Monday, January 07, 2008

In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night was different than the previous two films we watched over break.  This movie dug deeper into the tensions between races. When the police discover a murder, and go about searching for a suspect, Woods comes across Tibbs, played by Sydney Portier.  He immediately accuses him of murder without even asking a single question.  After seeing that they are clearly wrong, being as Tibbs is actually a fellow police officer, the Sparta Police despise Tibbs, one just because he is black, and two because they were wrong. The chief Gillespie, swallows his pride, and asks Tibbs to help with the case after talking to his boss and being told Tibbs is “a homicide expert”.  Portier plays his character very well, rarely stooping to the others’ level of arrogance, and remains composed through the harassment, in order to solve the case.  Both Tibbs, and the white cops learned to accept each other, though they never really worked as partners, they grew to respect each other based on their commitments to solving the case.  Even when Tibbs is told to leave and stop helping with the case, he refuses and risks his own life in order to find the true murderer.  The film does a great job of showing the reality of racism in the south, Tibbs is constantly harasses, verbally and physically, by the whites in town.  Until the end, it seemed no matter what leads Tibbs was able to find, he wasn’t accepted as a real cop on the case because of his skin color. 

Not a Buddy Cop Movie.

In the heat of the night was far more about race that it was a real buddy cop movie. It was not the formulaic cop movie at all. It didn’t involve two buddy cops becoming friends and using common skills to work together. No, this movie was far from the Action movie that Lethal Weapon was that involved the teaming up of the white and the black cop to solve a crime. This movie is also far from a comedy, this cop movie is a drama and it’s not a gritty cop feature with a modern urban setting. Instead it takes place in a small town and deal with very dramatic issues such as race and teen pregnancy. The setting and formula is far different than the movies we watched for Monday. In this movie, Race is in fact a key issue in the movie, unlike Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon where they were not the focus of the movie. In this movie, when white policemen feel threatened and emasculated to know that a black cop from the north, not only is better at solving homicides, but also that he makes more money than they do in their small town of Sparta Mississippi. The police chief Gillespie starts out despising Tibbs, played by Poitier, but he eventually lets him solve his case and eventually learns to respect his work as a police officer even though he still has his own racial biases. He learns to overcome them to a degree and even come to the aid of Tibbs when he assaulted by four white citizens. Tibbs grew as a character as well, he learned to accept and get along with many of the cops in the Sparta precinct.

Guerrero talks about how Poitier often plays roles that give in to whites and are not strong black characters. Tibbs seemed to be an exception. He reluctantly works with white people for the good of justice and a widow’s wish. Tibbs is a very strong black character who is fearless to give in to white demands. This can be seen in the way Tibbs refuses to leave town even after multiple attempts on his life. Another example is the way he slaps the cotton field owner back after he is slapped, and finally his refusal to give up on a case even when he is told to stop.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

In this film, Virgil is placed in an environment where he is practically the only black man in town (at least from what the audience sees) and he is unwanted. The town's feelings toward black people is shown right away when Officer Wood arrests Virgil for the murder without even questioning him - just assuming it must be him. It was very obvious that Virgil and the chief of police were completely opposite. Virgil was tall, dressed in a suit and tie, composed, and very intelligent when it came to his work; whereas the chief was short and stocky, dressed in his uniform but in a sloppy fashion, constantly chewing gum, and seemed to act like he knew what he was talking about when it came to work. The relationship between the two was a constant tug-of-war as the chief went back and forth on whether to let Virgil help him with the homicide investigation. This film definitely depicts racism with the town constantly verbally (and trying physically) attacking Virgil, and also when they go to the cotton field and talk to the owner. The owner was shocked to be treated as an equal by Virgil; also, other townspeople did not want Virgil in the room with them. It was very interesting how the point was constantly brought up how the views of black people were different in the South compared to the North – Virgil had to keep explaining that he was a cop from up north.

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.

in the heat of the night

In the Heat of the Night was a very interesting movie and it was more of a sleuthing movie instead of a buddy cop film. Right from their very first meeting it was apparent that Mr. Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) and Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger) were not considered equals. The chief kept referring to Tibbs as “boy” and constantly tried to put him in his place throughout the film until the very end when they finally came to terms. Tibbs never accepted any of the insults thrown his way and constantly stood up for himself whether it was the threat of a physical brawl or remaining confidant and collected when asked, “what are you doing wearing white man’s clothes?” While race was very much so an issue in the film, In the Heat of the Night also had a lot to do with class. Tibbs was from the north, successful, and prominent in his line of work. He was constantly reminded how out of place he was in Sparta, Mississippi. The black automotive worker laughed in his face at the suggestion of staying at a hotel in town. The group of white men threatened to beat him to death for being a black out of towner. Mr. Tibbs personal vendetta against Mr. Endicott captures both the racial, and class aspects of the film. Entering the house they passed workers picking cotton, there was a black jockey lawn figure that Chief Gillespie patted on the head. Tibbs remarked that he could bring Mr. Endicott down from his house on the hill which refers to both his status and the racial undertones that accompany that. One subtle yet prominent moment in the film happened after Tibbs slapped Mr. Endicott in the face and walked out of the green house. Standing there was Mr. Endicott and his black servant holding a tray of lemonade. As Mr. Endicott stood there and apparently wept the black servant looked him dead in the eye, shook his head, and then left the room. It wasn’t clear whether the action had to deal with pity or defiance and I’m aware that it has nothing to do with the Tibbs story line however I did view this moment as something of significance.

In The Heat of The Night

Through out the entirety of In the Heat of the Night, racism is shown towards Virgil Tibbs in a small town both from fellow police officers as well as the towns people. This blatant showing of racism is very different from both Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop. While the racism in Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop was shown, it was not shown to the extreme as it was shown through out In the Heat of the Night. I’ve seen movies before that have shown racism, I don’t think I’ve seen one that is as blatantly racist as In the Heat of the Night. What made it worse was the fact that some of the characters did not stick to one side of being racist or not. Take Sam for instance, in the first scene where Sam meets Virgil, he calls him “boy”, a term used for white men to call their black slaves, but then later Sam realizes that Virgil has been right about the runaway suspect not being the murderer of Colbert, he seems to begin thinking that perhaps Virgil is onto something and maybe Virgil should be trusted. Also, I found it interesting that traditionally, white women were terrified of the possibility of getting raped by black men, but Colbert’s wife actually supports Virgil saying “I don’t want that Negro police taken off this case”.

On the flip side, Virgil’s attitude towards those around him is drastically different. Being a man from the north, where skin color is not as big of an issue as it is in Sparta, Mississippi, Virgil is rather calm and unsurprised about the reaction of others to him. The only time that Virgil seems surprised about the racism towards him is when the white men in cars are chasing after him, corner him in the warehouse, and then again right before he proves that Delores Purdy is on her way to get an abortion of the child of Ralph Henshaw. Virgil remains calm towards police chief Bill Gillespie and Officer Sam Wood despite both of them treating Virgil poorly.

In the Heat of the Night

In The Heat of the Night

In dealing with racist material, “In the Heat of the Night” makes interesting statements about racism and prejudice in general. However, it ultimately sends a mixed message, and at least partially endorses judging a person by his or her appearance.

Shortly after the movie opens, we meet Ralph, who is trying to kill a fly on the wall of his dingy little diner. Ralph is immediately portrayed as freakish and creepy. He is hunched over, wide eyed and constantly smiling, especially when those around him are ill at ease. Ultimately, he has no redeeming qualities, and even manages to prove himself as exceptionally racist when he refuses to serve Virgil.

Throughout the rest of the film, Ralph seems to be only a minor character. Instead the focus is on Virgil, who must prove himself both to the chief and the community. His dedication and skill continue to impress others. Even when he lets his guard down and makes faulty assumptions for personal reasons, he is able to recognize his faults and pursue the case further.

As the film progresses, it seems to suggest that the citizens of Sparta, Mississippi should not have judged Virgil based on his appearance. This moral stands strong until the last few minutes of the film, when it is revealed that Ralph is the murderer. From the beginning, Ralph had been portrayed as creepy and unusual, and his guilt as the murderer gives the film a mixed message: Don’t judge based on race, it says, but any assumptions based on appearance in general may be correct.

"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!

In the Heat of the Night

“In the Heat of the Night” is quite different from the movies which we watched over the break. Unlike the other two films, race is the predominant issue between the black cop and the white cop, as opposed to race not neccessarily being an issue in the others. The first time we are introduced to Virgil, he is being arrested for a murder that he knows nothing about; he is suspected of this crime solely because of the color of his skin. This sets the scene for the rest of the movie and the continuous racism that will flow throughout. I find it very strange that the white cops strongly dislike him because of his blackness, and continually undermine him, even arresting him twice, yet they do not follow through on the threats to send him home and keep asking for his help time after time. The movie does show growth in the white cops’ attitudes towards Virgil in the sense that in the beginning they wanted absolutely no help from him and towards the end, he is now willing to except the fact that Virgil may actually know more than him in this instance. I believe this may have been a statement as to the time period in which racism was slowly becoming less of an issue.
When digging deeper into the movie, there are similarities that can be drawn between Virgil and Axel Foley. Both characters are black cops in a predominantly white town trying to solve crimes that the white cops don’t completely want their help solving. In both cases, the white “boss” cops are very hesitant to accept the help of somebody whom they view as an outsider and inferior to their “cop” knowledge. They both also end up coming through in the end and completing their cause.

In The Heat of Night

As I stated in my last post Guerrero in “Framing Blackness” wanted to show how the early commercial film industry reflects white domination of American society, and how it has begun to make changes. The movie we watched today In The Heat of the Night, gave yet another view of the black cop white cop buddy system during the 60s when racism was a huge factor in America. The existence of racism in the country was highlighted by the racism and bigotry shown within the police force. In spite of being a homicide cop because Tibbs was falsely arrested, then purposefully and falsely arrested, then slapped, assaulted by three white males, refused restaurant service, then assaulted again, etc, all because he was black. In other words, Tibbs' race is a crucial narrative component of the screenplay; the film would be altered beyond recognition if he were white. He encounters episode after episode of the degradation of being a Negro in the south. One huge difference however was the relationship between the two cops: Tibbs and the Chief. The two main cops did not act like partners instead they were constantly trying to out prove eachother.
Blacks are portrayed as having menial positions in society, where their job is to serve the white man. In the movie the only black people present were working on the cotton farms, and a black mechanic who opened his home to Tibbs (side note: the mechanic seems the only character with a family). Mr. Endicott (the head of the town) uses black as if slavery were still in existence; he also threatens Tibbs stating that he could have had him shot if they were living in another time. The Chief feels more threatened by Tibb's ability than his color but eventually accepts and respects his ability. Their dinner together at the chief's house shows how close and similar they actually are in regards to their personal lives. In Kings, Heroes in Hard Times he writes about how it is difficult for cops to have a normal family. Both Tibbs and the Chief have no family, have never been married, and feel isolated. It is this isolation and the need to do the best job that they can as cops that they come to a truce and a realization of their similarities. This is seen when they say goodbye at the train station and the Chief says, "take care of yourself.” This finally statement acknowledges the chiefs acceptance as Tibbs being an equal to the other police officers and is a sign of a slow cultural shift of acceptance of black persons having power.
With the theme aside the fourth component of cinematography, Mise-en-scène was used throughout the movie. Mise-en-scene literally means, "put in the scene." For film, it has a broader meaning, and refers to almost everything that goes into the shot, including the framing, movement of the camera and characters, lighting, set design and visual environment, even sound. The films setting and the dress, speech and constant gum chewing by the chief added to the dimension of each individual character. I agree with Danielle that the props used by the four men who cornered Tibbs (chains and bars) in two different scenes was a very good parallel because the intensity of the plot increased towards the end of the movie.

Lethal Weapon

Nick Capezzera

Martin Riggs is the definition of a cop in a bi-racial buddy flick. He lives for the job and nothing else. He is courageous to the point of self destruction. Whereas, Roger his straight walking and talking black partner, is a model citizen and is happy to have made it to his fiftieth birthday without a scratch on him. Although Roger is the cop with the higher ranking he appears to become a sidekick to Riggs after his daughter is kidnapped by Mr. Joshua. King had made this point in a chapter about the Lethal Weapon series which I agree with. Roger fills the role just like King explained a sidekick should act. The person should follow the rules, kill less people in the line of duty, and pay attention to the hierarchy, and be more timid. As the movie progresses Roger turns into a cop that no longer shoots bad guys in the leg, but shoots to kill. Mel Gibson’s character is a cop on the edge like most white hero figures become in this genre. He is seen as uncontrollable and even psychotic which work for and against him. However, I don’t see the racial undertones of Lethal Weapon between Roger and Martin. I do see the racial undertones between the protagonist and the antagonist. The Aryan man, Mr. Joshua appears as pure evil and clearly represents the white race, whereas Roger’s blackness works against Joshua in a heroic sense. Finally a black man is rising up over the oppressive white force. There was also a clear reasoning behind the coupling of a black and white partner with separate ideals. It defines Martin and Roger as totally separate entities.

Beverly Hills Cop

Nick Capezzera

A black rogue cop from Detroit, how do you become more streetwise. This is very apparent when Axel Foley travels to Beverly Hills to find the man that is responsible for the murder of his partner. Eddie Murphy is definitely put into the role of the black hero against the white oppressive enemies. This contrast of good and bad creates a more standout role for Foley as the black man.

The role of Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop is created as a one dimensional character that many black comedian action heroes often play. Hollywood has shaped Foley into what the majority of mostly white consumers want to see. Instead of staying in his broken down area of the city of Detroit he travels out to Beverly Hills. The California city is supremely opposite to his normal stomping grounds everyone is exclusively white, wealthy, pretentious, and seems to be a place that a man of his stature would never fit in. This would lead me to believe that it may also be a matter of class as well as race.

Another play upon his blackness is the characters he conjures up in order to slip into these exclusively white clubs. Guerroro’s example of Foley’s interpretation of a herpes ridden drug addict is a mocking the very stigmas that early black actors were trying to shy away from. Which, are roles in which the actor focuses not on his blackness, but what the consumer would like to see character do.

Along with the blackness that Murphy portrays, comes two white cops from the LA area that seem unqualified for law enforcement according to Foley’s standards. Taggart and Rosewood, the two cops, must learn from the Axel’s street knowledge in order to be successful.

"In the Heat of the Night"

The time periods in which the movies we watched over break and “In the Heat of the Night” were made, have drastic effects on the prejudice and chemistry between characters. For example I am sure that now, in the present day, there are multiple towns in the Deep South that are still racist, but not like a Mississippi town in 1967. Virgil is has walked into a place in which the people have already assumed he is a lesser human being.

The idea of racism is hidden within Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop; whereas in “The Heat of the Night” the bigotry is blatantly forced upon Sidney Poitier. For example when Sam Wood goes searching for the murderer of Mr. Colbert he finds Virgil and immediately calls him “boy,” a derogatory term for white slave owners to call blacks. Furthermore Mr. Tibbs does not even gain the respect of the chief of police, who is offended by the fact that a black man is not only a police officer, but receives more pay in a week than he does in an entire month.

-Nick capezzera

Throughout the movie Virgil has this cool about him which no one can disturb, not even the lynch mob that wants his head. It is comparable to the way Riggs handles himself against the antagonists in Lethal Weapon. He cannot be disturbed, and if the foe does manage to rile the confidence of Riggs the character comes back stronger with more passion to defeat the enemy than before. On top of the mobs out to behead Virgil, he has to deal with the constant barrage of prejudice by the people that he wants to assist. Virgil has a vendetta with the white police department that is insulted by his higher intelligence and well groomed manner.

There is a similarity between Eddie Murphy and Sidney Poitier about how they both have to gain the respect of a new police department, but Virgil must work past the hatred he receives just for being a black man. The link is apparent in both movies when the black cop has gained the respect from the white cops. But even when Virgil thinks he has become equal there is a racist man to bring him back down to the level in which he was assumed from the moment he was accused.

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.

In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night, Virgil Tibbs (Sydney Potier) plays a homicide expert from Philadelphia, who is literally dragged into a murder case in Sparta, Mississippi because he is believed to have been a suspect. When Officer Woods finds a dead body, he is told to try and find the suspect, but he merely finds a lone black man, Tibbs, who he orders at gunpoint to get into the car and is taken to the station. Upon arriving at the station, he reveals to the audience that he is a police officer from Pennsylvania. The chief is told that he must take Tibbs along as help, since he is one of the few people able to solve the crime. Tibbs endures blatant racist attitudes from the southern men he works with, and even those he helps.

MY reaction to the movie was that I believed that it accurately would suggest how people would react to a professional black man in the situation that Tibbs was put in. When he is a suspect, he is constantly referred to as "boy", but when he tells the police that he is an officer, and an expert in homicide crimes, he is called "officer", Tibbs, or Virgil. The tensions throughout the film are well shown when the men of Sparta are constantly threatening him, whether it was through racial slurs such as "nigger" or "boy", or physically with guns and/or fists. The people were sometimes afraid of a professional black man, and was even asked when he was put in jail, "Why you wearing a white-mans clothes?” referring to the suit Tibbs wore. This movie frames blackness as a handicap, at least in the south, but has not prevented him from becoming an officer who earns $162.39 a week (which was a reasonable sum).

This was a good movie that portrayed the reality of a situation that, though fictional, seemed plausible. Potier did an excellent job of portraying Tibbs, and the film also showed the racist side of “blackness”, which is something that we had not seen in either “Beverly Hills Cop” or “Lethal Weapon”.

In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night was a much different cop flick then we have looked at thus far. The issue of racisms was the main theme of the movie. We are introduced to the two main characters, one being the southern white cop, Office Gillespie and the other is a northern African American Cop, Virgil Tibbs. The first time the two officers meet is when Virgil is brought into the office as a suspect for murder only because he is a black man, in a small town in Mississippi where racism is strong and the people are not accepting of African Americans. As soon as the Officer Gillespie and others in the town find out that Virgil is a well paid cop from Philadelphia and will be reluctantly staying to investigate a murder, people of the town cannot believe that a black man is going to be staying in their town.

The story line of In the Heat of the Night contains many of the topics we have been discussing in class. There is the idea of the white cop, black cop. In the film Virgil is the more intelligent cop and he is teaching all of the white cops how to work in homicide whether they like it or not. This is not always easy for him because the whole town treats him differently except for Gillespie. For the most of the movie Gillespie does not want to accept the fact that an African American man could be making more money, and is the smarter cop than him. Although he feels this way he is always watching out for Virgil to make sure that no one in the town will hurt him, or ultimately kill him. Finally in the end when Virgil was right about who was the murder was Gillespie truly accepts him. When he drops him off at the train station the audience can tell that he has changed his views on African Americans by working with Virgil. This film could also relate to Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy has to teach the cops of Beverly Hills how to solve a murder. Although Murphy is not dealing with race to the same extent as Sidney Poitier was, he still wasn’t accepted by the white cops until the end of the film.

In the Heat of the Night

Throughout the movie, I found myself focused primarily on the role of the Chief. The Chief appeared to be uneducated and unfamiliar with all the laws of being a police officer. I did not get a great impression from him with the way he handled the cases he was dealt. He was always quickly jumping to conclusions without hard evidence. Does anyone else see how merely assuming something can lead to a horrific result? If the Chief were to accuse the runaway of killing Mr. Colbert or even his fellow colleague Sam, based on a stolen wallet or some extra cash, those men could of been charged with a lifetime of jail time. In King's book, he mentions how cops use their power through demanding actions and such to gain more power. In the movie, Sam used his police power to corner Tibbs and giving him the opporutinity to capture a man to give himself the glory of being an exceptional cop.

I also wrote notes about some of the 4 elements that Professor Boles had mentioned earlier in the day. In the beginning of the movie, Ray Charles' In the Heat of the Night was played which really gave the movie a great initial momentum. I also felt that the music gave a suspicious feeling which was good because the entire movie was just trying to figure out the murderer and there were many suspects and people to be suspicious about!

In regards to cinematography, the film seemed like the color was bleached out but in actuality, since the film was produced in 1967, I do not think it needed much of a change due to the technology they had during that time.

I also made note about the mise-en-scene. The film was produced well with the props they used. When the four men cornered Tibbs, they used chains and bars which automatically gives the impression of a brutal attack. Later in the film, Tibbs was cornered by a larger group of men with guns and other weapons. By comparing this scene to the earlier one, I noticed the intensity that the plot had created and how serious these actors felt about having a black man in their neighborhood.

Lethal Weapon and Heroes in Hard Times

While Lethal Weapon initially appears to fit into the average buddy cop breakdown, upon closer inspection there are multiple reasons that keep it from fitting simply into Neal King’s rundown of what a buddy cop film should be/is.

Initially, it seems simple enough to fit into King’s rundown of your everyday cop film. Martin Riggs does seem to be fighting for a loss of ground. This is most noticeable at the end of the movie when Riggs fights Mr. Joshua in hand to hand combat. He seems to be attempting to go back in time, to restore the honor that came with reigning in a criminal. Additionally, Riggs has lost a wife which puts him into the category of having an unhappy or incomplete love/family life. He is also used to using unconventional methods, like when he shoots the sniper at the school instead of trying to talk him down or take him quietly. A troubled character, at first glance he is the biggest reason why this movie should fit into King’s cop genre.

Additionally, Roger Murtaugh seems to fit the category of your average sidekick. He provides the therapy that King talks about as one of the sidekick’s main jobs, abating Riggs’ suicidal tendencies. Murtaugh also has the family that Riggs wished for with his wife before she died, providing a stable, middle-class background which highlights Riggs’s insanity.

However, I find that both of these arguments fall just slightly short. For example, Murtaugh does not appear to be the overtly happy cop that King would have the audience think of him as. At the beginning of the film he seems discontent with his job and his age (shaving his grey beard off after his daughter makes a passing comment). Additionally, the poor quality of Murtaugh’s wife’s cooking further shows this. He has even bought a boat he doesn’t know how to sail which seems to suggest an attempt at getting away. Additionally, Riggs does not fully fit King’s stereotype. King seems to say that the death of Riggs wife fits into his stereotype of women who get killed or hurt by the cops job. However, that Riggs’s wife was murdered isn’t even revealed in this film. If you’ve never seen the other movies then you would seriously have to go on the story that Riggs offers of how she died in a car accident. While her death does still present the audience with a reason for Riggs’s insanity I do find it hard to mesh with King’s argument.

Overall, though, it’s one of the best buddy cop films. Maybe I’m just partial because I like to make fun of Mel Gibson and my boyfriend would actually watch this movie with me. But seriously, the partners meet and fight, but when it times to catch the bad guys they make up and become best friends. And they all lived happily ever after, or at least until the sequel.

Beverly Hills Cop is Framing Blackness

Ed Guerrero’s book Framing Blackness discusses various ways in which African Americans have been depicted through the history of American cinema. While it may appear to average audiences that the African American image has made great strides in the way Hollywood depicts it, Guerrero argues that this is really a false improvement. Guerrero points to examples of how even these seeming heroic African American heroes are cut short in the way they are depicted on film—mostly depicted merely as streetwise entertainers, completely removed from the rest of the African American community with no sexual impulses. Beverly Hills Cop is a perfect example of how an African American is given top billing, but only after he is forced to fit the stereotypes that white audiences will feel comfortable accepting him in (according to Guerrero).

I found one of the most interesting aspects of Guerrero’s argument to be the way that African American characters, even in starring roles, often seem one dimensional. I think that Beverly Hills Cop is a perfect example of this because despite attempts to make Axel Foley and interesting and relatable character, his family history is never revealed. The audience has no idea what kind of household he grew up in or how he ended up being a cop. These missing aspects of normal character development start to develop Axel Foley as the one dimensional funny, streetwise cop who the audience relates to because of his humor, not his back story. The only family that is offered to the audience is Mikey and Jenny both white friends from childhood and adolescence. Additionally, Axel Foley’s fullness is further truncated by his lack of sexuality. Just as Guerrero cites in Sidney Poitier’s characters, Eddie Murphy seems to lack this basic characteristic of being an adult. For instance, when he goes to the strip club, although he gives Billy money, Axel doesn’t even look at the women dancing on stage. Furthermore, after the initial comment to Jenny about how she’s filled out since grade school he doesn’t even seem to notice that she’s a woman, and an attractive one at that.

Additionally, much in line with Guerrero’s arguments, Eddie Murphy is relegated to the white world, even before he goes to Beverly Hills, almost completely separated from the African American community. For instance, in Detroit, Mikey is the only family-like character of Axel’s that the audience is given. He is white. Additionally, the cop who tries to help Foley after the Lucky Strike debacle is also white. While the chief of police is black, the only exchanges he and Foley have are reprimands. Additionally, once Axel Foley goes to Beverly Hills, the only African American he has contact with his the “Buppie” black cop at the BHPD. This character has attempted to adapt into the white world he lives in so much that Foley finds it irresistible to comment on how he even talks like his partner, how he needs to work on being smoother.

I find that Beverly Hills Cop very much fits in with Ed Guerrero’s analysis of how even African American heroes seem to be short changed in one way or another—having to sacrifice community, sexuality and full development in exchange for a top billing.

Lethal Weapon and Heroes in Hard Times

Lethal Weapon goes against many of the "buddy cop" films, by reversing the racial positions of the two cops.  Roger Murtaugh, played by Danny Glover, is a veteran cop, who is given a new partner, Martin Riggs.  Murtaugh is a father of three with a beautiful wife, living in a nice home, and even has a cat.  They present him with the perfect family, and loving home life.  This is different from way most African Americans are portrayed on screen. At first he is not fond of his new partner who he believes he is crazy.  Riggs is suicidal and is known to surprise everyone with his reckless ways of doing his job.  Murtaugh is a few years away from retiring, and finds himself in more life threatening situations than ever before.  Lethal Weapon seems to have mixed up the racial stereotypes of the two characters.  The white cop is more popular to have a loving family, kids, home, and all that comes along with the perfect homelife.  Though they come from different lifestyles, the two cops soon become a dynamic duo is the investigation of Amanda Hunsacker's death.  Soon Riggs, who before had to find reasons to live each day, finds a friend in Murtaugh and gives him the bullet which was meant for his suicide.  In the end, Riggs is invited for Christmas dinner at the Murtaugh's house, and brings his dog to be friends with the family cat, and immediately the sounds of them fighting are being heard, this is a replay of the beginning of the relationship between the now best friends. 

Lethal Weapon and Heroes in Hard Times

In Lethal Weapon there is a blatant juxtaposition between the two heroes Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs. On the one hand you have an older cop who is living the life he has always dreamed of in a nice suburban home with a beautiful wife and kids and with a fulfilling job. The other hand has a man who is broken by the loss of his wife, broken to the point of insanity and it clearly shows in all that he does at work. Riggs' recklessness and no-holds barred nature shatters Murtaugh's life and shakes his will to the core. King has some appropriate remarks to say about the trials and tribulations of being the hero. His comments on the 3 characteristics of unfortunate cops hit right at home with Rigg's character, who comes dangerously close to committing suicide not once but multiple times. However, i would liked to have more back story on the domestic relationship between the Riggs and his wife. We know that she died in a car crash but was their relationship troubled with domestic violence? For a self proclaimed professional shot Riggs certainly turns to tears and sighs in depression at the sight of his wife's picture. Murtaugh, through association with the wild Riggs, gains access into King's labeled circle of 'heroes with troubles' when trouble come home with a gun to terrorize the family. I found the subject of race to be extremely down played and less prevalent than the issues of friendship and families, but it would be interesting to see how the movie would appeal (or not appeal to audiences) if the races were reversed. The most telling of who the top cop was happens blatantly in one pivotal scene: a baddie proclaims, "There's no more heroes left in the world." and BAM! in bursts Mel Gibson! Was i also the only one who picked up the DVD four pack and noticed who stood slightly in front as the star cop in all four movie covers? Kinda makes me wonder why the man who has his life together doesn't partake in the glory...maybe because he has less to lose...or maybe it's something else that stands in his way...

Framing Blackness and Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop follows many of the ideas presented in Ed Guerrero's "Framing Blackness". Murphy stars as Axel Foley, a detroit policeman who's best friend is the murdered outside Axel's apartment late one night. After his boss refuses to let Axel in on the case, he is granted two weeks vacation, but is under strict orders to leave the case alone. As he travels to the predominantly white Beverly Hills, Axel's "blackness" is shown by stereotypical characteristics of African Americans. Axel's old beaten up Chevy Nova, and "hoodlum" way of dressing makes him stand out in the streets of Beverly Hills. As he's driving through the shopping district, lined with high-end stores. Axel shows content with standing out, and likes that he is different from the white elite, and throughout the film shows he won't conform to the BHPD. As he rolls up to the Beverly Palm Hotel, he manages to finagle his way into the hotel by lying and creating a scene. Axel follows stereotypes of African Americans as being loud, poor, and from the hood. However, the stereotypes don't stop there. As the movie continues, Axel is arrested twice for disturbing the peace. He lies numerous times, including passing as a Custom's inspector, and a RollingStone journalist at the hotel check-in scene. And in the end steals three robes from the hotel. Though all of these incidents helps him with solving the case, his character goes against the books and therefore, the white cops. By the end of the film, Axel who refuses to conform to working "by the book" causes his new white cop friends to tell a few lies and even talk them into drinking on the job.  

Guerrero mentions that the original character of Axel was meant for a white actor, Stallone. The whole reason Axel can get away with doing things his own way is the tension and controversy of race. Hollywood does a good job of presenting these differences in the law enforcement, as black and white. The White cops go about their job by the book, follow all rules. Axel comes into the picture with a totally different view on how to go about the case. In my opinion, if Stallone would have played this character the whole point of the film would be thrown off.  The fact that Axel is a black character surrounded by white cops, gives him the spotlight in the film. 

Beverly Hills Cop Framing Blackness

Beverly Hills Cop is a combination of action and comedy seen through the interactions and traits of the black and white cop’s characters played by Eddie Murphy- Detective Axel Foley- black and Beverly Hills detectives Billy Rosewood and John Taggart- both white. In the opening scene the viewer observes the streets and cops of Detroit; a city with both white and black people living in a poor and crime ridden area. It is what the audience would expect, poor area, crime ridden equals “blackness”

Foley is the streetwise, tough, and witty Detroit detective who travels to the white snobbery of Beverly Hills. Eddie Murphy plays the hero cop placed in the foreign environment of Beverly Hills where he appears to be the only African American character in the film- with the exception of one Beverly Hills black detective who had about 30 seconds of screen time- and Axel’s boss in Detroit. The whiteness of Beverly Hills serves to highlight Foley’s blackness, he appears out of place yet he takes control as the hero.

Unlike the cops in Beverly Hills , Axel speech ,using slang, and cursing throughout the entire film, his dress- t-shirts and sweats verses the professional police uniforms worn by the “white” Beverly Hills cops, and his overall disreguard for the rules and authority differentiates him from his new environment. He is more suspect then hero. Foley’s appearance- “blackness”- speaks to his culture in Detroit. His soon to be cop friends in Beverly Hills place him in the black stereotype of the criminals that they try and keep off the street’s in their town. Foley’s black street appearance at white country clubs, white detective stations, white hotels, restaurants and art gallery are always received with a look of fear, Foley is an intruder to be feared, that in itself was a black story line of movies of the past. Foley the hero feeds off of the white policeman’s prejudice and gives them more of the same throughout the film. His success in getting the bad guys and proving he is a qualified although unorthodox cop, helps remove his blackness in the eyes of his new partners. The sidekicks, Rosewood and Taggart, are also easy stereotypes as held by the black culture, prime targets for the wicked tongue and quick wit of Foley. Cop eating donuts, Taggart referred to as Tubby by Axel.

Perhaps what is most important about this film is not within its context but what it represented to the industry. A black comic, Eddie Murphy, is given the lead role of a hero cop. He pokes fun at white people, white cops, and gays. He uses street language that includes four letter words without hesitation and yet the audience laughed at his behavior. A mixed audience made it a block buster success with sequels almost as successful. I watched it with my roommates and we laughed as Foley made the white cops look silly. I would not have given that a second thought or perhaps any of this if it wasn’t for the assignment. I would consider it entertainment, it was fun and funny.

Guerrero in “Framing Blackness” wanted to show how the early commercial film industry reflects white domination of American society, and how it has begun to make changes. Hollywood was big business and it was the box office and the profits that made the decisions. Black depictions, little to no major parts for blacks, story lines that were falsified to enhance the white culture and deflate the black culture were Guerrero’s target. This too was true for the black actors, writers, filmmakers and directors that helped to change the industry. Guerrero writes that “Black culture is therefore embodied in the black star's persona and actions, surrounded and appropriated by a white context and narrative.” Beverly Hills Cop allows the black star to do as he pleases even if it is in appropriate within its white context and shows that the box office can become color blind.

Beverly Hills Cop and Framing Blackness

Ed Guerrero’s discussion of African American image in modern films I think is well displayed in Beverly Hills Cop. Guerrero points out that the image of African Americans in film has not always been very positive through out the history of film. In relation to Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy is playing an off duty cop doing investigation on a friend’s murder even though he is not supposed to be doing so. He plays Axel Foley, a detective who goes under cover attempting to bust a trade in the opening scene, taking on the vocabulary, look and attitude of the very people he is trying to bust. However, he pushes that identity onto himself through out the entire movie, even at one point making a joke to the only African American cop who is assigned to follow Foley about how he is beginning to sound like his white partner. In my opinion, it was a very racist comment as the character Foley takes on many of the “stereotyped personas” of the African American race; street slang, reckless driving, attitude, clothes, etc. The fact that Foley is one of two “token black guys” in the entire film may also been seen as racist in Guerrero’s eyes as well. Even the criminals in the film are all white or of Hispanic looking nature, but it is naturally assumed in the beginning that because Foley is African American, he is obviously a criminal. Other parts in the movie that I personally do not see as being “pro-African American” include the beat up car Foley drives, the scene of Foley signing into the hotel, and the ending scene where Foley admits to stealing three hotel robes and being escorted out of a hotel by cops.

I agree with everyone else on the fact that Eddie Murphy is given a chance to shine in this movie for the role of being the only black character in a predominately white environment. The fact that he goes out of his way to not conform to the white stereotype but to stick to the black stereotype seems rather forced throughout the entire movie though. My question is, was pushing the “black stereotype” that far really necessary to make the film work? Personally, I think it was hilarious, and at the time it was made (1984) it was the normal depiction of African Americans, but sadly, I feel that the same stereotype is still being seen in movies made today. If they had toned down the stereotype of Foley's character, would the movie be the same?

Lethal Weapon: Heroes in Hard Times

Not having seen the assignment until 14 hours before the class, it is safe to assume that I did not read the entire text; in fact I could not purchase them today (Sunday). So instead I have re-watched the movies and read about the text books online and have attempted to review the films with the concept of the text books in mind. The "buddy cop" subgenre are actions films with plots involving two men of very different and conflicting personalities who are forced to work together to solve a crime while learning from each other in the process. In Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop, the buddies were paired as black and white(s). Frequently, although not always, the two heroes are of different ethnicities or cultures as seen in Lethal Weapon (and Beverly Hills Cop). However, regardless of ethnicity, a central difference is the tempermant of the partners.” Martin Riggs-white cop- in Lethal Weapon and Eddie Murphy- black cop- in Beveryl Hills Cops are the “wilder”, less establishment oriented partners. Roger Murtaugh-black cop- in Lethal Weapon and Detective Rosewood in Beverly Hills Cop are the antithesis of the partners, trying to toe the line and just get through the day.
In the case of Lethal Weapon the wild partner, Riggs is the younger of the two, with the even-tempered partner having more patience and experience. These films sometimes also contain a variation on the good cop/bad cop motif, in which one partner is kinder and law-abiding, while the other is a streetwise, "old school" police officer who tends to break, or at least bend the rules. “The buddy angle” is that Riggs gets a partner, a conservative family man named Roger Murtaugh, played by Danny Glover. The two take an instant dislike for one another throughout the first 55 minutes of the movie; however it turns into mutual admiration and lifelong friendship when Glovers family is threatened. Kings depiction of the buddy cop genre discussed the hero and the sidekick. Unless one defines the hero as the one taking all of the risks, it might be hard to depict who is playing what role in Lethal weapon. Glover and Gibson’s characters had equal screen coverage, the audience gets to know both characters while on and off duty. Riggs as the risk taker appears to be the hero in most of the fight scenes (walking into the range of a sniper shooting, jumping off buildings, and killing the villian of the movie). Riggs abandon’s common sense willing to give up his life if necessary get the bad guy and get rid of the evil’s in the world. Glover’s character seems more like the sidekick because he does not shoot to kill, instead he shoots the criminals in the knee (as seen in at the drug dealers house outside by the pool), and he has a home life, a goal for retirement, and a wish to stay out of trouble, we only need to cheer for him when he gets drawn into Rigg’s hero world. In chapter four of "Heroes and Hard Times" King writes about how it is difficult for cops to have a normal family life, however Murtaugh tries to make this happen, and without a Rigg’s he might be successful.
Martin Riggs is the perfect example of the white mans guilt discussed in Kings book. Rigg’s feels guilt over his wife's death and becomes an alcoholic, chainsmoker with a death wish. The stability of Murtaughs family brings out the contrast of the lost life of Rigg’s and helps emphasize Rigg’s craziness. Murtaughs job is to supply the movie's center of gravity for Riggs; he's a family man, concerned about those gray hairs he sees in the mirror, not interested in taking unnecessary chances while Gibsons character is the perfect counterpoint, with his wild hair/clothing and his emotional misery.
As an aside, I find it interesting that both texts are published by Temple Press in Philadelphia. As a Philadelphian, I am acutely aware of the black verses white politics of the city, the day to day coverage of crimes in the city and the responses of the press to the white policeman and the black policeman as it relates to the crime- white or black. The press like the movies writer/director tell the story of the times with and without their own personal bias. The difference is that we use the movies for entertainment and an escape from the harsh realities of what COPS face daily. Perhaps knowing the movie is not real, helps mask what we would rather not believe.