Glory Film Review: A Multifaceted Definition Of Racism

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In the historic Academy Award-winning drama film, Glory, it tells the true story regarding the first all-African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

Glory narrates the civil war year in which a white officer led a group of black slaves to fight with the South region for national unity and freedom. It's an honorable story just like the title itself that is worth respect. The story is told through the perspective of a white soldier, called to lead the group of black troops while fighting prejudices from both his own Union Army and the Confederates. Throughout the movie, the themes that are the most evident are racism & equality, diversification, and leadership.

One thing that is certainly evident in this film is racism and the struggle for the men of the 54th Massachusetts to gain equal rights as soldiers as well as the acceptance of their fellow white soldiers. Through different scenes in this film students can learn what it took for the men of the 54th to be accepted by their peers and the courage and dedication it took to do so.

The theme of inequality is also shown during the movie, through salary. In the play, there is a scene that takes place on payday. When the men are ready to receive their paychecks, expecting to get $13 a month, they are instead given $10. In fact, Colonel Shaw told the men that they are receiving lower pay due to being the color regiment. As a result of this, Private Trip took it upon himself to order the other soldiers in the regiment to not “give in”, or in other words, ignore the paycheck and “tear it up”.

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Another theme that appears throughout the movie is diversity. This theme that is shown significantly but not expected to, implicates that diversity is mixed with the structure of the US military. Diversification is one of the big changes that was added to the US military. In fact, the idea of blacks fighting in the military. The movie was able to portray diversity in the military in such a natural way. It was not only able to show the seemingly unnatural process of integration, but also many of the good things that come from an integrated army as well. In the beginning of the film, Col. Shaw did not really know how to connect with his men. The culture of the free black men was so different than anything that Col. Shaw probably had ever experienced before. He doesn’t really understand the struggles that they have, so at first he becomes this very strict leader who sole focus is to change the men that he is command of.

This doesn’t work for Col. Shaw because it only makes his soldiers hate him, because to them he is almost no better than a slave master. However, through his time in command of the 54th he learns more about his soldiers and they become actually people to him. He no longer treats them differently than he would any other men. This aspect of the movie shows that diversification is a difficult process to do successfully, especially when you consider the very strict system that is the military. When you create diversification where it wasn’t previously, people are going to resist the change. It is just the natural reaction for people. Any deviation from the known is scary. However, the benefit of diversification is so great that it is worth the leap of faith.

The second aspect of diversification that Glory takes on is the great benefit that it brings. When an organization, like the military, is diversified you are able to get the best of so many different types of people. For instance, in the movie, the passion and dedication that the black soldiers have was useful to the army. The officers leading the 54th were able to harness that determination and create a deadly regiment out of men who had no previous war experience. Diversification was not only beneficial when it came to people of different races, but just different people in general. When you combine so many different types of people under the same flag, you will be able to combine all the good aspects of different people. Integration also proves that no one type of person makes a good soldier. Throughout the movie we see many different personalities, yet all of them in their own way became good soldiers.

Additionally, the aspect of leadership is also displayed in this film. More particularly, Private Trip. Toward the beginning of the film we see Trip as a man who is filled with arrogance and hatred as he constantly looks for ways to view negative aspects of any situation. Eventually Trip becomes humble as he realizes the men that make up the 54th are all he has, and he sees them as being his family. When asked by Colonel Shaw if he would take the honor to carry the Regimental Colors, Trip denies the opportunity telling Colonel Shaw that he is not fighting this war for him. Later in the film we see Pvt. Trip honoring Colonel Shaw’s wishes after Shaw falls with the flag bearer after taking fatal gunshot wounds at Fort Wagner. Trip’s heroics of running to take up the flag raises troop moral and as a result, the 54th charges to break inside the walls of Fort Wagner.

It was only fitting to see Trip fall beside his leader, Colonel Shaw. Trip is also the type of person to advocate on behalf of his peers. Trip went AWOL and was caught and “flogged” in front of the troops. This exposed his scars as a former slave, and revealed that he had only left to find suitable shoes. His superior officer, Shaw, realized that his soldiers were being denied supplies, though shoes and socks were plentiful. Trip also tried to incite the men to tear up their pay, prompting Shaw to do the same. In some ways, Trip is Shaw’s guide, leading him to fight inequality, while Shaw leads Trip in battle.

Ultimately, the themes that are the most apparent are racism & equality, diversification, and leadership to successfully tell the story regarding the first all-African-American regiment, in the perspective of a white soldier.

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