There is so much that is being debated about #OccupyWallStreet by the people who are not actually protesting with them. One looks at the goals they intend to pursue through their demonstrations, and one wonders where their leaders are. One looks at what many people protesting with #OccupyWall Street are saying and are afraid of what they are saying based on who most of the people protesting are by social status. One tries to compare #OccupyWallStreet with the Tea Party to find similarities, and one just turns on the news media on television where people tell you to think about these developments. Whether you are watching from the side, participating virtually and physically, or are economically privileged enough to turn your nose up in judgment to these developments, one thing is clear- people are standing up for what they believe in through these demonstrations.
Now, if a movie makes a stand today, it is usually chalked up as “liberal propaganda” made by “out of touch people in Hollywood,” just for having and presenting a oft-fictionalized view on a current sociopolitical issue. Maybe our attitudes towards social justice and responsibility towards our fellow human beings have changed to a dangerous degree to snub anything with a social consciousness as a bad thing. The author can only speak for himself in saying that it would be horrible if that was the actual case, because if it was true, then its no wonder our country is in the toilet. There is a risk in using art to stay something about the world around us, and movies since the beginning have done that. In fact, there are many classic movies that make a stand and give voice to things in need of the extra support. Here is a list of movies that have taken a stand; the movies listed are not condusive to this article alone- please drop any more you feel in the comments section if you are inclined:
1. Intolerance (1916)- D.W. Griffith’s famous rebuttal piece after the controversy of the film he released the previous year The Birth Of A Nation. In this film, intolerance is explored throughout history as we explore humanity’s inhumanity towards itself leading up to the present day of 1916. The film’s stance may be one induced by the failings of the director, but the film explores and observes this development.
2. Within Our Gates (1920)- Oscar Micheux, a pioneering African American director, makes his own rebuttal piece to the heavy cultural damage that The Birth Of A Nation brought to a vital secition of the American community by showing the realities of what life was like in post-Civil War America for the African American. The film’s stance is that the dominant white South was not the real victim of the Civil War and its aftermath.
3. I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932)- Paul Muni plays James Allen, a real fugitive who escaped from a chain gang and who was still at large during the film’s production. The film blantantly shows what life is like for someone in a chain gang at the time, and brought to light the inhumane treatment of criminals as well as takes a hard look at our judicial system. The film’s stance was simply to expose the underbelly, and many states changed their tune after the movie was released.
4. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)- Paul Muni plays the famous French writer Emile Zola, whose social consciousness influenced his most famous novels. It tells of his interest in writing of these matters to the failing slums of Paris to the makings of Nana and so forth. But the real test of his consciousness is when he is asked to speak out for the injustice of the imprisonment of Alfred Dreyfus, a man accused of conspiring against the French military even though he did not actually do it and was scapegoated on account of his religion( Dreyfus was Jewish). The film’s stance against scapegoating came at a crucial time, as Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich was building more and more to executing their Final Solution.
5. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)- John Ford’s masterpiece based on the Thomas Steinbeck novel telling a story of a family of farmers who due to the Depression and the Dust Bowl, leave their homes behind to find work. The film’s stance is the film’s story within itself- as Hollywood was still skeptical about how this movie would played out in a country just barely getting out of the Depression, and the reality that the film exposed of what many people were experiencing.
There are many more than just these five films that have social consciousness and makes a stand. Please feel free to add more!