Prejudice and Discrimination in the Movie “To Kill a Mockingbird”

PSYC9140: Social Psychology: An Introduction
Essay Assignment

Your written assignment for this course will consist of an opinion piece you write based on a movie of your choice taken from the list below. The theme of your assignment is prejudice and discrimination, as examined from a psychological viewpoint. 

Your assignment should be between 6 to 8 pages (typed, double-spaced, 12 point font) in length, and should include: 1) a description of the movie you watched; 2) a discussion of relevant course concepts raised in the film; 3) your assessment of how well the film fits with material on prejudice & discrimination taken from class & your textbook. You should use APA style and be sure to include a reference section for any sources that you cite, including your text, my lectures, and online sources.

Remember to tie your discussion back to material about stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination from both lecture notes and class readings. In other words, this is NOT simply a movie review.

For this assignment, you are to do the following: 
1) Read Chapters 11 & 12
2) Choose a move from the list below, and watch it. 
3) Write your commentary, by tying course concepts to the film, and describing your reactions and insights (see above).

The assignment will be worth 30 marks (30% of your final grade). Marks will be divided as follows: 
10 marks for writing style, grammar & punctuation; 
20 marks for the quality of insights provided;

Late submissions will be penalized at the rate of 2 marks deducted per day late.
Movie List

Below is a list of films you may choose to watch for your written assignment. 

American History X (1999)
A former neo-Nazi attempts to reform his little brother after spending time in prison.

Billy Elliot (2000)
In the middle of a 1984 miners’ strike, a young boy from a northern England mining town takes up dancing and soon wants to make it his life’s work, against the wishes of his gruff father and older brother.

Boys Don’t Cry (2000)
Boys Don’t Cry tells the true story of 21 year-old Teena Brandon, a girl from Nebraska who chose to live as a boy.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Forbidden love between two cowboys and the turmoil the relationship creates.

Crash (2004)
Several characters of different racial backgrounds collide in one incident. The different stereotypes society has created for those backgrounds affect their judgment, beliefs and actions.

Dance Me Outside (1995)
This film offers a look at life on a Northern Ontario reservation.

Glory (2001)
Glory is a celebration of a little-known act of mass courage during the Civil War, however the heroes involved have been ignored by history due to racism.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1968)
The Oscar-winning story of a wealthy white family who learns that their daughter’s fiancee is black. Very controversial at the time it was released. 

In the Heat of the Night (1967)
A black detective investigates a murder in a racist southern US town.

My Left Foot (1989)
The Oscar-winning portrayal of the life of Christy Brown, an artist with cerebral palsy.

Mask (1985)
The real-life story of a disfigured teenager who overcomes pain, loneliness and prejudice and emerges as an inspiration to his classmates and teachers.


Mississippi Burning (1988)
A Hollywood dramatization of the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers by the Ku Klux Klan.

Once Were Warriors (1994)
The clash between Maori traditions and modern values, told against the backdrop of one New Zealand family’s spiral of domestic violence.

Philadelphia (1993)
Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington are two competing lawyers who join forces to sue a prestigious law firm for AIDS discrimination.

Rabbit Proof Fence (2002)
In 1931, three aboriginal girls from Australia escape from an official government camp after being taken from their homes to be trained as domestic staff and set off on an epic journey across the Outback that will lead them home.

Radio (2003)
The story of a high school coach and the developmentally challenged man he took under his wing.

Remember the Titans (2000)
True story of a black football coach hired over a white coach in Alexandria, Virginia in the early 1970’s during a time when the school had just been integrated to allow black students.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge and his children against prejudice.

Description of the Movie

The movie To Kill a Mockingbird is a film about two young protagonists, Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) and his sister, Jean Louise Finch (Scout) who live with their widowed father Atticus Finch in the sleepy city of Maycomb in Alabama, in the early 1930s. The story narrates the life of Jem and Scout of three years while they lived with their father. It starts by introducing them to innocent children who play happily with their friend Dill, who is in Maycomb for the summer holiday (Lee, 2006). The three liked spying on Boo, also known as Arthur Radley who is not seen by people of the town for years because he spends most of his time in the house, which also raised many rumors. The film To Kill a Mockingbird depicts the concepts of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination as described in the book Social Psychology by Myers, Spencer, and Jordan.

The racism and evil in the town is driven by poverty. Atticus Finch was the town lawyer with strong beliefs on fair treatment for all, helping other and standing on what one believes. He also allowed his children to call him by the first name. As the film begins, Scout and Jem had seen their father receiving hickory nuts and other products from Mr. Cunningham who was paying for the legal work offered by Atticus since he had no money.  The work of Atticus as a lawyer makes Jem and Scout realize the evil and racism that existed in the town, driven by poverty (Lee, 2006). Later in the film, Atticus accepts to take up a case of an African-American defendant, Tom Robinson that was offered by the local judge. Tom was charged with raping Mayella Ewell, a white girl (Mills, 2010). The Atticus’ decision of accepting the case makes Scout and Jem become receive abuse from school children and are even forced to celebrate Christmas in a local black church with their Black cook.

The doctor’s examination would be good to determine the criminal. As Atticus safeguards Tom in the local journey, he is almost attacked by a mob that includes Mr. Cunningham, but they are interrupted by the arrival of Jem, Scout, and Dill. Scout even recognizes Mr. Cunningham and asking him about his son, who was her classmate, embarrasses him and disperses the mob. At the courts, the Scout and Jem sit at the colored balcony with the black people (Lee, 2006). It is also confident that Tom when to see Mayella at her request to help chop a chifforobe and that she has signs of been beaten. Atticus, however, argued that Tom had crippled left hand and could not have raped the girl because her injuries showed extensive use of the left hand. He also pointed that her father, Bob Ewell was left handed and was likely to be the one who beat His daughter and that a doctor examination would be good to determine the criminal…

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