The Movie American History X
Sociology and the ways it affects humanity can be held as a positive or a negative - The Movie American History X introduction. Racial tensions among people exist and are demonstrated in all kinds of ways and in varying degrees. The views of some can be very influential to those without purpose or cause. Tragic events can spur a type of behavior or thought process that is skewed by ones pain or anger. These are just a few areas of what the movie American History X touches on. The primary sociological behavior displayed in this movie is deviance, which is defined as an individual going against the norms of society.
Norms are a standard to a particular society or group as displayed here with race. The father in this movie, Dennis Vineyard, was a firefighter who worked for his community and while putting out a fire was killed by African American drug dealers. While raising his children, he instilled his thoughts, beliefs and opinions of different races, holding a certain perspective about a group of people that he described as a parasite. He believed that a type of society driven rule that is to allow for a fair balance to a societies imperfections known as Affirmative Action, causes a deviant yet nonviolent view of black society.
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A conversation at the dinner table that leads to an outcome of disgust, anger and even fear due to the nature of an open minded being. The lack of life’s experiences can sometimes form a mind to accept many interpretations and can lead to a sense of brainwashing. Then the turning point in where you have a young man, Derek Vinyard, is stricken a blow in life by the loss of his father, mentor and care giver. The story unfolds from there where you have a deviant behavior of feeling, a disgust for another race, to implementing and acting out violent acts of those thoughts.
This all begins with Derek’s angry interview to the local news station about his fathers death. The thought process of why such a tragedy has happened causes Derek to put blame on what he refers to as a sociological disease. This in turn has Derek stray from the conforming to the rebellious attitude as described by the Social Strain Theory. Every individual does not have the same opportunities as others do. Some families live in poverty, in which they have a poor education.
This separation between goals and not having the opportunities to achieve that goal creates a strain on the individual, in which they strive to achieve the goal at any cost. Derek’s goal is explained in his speech to his skinhead clan that they are here to show the Government they are fed up with being treated as criminals while minorities are treated to jobs and welfare checks. This is caused by the removal of positive stimuli and replaced with negative stimuli. Due to the negative stimuli, anger is brought about and crime is the chosen solution.
Deviant groups seek out loners and invite them to join, in which the individual feels like they belong to something. When Derek’s father is murdered this causes the removal of positive stimuli, which then is followed by the sense of loneliness and results in anomie, a sociological term referring to uncertainty due to the lack of moral norms and can lead to deviant behavior. Derek’s aspirations are no longer limited to the social restraints as social order and morality have weakened.
The movie American History X is a portrayal of one of the most vile and disgusting views of race relations not only in the United States but in the World. Views of people that hold beliefs different from that of White America is thought to be a plague. A disease that needs to be stopped sometimes by the use of force or aggression. This story is started by a death which sparked an individual to a less promising and very deviant nature only to end with a wakening of truth and compassion for those around him.
A man repenting for his actions, having learned the error of his ways, suffering as his headstrong brother is following in his footsteps. After Derek loses his father, he turns to a father figure, a writer of white power literature and hate columns named Cameron Alexander. Cameron worsens Derek’s thoughts as he instills more and more hate in him. He soon has Derek doing all the dirty work while he uses him like a puppet. Derek indoctrinates Cameron’s thoughts onto other young naive deviants who are still trying to learn the ways themselves. Derek quickly becomes the head of a group called the D. O. C. During a break-in to his car, Derek ended up murdering two young black men and was sentenced to prison. While there, Derek learns that his thoughts were simple minded and he learns to open his mind to another way of living. While in prison, Derek is surrounded by all those he despises and quickly notices that he is now the minority. He later finds himself somewhat fortunate as there are a group of people that fits his persona and racist code. Enter conformity, Derek must now conform to a new society of deviants of all races and those he thought were allies now finds as the enemy.
In prison Derek learns to assume responsibility of his actions and anticipating the consequences by finding peace with a black inmate and a former teacher. This new conformity ties in with The Control Theory which leads some to social control by the simple thought of a family’s reactions or loss, to that of incarceration or even death. Derek’s absence from his role in his family due to his father’s death leads his lost brother down a path of similar destruction. When he is finally released Derek tries to piece back together the family he left behind.
He implores his brother to change his ways now before it is to late. He tries persuading his brother by using techniques displayed by Control Theory: attachment, providing a bond and encouragement to support his family; opportunity, by explaining that his former teacher is there to help and guide him through school to have a positive future; and finally Derek’s accepting his involvement and strong moral beliefs that as in prison he understands that without hate as baggage life can be a much more pleasant place.
I believe this movie shows a good depiction of how evil can turn to good and how people can change. Although he was brought up to believe that all people of different nationalities are bad, he was able to see the good in people in the end, and was trying to turn his brother in the right direction too. It was sad that the movie had to end so badly as a result of his actions in the beginning.