Mississippi Burning Character Analysis - Agent Anderson
Mississippi Burning Character Analysis: Agent Rupert Anderson
When we first meet Agent Anderson, we’re not sure if he’s part ofthe problem or not, as he starts singing a KKK song.
We come to find that he’s being sarcastic, and seems a rather jollysort, considering the severity of the crime he is coming to Mississippito investigate.
He views his partner (OTS shot) as a stereotypical FBI man: poindexter-y, by-the-book, a real “Hoover” man.
Agent Anderson tries to fit into the community. Being a Southern man himself, heknows how to do this. Notice how he dresses [is costumed] like the townsfolk – jacketoff, hat on in public.
We learn that despite his casual, smiley appearance, he is a tough guy after all, and he knowshow to speak the local lingo.
OTS shot – Sherriff isn’t threatened by him “a missing person’s case.” (Not help with their“Negro problem.”)
Agent Ward stands out like a sore thumb, but Agent Anderson fits right in.
Asymetrical mid-shot. Anderson is unhappy that Ward keeps wanting to work by the book,which will only cause problems dealing with this case.
We learn that Anderson feels strongly about what’s happening in his home state.
And that he feels that neither side is “right” or “wrong” (kids were used by the leaders incharge, who knew their lives were in danger.)
Anderson appears, to Ward, to be part of the problem. (Note low angle asymmetrical shot.)Despite lamp being right there, it brightens Ward, while Anderson is in the darker part ofthe frame.
Audience and Ward learn that Anderson does understand the big picture: “he didn’t knowthat being poor was what was killing him.” This anecdote helps flesh out both the characterand the situation in the South.
However, Anderson still functions as an outsider to the FBI group.
Everyone else is working hard on files, while Anderson thinks about how to deal with theproblem – breaking the code of silence.
Anderson presents himself to the key players as just another good ole boy, but with a rod ofsteel in his spine. His smile and manner are a façade.
As Ward becomes more desolate (and cannot fathom the “why” about what is going onwith the KKK – “What is wrong with these people?”), Anderson waits for Ward to decidethat perhaps Anderson’s ways are what will break the case. Dialogue: “Get out of the gutterMr Anderson!” “They climbed out of the sewer Mr Ward! Maybe the gutter’s where weneed to be!”
In the meantime, he goes around town talking to people, withoutpushing the issue of the case. (Sadly, it is the beating of Mrs Pell byher husband that finally pushes Ward into letting Anderson have hisway.)
It is Anderson’s idea to “drive Lester home, ” in front of all thetownsfolk (MS – looks like Lester is “talking with” the FBI).
Anderson who arranges a pseudo-KKK kidnap and intimidation ofMayor Tillman (who breaks and tells them everything). CU – Tillman’sfear, just like a black man’s.
Anderson who speaks Clinton Pell’s language and puts his hands on him. CU – cutting Pellwith a razor blade, just like the story the agent told the mayor.
And Anderson who finally gets Lester to crack by setting up a fake KKKkidnap & lynching. LS – agents revealed as faux-KKK.
In the end, Anderson knows that what he did was nearly as bad ashow the KKK behaved, but he believes it was for the greater good(the end justifies the means). That doesn’t mean he’s happy about it.MS – Ward’s back - …
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