Racism and Discrimination In “Remember the Titans” Analysis

Table of Content

Introduction It is apparent to the viewer from the start this movie is about Prejudice, Racism and Discrimination. Set in a traditionally white southern town in 1971, the effects of court ordered integration are coming down hard on the town’s people. The struggles of being black in a white society that is trying to manage the change that integration has forced on them and the struggle of being white in a time of radical change when they are being forced to alter their attitudes and beliefs about blacks are quite evident. Within this larger context however, there are many other social psychology principles and concepts going on (e. . , Self-Concept, False Consensus and Uniqueness Effect, Conformity, Obedience, Evaluation Apprehension, In and Out Groups, Proximity, Collectivism and Conflict). The interactions, experiences and relationships between individual people and groups demonstrate these principles and concepts clearly in many cases. Prejudice will be the first principle this paper will explore because it is front and center in a large part of the movie. Persuasion and Social Identity are the second and third principles present in the movie that will be explored.

The last principle to be examined, Superordinate Goals, however may be the most important one of the movie. It sets up the ‘good feeling ending’ and leaves movie goers with the idea that together we can really conquer what may seem to be insurmountable problems, especially since the movie is based on a true story. Principle #1: Prejudice The Scene: “The New Assistant”- Coach Yoast and Assistant Coach Tyrell are taking several of their white football players, who left practice to join in a race riot, back to their office so they can ‘cool down’.

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When the entire group arrives at the office, Coach Boone is inside waiting for a meeting that was scheduled for him and Coach Yoast. Gerry Bertier and Coach Tyrell are insulting black people while they are walking to the office and continue to disparage black Page 2 of 12Film Analysis Research Project_Nadler. docpeople in front of Coach Boone. Coach Yoast and Coach Boone state that neither of them want to be in this position and don’t like it. They are courteous to each other, but no more than that.

Coach Tyrell on the other hand, continues to insult black people including direct digs at Coach Boone while Coach Boone remains courteous and polite, but does get a few off hand remarks in. The Principle: Myers defines Prejudice as “a negative prejudgment of a group and its individual members” (Meyers, 2007). Prejudice is a general term that can encompass many areas such as race, gender or age. This paper will focus on racial prejudice only. An important distinction about prejudice is that prejudice is an attitude or belief and not an action or behavior.

Discrimination is the action or behavior that stems from prejudicial beliefs and attitudes. The attitude we form from a prejudgment will affect our beliefs, desires to act and feelings toward that person or group. The attitude formed can often result from the formation of stereotypes or can come from subconscious thoughts and it can originate for many different reasons. One reason is a person’s desire for social status and their need to maintain that status once it has been achieved. Research has shown by holding our perception of our social identity high, we feel better and more superior to others (Smith and Tyler, 1977).

Therefore, putting others down will make us feel better. An emotional source of prejudice is frustration in relation to competition. “Those who believe that they have lost wages or jobs because certain groups are willing to work more cheaply have sometimes expressed their frustration through prejudice. ” (“Prejudice and Discrimination”, 2009). If we see someone attain something we desire and have not attained it yet ourselves, we will most likely become frustrated and angry. Our anger may then reveal itself as a negative bias toward that person, a prejudice.

Lastly, prejudice can be learned. The Anti-Defamation League notes that prejudice is learned when children observe Page 3 of 12Film Analysis Research Project_Nadler. doc what the people around them think, do and say (Anti-Defamation League, 2001). This influence may come from the home and family but can also come from almost anywhere the child hears and see things. Application of the Principle: Coach Tyrell’s comments to Coach Boone reveal a deep set and ‘text book’ example of the prejudice Coach Tyrell has against blacks.

He notes several characteristics he associates with all blacks and attributes them to Coach Boone, a classic application of stereotyping. Coach Tyrell’s attitudes and beliefs are engrained in his mind and will continue to direct his actions and behavior most likely for the rest of his life. Research has shown that these attitudes and thoughts can stay with us for very long times (Macrae & others, 1994; Wegner & Erber, 1992). Even though Coach Yoast and Coach Boone are polite to each other, it is obvious they don’t like or trust each other. Here again, a ‘text book’ example of the attitude both of them are portraying on the other.

He is black or white and therefore, I don’t trust him and I don’t want to work with him. Because both of these men are more professional than Coach Tyrell and there are students in the room, they do not act on or voice their prejudice. Gerry is a high school student who has formed many of his opinions and beliefs at this point in his life and prejudice against blacks is an obvious one. His disparaging of blacks at the beginning of the scene, his interactions with Coach Boone and his desire to join a race riot against blacks are just a few examples.

Gerry has not had a lot of interactions with black people previously because of where and how he has grown up so far, so his beliefs and attitudes must have been learned. The FRONTLINE program “A Class Divided” is a wonderful example of how quickly kids can learn prejudice and how much it can affect their behavior as well (FRONTLINE, 1985). Other parts of the movie reveal that the two primary people he probably Page 4 of 12Film Analysis Research Project_Nadler. doc learned his prejudice from are his mother (home and family) and Coach Tyrell (outside the home and family).

Principle #2: Persuasion- The Peripheral Route The Scene: “Lesson from the Dead”- Coach Boone wakes the entire team up at 3 AM one night at training camp and makes them take a long distance back woods run. The run lasts until sunrise and the first hour of light. All the players are extremely tired, sore and out of breath when they finally stop at the edge of a field with gravestones in it. Coach Boone is out in front of the entire team and starts a short monologue by telling them they are standing at the edge of the field where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought.

He continues to tell the team how 50,000 men died right there in front of where the team was standing fighting the same fight they are fighting today. Coach Boone described the battle in detail, with descriptions and adjectives that no doubt formed vivid mental images in the student’s minds. Coach Boone told the team they needed to ban together or they would fail and that they have to like each other, but they have to respect each other and play football like men. The Principle: Persuasion is an attempt to change our existing behaviors, beliefs or attitudes.

It is everywhere from commercials trying to get us to buy something to a friend wanting us to help them out. Meyers states there are two basic types of persuasion- The Central and Peripheral Routes (Meyers, 2007). The Central Route uses logic and objective means to convince someone. The Peripheral Route takes a more round about way by appealing to someone’s emotions and subjective side. If the person we are trying to convince is not a very logical thinker or is too busy to concentrate on a logical train of thought at the moment, the Peripheral Route will be most affective.

Peripheral Route techniques will often use images, stories or anything that may Page 5 of 12Film Analysis Research Project_Nadler. doc trigger a positive emotion in the subject. If we begin to associate a positive feeling with something, we are more likely to accept it, be involved with it or buy it. There are four ingredients that make something successful in persuading a person. They are the communicator, the message, how the message is communicated and what the person trying to be convinced is like. The better each of these are, the better the chances the persuasion will work.

The communicator should be credible and attractive or likeable. “A credible communicator can influence acceptance (persuasion), whereas a non-credible communicator can have the reverse effect, he can cause resistance to the contents of the message. ” (Jamieson, 1985). The message should elicit a positive response in the person being persuaded or point out a negative situation the person would want to avoid. When using fear, it is always good to also provide the solution or the way the person can avoid the situation.

This may prevent them from forming a mental block that this is terrible and there is no way to deal with it. Delivery of the message should be in an environment the person is comfortable in and one that is conducive to the message you are trying to present. Lastly, the message should match the person being persuaded as much as possible. For example, don’t use the Internet or a fancy computer presentation if you are working with an older person who is not tech savvy. Age can be a major factor when choosing what method and tools of persuasion are used.

Even when following the Peripheral Route, it is important to be aware of how the person’s thoughts will react to the message. Hopefully, there will be a favorable reaction, but if you can also get the person to think about the message, it will sink deeper and have a better chance of success. Application of the Principle: Coach Boone is trying to persuade the team to change by letting go of their prejudice, to begin acting like men and to work together as a solid team with a Peripheral Route approach. Coach Boone, as the communicator, has built up his credibility with Page 6 of 12Film Analysis Research Project_Nadler. oc the team. It can be seen that the team respects him as an authority figure because they are following his directions in training completely. The students look up to him because he is also physically fit and an adult. For the message, Coach Boone uses vivid language when describing the Battle of Gettysburg, which makes it easier for the team to create mental images of how gory and bad the battle must have been. He describes the people who lost their lives in the battle as just like members of the team creating an emotional and personal tie between the circumstances of the battle and their lives today.

Lastly, the message creates a fear in the team when they associate the lost lives of the battle with them losing and failing. The solution to the problem is also presented, giving the team a way to see where Coach Boone wants them to go- “If we don’t come together now on this hallowed ground, we will be destroyed too… you will respect each other and maybe play this game like men” (Remember the Titans, 2000). Coach Boone’s delivery of the message comes through in an almost story telling like sequence and setting which catches and keeps the attention of the entire team.

This is a good set up for an emotional/ peripheral appeal. The last element of the persuasion formula is the team. They are very tired and worn down from the long hard run and the entire sequence of events has been a complete surprise to them. These are both factors that make the team more susceptible to being persuaded. Principle #3: Social Identity The Scene: “Bertier and Big Ju”- One afternoon on their way back to the lockers after practice, Gerry Bertier runs into Julius Campbell. They have been instructed to get to know each other or the intensity of the practices will continue to be extremely hard.

Gerry stops and tells Julius he just wants to share the vital statistics about themselves, so they can get the task done and have easier practices. He tells Julius to state his facts, but Julius replies that Gerry doesn’t want to hear what Julius has to say because he is not interested in the truth. The two continue their Page 7 of 12Film Analysis Research Project_Nadler. doc conversation with Julius stating that he is not about to care about anyone but himself because it is apparent none of the white players cares about the black ones because ‘Rev’ never gets any blocking or protection.

Gerry responds by telling Julius he is a big waste of talent because he won’t listen to anyone, not ever the coaches and that his selfish behavior damages the team and hurts Gerry too. Lastly, Julius tells Gerry his leadership as captain is poor and Gerry tells Julius he has a bad attitude. The Principle: A person’s Social Identity comes from the groups they belong to. It is that aspect of a person’s character or self concept that is a result of who we relate to. In simple terms, if I belong to a soccer team, then I may reply when asked who I am, that I am a soccer player.

Social Identities typically make us feel safe and happy, which is why we pursue them. A person will have one self identity (normally) but may have several social identities if they relate, belong and have close ties to more than one social circle. “Different social contexts may trigger an individual to think, feel and act on basis of his personal, family or national level of self” (Turner et al, 1987). The groups a person is associated with and accepted by are known as their in- groups. Once a person has an in-group, they begin to assimilate attitudes, beliefs and behaviors from that group into themselves.

By gaining acceptance into a group, we also give our self esteem a boost. It always feels good to be included and accepted, a major consequence of in- group membership. In-groups will often compare themselves to other groups, out-groups, and gain a sense of gratification from what they perceive as their accomplishments and standing as compared to the out-groups. This quest for positive distinctiveness means that people’s sense of who they are is defined in terms of we rather than I. (Social Identity Theory, 2004) Page 8 of 12Film Analysis Research Project_Nadler. oc Application of the Principle: One of Julius’ social identities in the movie is that of a black kid who cannot trust white people. His in-group, young black students, have probably endured white people criticizing and ignoring them, so they view all white people as useless and all black people as having to do whatever it takes to get by and be successful. Julius finds that to be true here when none of the white players will block for another black player, Rev. He tells Gerry this and gets some comfort or feeling of security by being part of his in group.

At the same time, Gerry is taking comfort in his in group by telling Julius that he is worthless because he won’t be a team player. Gerry imagines all black people are self serving and worthless. This dance of putting each other down continues when Julius tells Gerry he is a lousy captain and Gerry tells Julius he has a bad attitude. This is exactly what we would expect to happen in a situation like this. Each person gains some self esteem and acknowledges his Social Identity by putting the other person down. People strive for positive individuality through their groups (Social Identity Theory, 2004).

Principle #4: Superordinate Goal The Scene: “Trusting the Soul”- At half time of the state championship game, TC Williams is loosing and Coach Boone gives the team his talk in the locker room. In a very sincere manner, he tells the team they have and are doing their very best and even if they loose, they should hold their heads high because they have become men, overcome their differences and worked together like a team should. Julius interrupts Coach Boone to remind Coach Boone that he told them he only wanted perfection.

Julius notes that no one person is perfect, but the team was perfect going into this game with their undefeated season. He tells Coach Boone the team has to and will provide the perfection Coach Boone asked for. Coach Yoast adds that he has learned a lot from the team and their time together about trusting people because of who they are and not what Page 9 of 12Film Analysis Research Project_Nadler. doc they look like. He then looks directly at Coach Boone and asks him for help because the opposing team is kicking his butt. The team goes back out on the field, reorganizes itself and wins the game.

The Principle: Meyers defines Superordinate Goal as “a shared goal that necessitates cooperative effort; a goal that overrides people’s differences from one another. ” (Meyers, 2007). Muzafer Sherif performed a study in 1966 that demonstrated this concept very clearly (Sherif, 1966). He made two groups of boys at a camp mad at each other and both groups then started showing typical hostilities to each other including name calling and fighting. Sherif then told both groups there was a problem with the camp’s water supply and a broken down food delivery truck and that both groups were needed to resolve the issues.

Soon, after working together to solve these problems, the boys became friendly and even decided to ride the same bus home together. A common or shared goal is often enough to break down barriers between people and it encourages them to see each other as just people and not as part of an out group they dislike. Once the common bond is formed the differences between the groups or people become less important and tend to fade away. Application of the Principle: The Superordinate goal that brings the students together is the prospect of wining football games and ultimately the state championship.

If they have a great season, there is more chance for them to succeed after the season and they have always been a great team but not a state champion team. To win the state championship would be an ultimate accomplishment for them. They realize during training camp and through out the season, the only way they will be good enough to win the state championship is to work together as a team and to put their differences aside. This parallels and duplicates the results Sherif had with his Page 10 of 12Film Analysis Research Project_Nadler. doc campers (Sherif, 1966).

A pair of Superordinate goals exist between Coach Boone and Coach Yoast. They don’t like each other and would prefer not to have to work together, but realize along the way, they can help each other get the two things they both want, the state championship as well as having the players mature into men and learn a lesson from their experience. Coach Boone reaches out to Coach Yoast in a couple of other scenes in the movie and in this scene, Coach Yoast crosses the gap by asking Coach Boone directly for his help winning the game in front of the entire team. Conclusion Remembering the Titans” is a very emotional and moving movie. The story, based on a true story, is fraught with psychological principles in almost every character, group and scene. At times, many of the principles are closely intertwined and almost inseparable. Two of the four principles discussed in this paper represent principles that are primary in the movie, Prejudice and Persuasion and two that are more subtle, Social Identity and Superordinate Goal. The movie depicts a scene that is common in the world today, in the past and will most likely be in future social settings- ifferent groups of people with different values and ideals faced with a common problem none of them want to address or may even recognize but have no choice but to solve. It is a breath of fresh air to see the positive results of when people can put their differences aside and become one in a shared goal for the good of all. References “A Class Divided. ” FRONTLINE. PBS. WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, MA. March 26, 1985. Jamieson, G. Harry. Communication and Persuasion. New York: Routledge, 1985. Page 142 Macrae, C. N. , Bodenhause, G. V. , Milne, A. B. , and Jetten, J. Out of Mind but Back in Sight: Stereotypes on the Rebound”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67 (1994); 808-817. Myers, David G. Exploring Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Several pages. “Prejudice and Discrimination. ” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2009. Historica Foundation of Canada. May 10, 2009 . Remember the Titans. Gregory Allen Howard, Writer; Boaz Yakin, Director; Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Technical Black Productions; Denzel Washington, Will Paton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst. 2000. DVD. Walt Disney Pictures, 2000 Sherif, Musafer.

In Common Predicament: Social Psychology of Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966. Smith, Heather J. and Tyler Tom R. “Choosing the Right Pond: The Impact of Group Membership on Self-Esteem and Group-Oriented Behavior”. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Volume 33, Issue 2 (March 1997): Pages 146-170 “Social Identity Theory”. Interpersonal Communication and Relations. September 9, 2004. Universiteit Twente. May 11, 2009 http://www. cw. utwente. nl/theorieenoverzicht/ Theory%20clusters/Interpersonal%20Communication%20and%20Relations/Social_Ident ity_Theory. oc/ Turner, John C. , Michael A. Hogg, Penelope J. Oakes, Stephen D. Reicher and Margaret S. Wetherell. Rediscovering the Social Group: A Self-Categorization Theory. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987. Wegner, D. M. , and Erber, R. “The Hyperaccessibility of Suppressed Thoughts”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63 (1992); 903-912. “What to Tell Your Child About Prejudice and Discrimination. ” Anti-Defamation League. 2001. Anti-Defamation League. May 12, 2009. < http://www. adl. org/what_to_tell/ whattotell_learning. asp>

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