Mississippi Burning: Reaction paper

The 1988 film tells a fictionalization version of the investigation into the real-life murder of civil rights workers in

Mississippi in 1964. The film focuses on the two fictional FBI investigators who go to Mississippi to investigate the murders. The FBI agents are portrayed as heroes who descend into this injustice in the hundreds, however in reality the real FBI agents and the justice department reluctantly protected the Civil Rights workers and the protestors reportedly witnessed the beatings without interfering.

Mississippi Burning claims to highlight the injustice of southern society in 1964. The FBI agents are given the job to investigate the disappearance from a Mississippi town. It is made as a point of fact that two of the men were white. The FBI agents, one a former by-the-book Yankee determined never to violate the rights of the interrogated, the other agent, is a local man who has been tainted by the South. He is a streetwise complex character who believes that to handle “Scum.” You must sink to “Gutter level.”

At first glance the audience recognizes these characters bringing out the old buddy-buddy film formula however, the film expands this cinematic cliché by becoming an ideological statement. Mississippi Burning brings out the resistance of a Southern community to change from an old way of thinking at a time when anti-liberal values of a small town in America still seem right when the Supreme Court is chipping away at the achievements of the 1960’s. The films message is that all these battles have to be fought again and much harder than before at any cost for the lives of the men who were unjustly killed.

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The film like “Birth a Nation,” is stereotypical is historically inaccurate. Black men in “Birth A Nation,” are portrayed as shiftless, lazy, rapist, criminals whereas the black men in Mississippi Burning are seen as only mute victims. Southerners are portrayed as red-necked, ignorant, racists who are all members of the KLAN.

The Klan is doing the church burnings, cross burnings, lynching and murders of the three activists however, everyone does not want to speak up because of fear of retribution from the KLAN and the mutual bigotry that is rampant in town. The KLAN is a major terrorist force that keeps the people in town quiet. The investigators become the embodiment of the conflict, which is the essence of the film. A diner scene where the investigators enters an obvious segregated diner question a black kid who was brutally beaten up the KLAN. Another is when the investigators visit the Deputy’s wife in the hospital where it is found the KLAN beat her because she helped the FBI agents.

The investigators end their personal differences to come together as a force at the end of the film to resolve the central problem. Anderson hires someone to get out important crucial information from the Mayor of the town with threats of castration. The FBI agents create a mock execution to frighten the criminals into revealing the truth by chasing the deputy with a razor blade. The crime is resolved with all the rednecks, the deputy and their co-conspirators sent to jail. The FBI agents leave with a mutual understanding, which shows the strength of the film. There isn’t a sense that racism has been abolished and seems instead to be left with a sense of shifting despair and hope.

-Works Sited-

Mississippi Burning. Directed by Alan Parker, written by Chris

Gerolmo, Crime Drama, 1988














































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