Conformity And Obedience In Stuart Rosenberg's Film 'Cool Hand Luke'

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Stuart Rosenberg’s 1967 film, Cool Hand Luke follows the story of Luke Jackson, a non-conformist, veteran with blatant disregard for authority while serving time in a Southern, rural prison. The opening scene of this film features a brief incident of Luke “beheading” parking meters while intoxicated. As he destroys public property, the ‘Violation’ warning flashes, foreshadowing his inevitable arrest. When the police arrive to arrest Luke for the minor public disturbance, he is asked for his motive behind the rebellious act. With no sign of remorse, he grins and replies, “you could say I was settling an old score” (1967), allowing for the assumption that he has had a pre-existing resistance to authority. He is given a two-year sentence in an isolated road prison, given strict rules to follow by the guards and warned not to test the boundaries, “for your own good, you’ll learn the rules” (1967). This film portrays the themes of conformity within the prison, the expected obedience to authoritative figures, and Luke’s non-conformist behaviour while serving his sentence
Conformity occurs when an individual adheres to group
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Authority is defined as “the capacity of one member to issue order to others…to direct or regulate the behaviour of other members by invoking rights that are vested in his or her role” (DeLamater, J., et al, 2015, p. 332). Obedience to authority is more likely to transpire when the authority figure is wearing a uniform and threatens with punishments (DeLamater, J., et al, 2015). In Cool Hand Luke, the prison guards and ‘the Captain’ have authority over the inmates. Although the inmates and prison guards both wear a uniform, the difference in clothing allows for the roles to be easily determined and understood. The convicts must ask permission from the boss’ to complete any ordinary task, “wipin’ off here, boss?”
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