A Response to the Brown vs Board of Education Trial Decision in The Defiant Ones, a Film by Stanley Kramer

Topics: America

The Defiant Ones, a 1958 film, was made four years after the Brown vs Board of Education and is what many consider as a response to the decision of this trial. This is not to say that the two pieces share different Views on the matter of racism but instead, The Defiant Ones tend to agree with the decision in most areas. The film was directed by Stanley Cramer and starred both Tony Curtis (playing the role of locker) and Sydney Poitier (playing the role of Cullen).

The movie begins with the two men, Ioker and Cullen, along with several other convicts, in the back ofa cop car. Cullen and Joker are chained together therefore when the car crashes, they embark on a journey as escapees side by side. The beginning of the movie is characterized by the two men making racial and derogatory remarks toward one another, one example being Joker referring to Cullen as “boy”, which has historically been the name given to slaves.

However, throughout the movie they come to the conclusion that they are not so different from each other, leading them to respect and care for one another: After their long journey filled with poor weather, rough terrain and a few wrong turns, the local SheriffMax Muller finally catches the two men In the case ofBrown vs Board of Education Linda Brown, an African American third grader, was deemed to represent a flaw in the “separate but equal“ clause, which dominated American culture for almost a hundred years.

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This clause stated that as long as people of color were given the same infrastructures and rights as whites, then the races could remain separate. This led to very poor living conditions for people of color due to the fact that they had no support and was given the minimum amount of money so that they would meet the separate but equal clause.

For the Brown family, their issue was that their daughter should not have to go to a segregated black school when there was a white school seven blocks away. When she was denied entry to the school, the father, along with other parents who shared the same opinion on the matter, brought the issue to court. The district court ruled in favor of the Board of Education based on the separate but equals clause however; the Supreme Court reviewed the case and decided that this clause was unconstitutional, thus ruling in favor of the African American families. This ruling is what many consider the spark to the Civil Rights Movement that took place in the following decade or so. In watching The Defiant Ones, many parallels can be drawn between the film and the Brown vs Board of Education ruling. Firstly, towards the end ofthe movie, when Cullen and Joker had removed the chain that bonded them together, Joker had the option to start a new life with a nice white countrywoman. They planned to move to the city and throw their past behind them, however when she told Joker that she sent Cullen out into a death trap Joker quickly abandoned her to go save his new friend.

This is similar to the way that the Supreme Court overruled the district court. The Supreme Court sided with the African American family over the predominantly white Board of Education just as Joker decided to help Cullen rather than stay with his new white family Another similarity can be seen in the opening scene when the two men are chained together. I was fairly confused when watching this scene for the first time because I deemed it wrong for a white man to be chained to a black man in this time period. However, upon examining the scene I realized that it served as a connection to the Brown vs Board of education case in the sense that Stanley Cramer was trying to show that whites and blacks belong together.

This is present in the case as the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equals is unconstitutional and that blacks and whites should be using the same facilities. In addition, this movie is widely regarded as one of the first successful crossover films, meaning that it appeals to both the black and white population. This type of production sparked a trend in Hollywood and it might not have been possible without Stanley Cramer. Like Stanley Cramer, Oliver Brown was a leader who sparked a movement, a movement that he believed was very important, and one that might not have taken place without his bravery. It was also very interesting to pay attention to the levels ofpower within the movie and see how this compared to the real world in the 1950‘s. In the movie, cullen, a man who claims he was arrested for protecting himself against a man who pulled a gun on him, is a convict while Captain Frank Gibbons, the State Authority, is the real antagonist in the movie and is free with power.

He constantly wants to release his bloodhounds after the men in hopes that dogs kill them thus confirming his evilness. In the Brown vs Board of Education trial, the social hierarchy is very similar the black students, who may be more deserving ofa closer, better education are denied solely base on their color while there exist some white children who maybe do not deserve those privileges that are taking their spots. Lastly, there was a contradiction that I observed while watching the movie which was the views held by the local and federal authorities. In the film the local authority (Sheriff Max Muller) is more liberal, he wants to bring the men in alive, whereas the federal authority (Captain Frank Gibbons) is more conservative and wants to bring the men in dead or alive. Similarly in the trial, the federal authority (Supreme Court) was clearly more liberal, ruling in favor of the African Americans gaining rights, whereas the local authority (district court) ruled in favour ofthe Board of education.

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A Response to the Brown vs Board of Education Trial Decision in The Defiant Ones, a Film by Stanley Kramer. (2023, Mar 19). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-response-to-the-brown-vs-board-of-education-trial-decision-in-the-defiant-ones-a-film-by-stanley-kramer/

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