The film “Marshall” focuses on Thurgood Marshall, a young black attorney for The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who is charged with rape in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Marshall is banned from speaking and guides Sam Friedman, an inexperienced attorney for insurance, through his trial. This essay will discuss how media can fuel racism. People are reluctant to speak up about what they see in media.

First, minority groups fear speaking out because of racism’s deep roots within society. This is clearly evident in the example where Spell (a coloured male) didn’t tell the truth but instead pleaded guilty for a crime that he didn’t commit. He was worried about the backlash he would face for having a woman of color in his life. This is linked to the Spiral of Silence Theory. According to this theory, cohesion can only be achieved in an anonymous society if there is sufficient agreement on goals and values. People can feel confident to express their opinion in private or public discussions if they believe that there is consensus on their views. Conversely, if they feel like they are in a minority, they tend to be more cautious and timid, which reinforces the perception in public that their side is weak. In this example, the minority of the blacks is represented by the majority. Spell, an individual from a minority, chose to remain silent because the majority thought that the coloured people were wild and uncultured. This could have led to him being more likely to be convicted of crimes such as rape. Rothman says that the majority is silent if the minority is supported by influential media. Because it is supported by influential media, the minority will be more open to speaking out than the majority (Rothman 1993). Spell was supported in trial by the NAACP. As a result, more coloured people sought justice outside than before when only whites could see them. An example of real life would be people’s opinions about marijuana. The media reported that the majority believed marijuana was harmful and should be avoided. However, the minority view said that marijuana had medical benefits. Because of the potential for negative consequences to their reputations, big news media companies were wary of talking about marijuana. But Dr. Sanjay Gupta (a CNN medical correspondent) had previously publicly supported the drug. This was when things changed. Recent polls show that marijuana is supported by the majority in America. This example illustrates how powerful media can be, in this instance CNN, which has a large viewership and could possibly break the Spiral Of Silence. Next, editors in newspapers decide what headlines to use and what not. This limit the information that their viewers see and can create a specific perspective on black people. You can see this in the scene where Friedman yelled at Marshall, saying that newspapers shouldn’t be allowed in the trial. Marshall replied that news stories were causing black people to lose their jobs. Newspaper headlines such as “Wife Attacked from Negro Driver” portray Spell as an evil criminal who can be used to rape. Strubing is portrayed as a fair-haired white woman who has been educated and is a victim. These headlines were designed to make readers believe that only the coloured commit crimes and should be feared. Friedman said that Spell was the victim of the Greenwich case when he was initially asked about it. The Agenda-Setting Theory is a theory that describes how media present and organise information to influence how people understand it. Media organisation can include everything, from visual or verbal clues to the inclusion of facts or the order in which they tell the story (Croteau & Hoynes 2019, 2019).

This was because the media used framing to portray black people as evil and criminal. The whites then saw them as untrustworthy, which led to innocent blacks being fired even though they had done nothing wrong. One example of this would be the Scottsboro Boys, who were falsely accused of raping white women aboard the train. The alleged rape was not committed by the youths. However, an angry mob of white men surrounded the jail in desperate attempts to execute them. A headline that was used in newspapers read, “Death penalty properly demanded in Fiendish crime of Nine burly Negroes”, and the article’s contents include “…those hellish offenders”, and “…white people will not tolerate such acts. Because the article’s headlines and content promote white supremacy, readers will believe the Scottsboro Boys committed the crime.

Final, if audiences are constantly exposed the invocations black inferiority/white supremacy in media, they will start treating racism like the norm and internalise it. You can see this in the newspaper headlines that accuse black people. Also, during jury selection, one of the judges, Mr Wright said, “I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t love the coloured.” They seem to be always getting into trouble.” These scenes are indicative of how viewers, mostly whites have a negative perception of black people. They start to think of them as criminals and distrustful. Cultivation Theory focuses on the whole pattern as it is communicated over a long period of time. This theory does not focus on any particular content or effect. Although each subculture may have its own values, the overall overriding images displayed will affect all. Although media may not always reflect reality, viewers who are a lot more observant will begin to believe that the reality is consistent with it (Littlejohn 1989). The whites grew a negative perception of blacks over time, as they read the newspaper headlines that constantly portrayed black people negatively. Another scene that shows the poor impression white people make of blacks is when Marshall is called a “nigger.” Also, a group surrounded Friedman and said “Bet You Wish You Had Your Niger Lawyer Friend Now”. The headlines of newspapers have often labeled blacks “negros”, “nigger”, or “nigger”. These terms are a derogatory term for blacks according to the African American Registry. Cultivation Theory has been demonstrated in the real world by Disney’s influence on children’s attitudes towards race. Durkin (1985), says that children learn racial views about characters from Disney shows. The skin tones of villains are more varied than the skin tones of Disney’s heroes and heroines. These portrayals could lead to impressionable young children believing that a princess must be fair-skinned. The 1940 Disney movie “Fantasia” is an excellent example. A small, dark-skinned child was shown as a servant of fair-skinned children. The obvious racial implication here is that fair-skinned characters must be subservient. Children may see the world differently if they associate Disney characters with racism. This could lead to them assuming that white people are superior and black people inferior.

The movie “Marshall”, in its conclusion, focuses on three major theories.

Spiral of Silence – Blacks fear standing for themselves against whites. Agenda Setting or Framing – headlines and articles are used to frame beliefs about racism and blacks. Finally, Cultivation – where people constantly encounter racism. Each of these theories is important when assessing how media influences the spread racism.


  • rowandavid

    I am a 32-year-old educational blogger and student. I love to share my knowledge and experiences with others through writing. I believe that knowledge is power, and I am passionate about helping others learn and grow.