Analyse how language features were used to encourage the audience to take sides.
When one man is made less than the other, in the real world or another, humans are more likely to lean towards the victim and feel their pain and suffering. This is prevalent in ‘Hidden Figures’, written by Theodore Melif, a movie that is set in the 1960 to uncover the racism and sexism towards Black and Women in society. By using specific language features like Knee high-shot, High angle shot, Dialogue, the audience were influenced towards certain people more than others to portray the reality of an inclusive workforce.
The first way language features were used in the film to allow us (the audience) to bond and take sides was through the use of a knee-high shot. In the first scene, Mary, Dorothy and Katherine (Black Female Leads) are stuck on the road with a broken down car, and while waiting for Dorothy’s mechanical mind, a police officer shows up behind them. As he comes out of the car, a knee-high shot is used to establish fear and worry towards the three women. A knee high-shot, or known as a cowboy shot, is often used to point out that the character has a weapon, usually a gun or knife. With this use of camera shot, the audience are able to see the Policies’ Baton, holding it well, with fear for the three women who already have a disadvantage due to their race. With the addition of slow paced retro music, it elucidates the idea that a fight is about to occur, keeping the audience on their toes waiting for what would come next. Melfi uses these techniques to his advantage to allow his audience to feel the intended emotion - worry and hope for the Black Women. Even in our inclusive world, we know there is racism and sexism, and so to see it in a setting almost 60 years ago brings the audience to fear the worst. This is how, with the use of the correct language features in the scene, audiences are able to bond and feel empathy for those who are a minority, taking sides.
The second way Language features were used to initiate the audience to choose sides was through the use of a high angle carea technique. A high angle camera technique shows weakness and belittles whoever is beneath it, allowing the audience to see the true colours and fear for them. When Katherine returns from her routine 80m run to the ‘Coloured Womens Restroom’, Al Harrison, her boss, is seen waiting for her and asking where she had been. Harrison is seen on a higher platform, a second level, while Katherine is beneath. As the camera shot goes to a high angle shot pointing towards Katherine, we feel her fear and worry, taking her side and wanting to stand as a team. With a blue tint in the air, it gives us uneasiness and worry for what’s coming next, using colours to the directors advantage. Although Katherine is known to be one of the smartest people in her group, and known to be a hard worker and achiever, the camera shot brings all that down and shows one thing - weakness and fear. Although Katherine has more brains and power than anyone in her group, her race and gender brings her down to remove her characteristics, showing only her weaknesses. Theodore Melfi specifically adds these language features to a scene with high dominance and command to elucidate this idea into the audience’s mind. Though we see segregation due to race or gender happen in our own society, it is not as blatant as presented in the film. Making Harrison seem as the big bad wolf in this situation, with the overpowering approach and high angle shot used to his advantage, the audience are forced to see Harrison like the bad guy in the story, taking sides with Katherine until the final moment.
The final way language features were used to present the audience to choose a certain side is by the use of Dialogue. Dialogue can be used to bond or break a character with the audience, which is exactly what Theodore Melfi intended by the use of it in this specific scene. As Harrison is too blinded by his work to understand Katherine’s pain and suffering, Katherine does it herself, by raising her voice to her boss and coworkers:
“There are no coloured bathrooms in this building, or any building outside the west campus…I have to walk to Tumbuktu just to relieve myself. Picture that, Mr. Harrison”. From prior scenes, we see Katherine’s daily run to the bathroom, taking her work with her to do it while she is relieving herself in order to stay on the same pace of work as her colleagues. The racism is blatant in her statement, but it doesn’t end there, as the camera slowly zooms into her face, showing her raw emotions and feelings, she continues to scream:
“My uniform. Skirt below my knees, high heels, and a simple string of pearls. Well, I don’t own Pearls! Lord knows you don’t pay coloured’s enough to afford pearls! And I work like a dog, day and night, living off of coffee from a pot none of you want to touch!”
Her statement leaves everyone dumbfounded, except for the audience. The audience already knows her struggle of being the second female in her entire group and the only Black person there too. They know her hard work doesn’t pay off and is disregarded by her peers, and so for her to stand up to her rights allows the audience to feel happy for Katheirne, as we were always taking her side in this conflict of Bad vs Good. The Director uses these language features to his advantage to point out the movie’s purpose - to defy these stereotypes as you are just as much of worth as anyone else.
Although 1960’s segregation is no more in our modern world, we still see bias against certain groups and minorities in society. George Floyd in 2020, for example, a Black Man in America who was killed due to police power using unnecessary force to his neck, strangling him and ending his life. Many spoke up to this hate by protesting and standing with certain groups, one being a popular one between ‘BLM’, or ‘Black Lives Matter’. This is even prevalent through the ‘Glass Ceiling’, where jobs and events take advantage of smaller minorities - specifically women and coloured ethnicities - to exploit them and use their work as others. In a world with an untold hierarchy, we need to defy stereotypes and acknowledge everyone in our society, man, woman, black or white.
To conclude, Theodore Melfi uses many language features to allow the audience to lean towards a certain person or group more, specifically minorities in the film who are going through segregation. Through the use of the knee-high shot, high angle camera technique and dialogue, Theodore Melfi influences the audience to stand with the Black Females going through segregation and unfairness in work settings.