“Sleepers” a Film by Barry Levinson


In every society, there are certain values and conditions that are usually established, and it is expected that they are naturally followed by every member of the society and passed through generations without active questioning or suggestions of radical changes. In assessing Immanuel Kant’s theory on morality, we shall look at the motives and actions of the characters of the film, “Sleepers” and judge the characters using Kant’s theory.

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What is morality?

Morality cannot be distinctively defined due to its many interpretations from different communities and religious doctrines. Morality can be generally described as the values and principles that create a distinction between right and wrong and affect the way people behave. Morals are very important. Morality has evolved from the old days of the traditional Christian ideologies to the 21st Century of modern developments (Sassen, 7).

An overview of morality in the film, “Sleepers”

The film is a work of inspiration of the book, ‘Sleepers’ by Lorenzo Carcaterra. The author depicts a certain situation that would only be considered viable in a lawless society. The film at its best shows how society can manipulate the weak and the minor in society. The three characters, who are Shakes, Tommy, Michael Sullivan, and John Relly, are victims of psychological and sexual abuse after they engage in a criminal act of trying to kill a vendor who sells hot dogs.

They end up stealing the cart that is used for selling hotdogs and push it to the subway station. They are eventually caught and given a corresponding prison sentence. In prison, they are beaten, raped, and abused by the correction officers. This is a grave violation of their fundamental rights. They are supposed to be counseled, mentored, and rehabilitated but they are mistreated and they long for revenge against the guards for violating their rights as prisoners. They start by getting one of the guards in a local pub and they murder him in full view of the revelers. John and Tommy’s action illustrates the rage of offended persons who have been denied justice in a system they earlier trusted.

Their early endeavors made them be gangsters. They work on a systematic order of revenge as they have been absorbed in various fields of society or careers. One of them is a legal officer and specifically, an Assistant District Attorney who takes advantage of handling the prevailing cases of his friends. It is not for the Assistant District Attorney to re-assign the cases to himself since it shows how moral decadence can be explored to its fullest.

The whole film is built based on justice and social order in society. The priest’s conduct is rather understandable because he tries to unravel his past wrongdoings by liaising with the accused in favor of the long-denied justice to the boys he knew. This shows that every person is accountable for his or her actions. The revelations by the fellow officer though forced, show that society always tries to enforce good morals to everyone (Pinkard, 23).

The officers are punished for their crimes. Eventually, everyone is punished for their vices and undesired actions. The film has been captivated in scenes of molestation, abuse of rights, and most of all, the mistreatment of boys who deserved better or fair treatment to correct their crimes and vices. Conclusion, The main message of the film, is arguably negative due to the many acts of revenge and the remorseful feelings of the characters. This clearly illustrates that Kant’s moral theory is fully applied in a just and conscious society ready to enforce the morals considered right on everyone (Beiser, 34).

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Works Cited

Beiser, Frederick. German Idealism: the Struggle against Subjectivism, 1781-1801, UK: Harvard University Press, 2002. Print.

Pinkard, Terry. German Philosophy, 1760-1860: the Legacy of Idealism. UK: Cambridge, 2002. Print.

Sassen, Brigitte. Kant’s Early Critics: the Empiricist Critique of the Theoretical Philosophy, UK: Cambridge, 2000. Print.

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