Social Psychology and Homosexuality
Social Psychology and Homosexuality
This film portrays the story of Andrew Beckett, a lawyer that suffering from AIDS and is a homosexual, is fired from his law firm in retaliation against him for concealing his illness. Andrew decides to sue for wrongful termination and begins inquiring with several attorneys to represent him. After being turned down several times he turns to Joe Miller, a prejudiced lawyer. Over the course of the movie, Miller finally realizes that Beckett is a regular person and is only trying to survive and overcomes his phobia of homosexuals and helps Beckett with his case.
This film displays social psychology from the direct influence of others to treat individuals with AIDS and being a homosexual as regular people. However, that does not happen in the world today. We see people who are different than what our values have led us to believe and we instantly feel fear and we try to get those different people away from us. In this film, Joe Miller proves us wrong. In the beginning he is deathly afraid of any gay person and AIDS, but in the end he triumphs and conquers his fear. I think he does this through the judicial process but as well as seeing Andy deal with his illness.
However, social influence plays a great deal in how the characters in the film react to Andrew’s illness when it was discovered by his colleagues at the law firm where he was employed. The social influence is the harshness of the words gay, homosexual and AIDS. Those words alone are enough to influence the way people act. The main construal in this film is the struggle to get justice against a law firm who has fired an employee due to illness of AIDS. Although they deny the accusation of discrimination against Beckett, they make themselves believe he was fired due to his incompetence.
The typical case in this film is the fact that a gay lawyer was fired for AIDS discrimination. However, Walter Kinton had previously worked in a law office in Washington D. C. where a paralegal assistant had contracted AIDS, Melissa Benedict. After Melissa had informed her employers of her situation, they avoided her. In Beckett’s case, they fired him. This displays the representative heuristic. Trying to convince that Mr. Wheeler was wrong in firing Andrew is a method of conquering the overconfidence barrier.
Wheeler and his partners have so much confidence in their termination of Beckett; it has an adverse effect on the accuracy of their judgments. There are many examples in this film that non-verbal communication reveals feelings that do not match their words. One is when Andy calls his mother early in the movie and begins speaking with her about the results of his blood report, although she claims to be okay, you can hear her whimpering in the background and she does not say anything. She moves on to another subject. Another example regarding Andy’s mother is at the 40th anniversary party of his parents.
His family welcomes him and his partner, Miguel. When Andrew is greeting other family members, his mother gives this long, gazing look of sadness. She is afraid for Andy and what the future holds for him. Ms. O’Hara, Beckett’s secretary, gives a good example of the implicit personality theory. During cross examination, Miller asks if Andy was a good boss. She responded with the traits of sweet and kind. She was grouping Beckett’s various personality traits together. After attending a gay party, Miller and Beckett prepare for the Q and A session in court the next morning.
It is then that Andy plays an aria in which it forces Joe and Andy to look inside them to examine their thoughts and feelings; Andrew’s feelings of love and life and Joe’s feelings of accepting homosexuals and forgiveness. This is an example of introspection. While Miller is questioning Andy in the courtroom, he shows intrinsic motivation by expressing his love for practicing law and occasionally gets to be a part of the justice being done. After Joe has delivered the court summons to Wheeler, the partners all meet privately in the back hallway in the baseball stadium.
While Wheeler is agitated about the situation, Bob offers to settle out of court, but Charles insists that Beckett was fired over the missing papers from the last case not because he has AIDS. Bob confesses that he suspected that Andy was sick and after being confronted by all of the lawyers, he agreed with them however he knew inside that this was wrong. This shows an example of counterattitudinal advocacy. Andrew and Joe display the self-affirmation theory when Joe is questioning him on how he is a good lawyer. Andy is consistent on focusing his attention on how loves to practice law, the judicial system, he’s an excellent lawyer, etc.
With AIDS being a controversial issue as well as homosexuality, implicit attitudes often get the best of us when we encounter and interact with individuals such as Beckett. An example would be the scene in the law library where everyone begins to stare at Andy after the library assistant gives him the information on AIDS discrimination. They even start to leave because they seem appalled that he would even enter the library with such a condition. Without directly imputing this message into the film, I believe there is a hidden message that has fear arousing communication.
The message is if you have unprotected sexual activity and your homosexual then you will get AIDS. Even as Beckett states later in the film, it was known as the “gay plague, gay cancer we didn’t know it couldn’t kill us. ” It seems like he groups all homosexuals together with the AIDS illness. Joe Miller shows conformity when he realizes that Beckett is just like everyone else. He is trying to survive this disease. He starts treating and acting differently towards Andy after he had attended the gay costume party and after the interpretation of the aria. Early on in the court hearing, protesters show contagion.
There were many protesters outside screaming and shouting for gay right and even a few in the distance whom were on Charles Wheeler’s side. They were insisting on Andy to admit publicly that he was a homosexual. A good way to describe groupthink is when you are seeing the way Charles Wheeler and his partners maintain good group cohesiveness throughout the film. One seen is in the back hallway of the baseball stadium when they are all agreeing to say that Beckett was fire due to his incompetence. Another is during the early proceedings in court when one of the partners is testifying against Beckett.
He states that his work was satisfactory, Miller brings up that five months earlier he was “delighted and impressed. ” The witness looks over at Charles and the group as if asking what he is supposed to say. Homosexuals and AIDS are examples of deindividuation in this film. Many people, who do not agree with the lifestyle and have contracted this deadly disease, will incur the social death. Others will go on as if gays do not exist and especially if that person is suspected of having AIDS. They just want to get it and everything that has to do it away from use.
An example of deindividuation is when Miller does not accept Beckett’s case for personal reasons and he even claims that there is not a case. However, the previous client had hurt himself due to his own negligence in a city construction area. The love experienced in this film is between homosexuals, Andrew Beckett and Miguel Alvarez. I see this more as companionate love rather than passionate love for the simple fact that Miguel cares deeply and is affectionate towards Beckett, but you do not see arousal. When Beckett hospitalized early in the film, Miguel rushes in to see what is wrong and you see a very brief intimate moment of a hug.
Another scene of them dancing at the gay costume party and lastly when Miguel is at Andy’s bedside shortly before he dies. Andrew displays a secure attachment style. He was raised with loving parents and I believe three other siblings. There are many flashbacks of childhood in this film where he was always with his parents and siblings doing family activities thus describing lack of concern with child abandonment. With Andy being an excellent lawyer and the firm trusting him with top cases describes the view that he is trustworthy.
When Beckett walks in the office earlier in the film, everyone seems to light up when his presence is known; this shows he was well liked. Miguel displays prosocial behavior by helping Andrew through the treatments at home with his illness. You also see him cooking dinner, keeping records of hospital visits, and at the end, being by Andrew’s bedside. Andrew’s other friends also show prosocial behavior by getting him breakfast, helping him with his paperwork for the case and even to use make up to cover up his lesions on his face.
The bystander effect is displayed toward the end of the court trial when Andy feels very weak and sick. He tries to stand up with his cane and falls to the floor. Charles Wheeler stays on the witness stand and looks on as Andrew lies on the floor. Other people come over and stand there looking and does nothing. The only people that seem to respond to the emergency at hand are Andy’s mother, Miguel and the bailiff in the court room. There are a couple scenes in which instrumental aggression is being displayed.
The first act that comes to mind is when it is publicly known that Miller is working on Beckett’s case and Joe is at a drug store picking up formula and diapers for his baby and is approached by a young man who also happens to attending law school. The young man praises him for his excellent work so far on the case and that this case is really important to him. I believe he is meaning how important this case is to the gay community. He then proceeds to ask Joe out for a drink, Joe declines saying that he has to get home to his wife. The student leans over the isle and says, “I don’t normally pick up people in drug stores.
There was a middle-aged woman standing behind Joe at the time who has now overheard the comment, she gives him a look of oh God get away from me. Joe grabs the young man’s shirt, knocking some items off of the shelf and asks him, “Do I look gay to you? ” The student responds with the same question. Joe did not have the intentions of inflicting pain on the young man; he just wanted to make a point. Another scene is when Andy is working on his case; Miguel is making dinner and trying to give Andy a treatment. Andy is refusing treatment; Miguel is getting agitated and wants to speak with Andy.
Andy is saying that he’s busy working on this case and while he’s writing, Miguel rips that notebook away from Andy and throws it across the room and starts speaking in a harsh tone. A scene that describes the catharsis on aggression is when Miller badgers his own witness when he asks him if he was gay. The witness was taken by surprised and wasn’t sure why this question was being asked of him. Miller then proceeds to let out numerous derogatory terms towards gays, which seems to upset others in the courtroom. I believe Miller is “blowing off steam” towards his hatred and anger for homosexuals.
The film in its entirety is dealing with prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination of homosexuals and AIDS. In the beginning, Miller expressed to his wife how much he is prejudice and hates homosexuals, how he can’t fathom the idea of having sexual relations with another guy and how they aren’t men. Many times in the movies Washington’s character uses very negative remarks towards gays in general. The use of discrimination comes when Andrew Beckett gets terminated from the prestigious law firm who claimed they didn’t know he had AIDS. When in fact, they had suspicions and they were fearful of “catching” it.
According to the Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, AIDS is protected under the handicap as it acts as a social death along with the physical death. Discrimination is a dirty word in the work place today as they would like to call it miscommunication and that the situation has been blown out of proportion. After Andy dies of AIDS, several of his family members and friends gather at his home to watch movies of his childhood. It seems to ease their sadness of his death by seeing him do what he enjoyed the most, being with his family and friends.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 January 2017
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