Antisemitism and the Gentleman's Agreement

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Anti-Semitism and the Gentleman’s Agreement

Cultural diversity includes opinions, appearances, values, and beliefs, as well as the categories of race, ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation, and disability (Koppelman, 2011). One method of understanding cultural diversity is through films. Films are often used as vehicles to reveal, discuss, and explore relationships, conflicts, lessons, and/or history. In an attempt to analyze the cultural diversity portrayed in a film, I have chosen to watch and analyze “Gentleman’s Agreement”. The analysis of the film will take place in four parts: (1) conflict between minority and majority groups; (2) film’s perspective in approach to the problem of anti-semitism; (3) types of prejudice and/or discrimination portrayed; and (4) an example of an exchange between characters illustrating prejudice. In conclusion, I will express my personal thoughts and lessons learned. Prior to moving into the analysis, it is important to understand that history is full of prejudice toward and hatred of individuals and groups of individuals due to their religion, race, culture, and/or background. One such example is known as anti-semitism, which is prejudice, hatred, and discrimination against Jews (Koppelman, 2011). The topic of anti-semitism is explored in the 1947 film drama known as the “Gentleman’s Agreement”. The film stars Gregory Peck as a widowed journalist who moves to New York City with his son, Tommy, and mother, to establish himself as a writer at the Smiths Weekly Magazine. Peck’s character, Philip Schuyler Green, is hired by John Minify, a magazine publisher, to write an anti-semitic series. In order to understand the depth and effect of anti-semitism, Green pretends to Jewish. He asks his family, fiancée, and best friend to keep his secret of actually being a Christian as he assumes the “Jewish identity” of Phil Greenberg. His intent is to live as a Jew for six months. Unfortunately, his son’s first hand experiences, as well as Green’s own, are so bad that Green writes his series after only eight weeks.

Conflict Between Minority and Majority Groups

Conflicts occur between individuals and groups of individuals. The participants are typically classified as a member of a majority or minority group. The members of the minority group are subordinates to the majority and have significantly less power to control their own lives when compared to the majority. Those in the minority must overcome obstacles tied to the factors of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, and/or disability (Koppelman, 2011).

The underlying conflict that Green was hired to “expose” was between anti-semitics and Jews. Although it was not clear whether the minority group of Jews was larger or smaller than the group of anti-semites, the majority group is that of anti-semites. They are the majority due to their dominance and power. The reason for the conflict is based upon the unfounded anti-semitics’ prejudice and discrimination toward Jews.

The majority is able to employ tactics that enact obstacles that establish handicapped conditions for the minority group (Koppelman, 2011). Due to the negative, shared beliefs toward the minority group, the majority is able to stop employment of Jews; deter or halt acceptance to colleges and medical schools; restrict membership to clubs; exclude attendance from resorts and other recreational establishments; and prevent the leasing of apartments and the purchasing of real estate.

In a scene between Green and his secretary, Elaine Wales, the film attempts to demonstrate the obstacles and anti-semetic behaviors endured by Jews. During this dialogue Green instructs Ms. Wales to send out letters and applications to potential employers, colleges, medical schools, etc…Two of each letter and application were to be sent to each address. One was to be signed by...
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