Unveiling Racism: Mississippi Burning's Impactful Portrayal

Categories: DiscriminationFilm

Alan Parker's cinematic masterpiece, "Mississippi Burning," unfolds against the backdrop of the mid-1960s, a tumultuous era marked by the Civil Rights Movement. The film poignantly illuminates the pervasive racial discrimination endured by people of color in Jessup County during this pivotal period in American history. Through a careful orchestration of character dynamics, cinematography, and setting, Parker crafts a compelling narrative that delves into the harrowing depths of racism and segregation.

The Portrayal of Racism through Characters

Central to the film's exploration of racism are the two main characters, Agents Rupert Anderson (Gene Hackman) and Alan Ward (Williem Dafoe).

Anderson, embodying a seasoned and wise persona, adheres to traditional investigative methods, starkly contrasting Ward's youthful, innovative approach to solving cases. This contrast becomes evident in the diner scene, where Ward defies societal norms by sitting with colored individuals when no seats are available in the white section. Anderson, on the other hand, abstains from such actions, highlighting the divergent perspectives within law enforcement during this tumultuous time.

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Further intensifying the narrative are Deputy Pell (Brad Dourif) and Sheriff Stuckey (Gailard Sartain), who epitomize the virulent racism prevalent in Jessup County. Aligned with the Ku Klux Klan, these characters exude arrogance and hostility, actively participating in the intimidation and violence against black individuals. Sheriff Stuckey's declaration, "Rest of America don't mean jack shit. You in Mississippi now," underscores the characters' distorted belief that Mississippi operates under a different set of rules, justifying their reprehensible actions.

Film Techniques as a Narrative Device

Parker employs various film techniques to amplify the portrayal of racism.

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Camera angles, including extreme wide shots, close-ups, and over-the-shoulder shots, serve as visual tools that immerse the audience in the narrative. For instance, the use of an extreme wide shot at the film's outset, capturing the civil rights workers' car and the ominous three cars trailing behind, creates a palpable sense of impending danger.

Musical elements further enhance the film's atmospheric tension. Low drum beats subtly permeate scenes where ominous events unfold, such as the foreboding moments preceding the heinous act against the civil rights workers. This auditory technique not only adds suspense but also underscores the impending tragedy that awaits the characters.

Clothing becomes a poignant symbol in "Mississippi Burning," symbolizing the stark division between racial groups. Colored individuals wear worn and tattered clothes, residing in wooden homes on farms, while their white counterparts don new, well-maintained attire and inhabit proper houses in the town. Agents Ward and Anderson's distinct clothing choices also contribute to character development, with Ward's suit and glasses projecting professionalism, in stark contrast to Anderson's more casual attire, signaling a laid-back demeanor.

The Impact of Setting on Segregation

The film unfolds against the stark backdrop of Jessup County, Mississippi, in the 1960s. Through meticulous attention to detail, Parker delineates the profound segregation permeating society. Scenes depicting segregated diners and disparate living conditions starkly underscore the inequality endured by colored individuals. In the diner, a separate area for colored patrons symbolizes the deeply entrenched belief that they are unworthy of sharing space with white counterparts.

Furthermore, housing disparities between racial groups amplify the film's narrative on racism. Colored individuals reside in modest, wooden homes on farms, a visual representation of their marginalized status. In contrast, white residents inhabit well-appointed houses in the town, underscoring the systemic inequality prevalent during this era.

In conclusion, "Mississippi Burning" stands as a poignant exploration of racism during the Civil Rights Movement. Alan Parker masterfully employs a myriad of techniques, from character development to cinematography and setting, to convey the pervasive discrimination faced by people of color in Jessup County. By delving into the complexities of racial dynamics, the film serves as a powerful testament to the historical struggles endured by individuals fighting for equality in the face of adversity.

Updated: Dec 29, 2023
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Unveiling Racism: Mississippi Burning's Impactful Portrayal. (2016, Apr 05). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/racism-and-discrimination-in-the-film-mississippi-burning-essay

Unveiling Racism: Mississippi Burning's Impactful Portrayal essay
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