Realism vs. Fantasy

In the book I am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett there are many scenes depicted that derive from various Sidney Poitier movies. The specific scene in the movie “The Defiant Ones”, clearly illustrates this idea of realism versus fantasy. In the scene, the main character is handcuffed to a white man for the warrens amusement, and while being transported to the prison, they get into a car accident. This led to the bus being flipped off the side of the road, leaving the officers and many other prisoners unconscious; the opportunity to run away to freedom presented itself to the main characters and the took it. This scene is presented in the movie with a relatively dramatized light and in a realistic light in the book.

            The main characters in “The Defiant Ones” is named Noah Cullen, a black man, and John Jackson, a white man. Noah is charged with intent to kill and assault; looking at the era this movie was produced in, the likely hood of Noah trying to kill someone is very slim. This movie was filmed during a period of every intense racism and an exponentially high climate of false accusations against black people. The movie was produced in the 1950s when the Civil Rights Movement was just starting off, during this time the white citizens used violence in an attempt to stop the African Americans from asserting these rights. After, both men ran away from the bus crash they meet a young boy who interprets their arguing and fighting by pointing a rifle at them and asking if they were prisoners. John asks the boy to show them the way to his house where he lives with his sister, here they eat their first meal in days and break their cuffs freeing them from each other. Both men explain to the Sister that they are runaways and are trying to find a way to get away from the cops, finding this out she begs John to take her and her little brother with them. This is because she hates living on the farm and is looking for a way to escape from a life she did not want. She finally tells Noah where the train station is located and what time the train will arrive so that he can jump on, however, she leads him astray to a path of quicksand and death. When John finally gets her car started, she explains to him that she gave Noah false directions, so they can run away together without any problems arising; such as Noah telling the police where they went if he was caught. Following this John gets upset and runs after Noah in an attempt to stop him from falling into the quicksand. This bond both men developed during the course of the movie is unrealistic and fantasized. The chances of this bond-forming in real life during this time of racism is unlikely because John would have been thrilled by what the Sister had done. Also, the chances of him chasing after Noah is very slim because it would have been looked at as a problem solved and an easy escape for him to live as a free man.

            Moving forward in the movie Noah and John track the way up the mountain to the train tracks. They arrived just in time since the train was arriving, running as fast as they could together to get to the tracks before the train got near them.  They ran together and Noah jumped onto the train cart first but John was hurt, so he couldn’t keep up with Noah’s pace or the speed of the train, falling behind Noah stretches his hand out and attempts to pull him up into the cart. However, this didn’t work and they both ended up falling to the side of the train tracks. This scene is fantasized because most people would have let go and apologized but continued on their way. The bond and relationship between Noah and John is dramatized for the movie effect because the political climate of the time was vastly against the black community. Also, both men would have gone their separate ways after the cuff was broken.

            This scene in the book, however, played out very differently with a realistic outlook of the way this type of situation would go during a critical period of racism. The main characters in the book is Not Sidney who is handcuffed to Patrice, the white prisoner.  In the book Not Sidney is arrested for petty crimes such as, back talking an officer, not pulling over as soon as the officer turned on his lights, and speeding; the only reason Not Sidney should have received a ticket was because of his speeding. Since, this book is also set in a highly discriminative society so he could have been arrested just because he was black, which is more realistic.

            Next, they crash and runaway meeting the same people as they do in the movie. Although the scene stayed the same for the most part Patrice claims that he has fallen in love with Sis and intends to run away with her and Bobo, the little brother. They all come together in a big group and run to the train together. Arriving before the train Sis takes out a bottle of liquor and begins to drink with Patrice, inevitably they fall asleep along with Bobo. When the train does arrive Not Sidney is the only one awake and without waking the others he runs and jumps into one of the carts, leaving behind Bobo, Sis, and Patrice.  Not Sidney running off on his own is more realistic because it was an “every man for themselves” society. Also, no bond was developed, they were just trying to get to their destination and on with their lives, which is common.

            The movie and the book both share a different outlook on the same scene presented in the same time period. In “I am Not Sidney Poitier” the scene is depicted as honest with the times and realistic within a racial society. However, the movie “The Defiant Ones” illustrated the scene in a fantasized and dramatic televised way. Since it is a movie having the characters bond and fail together can be seen as a way to get views and sales in the movie.

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