Free «Stigma» Essay Sample

Erving Goffman is one of the most respected social scientists in the modern world and he is really popular for his theory of stigma. He has attributed stigma as a behavior or reputation which can be termed as socially discrediting in a general sense. In his terms, stigma is "a special kind of gap that is present between the virtual social identity and the actual social identity of the person" (LeBel 414). Stigma can make a person to be classified as undesirable or rejected by others, and most importantly they become stereotyped by the common people. It is generally a very strong word to be imposed upon some one, but in regular life one person can personally give the name to another if he or she does not like certain characteristic traits of the person. But stigma is more promptly applied when a group of persons formally reject another on the basis of some unwanted qualities of the person.

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As per his idea, when a stranger is presented before us, we can find out any characteristic traits that can make the new person quite different from others, and in many cases the characteristic traits can make the new person less than desirable. Sometimes it is seen that the person is termed as bad or extremely dangerous, or even extremely weak. Such as attribute, which generally aims to discredit a person is called stigma, and the effect of stigma is generally extensive. It constitutes a special difference between the virtual and social identity of the person according to the theory of Goffman (LeBel 409-432).

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The movie "The A-Team" has four protagonists, John "Hannibal" Smith, Bosco Albert B.A. Baracus, Templeton "Faceman" Peck and H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock. All of them are United States Army Rangers. All of them are quite different from the general army men and have some special characteristic traits, and thus they are called mad in the army camps. In the course of the movie these four men tries to clear their name from a scam that they did not commit, and finally clear up their names. In the final scene we see that they are living as soldiers for hire in some undisclosed place.

Now if we look at the characters we will see that the leader of the team Hannibal is a calm and calculated person and he generally plans all his moves. As he is supremely intelligent, he is quite a bore in general army quarters and many superiors are also against him. Peck is a Casanova, but he is also a very good plotter, which is really important in any army mission. B.A. is a brilliant driver who in the final parts of the film shows signs of indeeperism as he tries to find the solace in books of Mahatma Gandhi, while Murdock is a pilot but he is eccentric and in several parts of the movie we find him in mental institutions, probably showing the signs of gestalt of disability (LeBel 409-432). 

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However, none of these four characters show the signs of away syndrome and they are always very much devoted to the plan. Along with their special traits they are faced with the biggest stigma that can be given to an army, they have betrayed with their country and in the process they have even killed a superior officer. Hence they in a certain part of the film do not divulge information with any other than the core members of the team only to ensure the success. Just before the final showdown in the L.A. Harbor, Face chocks out the final plan of deceiving the enemies and that was a classified action plan which even their army supporters did not knew. Here we can quote a Goffman line about stigma on a general person and we will see that it is certainly apt on the four characters. Goffman (1962) says, "We lean on these anticipations that we have, transforming them into normative expectations, into righteously presented demands. ... It is [when an active question arises as to whether these demands will be filled] that we are likely to realize that all along we had been making certain assumptions as to what the individual before us ought to be" (Goffman 2).

In the initial parts of the movie we see that these four were parts of a number of unofficial black ops operations and the dollar bill recovery was one of those category movements, but still they were given the stigma of insane and betrayers. Here the theory of stigma by Goffman is aptly presented on these four characters. But here lies the beauty of the film. Hollywood has presented the viewers with these kinds of action films earlier. But here all the lead characters are sufferers from a social stigma and they aim to clear their names. And to do so they are willing to walk the extra mile. It is a common sense that one can not fly a tank, but these four "insane" rangers even go to the extent of flying a tank along with other things. The general audience gets amused with the eccentricity of the four characters, and it is safe to say that Hannibal, Face, B.A. and Murdock are the main reasons of the movie to become so much entertaining than the other ordinary action fares. Applying the aspects of stigma we can really interpret these four characters and how they are doing the basic things. It does make the film stand apart from the general action adventures.

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