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Higher Learning Comparative Analysis

1640 words - 7 pages

For my Final paper in this class, I have decided to do a comparative analysis between the movies Higher Learning and Smoke Signals. I will briefly summarize each movie in a few paragraphs and then I will discuss the similarities and differences between the themes in each movie before I discuss overall comparisons between characters, filming techniques used, and racial stereotypes.
"Higher Learning" takes place at the fictitious Columbus University, where the producer makes use of a Christopher Columbus statue to suggest a racist atmosphere. Still, he does this effectively during harsh, well-observed opening scenes that capture different attitudes of white and black students on campus. A ...view middle of the document...

Thomas is a nerd who enjoys telling stories that have no interest to anyone. His parents died in an accidental fire in 1976, he was saved from the fire by Victors father Arnold Joseph. On the other hand Victor is a tough kid that never got over the fact that his father left his family when he was young.
After ten years of suppressed anger, Victor gets news that his father has died. He is given the opportunity to travel to Phoenix, Arizona in order to collect his father’s ashes and personal belongings. Victor does not have much money and is forced to travel with Thomas who offers his life savings in order to help fund the trip to Arizona, on the condition that Thomas is able to go along on the trip. Arrangements are made and they set off to Phoenix, where they encounter many challenges together. Victor nurses resentment against him, but Joseph is understandably more open-minded, since the man did, after all, save his life. There are a few flashbacks to help explain the older man, and although they're brief, they're strong and well done: We see that Arnold is more complicated than his son imagines, and able to inspire the respect of the woman he was living with in Phoenix. When they return to the reservation, both Victor and Thomas have found new respect for each other as well as for Arnold Joseph.
A theme that I observed in both movies was the idea of self-identity. The two main characters that I thought depicted this theme the most were Remy, the white misfit who is picked on by his African American roommate, in Higher Learning and Thomas, a goofy out of place Indian American who does not “fit” the persona of a tough stoic Indian, in the film Smoke Signals. These two characters are similar in some ways and very much the opposite of each other in other ways but are still going through a lot of the same things. At the beginning of Higher Learning Remy doesn’t really know where he belongs in the different groups of college students on the beautiful Columbus University campus. Remy finally falls into the clutches of skinhead Aryan supremacists and it seems as though he is pressured into practices he does not believe in. In the movie Smoke Signals Thomas is seen as a nerdy Indian boy with big glasses and stereotypical braids. Victor is somewhat embarrassed to be seen around him and in the bus on the way to Phoenix he tells Thomas that he needed to put a stoic face on, take down his braids, and change his shirt. The main similarity between these two characters is that they had to change themselves to fit in and feel accepted in front of their “peers”. The main difference between these two men is that Remy holds onto his new identity and ends up with nothing in the end, while Thomas decides for himself that he does not want to make the change and Victor eventually accepts him for who he is; a funny, story telling, braid wearing Indian American who happens to be a very good friend.
Both movies had small underlying themes as well; fire in the...

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