Amercian History X: Manipulation

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The film American History X by Tony Kaye looks at the idea of manipulation, one of the roots of racism. Kaye uses dialogue, close-ups, a mise-en-scene, a wide-shot and a mid-shot to show how easy it is to be manipulated, despite your intelligence. Kaye’s purpose is to show that if you are manipulated under the right circumstances and the manipulation is coming from the people you love, then racism and hate can be adapted. During a flashback of the Vinyard family we learn that it was Derek’s father that first planted the seed of racism within Derek by manipulating him. We are presented with a dinner scene where we learn the influence Derek’s father has on Derek. Kaye uses a mise-en-scene by placing Derek’s father at the head of the table and positioning Derek just to the right of him. Derek is continuously looking up to his father and the audience can see how Derek feeds off what his father says. Derek starts enthusiastically describing his African American history teacher and how he is excited to read a book with a black theme. However his father’s response is extremely negative. Sarcastically he says, “Is this part of black history month”. His father then explains how two black fire-fighters got their jobs over two white fire-fighters who got higher in the test. He asks Derek “is that fair?”. A close-up of a stunned, wide eyed Derek is used. The purpose of this close-up is to show how Derek’s perspectives about race are changed for the first time. Derek is easily manipulated by his father because he admires and trusts him and his opinions on society. Kaye acknowledges the vulnerability of teenagers to pick up racist traits from those who they love. Derek, like most boys, look up to their father and hang on to the words they say. Kaye understands the influence a father has on his children. According to a child is 20 times more likely to end up in prison without a great father figure. Kaye is sending a message to all the fathers that view...
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