Sixty-one years have passed since the debut of Twelve Angry Men and yet this black and white film still captures audience’s attention to this day. The American court system has developed around the key belief that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. It is far worse to convict an innocent person than let a guilty one go.
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The trial of the young man isn’t portrayed within the film; rather the details of the crime and trial are slowly revealed as the story unfolds. It is the responsibility of the jury to determine, based on the evidence provided in court, if an individual is guilty of the crime committed. The verdict of the jury must be unanimous. If the young man is found guilty, he will be charged with premeditated first-degree murder and will be sentenced to the electric chair. The intense debate within the jury about the guilt or innocence of this young man forces the audience to reflect on the psychological elements of stereotypes, belief bias, memory, belief perseverance, and groupthink, and how they play a role in the attitudes and interactions of the jurors.
The film portrays a variety of prejudices and stereotypes, which play a significant role in the debate, and sense of justice within the jury. A stereotype is an over generalized assumption about a particular group or person. Some of the Juror’s preconceived notions are so embedded into their own opinions that they make illogical conclusions to uphold them. They hold a powerful grip over the debate in the group because of their overconfidence. One man in particular, Juror 10, stands out throughout the film because of his apparent prejudice towards the accused, or kid as the group calls them. It is the background that sets the kid apart and juror ten exclaims, And lemme tell ya: they don’t need any real big reason to kill someone, either!…We’re… This kid on trial here… his type, well, don’t you know about them? There’s a, there’s a danger here. These people are dangerous. They’re wild. Listen to me. Listen!(__site pls!____) His prejudice is based on the belief that poverty or status of an individual also determines their moral compass. The perspective of the camera helps create an atmosphere of pressure so that the audience feels like they are within the room, part of the group, and can feel the impact of the outburst. This outburst has a direct consequence as most of the men leave the table and turn their backs to juror ten. This body language has a profound effect on the juror. He doesn’t express remorse but stays silent and separate from that moment on. It’s the conviction of the man in the white suit portrayed by Henry Fonda who reshapes the outcome of the entire film.
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