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The Truth About White Supremacy: American History X

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The Truth About White Supremacy: American History X

As a Hispanic, I suppose I should expect or, be prepared, rather, for racism and discrimination. Thankfully, I have not experienced either.. yet. Our world is not perfect; things take place that we rather not know about, but ignoring the problem seems to only make matters worse. The movie American History X, is an admirable attempt to inform us about these types of malicious ignorance that plague our society. The impeccable acting, artistic cinematography, occasional adrenaline-pumping score, and slightly faulted, though award-worthy script, all combine to create an overall exceptional film. American History X should not be immediately dismissed as an archetypal account of a controversial issue, it provides much more than what an audience would expect from a movie of this nature; it is an innovative drama about the unfortunate consequences of racism in a family that is surprisingly yet, frighteningly realistic.

The dynamic that greatly contributes to the efficiency of American History X, is the illustrious acting. Edward Norton flawlessly plays Derek Vinyard, the main character in American History X, who is angered by the murder of his father by two African-American persons who then, therefore, turns to the world of Neo-Nazism searching for comfort toward his father's death and for further justification for the hatred he has towards the murderers. After being released from prison for serving a three-year sentence of manslaughter after brutally murdering two black individuals, Derek comes out a changed man who no longer persecutes blacks and other minority figures for invading and tragically altering the life of "true" Americans. Edward Norton is more than perfect for this role. In his "Believe Me" film review site, Jeffery Huston explains, "With this performance, Norton emerges as one of the very best actors working in film today." Norton's performance was indeed electrifying. One particular scene in the film that shows the phenomenal talent he possesses, is the incident that shows us what his character was incarcerated for. After brutally murdering two black victims, police quickly arrive and begin to place Derek under arrest. Norton shines as his character is being seized; as he sets his hands on his head and slowly turns, he meets eyes with his horrified brother, Danny, who witnessed everything, and triumphantly smirks as the sinister expression in his glistening eyes reveals unsettling satisfaction, then smugly raises his eyebrows as if asking his younger brother if he is impressed. The look in Norton's eyes is so disconcerting and so powerful that one might question whether he's just acting. Not many actors possess the talent to alter the expression of their eyes to suit the emotion they are trying to portray, but Norton does this with ease. Natural talent is invincible. Hutson goes on to say, "[N]orton [. . .] is able to humanize Derek without taking it to a level of empathy. It is a responsible acting effort, one where sympathy is eventually evoked, but not to the extent of absolving responsibility for Derek's actions." It is no lie that the audience slowly begins to understand where Derek is coming from, but agreeing with him is a very rare occurrence. In another intense scene, Norton is seated at the dining room table with his family and Murray, his mother's boyfriend. In this particular flashback, Murray is informing Danny about an incident concerning some black individuals who set off a riot in a neighborhood grocery store. Norton, annoyed by Murray's later lenient justification for these type of incidents, interrupts the conversation, opposing him by arguing intelligently that blacks must have a "racial commitment to crime", and that U.S. citizens are "alleviating the responsibility that [minorities] have for their own actions" trying to excuse whatever it is they do with a "it's not crime, it's poverty" attitude. The discussion soon becomes heated, and abruptly becomes physical as Norton tries to force his sister, Davina, to sit down once she attempts to excuse herself, by pulling her back by her hair and aggressively thrusts a piece of roast beef into her mouth, forcefully telling her that she needs to "learn some manners". After much struggle, Davina breaks free. Norton's hostility is then directed towards Murray as he aggregately rips off his button-up shirt, looks him in the eye and curls his left lip upward to form an ominous, mock-threatened smirk. He vulgarly emphasizes that Murray has no right to enter their household and act like a part of their family, then accordingly lowers the neck of his muscle shirt to reveal the infamous, largely tattooed swastika on his chest and assertively declares, "You see this? It means NOT WELCOME!" Norton's performance greatly contributes to the immaculate portrayal of Derek as an intelligent man blinded by the discriminatory rage that resulted from his father's death in American History X. Without him, Derek Vinyard would have been left better as a thought. In his San Francisco Chronicle review, Mick LaSalle sort of parallels Huston's comment by stating, "Even in the grip of passion, [Norton] acts as though he's a reasonable guy, leading from his head." This observation is quite true about Norton's reasoning. Norton is not just any other skinhead who discriminates against minorities for insufficient reasons; he despises them, fairly justifies for why he does so, and takes himself and the "white movement" very seriously.

Edward Furlong commendably plays Danny Vinyard, Derek's younger, impressionable brother. Danny idolizes his older brother, and strives to become the legend Derek is in their white supremacist gang. At the beginning, we are introduced to Danny, warning his brother of the black thieves in a flashback, but we do not really begin to get to know him until the movie returns to the present. He is in the principal's office, being reprimanded for writing a Mein Kampf paper for his history class. As a result, his principal, Bob Sweeny, assigns him a new paper that he is to write on the events leading to Derek's incarceration, and the impact it and the Neo-Nazi life has had on he and his family. Danny's paper is used as narration throughout the movie. Edward Furlong's performance gives us the ability to see Danny as a good kid, who unfortunately, is easily influenced by the life his brother leads. Huston states, "Furlong delivers a sad, poignant performance of a young impressionable kid caught in racism's crossfire." I agree with Huston; Furlong does a remarkable job in portraying Danny Vinyard by bringing him to



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