Film Culture and Its Impact on Civil and Social Rights Essay

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Popular Film Cultures Have Propelled Civil and Social Rights



Culture is referred as shared interaction, patterns, cognitive constructs, behaviors as well as effective understanding learned through socialization and transferred from one generation to the other. In the United States and outside the United States, films have become a powerful tool to transmit cultures. In 2009, there were more than 6.8 billion films released compared to the world population that was roughly the same number. Moreover, films have produced revenue of more than $30 billion annually, and its impact on films on people's behaviors is staggering. For example, many people across the world are imitating American culture by watching their movies. Moreover, films have become a powerful tool for propelling civil and social rights.[footnoteRef:1] The social civil rights are the class of rights and freedoms people demand from the government, private individuals or social organizations. Civil rights movements protect people from discrimination on the ground of gender, race, color, age, religion, and political affiliation. Moreover, civil right movement fights for the fundamental human rights that include freedom of speech, religion, and movement. However, many people do not know their rights especially the minorities. Films and social media have become the powerful vehicles that propel people to demand their rights. [1: The Role of Film in Society.]



Throughout the 20th century, African-Americans were treated as second-class citizens because of their historical antecedents with the general beliefs that they were forcibly brought from Africa and Caribbean as slaves. Thus, they were never treated equally with their white counterpart. During this period, African-Americans were stereotyped as being stupid, lazy, foolish, violent, cowards, animal-like and subhuman. In many occasions, the media had portrayed Black as sub-human. In the 20th century and early 21st century, African-Americans were portrayed with negative stereotypes in many American films, which reinforced white supremacy over the blacks. However, towards the middle of 21st centuries, the social media and many films had propagated that the negative treatments that minorities receive were unlawful. Through films and social media, increasing number of African-Americans, and other minority groups have become aware of their rights which consequently propel the civil and social right movements in the United States.[footnoteRef:2] [2: Berry, Erica F. A comparative study of African-American representations in films]

Research Objective



The objective of this study is to investigate how popular culture such as films or other media have assisted in propelling the civil and social rights.



Research Question



• How the Film titled "Boycott" assists in propelling the social and civil right movements in the United States?



• How the Film titled "Boycott" and "Selma" demonstrate the leadership ability of Martin Luther King in propelling the social and civil right movements in the United States?



Research Contribution



This study provides several contributions:



First, the study reveals how the films such as Boycott and Selma have provided a greater understanding of how African-Americans were able to gain their freedom through social and mass movements.



Moreover, the study has been able to solve the research problem that occurs through a paucity of the research on films that propel the social right movements.

Literature Review



Methods Films Propel Civil and Social Rights





In the early 21st century, the media and films set the tone for the images, values, and moral for the American culture. Culture is a tangible aspect of human society that is learned through socialization, and consists of acquired implicit and explicit pattern, ideas, attached values and behaviors transmitted to people and conditioned elements of behaviors and action. With the culture of films and media, many people started realizing that the degrading stereotypes they believed realistic were fictitious. Moreover, after a century of films making, the horrible stereotypes started to extinguish from the mind of people. After the Second World War, the racism was the urgent problem that America faced. During that period, racism affected all minority groups, and African-Americans were the major minority group during this time, and the group was affected by the racial discrimination than other minority groups.



Several factors awakened American against racism. Movies and films served as the major vehicles that awakened the spirit of American minorities against racism. In the 1960s, a large number of Americans were convinced that America was required to build a new society where the rich would no longer exploit the underprivileged, and where the White would no more exploit the minorities. In the 1960s, almost all households in the United States had at least one television, and many social activities take advantage of the television to voice against evil effects of racism because millions watch the effects through television.

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Black reporters also awakened the awareness of African-Americans providing the great stories about their rights. [footnoteRef:3] [3: Aucoin, James. The Evolution of American investigative journalism. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007.]



Aucoin argued that films and television were the powerful tools that had a tremendous impact on social turmoil in the 60s. Based on the international events during the time, the American population no more having trusted in the government and their institutions. Thus, the journalists influence the social rebellions through their criticisms of the segregation laws. Moreover, the films have great influence on the American movement of social and civil rights. In the 1960s, increasing number of African-Americans were participating in movies. For example, the film "Birth of a Nation"[footnoteRef:4] produces a positive image of African-Americans. Moreover, the film "Who is Coming the Dinner" influences the social changes in the United States.[footnoteRef:5] [4: Wagner, Terry. "America's Civil Rights Revolution: Three Documentaries about Emmett Till's Murder in Mississippi (1955)." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 30, no. 2 (2010): 187-201. doi:10.1080/01439681003779093.] [5: Ibid Wagner, Terry]



Berry contributed to the argument by pointing out that civil rights movement that occurred between 1955 and 1965 was aimed to abolish racial discrimination. Before the government imposed the equal rights, African-Americans were subjected to oppression with no voting rights. In the government services and public facilities, the domains of whites and black were separated. However, the black population lacked financial resources to fight for their rights. With the "Supreme Court victory of Brown v. Board of Education of 1954 that rejected separation of white and black school systems (11)"[footnoteRef:6] marked the beginning of civil and social right movements. However, this Supreme Court decision did not have immediate effects, nevertheless, it assisted in producing effects such as boycotts, and marches that marked the era of civil rights movements, and civil disobedience in the United States. For example, the bus boycott that happened in 1955 was designed to oppose the city's policy of segregation in the 1950s. The pressure from African-Americans to stop the segregation in the American society made the government to pass the "Civil Rights Acts of 1964" (11).[footnoteRef:7] [6: Berry, Erica F., "A Comparative Study of African-American Representations in Film from Original to Remake as Influenced by the Civil Rights Movement" (2009). Honors College. Paper 21.] [7: Ibid Berry Erica]

Films that Propelled the Civil and Social Rights Movements





The "Birth of a Nation" was the first American film that set the motion for social and civil rights in the American history. The film has been used as a challenge the white supremacy and racism that was common in the American society.[footnoteRef:8] Anderson argues the film titled "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)",[footnoteRef:9] is one of the films that reflects the issue about the intermarriage. Typically, the film dealt with the issues such as racism between black and whites, and the film was released at the height of civil right movement when people were fighting for political social, and economic equalities. Moreover, the film demonstrates the action of social movement activist who took the issue of inter-racial marriage to court where the Supreme Court prohibited all the action preventing the intermarriage in the United States. Before the Supreme Court decision, the intermarriage was a taboo in the American community. According to the illustration in the film, it was the state of Virginia who banned the inter-racial marriage to prevent the blood of African-American and the blood of the White mixing together. However, with a lot of activism from the black leaders, the law preventing intermarriage was nullified in the American constitution. [8: Anderson, Katie. Film as a reflection of society: interracial marriage] [9: Ibid Anderson Katie]



The film titled "Selma" is the major film in the United States that reveals the civil rights combat of Martin Luther King. Typically, Selma is 2014 film that reveals the perspective of 1965 march of Martin Luther King. The film revealed the voting right movement of African-American, and the plot of the Selma film showed how four African-American girls were killed by the bomb because they attempted to register for a vote in Selma. In the film, Martin Luther King asked….....

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Bibliography

Anderson, Katie. Film as a reflection of society: interracial marriage and Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in late 1960s America. Department of History, College of Arts, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada 2010.

Aucoin, James. The Evolution of American investigative journalism. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007.Anderson, Katie. Film as a reflection of society: interracial marriage and Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in late 1960s America. 4:1 (2010).

Berry, Erica F. A comparative study of African-American representations in film from original to remake as influenced by the Civil Rights movement. 2009.

Chang, Justin. Sundance Film Review: "The Birth of a Nation". Variety. 2016.

Eisenberg, Abne M., and Teri Kwal. Gamble. Painless public speaking: a work/text approach. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991.

Greenspun, Roger. "Movie Review: King A Filmed Record Montgomery to Memphis: The Pilgrimage of Martin Luther King Jr.". The New York Times. (1970).

Monteith, Sharon. "Civil Rights Movement Film." The Cambridge Companion to American Civil Rights Literature: 123-42. doi:10.1017/cco9781107446618.009.

Raymond, Walter John. Dictionary of politics: Selected American and foreign political and legal terms. Lawrenceville, VA: Brunswick, 1992.

Shan, Vikas. The Role of Film in Society. Thought Economist. 2012.

Salaana, Johnny M. The Coding manual for qualitative researchers. Place of publication: Sage, 2012.

Wagner, Terry. "America's Civil Rights Revolution: Three Documentaries about Emmett Till's Murder in Mississippi (1955)." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 30, no. 2 (2010): 187-201. doi:10.1080/01439681003779093.

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