Sociology And Film Essay

Length: 5 pages Subject: Leadership Type: Essay Paper: #30020485 Related Topics: Sociology Of Law, Behaviorism, Sociology, Group Dynamics
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Lord of Flies

The film Lord of the Flies is entertaining, and also illustrates core concepts related to sociology, social psychology, politics, and human behavior. Few films address group formation, group structures, group identity, and group dynamics as overtly as Lord of the Flies. The film is about a group of military cadets whose plane crashes, and who find themselves fighting for their survival. Yet the boys are inexperienced with leadership and unable to successfully create group cohesion. What could have been a group committed to shared goals becomes a fragmented, chaotic, and loose network of alliances with deadly outcomes.

Lord of the Flies demonstrates the most fundamental and early stages of group formation. Because the boys already knew each other from school, they had already formed a group identity. As a group, the boys are loosely connected with one another based on their shared backgrounds. Soon it becomes apparent that their school connection is a secondary group, one that individuals have less personal allegiance to than the primary groups that were formed off-screen: such as their families and friends back home. The boys are also collectively members of a group of survivors, whose status as survivors is temporary. The ending of the film reveals that the alliances formed during the course of their adventures were temporary and superficial, and therefore, only secondary groups formed of voluntary associates. Voluntary associates form around shared interests and needs. In the case of Lord of the Flies, voluntary associations are based on the shared interest and need for food, shelter, friendship, and other essentials of survival.

As soon as the group of survivors gathers, leaders, cliques, and group dynamics start to emerge. Leaders influence other members of their group using a variety of communications tools and techniques. A leader is often a position of power, but the method by which that power is wielded and the forms it takes differ significantly from situation to situation. The specific tools, traits, and techniques leaders use comprises their leadership style. Different leadership styles include the authoritarian leader, the democratic leader, and the laissez-faire leader. An authoritarian leader is one who rules like a dictator, with total control over decisions and without seeking feedback from subordinate members of the group. A democratic leader solicits input from the group, often seeking majority opinions for key decisions that affect the group. A laissez-faire leader is almost an anti-leader in the sense that he or she does as little as possible, delegating both tasks and decision-making to other members of the group. Expressive leaders are akin to democratic leaders in that they use consultation regularly and value harmonious relationships. On the other hand, instrumental leaders are dictatorial in their approach and are mainly concerned with achieving their goals.

Ralph, whether because of his age or personality type, becomes a natural leader of the group. He seems sensible and trustworthy, as well as kind. He is clearly an expressive and democratic leader. Several of the boys relate to Ralph and ally themselves with him. When Piggy returns with the conch shell, Ralph immediately takes it upon himself to organize the group in order to ensure their survival based on their shared goals and needs. Ralph believes that the group should stick together and try to make a signal fire to attract rescuers. Although he is confident and strong-willed, Ralph's leadership style is democratic in nature. In fact, the conch shell symbolizes the democratic nature of group leadership in Lord of the Flies, as whoever holds the conch has the right to free speech. Ralph regularly consults with other members of the group, promotes harmony, and respects input.

However, fissures start to develop and cliques start to form. Cliques are sub-groups within the main group, and are often based on in-group/out-group dynamics. Therefore, both large-group and small-group dynamics are evident in Lord of the Flies. A number of dyads and triads form, as well. Dyads are groups of two; triads are groups of three. Occasionally, Ralph and Piggy form a dyad. Whereas many of the boys taunt Piggy because of his weight, Ralph recognizes Piggy's value as an ally. Their dyad was unfortunately broken up by Piggy's death. The twins form another social dyad within the group.

Group dynamics are the complex range of behaviors and social networks that evolve and which can also determine the success of the group. Group dynamics become apparent especially as the diverse or conflicting opinions, beliefs, needs, and goals of individuals start to clash. Group dynamics refer both to dynamics between the members of one group, as well as the inter-group dynamics between two different groups. Thus, when two small groups are formed: those who ally with Jack and those who ally with Ralph, inter-group dynamics becomes the central issues in the film. Group dynamics also refer to the creation of social norms and how those norms are enforced through processes of punishment like sanctions.

When Jack lures some of the boys from Ralph's group, conflict becomes inevitable. The conflicts become apparent within each group (intragroup) and also between each group (intergroup). Within Ralph's group, there are boys who start to become lured by the violence represented by Jack's approach to survival. Jack, who starts to become a more laissez-faire leader the more animalistic he becomes, has less of a cohesive vision for group identity and thus fewer norms vs. Ralph's group. Each group develops social norms and codes that designate in-group/out-group status. In-group/out-group status is determined by one's allegiance to either Ralph or Jack, as well as by other factors. For Jack, in-group status is relatively simple and mainly depends on unquestioning submission to Jack's power and to an unflinching dislike of Ralph. Members of Jack's group can do whatever they want, which is not the case with Ralph's group. Membership in Ralph's group depends on the willingness to cooperate, collaborate, and do what it takes to get rescued. Ralph and the members of his group actively seek methods of attracting rescuers, whereas Jack and his group actively seek methods of killing in order to survive.

Both groups use social norms to constrain behavior. Deviating from the norm, or simply, deviance, may lead to sanctions. Labeling, or marking, behaviors and people as being deviant is a form of social control. Likewise, shaming and degredation ceremonies provide a test of one's allegiances and are a form of social control. Social control becomes critical to the maintenance of group identity, especially for an authoritarian leader like Jack but also for Ralph. Jack uses violence and shaming as forms of social control, but Ralph does not. To maintain their power or to achieve their goals, leaders often use series of positive sanctions and negative sanctions. Sanctions are forms of discipline used expressly to guide behavior and solidify social norms. Based on basic behaviorism, sanctions are designed to either motivate a desired behavior or discourage an undesirable one.

The iron law of oligarchy is a pessimistic worldview that suggests that all groups, including democracies, inevitably degrade into rule by a select few. An oligarchy is itself a small group but one that possesses tremendous amounts of financial, social, or political power. Unfortunately, the iron law of oligarchy does seem to apply in Lord of the Flies, as Ralph's small group democracy dissolves, and Jack's violent dictatorship emerges victorious, at least temporarily. Jack's group is not an oligarchy as one would appear in international politics, but it is a small group with a disproportionate amount of power.

Lord of the Flies also suggests that human beings, or at least human males, may have a genetic predisposition for violence. This is evident at first when the boys brutally murder Simon, and later, when increasing numbers of the boys shift to the bloodthirsty camp ruled by Jack. Robert's killing of Piggy also highlights the tendency in human beings toward senseless violence perpetrated to achieve or maintain power. Because many of the boys react to fear with their limbic system rather than with their cerebral cortex, the film suggests that the animalistic tendencies in boys leads to the type of destructive behavior seen on screen.

Lord of the Flies illustrates the power of group dynamics, leadership styles, and methods of social control. The film also makes a broader social commentary about human nature and the tendency toward violence. However, the violence in the film is largely motivated by fear. The boys are stranded, and therefore naturally perceive nature around them as a threat to their personal survival. Ralph sees the other boys as allies in a common quest for survival and seeks a more actively cooperative group structure. Jack prefers lawlessness and anarchy, but so long as he remains an authoritative leader in a position of power. Because the boys are members of a military academy, the overarching symbol of war shows that human beings may indeed be predisposed to conflict and oligarchic rule as power becomes concentrated into the hands of the few that are willing to use violence.

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