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Movie Analysis: American History X

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The movie I decided to analyze for this course was American History X (1998), which stars Edward Norton. Though this movie isn’t widely known, it is one of the more interesting movies I have seen. It’s probably one of the best films that depict the Neo Nazi plague on American culture. The film takes place from the mid to late 1990’s during the Internet boom, and touches on subjects from affirmative action to Rodney King. One of the highlights of this movie that really relates to one of the key aspects of this course is the deterrence of capital punishment. Edward Norton’s portrayal as the grief stricken older brother who turns to racist ideologies and violence to cope with his fathers death, completely disregards the consequences of his actions as he brutally murders someone in front of his family for trying to steal his car. The unstable mentality that he developed after his father’s death really goes hand-to-hand specifically with Isaac Ehrlich’s study of capital punishment and deterrence. Although this movie is entirely fictional, a lot of the central themes (racism, crime punishment, gang pervasiveness, and one’s own vulnerability) are accurate representations of the very problems that essentially afflict us as a society.

One of the more prevalent themes of this movie is racism, and how prejudicial mindsets ultimately lead to one’s own demise. The movie outlines how racism, among other things, can adversely affect someone’s judgment. After the father died, we see how the family gradually deteriorates financially as well as emotionally after Derek (the older brother played by Edward Norton) turns to a neo Nazi gang for an outlet, which eventually influences his younger brother Danny (played by Edward Furlong) to follow down ...

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... supremacist gang, to rioting in an Asian owned grocery store, to finally brutally murdering someone. We observe as family ties become increasingly strained in every way, the viewer can easily conclude that Derek’s racism as well as his eventual influence on his younger brother ultimately contributed to their own downfall. As controversial as this movie maybe for the offensive language and brutal violence, it is a movie that deserves to be seen, and even discussed. It really provides insight into some factors within society that cannot be contained by the law or even deterred by even the harshest punishments. Even though American society is becoming more modernized as time goes by in terms of tolerance, racism will unfortunately always be prevalent in society and inevitably it will also lead some individuals to violently express their distorted mentalities.
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