Twelve Angry Men
posted by Bruce Boyden
I have two comments of my own. First, I’ve only read the play, and never seen the movie, but I can’t say I’m a fan. The play struck me as boring, because it is so obviously morally lopsided in favor of the Fonda character. The conflict between the Fonda character and the Cobb character is about as interesting as watching the Patriots play a high school football team. It reminds me of something Thomas Nagel once said, that the egregious violation of human rights is philosophically uninteresting. The idea being that if your intuitions are not pulled in more than one direction, there’s nothing to discuss. “Twelve Angry Men” gives the viewer nothing to think about, unlike, say, “Paths of Glory” (does military justice require individual culpability?) or “The Caine Mutiny” (were the defendants really innocent, in a moral sense?) or “Breaker Morant” (what’s justifiable conduct in a guerrila war?) or “The Verdict” (does the civil justice system work?).
My second comment is actually a question. Were all-male juries still the norm in 1957, when the film was released? That seems awfully late, given that the right of women to vote was adopted in 1920. When did it become abnormal?