Mississippi Burning- the Use of Power Essay

Stage 1: English applications Discuss the theme of power, what is power? What forms of power are presented in the film? Who has the power (How/why)? Who is powerless? How has power obtained? How is power maintained? How is power used and abused? Does the balance of power change? The film Mississippi burning presents a strong theme of power, throughout the film it shows both lack of power for some and also the ways others can abuse it. The film accurately demonstrates how little equality and respect was shown to the African Americans and how powerless they were during those times in our past.

The definition of power is “the possession of control or command over others; authority” this is presented through the film although its more intense then just control, in Mississippi burning the control that the white community holds over the black one is so strong that the black people are so powerless they don’t even know how to defend themselves when their life’s are in danger. The authority figures of the town have a very deranged mind set, and abuse their power by doing disgraceful acts they see as ‘fair’ business.

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They are convinced they are so powerful that they can even overrule the courts from making Mississippi a segregated state. This is shown when the quote “In the courts of Mississippi, they have been reminded, that they cannot, by force, turn our communities into replicas of their communities” is used. The saying ‘knowledge is power’ is highly relevant and related to this film. At the KKK meeting the speech given refers to how powerless the FBI is as they have such a lack of knowledge and evidence on the disappearance of the 3 civil rights workers. These federal policeman you see around here prying into our lives, violating out civil liberties have learned that they are powerless against us if every single Anglo-Saxon Christian one of us stands together! ’ The whole town is brainwashed into telling a lie and exercising their own individual power by having knowledge… Something the FBI lacks earlier in the film. Not only is it just the theme of the movie that is power but each individual character in the film has their own rank of power. Each character is very varied as to how much or little power they possess.

The local police not only abuse their power when treating the black community unfairly they also abuse their power to the people of their own community this is very clearly shown when Mrs Pell is powerless against her husbands rage. ‘Not only do I HAVE the guts I have the AUTHORITY! ’ is a very interesting quote said by Mr Ward when quarrelling with Mr Anderson. This shows that there is even dominance and some degree of overpowering between the partners who are working on the same team. Towards the middle of the film there is a significant shift of power between the FBI and local police of Mississippi.

After the bodies of the murdered boys are uncovered the FBI gains more power over the police, and uses this power to manipulate all the guilty murderers into cracking and revealing the truth of how much corruption is made in the country town. The power throughout the film is maintained by the people in power terrorising others to show dominance and keep people fearful of them and their authority, this is to ensure that people don’t decide to stop following the people in power and make the right decision to end violence and make peace in the state f Mississippi.

The Police of the town use violence and isolation to over power people and maintain their strength of power and control. Towards the end of the film there is a lot more balance of power shown between the black and white communities, the FBI and police and good and evil. The power is shifted all after the turning point of the film where the people found guilty of murder are brought to justice and a slight amount of peace is made between the white and black communities of Mississippi.

With the antagonists of the film loss of power and punishment power is restored back to the community making it a lot stronger, peaceful and free of violence over truth. In conclusion the film Mississippi burning strongly demonstrates power in many different forms and it is one of the biggest key factors of the movie. The use of power displayed in the film successfully retells the history of violence and mistreatment the black communities have suffered and endured in the past and teaches us how easily corruption and the abuse of power can be made by people who manipulate others into following them. Word count- 795 words.


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