- Area: Arts, Communication, & Digital Media
- Program: Communication
- Type of Writing: Essay (Analytical, Interpretive)
- Course Level: 1000
- English Speaking Nativeness: Native
- Year: 2021
- Paper ID: AC&DM.C.E.1.N.2.2.2213
Twelve Angry Men Analysis
After spending an entire semester learning about all the different aspects of communication in the twenty-first century, my class was asked to watch the movie, Twelve Angry Men. I chose to watch the 1957 version in black and white. This movie illustrates the development of small groups processes through all stages and into completion of the task assigned to the group. Many times, in my life, I have been assigned to a group to complete a task such as running the Pennies by the Inch campaign for Primary Children’s Hospital, to developing and writing a physiology lab experiment. First, this assignment is to breakdown the movie, showing when each of the four stages of small group development begin, citing examples from the movie to support my logic. Next, is to explore the development of roles within the small group without chose the characters that are the leaders. It was hard to chose secondary characters, however, it allowed me to think closer at the different roles as pieces to a puzzle.
Last, to identify the leaders with the small group. Reflecting upon the events of the small group within the movie allowed me to have a broader concept of how I can successfully work within small groups that I am assigned to. How to have empathy, depth and how to be an exceptional listener. I cannot wait for me next small group experience.
Twelve Angry Men Analysis
Guilty, no, not guilty! I watched the movie, Twelve Angry Men, to see examples of small group development, what roles members of the small group step into, and how leadership evolves. The movie displayed a fantastic example of each. I will explain the movement through the stages of the small group development with examples from the movie of each stage; the forming stage, storming stage, norming stage, performing stage, and the adjourning stage.
Choosing four jury members, I will then analysis the role they played as the group progressed. The title is so fitting as these twelve men truly were angry due to the curve balls which life had thrown them in which they formed preconceived opinions and bias’s that came out as the movie goes along. Lastly, I will walk you through the emerging leadership within the group.
Small Group Development
The Forming Stage
During the Forming Stage of small group development, group members meet for the first time obtaining first impressions of each other (Edwards et al., 2017). Most people try to show their best colors during this stage to either calm their fears of rejection or to create a sense that they belong. The forming stage begins in the movie, when the jury is sent to deliberate the verdict. We see juror #5 helping to open a window and offering gum to another jury member, suggesting that he is trying to make friends. While juror #10 tries to be funny, looking for a laugh, by stating, “maybe we can get him elected senator” (Lumet, 1957). Meanwhile juror #3 is pushing his opinion of this being an “open-and-shut case” (Lumet, 1957) upon juror #2.
Personalities are emerging. It is telling, when juror #3 says that he would like to “shut these kids down before they get started” (Lumet, 1957). This is a red flag that he does not trust kids. Juror#10 tries to push is business card on juror #4, who does not accept it. Thus, this small group is thrown together not by choice, but for a common good.
The Storming Stage
The storming stage reflects just what it’s title states, a storm. At this point the small group has moved past first impression which included politeness and into a stage of actively discussing the task at hand. Parts of their personalities emerge, opportunities to share opinions arise which allows for disagreement to begin. This storming stage in the movie, begins right after the first vote. It moves from cloudy with a chance to rain to actual thunderstorms. Disagreement arise on a personal level as well as a task level. On the personal level, Juror #9 stands up to the racist comments from Juror #10. On the task level Juror #1 states to Juror # 8, “Now perhaps if the gentleman down there who’s disagreeing with us…, could tell us why…, and we might be able to show you where you’re mixed up” (Lumet, 1957). He is projecting that they are right and juror #8 is wrong. Juror #1 just wants the task completed.
The Norming Stage
Working together is the sign that the norming stage has begun. Open discussion allowing cohesiveness within the group as they join together to complete the task at hand (Edwards, et al., 2017). This stage begins when juror #8 calls for a second vote agreeing that if everyone but he votes guilty, then he will change his vote to guilty as well. This was his proposition. Juror #9 changes his mind to not guilty thus changing the tide to the group, they are forced to go over each of the facts of the case. This sequence of events allows the norming stage to begin. Starting with juror #1 saying, “Ok, let’s get down to business” (Lumet, 1957). Juror #8 explains that the neighbor could not heard the boy say, “I am going to kill you” (Lumet, 1957), because of the loudness of the train. Juror #9 jumps on board explaining why the old man convinced himself that he heard those words, because he wants to be important, hoping that his life will amount to something. Cohesiveness is beginning.
The Performing Stage
Now we are starting to get somewhere. Finally, after all the disagreements we get to the performing stage. During this stage the most work is completed. The group starts to zone in completion of the task. The switch to the performing stage in the movie occurs when lively discussion fact by fact allows for reasonable doubt. This open discussion shows how the testimony of the witnesses could be tainted by human error. How the words, “I am going to kill you” (Lumet, 1957), are just a hyperbole that everyone in the room has used at some point or another. They don’t literally mean the person is going to kill someone. When juror #11 brings up reasonable questions as to why the boy will kill his father, run away only to return three hours later to be captured by the police. If he has killed his father, it would not have returned three hours later. These points brought up by juror #11 really get the wheels turning in everyone’s mind. Now they go from fact to fact truly trying to get to the bottom of it especially when the act out the scene. The performing stage truly turns into the jurors performing by acting out act step of the evidence to see if reasonable doubt exists.
The Adjourning Stage
To adjourn means to finish. Thus, the adjourning stage happens when the small group reaches an end. According to our text book this could happen in four different ways. “The group has finished the task has run out of time allotted to complete the task, has failed at its task, or in unable to function in its present condition” (Edwards, et al., 2017). This could come in many different ways in this movie, a hung jury, guilty verdict or a not guilty verdict. Juror #3 is the last one standing with the guilty verdict. He has an emotional outburst which clearly stems from the breakdown of his relationship with his own son. Being mad at his own son, he feels that children don’t treat their parents fairly and therefore the suspect is a child so he must have treated his dad wrongly believing this is a reflection from his own life. Ripping up his picture of his son, he finally realizes that his own relationship was getting in the way of truth in the case. After this realization, he gives in and switches his verdict to not guilty. This resolves the conflict and the need for the small group. Quietly, each man puts on his jacket and exits the room, never to see each other again and court is adjourned.
Small Group Member Roles
Juror #12: [Follower]
Based upon the Benne and Sheats (1948) group roles, Juror #12 is in the building and maintaining role as a follower. He clearly is not there to think through the evidence of the case to form his own opinion, he just wants to follow the groups opinions. This is shown as he is constantly doodling, referring to his advertising work, and distracted. He is not a decisive person, reflected by his constant use of the word, “maybe” (Lumet, 1957). Maybe suggests that he can change his mind easily because he is not confident with his own thoughts.
Juror # 5: [Information Giver Role]
Juror #5 can relate a bit to the suspect because he also grew up in the slummy part of town. Other jurors, especially #10 have opinions that everyone from the slums is a rotten apple. #5 takes this personally as reflected in his comment, “I use to play in a back yard that was filled with garbage. Maybe it still smells on me” (Lumet, 1957). Just seeing #5 wearing a suit with professionals shows that not all people from the slums turn out bad. This is an example to the other jurors not to judge the suspect because of the circumstances of his birth. Because of his experience of survival in the slums, he knows exactly how one would hold switchblade. He knows that a switchblade is used from the underhand side. This is not how the evidence was portrayed in the trial. This is key in proving the innocence of the 18-year-old boy. The information giver role suits #5, because not only does he provide the information to disprove the use of the knife in the murder, he also gives information about the slums showing that not all things that come from the slums are bad.
Juror # 9: [Orienter Role, (Edwards, et al., 2017)]
Juror #9 is the oldest man in the room. He gives off an air of feeling worried that his life is slipping away from him while his opinions are not recognizable to those close to him. He relates to the witness who has “never had his name in the newspaper or had any recognition.
Nobody knows him. Nobody quotes him. Nobody seeks his advice after seventy-five years” (Lumet, 1957). He goes only to explain how sad this is, juror #9 is self-reflecting that his life will amount to not as much as he hoped. I believe his age and life experiences make him more sympathetic. With these types of thoughts spinning in his head, no wonder he jumps up easily to state opinions in opposition to juror #10. It is interesting that these two fall in line, sitting right next to each other, creating a hot environment. Juror #10 really gets under the skin of Juror #9.
He easily steps into the orienter role second in line to Juror #8, when he states, “only an ignorant man would think that, do you think you were born with a monopoly on the truth?” (Lumet, 1957). It took courage for Juror #9 to stand up to the racism that Juror #10 was exuberating from the start about “those people” (Lumet, 1957) referring to people of color. Juror #9’s bravery to stand up and join Juror #8 in the not guilty verdict was a cinch pin in challenging the entire group to rethink their first decision.
Juror # 7: [Self-Centered]
Juror #7 loves baseball. Standing out in the group, you will note that he is dressed in a plaid suit whereas everyone else is in solid colors, this accentuates his self-centered behavior. He also stands apart from the others in the group because he is antsy the entire discussion. His tickets to the baseball game at 8 pm are burning a hole in his pocket and he wants out of there. Not really caring if they vote guilty or not guilty, #7 is not interested in the due process of law. Pretending to care, he defends himself by saying, “what, just because I voted fast? I think the guy’s guilty. You couldn’t change my mind if you talked for a hundred years” (Lumet, 1957). The use of a hyperbole here is meant to convince the other jurors that no discussion is needed, vote guilty and let’s get out of here. Then as he sees the tides are turning, he quickly changes his vote to not guilty in order to speed up the process so he can go home. He clearly does not respect the life that hangs on the line due to his decision-making process.
The court system had it set up with one juror as the foreman. Juror #1 was the foreman whose job was to manage the group, keeping it under control, therefore, he was chosen by the court to be the leader of the group. In the beginning, he organizes the seating from one to twelve calling them to attention and getting the group started. He states that he is, “not going to make any rules” (Lumet, 1957), but wants to discuss it and vote on it. Juror #1 is putting off the air that he would like “shared leadership” (Edwards, et al., 2017). This allows the louder more controlling jurors to step in and try to force their opinions upon the others in an attempt to finish quickly and get home. For example, juror #10 uses a derogatory comment, “Oh, Boy, there is always one” (Lumet, 1957), to take on a leadership role and intimidate juror #8 to just go along with the crowd and vote guilty to get home faster.
Juror #1 continually brings the group back into line by reminding them of the rules and consequences of their decision. We see an emergent leadership approach right from the start, as some jury members do not demonstrate leadership abilities which allows other jury members to step into leadership. For example, when each jury member is giving his first round of thoughts, juror #5 asks to pass and not share. We also see Juror #2 and #6 who wait to raise their hands in voting until they have looked around the room to see how others are voting, clearly voting with the crowd. The actions of these gentlemen show they want to be in the back ground, not controlling the group. This allows others to step up and emerge as leaders, beginning with juror #8 who is brave enough to vote not guilty sharing that he has reasonable doubts. By vocalizing his doubts, juror #9 quickly joins his ranks.
Even though the court chose a leader, “the emergent leader approach” (Edwards, et al., 2017) shined its way through to eventually show who was the real leader, juror #8. #8 did not force his opinions on anyone, he simply allowed reasonable doubt to creep in which gained momentum as they discussed each piece of evidence. By the end, the reasonable doubt filled the room led by Juror #8.
After reading about small group development, the roles within small groups and the development of leadership within a small group, it was a blast to see this in action in the old 1957’s movie, Twelve Angry Men. I learned how important listening is to the ability of small group communication. Next time I am in a group, I promise to listen in a way to make each person will heard. As they feel hear, the defensiveness dissolves away and then the real work of problem solving can begin. I appreciate the fact that a group of minds together are more successful at problem solving then one mind alone. What a great lesson to learn. Reach out for additional brain power when problem solving, and you’ll find success.
Edwards, A., Edwards, C., Wahl, S. T., & Myers, S. A. (2017). The Communication Age Connecting and Engaging (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.
Twelve angry men. (1957). [Film]. United States.