“Men of Honor” is a compelling drama written by Scott Marshall Smith and directed by George Tillman Jr. It is starred by Cuba Gooding as the African American Carl and Robert De Niro who plays the tormentor / teacher Master Chief Navy Diver. This movie tells the story of how a man is transformed from enemy to a friend and how a man struggles to regain his self-esteem and self worth in a time when men discriminated against color and race. As Carl enters the navy as a cook with other African Americans, he had to show his diving skills to become and be elevated into a deck seaman. Like any man, the African American although looked upon by his white colleagues, dreams of becoming his role model Billy Sunday, the Master Chief Navy Diver who was legendary. He relentlessly pursues his dream by sending applications which was turned down again and again until after two years, he becomes the first African American student in the Navy Diving School.
In training, the black boy further endured bigot torment from his teacher, his classmates and the commanding officer who was determined to keep blacks from becoming Navy Divers. But Carl eventually graduates and becomes a Navy Diver. In action, Carl lost his limbs saving a man’s life. He was given medals for this but was taken out of the army because of his physical condition. However, through the help of Billy Sunday who later became an alcoholic, he was able to acquire prosthetics and went back into the army. His story ends with inspiring themes that justice will prevail and the long and ardous struggle towards freedom is always worth it because it builds character and self-esteem.
Among the many themes that the movie tries to elaborate on, most glaring is the theme of ethical discriminations. The first black man to do white man activities is always marked in history. Just like the struggle of Carl as the first black man to be a navy diver, he had to endure internal and external pains to his very existence and right to be finally a part of the American way of life. Discrimination existed from the lowest ranks to the highest ranks of the military. Discrimination influences a man’s self esteem and self-belief. There were just a handful of the first black men ever to challenge the white man’s belief and shatter it to pieces until finally, showing the white man that the black man can be a friend better than a foe.
At the backdrop of this movie are ethical issues and theme which transports the audience back to the times when ethics and its meaning were still evolving. Carl had to fight against the ethical injustices that were happening around him. He just never gave up on his dreams. Like his forefathers who were slaves in America, Carl’s struggle against the ethical injustices of white Americans had to believe and hope that they were as human as the white men.
The discrimination was not only against his being black but also against his being a human being who had the very same rights and freedom and opportunities that white men had.
Today, there is less discrimination against color but the issue still exists. Color is one issue, physical disabilities is another that is victim to discrimination. Like color, disability made people become hopeless parts of society. Society just leaves these people to just slowly fade away and there are people like Carl who had to struggle and prove that there is still hope. In modern days, various groups are concerned and vigilant against ethical injustices that do not respect race. These groups are also vigilant against discrimination.
The movie showed the rights of all men that most blacks had to pay for their lives. The right to education was portrayed by the lead character as he struggled to read and write through help of a friend. Blacks were also discriminated against getting proper education. The movie reminded everyone that there was a time when blacks were not allowed to go to school. And then when they were finally allowed to go to school, there were schools set up just for them. And when they were finally allowed to join the rest of the community attend the same school, there were comfort rooms for whites, and comfort rooms for blacks. The lead character felt the same way as the slaves that struggled centuries before his time.
Symbolically, De Niro’s character as person who grew up as a bigot ended up as a dissipated alcoholic. However, he redeems himself as he helped the lead regain back his honor. Ultimately, it is honor that finds all codes of ethics back to where it belongs. Every man is due his honor whether he is black or white. Any action that strips someone of his right to justice dishonors the code of humanity and therefore becomes an unethical action. Men of honor are born equal and their lives struggle to uphold the highest ethical and moral sense of conduct in men. They will do this with their lives at stake.
Respect is earned through realizing that self-esteem is nurtured and protected against racial discrimination and other unethical practice that can happen each minute of each day. As for African-American people, the struggles and debate are still on going.