Analysis of American History X

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In this assignment, I was challenged to find important historical and cultural connections of the film American History X and analyze the important rhetorical of my findings. I went about choosing American History X by placing a poll on Facebook listing out the films that I had any slight interest in considering for this assignment and American History X won by a landslide. I was actually somewhat disappointed, because I wanted to do The X-Files, but I chose to stick to my promise and go with whatever text won. I watched American History X some years after its release in 1998. Although, I know I must have watched it sometime after I got out of high school because at the time of its release I was 12 years old and with the amount of violence in that film I know I did not watch it with my parents. From the little memory I had of the film from the first time, I could only recall that American History X had a lot to do with white supremacy and racism, that Edward Norton played the lead role and that the kid who played in the first Terminator was his brother and was all grown up. I hesitated watching the film again for quite sometime because I knew I would need to dedicate a solid two hours of mental energy towards it. One could argue that I was merely just procrastinating; however, I benefitted from having done so because future class discussions provided a foundation for how I could study the film. After reading about and discussing in class the topic of approaching a text organically, I decided to implement that mentality and view the film as objectively as non-object individual can. It is difficult to say whether it was that approach that ultimately led to my findings in the film, or if I would have discovered them anyway since it was my second time viewing the film. Everyone can appreciate that after the second and third time of watching any film you begin to pick up on things you missed the first time. In either case, I found the movie to be incredibly eye opening and I enjoyed having to research the history surrounding the film and, ultimately, the state of the nation during what was my childhood. American History X is a film that depicts a traditional white family in the mid 1990s, but spotlights the two brothers’ journeys into maturity. The movie focuses on the older brother Derek, played by Edward Norton, and how Derek’s Neo-Nazi associations in his life greatly influence his younger brother Danny, played by Edward Furlong. Fueled by rage of his father’s death, the film opens with a scene of Derek brutally killing three young black men who were attempting to steal his father’s truck. Derek is then sent to prison for 3 years during which time his younger brother Danny begins to follow in Derek’s footsteps with the Neo-Nazi organization. The movie flips between black-and-white scenes of the past and color scenes of the present. The black-and-white flashbacks attempt to illuminate Danny's perception of Derek's past life while intermittently presenting how Derek overcame is his own hatred. The color scenes portray the present and highlight the effects the hatred has had on the entire family. Overall, the movie critiques on not only the effects of urban racism and bigotry, but also the how minds of young people are so impressionable. The film even succeeds in creating a sense of sympathy for characters that are typically hated, Neo-Nazi racist skinheads, and paints them not as foolish, uneducated racist bigots, but instead as misguided intelligent human beings. On the surface the film discusses racism, violence, and bigotry, but upon closer examination I found a deeper message within the film. Watching it a second time, I realized that this film is really emphasizing the lack of critical thinking skills in young people, particularly in teenagers and young adults and how impressionable their minds are. Then, upon further research related to those very topics it touches on in the film, I discovered...
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