Film Assignment Essay
For this assignment, I chose the 1996 movie “A Time to Kill” is applying Carl Roger’s Model of Argument. The film is based on the novel of the same title by John Grisham that tells the story of finding justice amidst the racial bigotry of the South. It is the story about a black man, Carl Lee Hailey, who killed the men who raped and mauled his 10-year old daughter Tonya and is looking at a death sentence should he be found guilty of murder in court in a town where racial prejudice continues to abound.
It is through the efforts of his defense lawyer, Jake Brigance that Carl Lee was acquitted and released (McConnnaghuey and Jackson 1996). At first glance, a debate is very likely to ensue. Some would say Carl Lee is guilty because he broke the law by murdering the suspects. The latter had been arrested and should have been given their day in court and let the law take its course. They believe that revenge was Carl Lee’s motive for taking matters in his own hands and that the death penalty is appropriate because of what he did, consistent to the adage, “the punishment must fit the crime.
” Legally, Carl Lee is indeed guilty and the jury appears to be leaning towards that decision. However, looking at it from the other side, there are others, as personified by Jake, who believe Carl Lee did the right thing though it was very drastic. While it may be true that Carl Lee was legally guilty, this does not immediately mean he is morally wrong. In the latter part of the film, Jake won the case because he was able to find common ground, not only with the jury, but also to the audience.
He took their attention away from Carl Lee and his act and instead focused it somewhere else on the actual victim Tonya. Jake did this by taking everyone on a “journey” inside Carl Lee’s mind, putting themselves in his place, retracing his road to perdition on the day his daughter came to him battered and bleeding to the time he killed the suspects. He closed the “journey” by telling the jury to now “imagine she were white.
” This is the common ground Jake successfully established. The “secret” behind it was Jake is able to make the jury shed off any racial bias they may have by getting them to empathize with Carl Lee. The result was instead of looking at a black man seeking redress for the attack on his daughter, but just a father who is merely looking out for his daughter. It can be inferred that everyone on the jury would have done the same thing if the victim had been their own child.
They also know how biased the justice system is in town and that black people never get a fair trial but in this case, Jake succeeded in making them see it from a different perspective. It is certain that everyone knows justice is not always found in the courtroom, especially in this town and there are times when doing the right thing means breaking the law because the law is not perfect as it is administered by a racially prejudiced society. What was substituted here is a deeper sense of justice that is common to all, rooted in religious beliefs.
In other words, people like Carl Lee are guided by their personal morals that are very fundamental where it becomes easy to discern right from wrong. All in all, the film shows a demonstration on how the Rogerian Model is applied as “common ground” was established with the audience by the performers in the film through the use of empathy to establish this common ground. Bibliography A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Performed by Matthew McConnnaghuey and Samuel L. Jackson. 1996.
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