Monday, April 9, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird Celebrates 50 Years!

Last year I celebrated West Side Story's triumphant 50th anniversary, and now this year it's To Kill a Mockingbird's turn.  In recent weeks this film has become more and more salient.  People assume that temperament like this racist ideology in this film is gone, or decreased.  While things do not happen exactly like they did in this film, there are still numerous issues.

The recent death of Treyvon Martin proves there are still many people who racially profile based on appearance.  Then after this young boys death you have people on FOX news like Geraldo Rivera spouting off statements like young teenage Black and Latino boys should not wear hoodies, and the network citing that no one talks about black on black crime.  I have worn a hoodie at work everyday since this has happened.

This type of dialogue is not only happening within the context of real life situations, but within the world fandom and popular culture.  When the The Hunger Games was released 3 weeks ago CNN reported that many fans were outraged that Rue and Cinna were both played by black actors (Amadla Stenberg and Lenny Kravitz).  People will always complain about casting, but I have never heard such negative remarks about casting associated with race, here were some of the tweets:

"why does rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie"
"EWW rue is black?? I'm not watching"
"Sense (sic) when has Rue been a n****r"
One person complained that their picture of Rue as a blonde haired blue eyed girl ruined was ruined by the films.  In the books Rue is described as dark skinned, with dark hair, did this person even read the book?
To Kill a Mockingbird is told from the point of view of Scout the daughter of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression era south.  Atticus Finch is one of the most heroic men in the history of film and literature.  In a time when racial issues were slowly intensifying this man stood up for someone who was different, and helped tried to save him from false rape charges from a white woman.  Atticus is a good man and a good father he wants to show he children how to stand up for something you believe a midst the pressure of societal discrimination.
Atticus is the epitome of the everyday man fighting for injustice, and Gregory Peck does a flawless job in this role.  Peck was one the best actors of his generation, and it feels as though with such natural acting abilities he was born to play this role.  Peck beat out some heavy hitters to win the Best Actor trophy at the Academy Awards for this role role, including Peter O'Toole for Lawrence of Arabia.  The film itself was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, and Best Director.  This was also the film that introduced the world to another great actor, Robert DuVall who played Boo Radley.  This film made a difference in people's lives and it made a difference in the film industry.
To Kill a Mockingbird represents a trend that took off in Hollywood, the white crusade for the black cause. Some people have issues with this because they feel as though this takes away the genuine voice from the person who is struggling.  This has been a contentious issue even up until this past year with the film The Help.  The Help centered around a white female writer working to tell the story of the black maid is Mississippi.  While I understand the pros and cons to this style of story telling these two films have something in common, morality.  The two films center around characters who regardless of their race are standing up to fight for what is right.
Harper Lee wrote the novel the film is based on, and she herself is represented in the character Scout (her best friend in the film is said to be a young Truman Capote).  I remember being in 7th and my literature teacher told me specifically that it was a requirement I read this book.  I could not put it down, and since then this has been one of my favorite books, and also one of my favorite films of all time. I made my sister sit and watch this movie with me when she was younger in hoping she would love the film, and live the message; she always talks about this memory, and about how much she loves this film.  The message from my teacher Mrs. Black, and the book itself is one of standing up for injustice in the world.  Mockingbird helped me to be the person I am today someone who stands up for what they believe in, and that works be a little bit more like Atticus everyday.

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