PLOT AND THE ESSENCE OF DISCRIMINATION
In the movie, Andrew Beckett, a successful lawyer, conceals his sexual orientation and HIV status from the senior partners at Wyant & Wheeler, the law firm where he works. When he is promoted to Senior Associate, he was given a very important case. He left some important documents of the case on top of his desk. The following morning, the documents disappeared mysteriously along with the backup files in his computer. He almost misses the court filing deadline and just at the last minute, a hardcopy is suddenly found. Mysteriously, the document reappeared a few minutes before the court’s closing time. The next day Andrew is fired for the incident.
The senior partners tell Andrew that he has an attitude problem and has become unreliable. For these reasons, they claim, his future in the firm is no longer secure and they fired him. However, he suspects that he has been fired because of his HIV status and sexual orientation. He believes that his boss deliberately sabotaged the documents to make him look bad so they could fire him for incompetence rather than his illness. Many lawyers turned down his case. He sought help from an African-American Lawyer named Joseph Miller.
Miller turned his request down because he was gay and he was afraid of getting the AIDS virus from Andrew. During the time Andrew was in Miller’s office, Miller’s face was visibly fearful. Joe miller is a lawyer who specializes in personal injury cases. When the first time Andrew visited, requesting him to take his case, the homophobic and AIDS fearing side of his personality is revealed in front of the audience. He even takes medical advice from his doctor after this visit, but the doctor’s practical approach to his apprehensions presents a question in front of him. when he meets Andrew at the library, he realizes the prejudice Andrew is facing, and decides to take up his case.
In the library Patrons begin feeling discomfort when they realized the presence of a man with AIDS. The librarian’s reaction was disgusted but the social convention of good manners did not allow such outward negative expressions, is reminiscent of the way any member of the public would react. The character of joe miller has been brilliantly used to portray the mentality of a common man in society. Joe miller strategically uses his own homophobic biases to the advantage of the case.
Joe Miller’s encounter with the homosexual student in the supermarket and experiences in the bar where he was mislabeled a homosexual are indicative of the public’s tendency to jump to hasty conclusions. If a man was defending a seemingly morally-bereft homosexual man by their standards, then the only plausible explanation for his actions is that he is also homosexual.
The question to be discussed here is that whether the partners at Wyant & Wheeler are confronted with an ethical dilemma or not.
The defense pleaded that Andrew was fired from his job due to his incompetence in the work he was assigned. They also tampered witnesses, and tried to pretend that the bosses at the law firm had no knowledge about Andrew’s sexual orientation and the health condition he was suffering from. They even chastised Andrew for concealing his illness, and the incidences and witnesses for testifying against the firm for their discriminatory behavior as misunderstandings blown out of proportion. But the prosecution lawyer, Joe Miller, very innovatively and rationally used his own homophobic trigger points for making andrew’s bosses confess the fact that they also align to the discriminatory mentality, and due to this only Andrew was fired from his job. The bosses at the law firm consciously knew that Andrew was suffering from AIDS, and the whole highline case file missing drama was staged to dismiss Andrew on the grounds of carelessness and incompetence. While in reality it was discrimination which was made to look as incompetence.
The jury’s finding was that Andrew Beckett was fired from his job due to discriminatory attitude of the owners of the firm, and he is eligible to receive monetary retribution for the mental and reputational damage THAT he had suffered. The law firm had to also pay punitive damages.
A bond slowly evolves between Beckett and Miller, culminating in the final scene where Miller visits Beckett on his death bed and shares a moment with him. This symbolizes that when a man puts aside his prejudices against a homosexual and AIDS victim, the leading principle for miller becomes that every type and form of discrimination is discrimination and should be called out.
Image Source: Movieanywhere
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