The Effects Of Social Roles On Ordinary People Essay

The Effects Of Social Roles On Ordinary People Essay

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When one shoots and kills an intruder in her home, is it considered murder or self defense? When a soldier shoots and kills a man, is he defending his country and following orders, or he is committing murder? These are questions raised by A Few Good Men, a 1992 film by Rob Riener. When Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and Pfc. Louden Downey are given orders to give Pfc. William Santiago a code red, they accidentally take it too far and kill him. They are then placed on trial for murder, but are they really guilty? Though many people would consider Dawson and Downey to be sadistic or even ruthless for what they did to Santiago, Zimbardo in “The Stanford Prison Experiment” and Milgram in “The Perils of Obedience” explain how they are simply ordinary men who reacted to their environment and the intense authority figures in their lives.
The Stanford Prison Experiment was an experiment headed by Philip Zimbardo to study the effects of social roles on ordinary people. He found that when a person is labeled with some kind of social role, they begin to form themselves to it, however untrue it may be. In A Few Good Men, for example, Dawson and Downey refuse to plead guilty and take the plea bargain as Kaffee suggests, because they feel it 's against their code, “Unit, Core, God, Country,” to take the easy way out. Both Dawson and Downey knew that giving a Code Red to a peer is illegal and morally wrong, however they both wholeheartedly thought that what they were doing was their job, and that they did nothing wrong. Dawson explains his reasoning to Kaffee when he says “What do we do then, sir? We joined the corps 'cause we wanted to live our lives by a certain code. And we found it in the Corps. And now you 're asking us to sign a piece of...


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... people had a lack of confidence in themselves, seeing some kind of deficiency they could never show, so they continued to conform with the group. Similarly, Downey’s lack of confidence enabled him to go with Dawson to deliver the punishment; he had never been directly ordered to give Santiago a Code Red. However, to say no would have been going against someone who, to him, was the epitome of a Marine: strong, hardworking, obedient; To say no would have been disobedient, something looked down upon. If Downey had more confidence in himself, perhaps he wouldn 't have gone with Dawson. In the same way, Downey’s lack of confidence puts on a tremendous show in the courtroom when he refuses to answer the question about the Code Red without permission from Dawson. He is obviously very dependent on Dawson 's authority, perhaps because he has the confidence that Downey lacks.

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