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Of the Usual SuspectsEssay

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¶ … Suspects

The aspect of our life, culture, society or history that is treated in the 1996 film The Usual Suspects is the notion of stereotypes. In this respect, the film focuses more on a sociological issue than on any particular one pertaining to history -- although there are certainly cultural ramifications regarding this issue as well. However, one of the chief points of brilliance about this movie's treatment of stereotyping is that it does so in an extremely subtle way. It does not do so in typical ways in which many movies examine racial, religious, sex, or national bias. Instead, it deals with a subject much more central to society itself and the very idea of the nature of crime by analyzing stereotypes of the criminal element in society.

The main way that the film examines this sort of stereotyping is by having the most stereotypically weak of the main characters, Verbal Kent, actually turn out to be a shrewd, cold-hearted, criminal mastermind. However, he embodies none of these characteristics and the fact that he is the film's mastermind is not revealed until its conclusion. In addition to showing that the weakest character -- who is crippled, soft-spoken, weird, and marginalized in a number of scenes -- is the proverbial 'power behind the throne', the film examines criminal stereotypes in other ways. Kent is actually allied with four other criminals, each of whom appears more powerful, ruthless, and vindictive than themselves. One in particular, the de facto leader of the group Dean Keaton, seems to embody the characteristics of a criminal mastermind, but he turns out to be the movie's protagonist in that he is actually a good man who has reformed his criminal past and is trying to put it behind him. The other characters all appear to be more ruthless and criminal in their nature than the relatively docile Kent, which is just another stereotype demonstrating that true criminality is not so easily detected in society.

The Usual Suspects is particularly thought-provoking in its ending. It features a surprise ending in which the viewer (and the primary law enforcement officer questioning Kent) suddenly realize that he is the criminal mastermind of the film. The thought-provoking nature of this ending is created in several different ways. Firstly, Kent has been telling the law enforcement officer that the criminal mastermind behind a recent massacre in the San Pedro harbor is some mythical, international drug lord by the name of Keiser Soze. Soze's connection and power is legendary and spans the better part of most civilized connections so much that the mere mentioning of his name either terrifies people or makes them change the subject. The true piquant point of the film's surprise ending is based on the fact that Kent is actually Soze, and that Kent seemingly has none of the traits that people credit Soze with having. Compared to Soze, Kent seems fearful, meek, and even stupid.

However, all of those negative attributes are actually an elaborate deception that enables Soze (or Kent) to walk around in society unnoticed. The implications of this point of the movie are huge. The truly powerful and terrifying people look just like the weak ones. In fact, their power is deliberately used to blend in with the rest of society. Deception is their key advantage; society as a whole has no idea who is actually controlling it. Additionally, the cinematic elements in which this conclusion is revealed are notable, as the officer flashes back to different points in the lengthy lie that Kent told him while his cup of coffee drops to the floor and shatters. Each piece seemingly represents a different piece of Kent's story that deceived him, as the camera shows those shards breaking it intersperses various pieces of dialogue and images that aided Kent's lies to the officer.

The Usual Suspects actually made viewers think about a number of different things that they had not thought about before. Firstly, it made them consider the power structure in the world, and how the world truly operates. One of the fundamental principles of this movie is that there is a hidden power structure that dominates the world. In the movie, that power transcends national and international barriers, various languages, and expectations of people. Most people are used to believing that the things that govern the physical aspects of their lives are related to governments and order. However, this film strongly suggests that there are hidden criminal elements that are able to control frighteningly local events -- such as cars transporting guns in Queens that are actually destined for overseas wars.

Secondly, this movie makes people reconsider the very nature of power.People are used to thinking of criminals as being flashy and throwing their money around. They are not used to the concept that the best place for a criminal to hide is in wide open public spaces. No one watching the movie would have suspected that Kent was a billionaire drug lord, for the simple fact that he dressed and spoke regularly, and actually was in public for the majority of the movie. People are used to the rich and powerful being trailed and preceded with bodyguards, secret service agents, and things of that nature. However, this movie shattered that illusion by implying that the best places for criminals to exist is in the wide open, where they cannot be distinguished from ordinary citizens.

This film is relevant to the population at large in that it helps to prove that stereotypes are illusive, and can actually be extremely misleading. The film indicates this notion many different ways. However, Kent's masterminding of the officer that interrogates illustrates this point best. Towards the end, the officer throws Verbal from his chair and berates him for being stupid and a coward. In truth, Verbal is extrmely close to completing the mockery he has made of the officer by getting him to believe his lies. His biggest lie, of course, is that he is a weak coward when he is actually an international criminal mastermind with much more power than the officer has.

The effect of this film on our society is seen in a couple of different ways. In some ways, it helps to justify conspiracy theories and the belief that there are people and power structures that are so far beyond the scope of everyday society that they can readily manipulate it at will. Again, the film's sheer brilliance is in that it proves that these people are actually 'hiding' in public, and that their true power is there anonymity. At the end of the movie Kent stops walking like a cripple and produces the same gold lighter that the viewer knows is Kaiser Soze's. He then gets into a non-descript car and calmly drives away while the officer searches frantically for him. Although Kent is a drug lord, his true power is in the fact that he can blend in with society while still controlling it. Society, meanwhile, would never look at him and suspect as much. . Moreover, emotional intelligence is directly related to transformational leadership in that this leadership methodology functions effectively when leaders can attain the emotional involvement of their followers. This sort of involvement is pivotal to transformational leadership because it can help actuate people; additionally, it is intrinsically related to getting those followers to believe in transformational leaders.

Viewed from this perspective, the efficacy of a transformational leader is actually rooted in his or her ability to get people to believe in him or her. Once followers actually believe in a leader, they can then believe in the leader's missive which is a critical prerequisite for transformation throughout organizations in various vertical industries. Emotional intelligence correlates to the power of a leader to get his or her followers to believe in him or her in that leaders must understand the right way to foster such beliefs. Specifically, then, an effective transformational leader is not only able to detect the emotions of his followers and harness them in a way that helps that leader achieve organizational objectives, but he or she should also be able to transmute his own emotions to his followers in such a way to achieve the same end.

One example of a positive emotion that can impact transformational leadership is determination. Determination is an emotion that people can feel when they are encountering adversity and are resolved to overcome it. Determination, then is vital to transformational leadership in that there is sure to be some degree of resistance, or certain obstacles, that an organization will have to endure in order to effect positive transformation. By both inspiring and emoting determination, transformational leaders are able to prepare organizations for any obstacles and to help steer them beyond them.

Patience is another emotion that can play a significant role in transformational leadership. Although patience is frequently considered a virtue, people can feel patience as well -- particularly when they believe in long-term objectives and not… [END OF PREVIEW]

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