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This movie takes place at a time in American history when the average person was being pulled down by the financial and psychological burdens of the Great Depression and when the south in particular was struggling. This was a time of widespread poverty, overt racism, imposing ignorance and when little towns in the south were pretty much isolated from the rest of the world. In one of these small towns, we witness one man, a local attorney and widower, dealing with a troubling matter while he also attempts to raise his children.

The man, Atticus Finch, stands out in this community, not because he was so extraordinary for the time and place, but because he is a man of solid character and honesty that would make him to stand out at any time. In a way he is larger than life as we see him through gthe eyes of his daughter. Saying this in no way is meant to discount her story or bring this man down to a more common level. What he does is not common and how he impacts his daughter, Scout, is in the way that good parents hope to impact their children.

To Kill A Mockingbird is about many things including quiet courage, a child’s discovery of the world, scary things, and how ignorance and blind prejudices can influence normal people to do bad things. Mostly, it is about how a child becomes aware of some unpleasant aspects of her community and how her father helps her to understand and deal with these.

To a certain degree, good parents protect their children from the unpleasant and disturbing things in the world. There are many things that children should not be exposed to or made aware of until they are old enough to understand. However, families do not live in bubbles and inevitably children are going to observe and experience some difficult realities that they are not ready for. When a parent denies that these things have happened or are not concerned with the impact these unsettling realities have on the children, that parent is allowing something unhealthy to fester.

Decent people sometimes are compelled by circumstance to deal with some ugly matters. For Atticus this is racism and the threats of a dangerous man. As we observe Atticus from Scout’s vantage, we often understand more than she, a child, regarding the troubling situation that grows around her father. Atticus is attentive to his children and does his best to protect them. We also see how he helps Scout understand and know the right thing, sometimes by what he tells her but mostly by what he does. This is an important lesson in To Kill A Mockingbird: By their behavior parents teach their children how to be decent, honest individuals who will go out and behave in an honorable way. A parent’s deeds have much more impact on his children’s moral growth than whatever he might say.

The American public has turned cynical since this movie was made. We tend to want to pull down our heros by finding their flaws (which for many implies that they have feet of clay) . I think this is a reaction to the behavior of many politicians and religious leaders who have used the power of the mass medias (especially television) to promote themselves and their causes, creating idealized images of themselves. Political ads and much of what is promoted on t.v. have made many of us suspicious and leery of those being promoted. If Atticus were around today and used these tools to promote himself, he would be suspect. But I don’t think Atticus would, and like so many Atticuses of the world he would go about doing what has to be done without drawing attention to himself other than by being himself. He would not need (or want) a reward or testimonial.

To Kill A Mockingbird is a good film to watch with one’s school age children. It is also a good movie to see when one is attempting to do the fair and honest thing when others are responding to a situation out of prejudice or because of the heat of the moment.
Not rated by M.P.A.A.

Available from MCA HOME VIDEO
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Last modified: 18 March, 2009