The Shawshank Redemption is less about race and more about social class. In it, a man is wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife. Andy’s struggles with prison life; the predatory inmates, the abusive guards, and the sadistic warden all, while not racially charged, do carry the same element of racism and segregation. There is a distinct line of humanity that the inmates are not allowed to toe: an upper and lower class of person within the prison. The movie does not, in general, challenge stereotypes, nor does it perpetuate them. The prison is a mixing pot of different races and social classes, and the inmates all behave more or less similarly with some notable exceptions that do not appear to have anything to do with social class or race. The furthest I could go in naming a stereotype it challenged was the slightly surprising ratio of white men to black men in prison. Especially in an era of racial oppression, I would have expected the whites to be the ethnic outsiders, not the blacks. Conflict theory could view the prison in two ways; as an institution that mirrors an already existing tension between a prisoner class and a guard class, or as a metaphor economic inequality. I don’t think either is right. With respect to the former, there aren’t fundamental differences in the way the two classes behave. Both inmates and guards are brutal towards each other, both stick together, and both look for individual opportunities to advance. The only difference between them is who has the power within the prison; outside of the existing environment of the prison, they would behave roughly the same. Regarding the possible metaphor of economic equality, this seems the more likely of the two. There is a distinct difference between the guards and the inmates in how they treat their peers. The movie challenges the stereotype of everyone in jail being vicious, but the fact remains that the guards do not need to fight amongst themselves to survive, whereas...
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