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American History X

One of my favorite movies is “American History X”. The movie was directed by Tony Kaye and written by David McKenna in 1998 starring Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D’Angelo, Avery Brooks, Jennifer Lien, Ethan Suplee, Stacy Keach, Fairuza Balk, Elliott Gould, Guy Torry, William Russ, Joseph Cortese, Jason Bose Smith, Antonio David Lyons, and Alex Sol. American History X deals with the social topic of racism. It is an Oscar nominated movie and has won many prizes. The most interesting thing about the movie is the manner in which the subject is brought out. American History X focuses on the “White Arrogance” against all minorities and especially “Blacks”. The movie is themed on affirmative action and racism which is seen throughout the movie. The affirmative action is brought out through Derek father’s character and the racism is present throughout the movie.

It is a story about two brothers, Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) and Daniel Vinyard (Edward Furlong) raise among white supremacist with racial hatred and social ignorance. The action is centered on their family in Venice Beach in Los Angeles. Both of them are bright and charming students. Although Venice Beach and Los Angeles are lovely place but it is surrounded by racial tensions. Derek is drawn into neo-Nazi movement after his father is murdered by a black drug dealer; trying to put out a fire in a South Central neighborhood. Derek Vinyard kills two black gang members trying to steal his truck, and hence is sentenced to three year imprisonment for intentional manslaughter. Derek Vinyard’s view of mankind is changed while in prison and he understands and identifies the goodness and badness in every race. In the prison, Derek learns a humble lesson, those that are supposed to be your good friends can be your worst enemies and true friends can be color blind. He becomes friends with a laundry guy who happens to be a “Black”. Both share a strong bond of trust and understanding and are passionate about sports. Derek learns that this “Black” Laundry guy helped him to survive his prison term. Derek Vinyard returns from the prison to find his younger brother Daniel caught in the same web of racism and hatred which made Derek land in prison. The story demonstrates how Daniel Vinyard the younger brother is influenced by his older brother’s Derek Vinyard actions and ideology and how Derek saves his younger brother Daniel from a similar fate.

"American History X is an unflattering and often disturbing look at the roots and consequences of racism. And like the hard reality that it attempts to mirror, there are no easy answers or simple solutions offered in this cautionary tale. Instead, it portrays the scourge of racism as an endemic and self-propagating problem, festering and feeding upon itself, resulting in distant consequences both unexpected and tragic.”  (Leong, 1998)

The Movie doesn’t just say ‘Racism is bad’, it says ‘Racism is bad and here’s how it can happen’. Derek’s father taught him to hate, his friends taught him rage and his enemies gave him hope (Guzdek, 2009).

In the movie “American History X” Derek’s character shows one identity that can be drastically transformed because of the circumstances or situation. The movie shows different component which make up identity. Identity is malleable as it starts pure and can be moulded the way we want and can constantly change and evolve from its pure state. The same can be seen and understood in the movie by carefully viewing the characteristics of both the brothers, Derek and Daniel. American History X conveys a strong point about racism and exploitation of youth. The movie portrays a beautiful character of human – The Changing Nature. Derek used to hate “Black” but later seen to love the same race. Circumstances can change an individual and his view about anything completely.

American History X demonstrates how the teaching of parents and the laws of government negatively affect, create confusion and frustration in the youths of the society. The movie stresses on the needs for leadership, protection and desire for respect both young and old of all race, color, religion. The movie “American History X” attempts to expose the effects of hating one family and the community around them and creates awareness among all classes and ethnic groups. It makes parents understand and value their guidance to their children. Parents understand how their guidance can bring success or failure to their children as they grow.

The movie is important to me as it opened my eyes towards racial discrimination and made me aware of the current situation in the country. It is yet another example of racial tension between “Blacks” and “Whites”. It made me feel how friends can help in bad times and help coming out of the trouble. We need to remove this harmful fealing and need to live friendly and peacefully. The movie teaches me to think – how my judgement about a particular person, race or religion can be wrong; how hatred can be won by sharing love. Racism and hatred are bad, and they create cycles of violence that destroy their practitioners as well as their victims (Flicks). The movie is centered around the white power and the consequences of extremism. It also convinces about the human ability to change and change for good. The performances of the actors are amazing and moving. This movie is one my favorite as it portrays the evolution of a man from bad to good in the best possible manner. It is a movie which highlights the mistakes we make when we follow blindly.

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