Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Movie 12 Angry Men: Where's Rush Limbaugh?



I watched 12 Angry Men on Turner Classic Movies with my son night before last, the 1957 film directed by Sidney Lumet. It's one of those films that reminds you that black and white with no car chases and provocative dialogue can be more riveting that today's special effects-driven blockbusters.

So much of it reminded me of the flow of some political Internet conversations that I said, "The more things change, the more they stay the same, except now some of the most offensive men have talk shows and with blogs and social media the discourse expands." Unfortunately, there's often no one playing Henry Fonda's character.

Henry Fonda, who also produced the film, plays the voice of reason, Juror #8. He is the lone dissenter who's insulted and called a "bleeding heart liberal," an insult he never addresses, but he doesn't back down. He's an architect who wants the men to talk over the case and not rush to judgment. At the end of the movie we find out his name is Davis.

In the clip above, Juror #10 (Ed Begley) reveals more of his prejudice against the ethnic group of the man on trial for stabbing his father. He makes racist statements you can read any day in comments on crime at the Times Picayune website. He voices the same opinions earlier more than once, but the climax of his views that offend others is captured in the embedded clip. The majority of the other jurors stand up and turn their backs to him as he continues his rant. It would be great if people did that in real life, but more often than not, they don't. They just look on uncomfortably or, in the case of some pundits, they watch and increase their ratings, giving them more money and power.

Lee J. Cobb plays Juror #3, a man that makes me think of Rush Limbaugh. He holds out on changing his mind and much of what drives his opinions, his firm belief that he is right, and the need to force his views on others relates to an emotional wound that he needs to address and his political views about "liberals." He's taken the specific and made it general.

The character spends much of the film asking others to repeat themselves, to explain again why certain arguments are not valid. He drove my son a little batty. You'd think Juror #3 was deaf, blind, and stupid as he asks again, even after logical explanations have been provided and court evidence has been debunked, "How do you know?" The difference between Limbaugh and Juror #3 is that Juror #3 can change his mind and recognize he's being unfair, and when Juror #10 goes on his racist rant, he turns his back with the others. Limbaugh would probably be the one delivering the racist rant.

If you could mash Juror #3 and Juror #10 together and never let them change their minds, you'd have Rush Limbaugh today. The man is mentally unstable, which is why I didn't even write about his saying that Oprah and President Barack Obama are only successful because they're black.

No comments: