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An Essay On American History X Summary

White, middle-aged racist Derek is the leader of a neo-nazi group. After brutaly murdering two black men he is sent to prison for 3 years: he is only charged with manslaughter as his brother, the only witness does not testify. When in prison, Derek is slowly changed and forced into accepting black people (at one point he is attacked and raped by the white men in the prison). When he is released from prison his beliefs and views have changed and he attempts to save his brother from making his mistakes. During the film, the younger brother Danny is writing a school report on his life but is murdered at school by a black boy before giving it in.
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The review of this Movie prepared by Sasha Q

Derek, the older brother of the secondary character, Danny, is a powerful figure in the local neo-nazi community. After Danny and his friends win a game against the blacks at a local basketball court, 2 armed black teens attempt to steal Derek's truck. Derek shoots one before he can get a shot off, and brutally kills the other against the curb, and is sentenced to 3 years. Danny tries to follow in his footsteps while Derek is incarcerated. Throughout the movie Danny's principal attempts to help and guide Danny and Derek. Derek returns from prison a changed man. Derek tries to save Danny from making the same mistakes he did. It seems that Derek has managed to save Danny and his family. However, at the end of the movie Danny is gunned down in the bathroom on the day his report is due by a black student he had angered previously.

The review of this Movie prepared by Jon

A brutal eye opener!

Derek Vinyard , fustrated at the death of his father at the hands of black men he believes should not have been in "his" country , avenges that death by forming the D.O.C - a racist group with no aim as we are to find out.

After shooting dead one man and killing another with the help of a curb , he is incarcerated for 3 years. During this time he is viciously raped and befriended by a BLACK inmate.

In the outside world however , Danny , Dereks younger brother is following in his footsteps. Following orders from Cam (D.O.C big daddy!!!) , Danny is lead to believe that Black is scum and there is no place for them in society.He is failing at school so his headmaster who also taught Derek a few years earlier emplores him to write an essay on how Dereks actions have affected his life.

And so the story unfolds...first person narrative , gripping stuff , geat film - watch it!!!

The review of this Movie prepared by John Fenlon

Derek and Danny are two misled youths. Derek is arrested and incarcerated for the brutal murder of 3 black men who tried to steal his truck. In jail, Derek realizes the error of his white supremicist ways and comes home determined to rescue Danny. However, Derek gets through to Danny too late.

The review of this Movie prepared by Samantha Green

it's a movie about a neo-nazi trying to figure out really what his ideals are and realizing he needs to change them. After realizing this, in jail, he leaves his crew and tries to help his younger brother realize also.

The review of this Movie prepared by Ania

Derek, the leader or a Neo-Nazi gang went to jail for BRUTALLY killing a black gang members. Now he is out and must stop his little brother from following in his footsteps.

This movie is a powerful drama about ignorant racism and how gangs use propaganda to lure unsecure people to their cause.

This film uses a brillient idea of all events in the past being done in black and white. This, along with strong performances by Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, and Avery Brooks.

The review of this Movie prepared by Grey Culver

A film about the path two skinhead brothers take and the price they pay for their ignorance.

The review of this Movie prepared by Ryan Bauslaugh

Script Analysis of American History X

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Plot & Themes

Time/era of movie:    -   1980's-1999 Kids growing up/acting up?    -   YesKids:    -   committing crimesInner struggle or disability    -   YesStruggle with    -   learns to be more sensitiveCrime & Scandal    -   YesStory of    -   criminal becomes sensitive

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White American


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   California City?    -   Yes City:    -   dangerous Misc setting    -   prison    -   school

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   explicit references to deaths    -   very explicit references to deaths and torture Sex/nudity in movie?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   kissing    -   seeing nude male butt    -   sex under blankets Any profanity?    -   A lot of foul language    -   A huge amnt of foul language

Movies with storylines, themes & endings like American History X

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The Basketball Diaries starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Bracco, Mark Wahlberg, Bruno Kirby, Juliette Lewis
Shot (Focus) starring Brandon Karrer, Trent Cameron, Gary Leroi Gray, Lloyd Avery II
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American History X Message Board (click here)
Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).

American History X (1998) is a film people are often reluctant to discuss. A civil rights film it might be, though it might not find itself compared to films such as 12 Years a Slave.

American History X takes a look at racism in a different light, from the perspective of a former neo-Nazi skinhead who is desperate to put his past behind him and protect his brother from following the same path. While on the surface this is a film about redemption, the film focuses more on the idea that – as Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong) states – “Hate is baggage”. Hate is a destructive form no matter where it comes from or who it is aimed at, and that hatred solves nothing.

View image | gettyimages.com

The film’s protagonist, Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), starts out as a normal teenager, a promising student with a loving family, but after his father is murdered by a group of a group of ethnic minorities, Derek descends into a downward spiral of racial hatred, blaming the multi-cultural society he lives in and the minorities who are part of it – a seed planted by his father. Soon after, Derek embodies his hatred and becomes ‘The’ skinhead of California, slowly influencing more and more white people to follow his racist revolution, but at the same time creating a rift between himself and his family in an act that is seemingly slowly breaking it apart. Derek’s lifestyle inevitably sends him to prison after brutally murdering two crip gang members for attempting to steal his car. His brutality and hatred is shown through an infamous curb stomping scene; a gritty and gruesome sequence that viewers today still cringe in horror over. It is an action that Derek shows no remorse for and justifies as revenge for the murder of his father.

While initially starting his prison sentence by linking up with fellow skinhead inmates and increasing his influence outside of jail, Derek begins to feel betrayed by his fellow skinheads and becomes increasingly isolated from them. He reluctantly befriends an African-American named Lamont (Guy Torry) and slowly begins to form a close relationship with him, thus turning his hatred towards his fellow skinheads instead. Derek further loses faith in his simple-minded beliefs after suffering a brutal rape at the hands of his former neo-Nazi faction and some coaching from his former teacher Sweeney (Avery Brooks) who visits him after hearing of his brutal attack. Despite everything, Derek makes it out of jail in one piece, and attributes that to his new friend. Derek comes out of Jail a new man, eager to change his brother’s hate and violent ideologies before it is too late.

American History X is a film about transformation. It’s about how one person can go from the very bottom and come out on top as a completely different person. Derek is a truly developed character; his hatred is his history and the director uses a black and white filter for Derek’s violent flashbacks to emphasise that this side of him is history.

The film does not offer much in terms of developed black characters and, as such, has received a lot of criticism – the majority of black characters, except for a couple, are represented as mindless thugs and antagonisers to Derek and his family. However, the film does not set out to present white people as being just as victimised as black people, but instead presents how racism and hatred in all of its forms is destructive and leads to no resolution. The film plays heavily on that belief with the turning point happening between Derek and Sweeney just after his brutal rape, when Derek is asked “Has anything you’ve done made your life better?” A question which brings Derek to tears and to which he later relates to his brother. Derek knows the breakdown of his family is his fault and the only way to fix it is to become a better person.

The film does not set out to say who is right and who is wrong, but rather that hate itself is wrong. Hate did not just distance Derek from the world, but from his family and his own life.

With the fight for equality civil rights still an ongoing struggle in modern society, American History X still serves as an important film. American History X shows that the transition from bad to good is a lengthy process and that it isn’t always pretty and sometimes sacrifices have to be made, but ultimately hate does not solve problems and it does not fix anything. Instead, it only adds further pain and suffering.

Preview image courtesy of Edward J Moran.

Jack Gooding

25 year old Film and Media graduate with a passion for films, even bad ones. Animal lover, gym goer and rum connoisseur.

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