Essay: American History X An Exercise

Pages: 2 (774 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: American History  ·  Buy This Paper

American History X

An exercise in and a meditation upon subversion, the film American History X is at once making a bold social and political commentary on the inherent destructiveness of racism and bigotry. At the same time, one could argue it's a tragic ballad for a family riddled with loss. Simultaneously, the film is a subversive series of photographs that illuminate a defiant culture and renegade civic identity. Just as iconic photographs can work to "reflect social knowledge and dominant ideologies; they shape understanding of specific events and periods…" (Hariman & Lucaites, 2002), the successive images of American History X works to reflect ideologies unwelcome to idealistic American sensibilities and rattle one's understanding of America today. If an iconic photo like the Flag Raising at Iwo Jima can reaffirm an individual's sense of collective pride, and shape collective beliefs about world events, than the subversive visual images which appear throughout American History X, have similar but far more disturbing effects. This paper will treat the connected images of American History X as having a comparable impact as that of the iconic photograph as described by Hariman and Lucaites, in this case, however, the influence is mutinous and subverted.

The renegade still images in the film have the impact of shedding light on the disturbing underbelly of American culture and particular American beliefs systems that flourish throughout parts of the country. If certain iconic photographs shape our understanding of particular events and periods, than subversive photography such as that which flourishes throughout American History X illuminates not only the unpleasant fact that racism and bigotry is still alive in America today, but that the average non-bigoted American is resistant to such illumination.

A pervasive image, one which appears in the film American History X and on the movie poster is a defined and muscled Derek Vinyard (Ed Norton), bare-chested, with a massive swastika over his left pectoral muscle, and his right hand placed gently there, over his heart, in rapt devotion and reverence, tinged in hostility, to his bigoted beliefs. Such an image denies the pride that Americans can have about their often bloody and shameful collective history: that slavery and segregation have been abolished, as well as racist legislation like Jim Crow Laws, the Chinese Exclusion Act and skewed, corrupt ruling of cases like Plessy vs.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

American History X An Exercise.  (2012, October 9).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from

MLA Format

"American History X An Exercise."  9 October 2012.  Web.  17 July 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"American History X An Exercise."  October 9, 2012.  Accessed July 17, 2019.