12 Angry Men’s Other Problems–Rank Hypocrisy
Besides being manipulative to hell and back and completely making a mockery of legal concepts and the deliberation process, 12 Angry Men lost my vote for another reason–the movie is rife with rank hypocrisy.
Let’s take one of the movie’s premises, the idea that you shouldn’t allow bigotry to cloud your decision making. The movie even makes it a point of having the jurors turn their backs on The Bigot as he goes on a rant about how dangerous “they” are and how “they’re” all liars.
Fair enough. But notice: every single one of the jurors’ justifications for exonerating the defendant was also based on the worst kind of prejudices. The prejudices just didn’t happen to be against the defendant; they were against the witnesses and the attorneys.
For example, because an elderly witness was shabbily dressed, The Old Man decided that he’d spent his entire life never being cared about or listened to, so most likely made the story up about having heard anything on the night of the murder for “the attention.” Ironically, the same jurors use the same argument against a female witness because she was too nicely dressed for a middle-aged woman. Because she dyed her hair and didn’t dress her age, that must have meant that she was self-conscious about getting older and therefore was hiding the fact that she wore glasses.
Juror 8 is the biggest hypocrite of them all, justifying his defense of the defendant on the argument that kids from rough neighborhoods have had miserable lives. How is deciding that a defendant should be let off the hook for a murder because kids from rough neighborhoods have tough lives any less prejudiced than arguing that they’re all as good as guilty precisely because they come from rough neighborhoods? It’s not.
The most egregious example of 12 Angry Men’s hypocrisy is its depiction of the lone wolf archetype. In the beginning, when Juror 8 begins to act out, the movie portrays him as the brave non-conformist daring to stand up against the crowd. But lo and behold, when The Bully is the last man standing and keeps sticking to his guns, the movie has Juror 8 tell him in a dramatic fashion, “You’re alone,” to paint him as a pathetic odd man out who might as well give in because he’s outnumbered.