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Mediocre Review of the Movie Glory


    What a testament to the split personality of the white man is the movie Glory.  Glory is based on the true story of Col. Robert Shaw who led the first company of black soldiers, known as the Fifty Fourth regiment, during the American Civil War.   Along the road of forming this group of soldiers there is shown the full range of white feelings toward blacks.  From complete disrespect shown by a solder who would not let the fifty fourth get the shoes that they needed to the complete respect and admiration shown by Robert Shaw.  The story just goes to show that not all white people are evil, nor are all white men good.

     Glory starts with the battle of Antietam Creek where Col. Shaw suffers minor injuries, but witnesses horrible casualties.  After the battle Shaw is taken to a field hospital where another soldier fixes Shaw up.  Shaw then goes back to Massachusetts where is prominent father is throwing a party.  At the party he is offered the opportunity to lead a battalion of black troops that would be known as the Fifty fourth regiment.  Shaw accepts this responsibility and begins the task of recruiting and training the soldiers.  During the time in training the soldier go through many hardships as does Shaw.  Shaw has to fight to get the fifty fourth the equipment and supplies that they need including shoes, uniforms, and guns.   Eventually the Fifty fourth gets the supplies that they need and are shipped to South Carolinian where they are forced to do nothing but manual labour.   Eventually Shaw blackmails the general in charge and is able to get his battalion into battle.  There first battle is at James Island where they fought hard and came out victorious.  After a few fights Col. Shaw volunteers the Fifty forth to lead the assault on Fort Wagner which was one of the many forts guarding the port of Charleston.  During the attack Robert Shaw was killed along with about half of the Fifty Fourth regiment.  Fort Wagner was never taken, but the Black troops did show their ability to fight.  After the Fort Wagner battle over one hundred and eighty thousand black men were recruited to fight for the north. Many people attribute this fresh stock of troops as one of the turning points for the north that led to northern Victory. 

     What one might find truly interesting about Glory is the extreme views that many of the white characters have toward the black characters and vice versa.  When the idea of creating black troops first surfaced, for example, one of Shaw’s friends laughed the idea off remarking that no one would want to give a bunch of black men uniforms and guns.  Never the less, though, Shaw shows complete respect for the idea and his friend actually helps him.  When the troops are raised, and show their willingness to fight they are still discriminated against.  They do not get treated nearly the same as white troops.  They are paid less, and in many ways treated like children.  It takes a lot of persuading on Shaw’s behalf in order to convince the other men in charge that the Fifty Fourth needs the proper training so that they can successfully go into battle.  As all the other white men seem to fit into the role of the egocentric white man, Shaw seems to step out as a diamond in the rough.

     The best example of the split white attitude is probably when Shaw is talking with another commander who asks Shaw how he is able to control the black men so well.  The other commander explains that he used to live in Kentucky and owned a few himself, but being that Shaw grew up in Massachusetts he could not figure out how Shaw was able to control all the black men.  Shaw did not respond to this question, but it was easy to tell that if affected him.  It seemed that Shaw respected black people just as he did white.  He grew up in a time when segregation and slavery still took place in America, but he was able to look beyond the culture of his time in order to embrace the humanity of all peoples.  Shaw was able to so wholly control his men because he respected their humanity and in turn gained their respect.  Shaw’s fellow commander thought he could control his men because he was better then them.  It was a relationship of mutual animosity that would most likely never develop into anything more. Shaw so greatly plays the role of the good white man.  It was men like Shaw that helped to make the world better for all men and women.  Unfortunately, Shaw was only one man and the rest of the white actors seemed to fill the role of the bad white man who believed in his own dominance and superiority.  The reason that Shaw had to put up so much of a fight in order to get the permission for his black solders to fight was because the majority of the white community did not believe that black men could make good soldiers.  There seemed to be the prevailing idea that the black man was nothing more than an incompetent child who needed simple instructions, simple tasks, and someone to look after them.  Hence the split personality of the white man; Shaw who was fair and understanding, and everyone else who was not.

     Glory also has some pretty interesting historical view points that go to show the hardships of the black man during the time of the American Civil War.  When, for example, one of the soldiers was accused of desertion Shaw determined that his punishment should be that he will be whipped.  When they take of the man’s shirt, his back is completely scared up from previously being whipped.  It was later discovered that that soldier was not trying to desert, but was in all actuality just trying to get some shoes because his feet were all torn up. This whole seen does a good job of showing, in an emotional way, how hard it was to b a black soldier and furthermore how hard it was to be a white commander in charge.  There is no easy why for Shaw to correctly punish his soldiers with out also taking into consideration that any punishment will make him look just as bad as the white southerners that the black soldiers are fighting to get rid of. 

     Not all the films historical interpretations are accurate, though, some just fit into modern patriotic views. The whole idea that Shaw could ask his father to plea his case to president Lincoln as though it was one of President Lincoln’s priorities to make sure that this black army was treated fairly seem a little far fetched.  It seems that Lincoln probably had many other things to worry about and was probably not as kind to black men as was Shaw (if Shaw was that great of a man in real life).  Lincoln was a politician that realized that the issue of slavery had to be taken care of because it was important to the future stability of the United States of America.  It does not appear that Lincoln had some sort of personal goal for the enrichment of the black experience.  

      Although Glory was a good movie and told a moving story based on fact, Hollywood did take some liberties in its creation.  There is a great story of the split personality of white society that causes an emotional stirring that Hollywood was undoubtedly aiming for.  In the attempt to create an emotional response, Hollywood was successful.  All in all, the movie was good and could be used as a further tool to help open the eyes of a racially diverse American community.



© All words and music written and owned by Shawn Nelsen.