Monday, January 07, 2008

"In the Heat of the Night"

In class today we were debating whether or not race played a part in "Lethal Weapon" and "Beverly Hills Cop." "In the Heat of the Night" was unquestionably about race. Two of the most interesting aspects of the film to me were the location and the time period.

The film took place in the south (Mississippi), a region that, even today, is predominantly racist because of their past (Civil War). Many people there still hold prejudices against people of color and this is portrayed in "In the Heat of the Night." Obviously Virgil Tibbs is accepted in the north (Pennsylvania) where he lives and works. He dresses well, is payed well, and his boss calls him a homicide expert and suggests he works on the case in Mississippi. If the people in Pennsylvania had the same prejudices against Virgil as the people in Mississippi did, he would not have come so highly recommended. The film shows how different, even decades after the Civil War, things were in the north and the south in regard to race. At one point, the film even shows a Confederate flag license plate on the car full of white men chasing Virgil. This showcases how loyal, even in the 60s, many southerners were to what the Confederates stood for years before.

I also found it very interesting that the film took place in the 60s. It was a time of racial turmoil (Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated a year after the film's release) and it must have been controversial. Yet, the film was highly acclaimed (it won an Academy Award for Best Picture) and well-received by most critics. This indicates the film's perspective on racism made a difference. It caught people's attention and forced them to realize how awful and outdated their racist attitudes were.

Overall, I was really impressed by the film's message and acting (particularly Sidney Portier). I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it!


Blogger Brad T said...

I agree with your observations regarding the public’s reaction to this film and the context of when it was released. It was interesting to see such racist views portrayed so bluntly. I was especially intrigued when a character onscreen said “what kind of people are you?” Without spending too much screen time debating the reasons for the racism, she quickly and articulately pointed out that their prejudices were taking priority over finding her husband’s murderer.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Vladigogo said...

And yet in BHC no one addresses Axel's race at all. Is that an advancement for movies or just a white wash job?

9:40 PM  
Blogger MegSchutz said...

I agree about the film's message and acting. I was kind of iffy about whether or not I'd like it, but it did turn out to be a good movie.

I wonder what people who saw this movie when it was first released thought of it at the time?

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Colby said...

Although I didn’t mention this in my own post, I agree with Madeline that the use of locations is a very key point. If the crime had been committed in the North, not even necessarily Pennsylvania where Tibbs works, he would have been treated completely differently as a detective and as an individual. By having the murder take place in Mississippi, a state in the deep South, Tibbs is automatically set up to have to deal with racial stereotypes and unfair treatment.

11:03 PM  

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