in having one black person be effecient and benefecial to something like a murder.

When you said that Virgil called out the white guy, I know that you mean the white guy was wrong and trying to hide his guilt, and once again uses white male guilt by using his gun as a power mechanism to overpower the black man (Tibbs), but Tibbs takes the upperhand here and leads the fight amongst two white males rather than a white and black person.

All in all, through these films and through people's reactions, black people are not considered sidekicks so much anymore, but have a very influential role in many films today, even in 1967!

6:23 PM  
Blogger Emily Wilson said...

I think that you have a good point; the cops were never “buddies” or accepting of each other until the end of the film. Even though the audience knew that Gillespie was more supportive of Virgil than anyone else in the film, you did not see their true friendship until the end of the movie when they are parting ways. Throughout the film they never worked as a team in solving the murder. Instead Gillespie would bring in the wrong suspects and accuse Virgil of being incorrect. Virgil does end up teaching the cops something, and he also teaches Gillespie acceptance of African American people.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Nick Capezzera said...

I agree with Jessica when she says that the cops did not mesh as well as they did in the previous movies we watched. I think it was mainly due to the racial tensions apparent in the 1960's. However, the rocky relationship between the two became stronger as the movie progressed, and I feel that Virgil Tibbs gained much respect from the police chief. Enough respect that he was saved by the chief in the warehouse. A mutual relationship was formed at the very end of the flick when the chief says, "Virgil, you take care now," and Mr. Tibbs just smiles. There had not been a moment until the end, and the director probably saved this moment until the end to create a stronger sense of respect because movie goers always pay great attention towards the end a movie.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

I really like your comment about class not being as much of an issue in this movie. I think it was definitely more of an issue in the other films than in this one. I do think that there was one instance where it did come up though; when the white cops find out how much money Virgil makes, they are shocked, as if to say that he is making more than them, a very hard slap to the face for them.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Vladigogo said...

True Danny about the money making aspect of Virgil's job vs. Gillespie's.

However, my question is about Gillespie in general.

Is he a racist?

9:02 PM  
Blogger MegSchutz said...

I agree about the main cops not acting like a duo. Compared to Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop, the cops were not really friendly.

On the well dressed front, I thought it was an important scene when Virgil and the runaway suspect were in the jail cell together and the suspect says "What are you doing wearing a white man's clothes?" Did the suspect think that he should be the one in the suit rather than Virgil?

10:35 PM  

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