Invoking Empathy in the Viewer

In the 1996 film A Time to Kill, there are many instances in which the viewer may find themselves having strong emotional reactions. One time in particular is during the rape of a ten year old black girl, Tonya, by two white men. During this scene, fairly early on in the film, the viewer is taken into Tonya’s perspective and it is as if we are all Tonya during that horrid time. We see the two mens’ faces as if they were looking down on us and we see Tonya’s tied up limbs as if they were our own. This scene invokes a strong sense of empathy in the viewer and in turn may cause the viewer to become personally invested in making sure Tonya receives the justice she deserves.

It was important to put viewers in Tonya’s shoes during the attack to develop a strong antagonist in the film. After viewing Tonya’s attack from her perspective, it would be extremely difficult to wish these two men well and hope that they get away with what they did to poor Tonya; instead, most viewers would wish for justice and hope the men will be punished for their actions. The only drastic difference between viewers would be the punishment each individual finds appropriate for the men. This could range from a slap on the wrist to a death sentence, but some form of punishment is required for a satisfied viewer.

The invocation of empathy in this scene is real and it comes with other emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sadness. When it comes time for the two men face the consequences of their actions in a court of law, Tonya’s father Carl Lee Hailey takes justice into his own hands and shoots the two men down right there in the courthouse. For some viewers, this was the appropriate punishment and this scene satisfied their craving for justice. For others, this was too extreme of a punishment and Carl Lee became somewhat of an antagonist in the film. As far as the intentions of the film go, I believe Carl Lee is actually meant to be portrayed as the protagonist and hero of the film, which thickens the plot and makes the viewer question their ideas of what is right and what is wrong. The invocation of empathy during Tonya’s attack is purposeful and makes the viewer ask themselves the question “what would I want to happen to those men if they did that to me?”.

Personally, I was deeply satisfied as a viewer when Carl Lee Hailey was found not guilty for his actions. Something the film did not make clear was Tonya’s reaction to this decision. I can only assume that she was happy to have her father, her protector, home and not dead or in jail, but maybe she felt responsible, even guilty, for the two men whose lives were taken. This question is in my head because the film invoked real empathy in me during Tonya’s attack and caused me to stay in her shoes throughout the film and thereafter. Seeing her attack from the perspective of the two men who raped her would have invoked strong emotions as well, but it would have been harder to empathize with Tonya. It was critical for this scene to be from the victim’s perspective.

Works Cited

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Warner Bros., 1996. Web(Blackboard). 18 Sept. 2016.

Blog Post 3- Empathy, Real or Apparent

Carl Lee is a fascinating character in A Time to Kill. While he does some very cringeworthy things like demanding money from the church and of course killing the two men who raped Tonya, Carl Lee is still able to get Jake Brigance and other people to empathize with him. This is seen first when Carl Lee is initially able to convince Jake Brigance to be the attorney for his trial. On top of that, while he does not have nearly enough money to properly pay Brigance, Jake still understands the situation he is in and accepts the case despite not being paid well for it. The most significant case of Carl Lee getting Jake Brigance to empathize with him occurs after he seemingly blows the case open by exclaiming that the men that raped Tonya should “burn in hell” (TK). This claim brought up the obvious argument that killing people is worse than raping someone so Lee is essentially bringing conviction and likely death upon himself. However, the night before closing statements, Carl Lee is able to convince Jake to help him out while also making the audience empathize with him.

When Carl Lee met up with Jake Brigance the night before the closing speeches, he tells Jake that he has the capability to look at Carl Lee like the jurors have the capability to look at him since they are mostly white fathers like Brigance is. As much as this may be a good point for the case, it inherently makes the audience feel bad for Carl Lee. Because the audience knows that Carl Lee thinks the only way to win the case is for him to realize that Brigance is on the ‘bad side’ despite working on this case for days upon days with him, the audience has to feel for him. While is impossible for the some members in the audience to have experienced this problem, everyone is able to completely understand what is going on in Lee’s mind. Because Lee’s situation allows for people to connect with Carl Lee and Tonya’s experience. Lee knows that no matter what he does, white people will always view him as different. Once Jake Brigance is able to internalize this statement from Carl Lee, he shows Carl Lee and the audience that he empathizes with Carl Lee and his story through his closing statement. Not only Tonya’s story get Jake to empathize with Carl Lee but also Brigance was able to relay the story to the jury and get them to empathize with the jury. As seen by the tears shed by the members of the jury, the empathy felt by the characters in the movie was very real. Transitively speaking, Carl Lee’s plea to Jake to set him free by relating with the members of the jury leads to the most powerful moment of the case that does a complete 180 from guilty to not guilty. The fact that Carl Lee does some pretty unspeakable things makes it all the more impressive that he can ultimately set himself free of charge of the charge for murder. This shows the extreme power that empathy can have in altering people’s mindsets and even redetermining ruling in legal cases.

Works Cited: A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher, performances by Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, and Samuel L. Jackson, Regency Enterprises, Warner Bros., 1996.

Blog Assignment 3

Throughout the film A Time to Kill empathy is invoked through the trial of Carl Lee. However, I will zone in on the prison scene which takes place after Jake, Carl Lee’s attorney, realizes that he cannot come up with a closing statement that will acquit Carl Lee for the murder of the two boys who raped his 10-year daughter. In this scene Carl Lee’s character invokes empathy in Jake as well as the audience by depicting the challenges a black man faces in the South. This is an eye opening scene because throughout the film we are led to believe that Jake has been empathizing with Carl Lee, whereas Carl Lee points out that Jake does not fully understand how difficult it is for a black man living in the south in the late 80s and therefore has not begun to empathize with him. And it follows that to be able to empathize one needs to understand the feelings of another. We see this when Carl Lee states that, “You see Jake, you think just like them. That’s why I picked you… when you look at me you don’t see a man, you see a BLACK man” (TK).

Understanding of one’s feelings is arguably one of the most salient characteristics of empathy. In this scene Carl Lee invokes empathy in Jake because he tries to make him understand that it takes more than just representing a black man and talking about race on television to fully comprehend the difficult circumstances that they face in society (TK). Carl Lee effectively invokes empathy in Jake through a comparison of their similarities and differences, for instance they both have daughters of roughly the same age yet they will never get to play together (TK). Carl Lee’s speech is particularly effective because Jake starts off by referring to the jury as “they” and how “they need to relate to the defendant”. Then Carl Lee clearly points out to Jake that he is also one of “them” no matter how much he does not want to identify with them he has the privileges they have and consequently to some degree he shares their mindset. This clarification then helps Jake fully understand what Carl Lee is going through, enabling him to empathize with Carl Lee and ultimately helping him win the case.

Furthermore, this scene invokes apparent empathy in the audience. In this scene Carl Lee discusses the ills of the American society at the time. This aids in making the audience have a full picture of the extent of the challenge Carl Lee was faced with, a (fair) trial for a black man in the south. This is illustrated in the beginning of the scene when Carl Lee suggests that if it was Jake on trial things would have been a lot different and Jake clearly states that it isn’t him on trial and that they are different (TK). This makes the audience consider the extent of the role Carl Lee’s race played in his trial, invoking empathy because race should not be playing any role in justice. Carl Lee states, “How a black man ever going to get a fair trial with the enemy on the bench and the jury box. My life in white hands”. Carl Lee successfully depicts the idea of a divide in society, the idea of “us” and “them”, as well as how one side is favored over the other. This invokes empathy in the audience as well as invoking some form of annoyance or irritation in the audience because of the prejudices at the time. This scene also makes the audience reflect on the idea of justice and right and wrong. One is made to consider whether or not the context of Carl Lee’s actions makes what he did right.

Work Cited
A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson and Sandra Bullock. Warner Bros, 1996. Web. 18 Sept. 2016

Blog 3: Empathy in TK

One of the most apparent, and yet one of the most insignificant in our discussions thus far, themes in the film A Time to Kill is the racism in the surrounding community. The most famous scenes involve the racism evident in the courtroom, however, the racism outside plays a key role in invoking empathy in the viewers.

The people of the town are divided very cleanly and obviously: the whites, most of whom bonded together with the remaining Ku Klux Klan members; and the blacks, who united to fight for Carl Lee’s freedom and innocence. While the blacks staged a peaceful protest outside the courtroom, the Klan made many attempts at threatening Jake Brigance’s life. They burn a cross outside of his house with his family inside, they attempt to set off a bomb near his house, they threaten a woman he works with and her husband, they actually burn his house down, and they kidnap and leave Ellen Roark for dead. Before the verdict, they were hostile with the Carl Lee supporters and caused a huge riot, resulting in the entire town being shaken up. All of the events collectively and individually brought out empathy in the viewers for both Jake and Carl Lee. Jake himself, rather, grew stronger and more determined the more attacks he faced.

The empathy here is not always very noticeable, since this very important theme of the movie sometimes is left unmentioned. The KKK is modeled to reflect the true pressures of society- to keep the standards and ideas of race as they always have been: unequal. They attack anything and everything they can in order to get to Jake, in the hopes that the threats on things he cares about would persuade him to drop the case. They are constantly working in the shadows or in public light to encourage the racism in the town and sway people to oppose Carl Lee. They parallel all the other pressures on the townspeople. When they set the burning cross outside Jake’s house, his wife pleads for him to quit the case, as she continues to while she is present throughout the movie. After his house is burned down completely, Jake’s friend and partner Harry encourages him to walk away. Jake is constantly facing opposition because of his role as the attorney in the case, but he continues to stand strong and stick by his belief that Carl Lee deserves justice. His personality strongly resembles that of Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird. Even when he stands against the entire town, including the jury, he still holds true to his ethical standards and defends Tom Robinson to the best of his ability until the very end. Although the case had a different result than in A Time to Kill, the common theme is holding strong beliefs and doing the right thing, even if society opposes you.

The use of this extreme racism in the movie draws the audience closer to Jake and Carl Lee to invoke empathy in the viewers. We tend to relate more with the underdogs, or the good guys who seem to have no chance of winning. It’s in our nature to empathize with those who fail, those who are opposed, those who succeed in the end. We beg and hope and pray for them to make it out alive, for a miracle that conveniently solves all their problems, for a minor character to make a powerful speech that changes everything. So when all of the odds are stacked against Jake and Carl Lee, when they are beat upon and threatened and attacked so much, the audience empathizes with them and silently wishes for a twist that would set them both free and start a change in their society’s views of race.

Works Cited:

A Time To Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher, performances by Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, and Kevin Spacey, Warner Bros., 1996.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. By Horton Foote. Perf. Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Phillip Alford. Universal-International, 1962.

Blog Assignment 3: Empathy, Real or Apparent

Within five minutes, the film A Time to Kill has framed the severity of racism during the 1980’s. Filmmakers uncover how some white Americans would leave with twisted contentment after roaming recklessly within the territory of defenseless African Americans, ripping them away from their property, personal value, and dignity. A girl is brutally treated, and two men who beat her drives away in laughers. While showing the occurrence of the tragic, filmmakers adeptly invokes the audience’s real cognitive and emotional empathy.

The intro of the film is valuable to the film in terms that it immediately grabs the audience’s attention, shows the two opposing standpoints, and describes a brutal tradition in the South during the 1980’s.  In order to gear the audience’s empathy towards the African Americans, filmmakers present various conflicts between the two White intruders and the African American community, with the African Americans quietly bears all of the disrespect and the two White men getting more tyrannical each conflict.  The filmmakers also purposely ignore mentioning the names of the men to keep them under-distinguished, while Tonya well characterized, to enable the viewers to be more readily sympathize with Tonya.

First, we see two boorish young men yells into a peaceful African American neighborhood and disturbs it as if it is an abandoned playground. They throw beer bottles at random strangers, spits at them, and makes a mess in their convenient stores. This leaves the audience in disgust of the two white Americans and pity for the African Americans who didn’t even lift a finger to defend themselves. Which gears the audience’s favor towards the African American community right away, and serve as a stepping stone for the audience’s elevated sympathetic response for the ten years old Tonya’s tragic.

Due to the constant foreshadow, the viewer’s heart starts to clench when Tonya walks in the woods with her groceries, alone. As she makes a kind gesture of stepping to the side to allow the car of the two White men to pass by. The viewers are likely to distinguish her as a kind yet vulnerable individual and desires to protect her from the two nameless White men coming up right behind. Within expectation, not a minute have passed when Tonya’s heart-piercing scream fills up the audience’s ears. Not only the filmmakers push the event to occur in a sudden, the event also takes the perspective of the young Tonya. The viewers are to observe exactly what thrusts into Tonya’s fearful eyes. The cam shakes, details such as the rustling rope, stiff fingertips, and cries for daddy places the viewer in physical and emotional sync with Tonya, wishing to be the daddy she’s crying for, resist with Tonya and take her away from the torture hurriedly. Soon, Tonya fell silent, the audiences can only hear her being dragged across the dirt. “What happened? Is she still alive?” Not being able to see Tonya’s face throughout the scene allows the views to exercise their imagination to maximum capacity, inserting their own face and pain to fulfill the image for Tonya. Thus taking Tonya’s perspective and peril personally.

Tonya’s tragic not only play the role of setting initiative for the future plots, it also remains behind the viewer’s thoughts throughout the rest of the movie desiring justice to be served for Tonya. It can be said that the viewer’s empathy with Tonya is not only real but also sets the cornerstone for all future empathetic responses that viewers will fell for the discrimination experiences that African Americans carry, while justifying internally for any resistances that African Americans enact.

Works Cited:

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Oliver Platt. 1996. DVD.



Blog Assignment 3: Empathy, Real or Apparent

A Time to Kill is focused on the actions of Carl Lee Hailey in response to the rape of his daughter. The movie begins with two men raping Carl Lee’s ten year old daughter. Carl Lee then killed the two men and injured a police officer, putting him on trial for murder. The movie then follows the trial of Carl Lee and the life of his lawyer, Jake Brigance. This movie was filmed in a way to invoke empathy in the audience. The portrayal of the characters leads to an empathic response. This movie also had a character, Jake Brigance, try to invoke empathy in other characters, the jury.

This movie began with a young black girl picking up groceries for her family. It then showed two white, racist men, destroying the store and driving around in a truck with a confederate flag. As the girl, Tonya, walked home the movie showed the two men beat and rape her. This first scene showed what a terrible thing that Tonya had been through. It was meant to create an initial feeling of empathy in the audience. If that scene had not been depicted and the movie had just started with Carl Lee killing the two men due to her rape, the reality of what had happened to Tonya would not have been as jarring as it was actually seeing it happen. This scene was meant to create a strong feeling of empathy in the audience for Tonya and her family.

This movie depicts Carl Lee not as a murderer, but as a father. He killed those men because of what they did to his daughter. The audience saw what Carl Lee saw and this allowed them to identify with him. It showed how much rage Carl Lee felt that lead him to kill those two men. A Time to Kill was specifically filmed this way so that an emotional response would be evoked. This was a real invocation of empathy because the audience has seen all of what has happened. Nothing was skipped, no parts were glossed over. Most people (likely all people) would feel empathy for a rape victim.

A Time to Kill also used Jake Brigance to invoke empathy in the jury. Throughout the movie the jury had taken illegal “votes” to see where they were at in deciding Carl Lee’s case. At the last “vote” before the real vote, every single person voted to convict Carl Lee. However, after they heard Jake’s closing argument, they switched to vote to acquit. Jake’s argument invoked a feeling of empathy that they had not previously had. He had them close their eyes and listen to exactly what had happened to her. He had the jury in tears. He was able to invoke an emotional response from the jury that they had not previously had because they were now seeing why Carl Lee did what he did. This feeling was real empathy because the jury finally heard what really happened to Tonya. This movie managed to invoke empathy in both the audience and the jury in a very real, very intense form.

Works Cited:

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson. Warner Bros., 1996. Film.                          

Blog Post 3: Empathy, Real or Apparent

The film A Time To Kill relied greatly on the invocation of emotions in both the viewer and the movie characters. There are various scenes throughout the movie that rely greatly on the emotional pleas of the characters trying to create empathy in the viewers or the other characters in the movie. One could argue that the most important of these scenes is in the first few minutes of the movie. The graphic depiction of the rape, kidnapping, and assault of Tonya Hailey was shown to evoke empathy in the viewer of the film.

The brutal attack of this innocent young girl is disturbing to the viewers, as it is intended. There is a lot of difference between explaining a situation in words, and explaining it through a visual depiction. The directors of the film could have easily left out this scene and instead had one of the characters explain it. However, even if the character explaining it used graphic language, it still would not have had the same impact on the viewership. The viewers see the assault and feel empathy for Tonya and Carl Lee because they see the assault from Tonya’s perspective and feel the protective instincts that Carl Lee feels. People should feel upset that this innocent young girl was so brutally assaulted by these men. They should feel like maybe Carl Lee was justified in his actions.

The depiction of this assault in some ways clouds the definitive nature of the verdict in the eyes of the viewer. If the assault were not shown and merely described or assumed, then the filmmakers run the risk of the viewers not feeling empathy for Carl Lee and thus not understanding the point that the film was trying to make. It is an undeniable fact that Carl Lee did murder the two men who attacked his daughter. It is also apparent that the murders were pre-meditated and that Carl Lee was not insane when he committed the crime. With this information alone, the viewers might call out Carl Lee as guilty.

The empathy that this scene creates is real empathy. The viewer sees the depiction of such a brutal act carried out against a little girl, one of societies most innocent players. While this is something that a majority of the viewership has never experienced, they experience “empathic arousal” (Hoffman, 232). The empathic arousal that viewers experience is “perspective taking” (Hoffman, 233). While Hoffman describes perspective taking as putting oneself into the perspective of another and creating “mental images that evoke the same feeling in oneself” (Hoffman, 233), the viewer’s don’t have to imagine because the cinematography of the film puts the viewer in Tonya’s place. With feeling the empathy and anger from seeing the attack on Tonya the viewer also gains empathy for Carl Lee for wanting to protect his helpless daughter.

This movie examines a subject that is unfortunately not totally irrelevant to our society. Unfortunately our justice system is still not a perfect in allocating fair justice to all members of our society. Even though A Time To Kill is set in the 1980’s and society has improved race relations tremendously since then, it was not irrelevant in 1996 when the film was released, and it is not irrelevant today another twenty years later. Unfortunately this is something that we witness all too often. With the mass incarceration rates of Black Americans and the countless cases surfacing of Black Americans being killed without due cause, it is still a very relevant issue in today’s society. The film attempts to show the viewers this inequality that some people may not even be aware exists still in society. The point of the movie is to allow the audience a peak into a situation that they could never fully comprehend the impact of before.

Works Cited:

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, and Samuel L. Jackson. Warner Bros., 1996. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. 2011. 230-54. Print.

Empathy, Real or Apparent

In a courtroom trial, the defendant is supposed to be accompanied by a fair jury of his peers. However, in the movie “A Time to Kill,” Carl Lee Hailey (a black man) is at odds with a jury of twelve southern white folks in the year 1984. With him, is a young lawyer by the name of Jake Brigance. In the concluding scenes of the movie, Jake has one final chance to sway the jury in favor of Carl Lee with his closing statement, but he begins to realize even the most well-prepared and well-stated argument won’t be enough. His final approach becomes an appeal to pathos (emotion), as he politely asks the jury to close their eyes. What comes next is a disconcerting experience for everyone (including himself), as he verbally reconstructs the rape of Carl Lee’s daughter. As the story progresses through each dark and twisted sequence, Jake vividly invokes utter sympathy in the hearts of the jury, but something remarkable occurs at the tail end of it. Sympathy becomes replaced with empathy, and the jurors can finally peer into the soul of Carl Lee to see indefinitely why he is justified in his actions. For the first time, the trial was no longer about color; it was about a man seeking justice for his brutally raped daughter. This anomaly occurred because Jake Brigance changed the dynamic of the story from black, to white when he says, “Now imagine she’s white” (TK). The look on the juror’s faces said it all. They hadn’t even thought about how they would feel if she were white. They hadn’t even thought about what the average person could be capable of until that moment when they placed themselves in Carl Lee’s shoes. And within that brief instance, the jury truly empathized with Carl Lee Hailey, or they would not have found him— “Innocent” (TK).

I believe Jake’s appeal to pathos works in favor of him and Carl Lee because it targets the innately human aspect of the court. The jurors originally found themselves looking at Carl Lee’s circumstances as being figuratively black-and-white, but consequently after Jake elicited sympathetic and empathetic emotions during his closing argument, that black-and-white circumstance started to look a whole lot grayer. I also believe that by strategically changing the race of the victimized girl from presumably black, to white, it helped to illuminate the fact that race was playing a bigger role in their judgement than they might have realized. By putting race under a microscope, it immediately began impacting the jury immensely by revealing their former biases through introspection (even if some were already aware they had such a bias) and allowed for appropriate correction in their judgement. Some people might say Jake Brigance manipulated the jury, but he didn’t. He simply showed them the light, and they just finally decided to walk toward it.


Work Cited

A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher, performances by Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, and Kevin Spacey. 1996. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros, 1996. DVD.

Blog Assignment 3: Empathy, Real or Apparent

Just before the dramatic finale, Jake visits Carl Lee in his barren cell, to admit their inevitable defeat. The lighting is low in this scene, with minimal decoration and furnishings in the cell. The camera pans only between the faces of the two men, emphasizing the stark contrast in their appearances. Jake is dressed in a pressed suit, looking every bit the attorney, and Carl Lee is sweaty, in a dirty shirt and pants. This setting is paramount to the upcoming conversation, because this is essentially the profession of the movie’s theme.

“They see you, they see a yard worker. They see me, they see an attorney.” -Jake Brigance (A Time to Kill)

The dramatic language used throughout their conversation is meant to invoke empathy in the viewer not only for Carl Lee Hailey, but also for the plight of African Americans. Carl finally gets through to Jake that they are not friends, and that no matter his pretty professions of equality, he is one of the “bad guys”.

“Fact is, you just like all the rest of them.” -Carl Lee Hailey (A Time to Kill)

The harsh accusation towards the man who has become the hero of the movie is understandably shocking, which is the point exactly. Throughout the movie the audience cheers Jake on for his determination to defend the man who avenged his daughter’s rape and attempted murder. On the surface Jake is nothing like the two men who raped Carl’s daughter, but Hailey argues that they hold the same fundamental beliefs, as all white people are raised to see black people as less than themselves.

“When you look at me, you don’t see a man…you see a black man.” -Carl Lee Hailey (A Time to Kill)

Carl makes an important point for the viewers here that still holds much relevance today. Because Jake refuses to see the racism in his inherent beliefs, he cannot win the court case. It isn’t until he acknowledges that he is in fact one of the white people who can never fully understand the struggle of being oppressed by an entire nation that he finds the words to win the case. By examining his own white privilege, he finds the words he knows will cause the jury to release Carl Lee. This epiphany is supposed to translate to the viewers of the movie, and encourage them to examine their own actions and the world they live in critically. It invokes the principle of the judicious spectator, but instead of the court room, to examine the structure of society, and the institutionalized racism found within much of the country.

“America is a wall, and you on the other side.” -Carl Lee Hailey (A Time to Kill)

Without commenting on the application this scene and quote have for current politics, this last line calls into question everything Jake (and the viewers) know about the United States. The “American Dream” and the promise of Ellis Island were renowned around the world, but this blind optimism serves to cover the underlying problems within the integrity of the nation. Idealistic views about the “land of the free and the home of the brave” minimize the importance of critically analyzing the motions of the government. The poignant line is intended to invoke a sense of righteous indignation for the state of our wonderful country, and further rally the viewer behind Jake’s cause to set Carl Lee free–as if getting him acquitted proves that good still exists in America.

Works Cited

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Warner Bros., 1996. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

Blog Assignment #3

The film opens with a truck raging down an open dirt road. Two sweaty, drunk, racist, and violent white men are inside, pushing the truck to its weak limits of speed and shock absorption. The reason why I mention their race, is the fact that they are driving in a low income African American neighborhood. As they fly down this road, they make numerous stops at local houses and shops. At each stop they become increasingly drunk and then violent towards all of the neighborhood’s people. It is made clear that these drunken men are on the “bad” side, and the neighborhood’s people have done nothing wrong to cause such consequences.

It is in this scene where I believe the film is trying to invoke an apparent sense of empathy. Not only that, but it is trying to invoke a sense of anger and frustration among the audience. I can infer this because the rest of the film is dedicated to showing serving “justice” for Carl Lee. I say justice in quotes because it is a highly debatable topic whether the ending is in fact justice. In order for the viewer to justify this brutal murder, the film was designed for the audience to sympathize with Carl Lee. What might feel like empathy, is not. Empathy in this case is not true empathy, as it simply puts you in Carl Lee’s corner, rather than actually experiencing the event yourself. Therefore, the emotion that the audience feels is not empathy, as they cannot relate based upon experience.

I believe that this emotion of “sympathy “is, at its core, truly anger. The rawness of the opening scene is astounding. There are a lot of close headshots of the Carl Lee’s neighbors when the truck rages down the streets, and in their faces lies anger. The film also choses to exclude music from the rape scene, allowing the scene to feel incredibly real and tense. I felt myself hating these men with every increasing second of the scene. Therefore, I was following the design of the scene, the reason for its existence. Throughout the rest of the film, the I could only imagine the rape when they were in the shop, making it harder to side with their end of the case and convict Carl Lee.

I think that after the initial crime, there is mostly, if not exclusively, all logos in the courtroom. Mr. Brigance doesn’t really recognize that empathy is the key to his argument until his final statement. In fact, I believe there really is no empathy at all in the film until the end of the film when Mr. Brigance presents his closing speech. He opens this speech asking the jurors to close their eyes and “listen to me, listen to yourselves.” (TK) During this moving speech, he asks the jury to imagine them in Carl Lee’s position, and even brings some jurors to tears. It is at this moment that truly secures the jury to his side. Anger begins the film, and empathy concludes it. Although empathy does play a large role in the film “A Time to Kill”, it has no presence in the opening scene depicting the crime.

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacy. Regency Enterprises, 1996. DVD.