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Twelve Angry Men reminds citizens of their inherent responsibilities to honestly understand one another in order for the American democracy to function effectively and fairly. The film presents a jury of twelve men that must reach a unanimous decision regarding a first degree murder trial of an 18-year-old man from the slums. Each juror truly wants the verdict to be legitimate, however, everyone views justice differently because of their desires, passions, and backgrounds.
Throughout the film, many jurors express prejudice views and lack full consideration to their duty. One juror, who also grew up in the slums, becomes defensive because of the existing stigma that anyone who was raised in the slums is a thief or a murderer. Another juror has tickets to a baseball game and wants to reach a decision before it begins. The film questions whether people are truly capable of deciding the truth objectively. When an individual is more invested in their personal wants, rather than the integrity of the system as a whole, an honest and unbiased deliberation is inconceivable.
Jack Warden, one of the jurors, wants to reach a verdict promptly in order to attend a baseball game. Initially, he firmly agrees that the young man is guilty but changes his vote when the other jurors change theirs. Warden says, “Do me a favor. Wake me up when this is over. . . I’m a little sick of this whole thing already. We’re getting nowhere fast. Let’s break it up and go home. I’m changing my vote to not guilty. ” His immediate change of opinion demonstrates his lack of concern to deliberate a truly honest and accurate decision.
The film highlights the challenges to democracy which requires honorable people to function. George Voskovec, another juror, embodies the American values that most citizens hope is present in the judicial system. The only foreigner in the group of jurors, Voskoevec seems to appreciate the democratic process exponentially more than the others. He reminds the jurors, “We have a responsibility. This is a remarkable thing about our democracy. . . We are notified by mail to come down to this place and decide on the guilt or innocence of a man we have not known before. We have nothing to gain or lose by our verdict. ” Voskoevec’s deep admiration for American democracy causes him to have tremendous faith and optimism in the intentions of his fellow jurors, which proves to be misguided. Despite his excitement of the democratic process, he begins to realize that many of the other jurors feel differently. Jurors such as Jack Warden take their freedom and responsibility for granted, however, an immigrant like Voskoevec understands the detrimental effects of a system that lacks these attributes. His anger is entirely justified and serves as a reminder that any democratic process is critical.
In addition to desire and passion resulting in strongly biased deliberations, the juror Jack Klugman highlights the influence of past experiences when making this decision. Klugman becomes increasingly defensive when the reasoning for the young man being guilt is that he was raised in the slums. Being from the slums himself, he resents the belief that anyone raised in a slum is a murderer or theif.
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