Monday, January 07, 2008

In the Heat of the Night

I don’t think it’s an under statement to say that a very obvious theme in In the Heat of the Night was racism and the inequality between blacks and whites that will, unfortunately, never fully go away. From the start of the movie this idea is seen. How the director chose to begin the film depicted the town of Sparta, Mississippi as very small and stuck in traditional Southern values. A country song is playing as one of the small town cops does his nightly patrol when he comes across the dead body. Although the town seems to be almost all white people, which should lead him to the conclude that the killer is most likely white, the cops first instinct when he sees Virgil Tibbs is that he must be the murdering considering he’s black. Although it’s not specifically said that his race was the cause of Tibbs being arrested, the rude racial comments made by the whole precinct, including the chief, make it an obvious conclusion. Not until Tibbs proves he’s an officer from out of state just passing through on the train is he given any form of respect even though he has done nothing wrong.
As the film continues and Tibbs becomes a crucial part in uncovering the true criminal, the other officers begin to show him a little more respect but the only character to come almost fully around is the chief. Although Tibbs has proven himself to be a knowledgeable man and a major asset, practically everyone in town only sees a black slave in “white men’s clothing”, as Harley had described him. The end of the film Tibbs is almost murdered himself by a bunch of crazed racist locals but manages to talk his way out of it using quick wit. It seemed as if no matter what he did no one could ever see past his skin.


Blogger natalie said...

this movie dealt alot with race but i think there was alot of class issues there too. some of the things you brought up about his clothing and cultural differences highlight how class is an issue as well

11:02 PM  

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