Theme of Prejudice in the Film 12 Angry Men

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Topics: Prejudice, Abuse
Theme of Prejudice in the Film 12 Angry Men
By Brendan O’Regan St Kevin’s CBS Arklow

Anyone doing the treating the issue of prejudice in R.E. class will find 12 Angry Men a valuable resource, though there isn’t any overt faith element. I find using individual short scenes to be the best approach – time to show and discuss within one class period. I have chosen what I consider to be five key scenes that illustrate the theme effectively – even to do three of them would provide a week’s work. In this commentary I’m dealing primarily with the 1957 version directed by Sidney Lumet, but most comments would also apply to the 1997 version by William Friedkin. In fact for RE classes it might be worth making some comparisons as the jury in the latter is more ethnically balanced, and the judge is a woman, though there are still 12 Men.

Note also that the 1957 film is on the Leaving Cert English course for June 2007, so beware of stealing the thunder of touchy English teachers!

Scene 1: Opening Scene – in the jury room before the first vote
Jurors 3 and 10 are the most obviously prejudiced people. Juror 3: “I’d slap those tough kids down before they start any trouble”, a perfect example of prejudging. Juror 10: “You know what we’re dealing with … they let those kids run wild out there”. The director may not have intended it, but the film could also be accused of showing prejudice towards women and black people by excluding them from the proceedings.

Scene 2: First vote to second vote:
Jurors 3 and 10 express their prejudices quite openly here. Juror 3: “the kid’s a dangerous killer, you can see it”; “it’s the kids, the way they are nowadays” (in relation to their not calling their fathers “Sir” anymore); “kids – you work your heart out …”. We see that sometimes people aren’t even aware of their own prejudices – juror 3: “I have no personal feelings about this”. Juror 10 is worse: “I’ve lived among them all my life, you can’t believe a word they say … they’re

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