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Directed by David Fincher in 1995, Se7en is a crime film about homicide detectives’ chasing a mysterious serial killer named John Doe who wants to make the world a better place by bringing to light the seven deadly sins (Fincher, 1995). He considers dramatic scenes of turning each sin against the sinner as the best way to capture the world’s attention and shed light on the seven deadly yet ignored sins. The film features two police detectives named William Somerset and David Mills working to identify the mastermind behind the killings. Somerset, a retiring detective has lost belief in humanity, but Mills, a young and newly transferred detective believes that the humanity is genuinely good. Through the course of their investigations, they both realize that the world is not as good as it was once, but there was a need to fight for it. The primary aim of this paper is to answer various questions, which will draw from Se7en (1995).
Functionalist Theorists’ View of the Film (Question One)
For a functionalist theorist, Se7en (1995) would be difficult to understand film seemingly because crime is hard to explain from a functionalist perspective. Functionalist theorists argue that crime is unavoidable and it is a natural aspect of any healthy society. They believe that evil is present in all types of communities including the industrialized ones, which reportedly have higher crime rates. Functionalists postulate that the primary driver of crime is inequality in society members’ commitment to norms and beliefs and thus collective sentiments.
A functionalist would presumably associate crime with various imperative latent functions. Firstly, crime is an ideal channel, through which people can express their discontent. For this reason, a functionalist would consider John Doe’s killings normal and acceptable because he is only trying to show his discontentedness with the people’s ignorance of the seven deadly sins: avarice, envy, wrath, sloth, gluttony, lust, and pride. In the second position, crime is considered essential in providing examples that demonstrate the boundaries of acceptable behaviors and their functions in maintaining social norms. As such, crime is one aspect that contributes to social order stability. Thirdly, crime is a useful warning device that indicates that there is an aspect of the society that is malfunctioning. As Witt Jon notes in his book, society is addressed as a whole based on the function of its constituent elements, which include norms, customs, traditions, and institutions (Witt, 2014, p. 78). Therefore, in the film, a functionalist would consider the crime as a warning to the social institutions such as penal systems, the family, legal systems, religion, and peer groups are failing in their important roles of providing and ensuring society’s social stability.
Conflict Theorists’ View of the Film (Question Two)
Conflict theorists emphasize that inequality in social, political and resources platforms is integral to any social group. Such forms of inequalities contribute to crime and other deviant behaviors that do not go along with the social institutions Conflict theorists consider that today’s society lacks free will on the part of individuals because various social institutions are in place to categorize and control humans. Therefore, social institutions are tasked with an important role in controlling people. In Se7en (1995), a conflict theorist would consider the rampant crime as an evil affecting social order and stability. In the film’s context, the detectives named William Somerset and David Mills can be regarded as beneficial constituents of a social institution, the legal systems. Legal systems are among the institutions dedicated to eliminating crime by controlling and eradicating criminals.
In Se7en (1995), it can be both the exploited and exploiters. To begin with, John Doe, the serial killer can be considered as the exploiter utilizing the sinners for their ignorance. His actions become a crime, and for this reason, Doe becomes the exploited, with his exploiters being the police detectives (Fincher, 1995). Overall, the legal system is the dominating social institution exploiting an offender. Presumably, the contention between the subjects is different beliefs about how a sin-free city should look. While the serial killer seeks to eliminate all sinners, he is himself considered to be an offender of the social order through his deviant actions. According to Witt (2014), in a sociological context, deviance comprises actions and behaviors that violate the social norms (p.178).
Symbols Used in the Film (Question Three)
Symbolism is among the key aspects of visual thinking, which entails the use of symbols to represent ideas and qualities. Se7en (1995) has widely used different symbols to connect aesthetics, cognition, feelings, and thoughts. Throughout the film, symbols appear, and through them, the viewer is quickly hinted at what is about to happen. Each symbol used is pertinent to the story line and slowly unravels the mystery of what is about to ensue.
Firstly, gloominess, darkness, and scariness are symbolic because they set the viewer for what is about to happen. With these, the audience needs not to be told that something terrible is going to happen (Fincher, 1995). Secondly, pounding of rains is symbolic. The rain symbolized the third level of hell where the sinners of the seven deadly sins will presumably be punished. The pounding sounds of rain make the viewer anticipate what is about to follow. Without a doubt, they suggest that a dreadful scene is developing.
Thirdly, John Doe’s killings are symbolic. The film uses them to show that everyone is evil and that the world is filled with horror and sin. Doe used the killing’s dramatic scenes to attract the world’s attention making sure that no one would ever forget, as well as demonstrate his people’s ignorance of the sins (Fincher, 1995). Dow uses the killings to get the people to know what was ahead of them, but they never truly saw it. Lastly, the aspect of a metronome, which features severally in the film, is symbolic of the way Somerset controls his personality that is similar to John Doe’s, the serial killer. Somerset imposes his form of order to control his feelings symbolized by the metronome (Fincher, 1995).
Material Culture (Question Five)
Material culture is a dominant theme in Se7en (1995). One of the evils that the film considers deadly is greediness also referred to as avarice. Greedy people are those with desperate desires to gain and accumulate material things such as money illegally. In the film, greed is evident throughout the second scene where Mill is tasked to investigate a case at a defense attorney’s office. It emerges that the defense attorney represents greed. He constantly lies to indulge his wealthy further. For instance, he lies to his clients so as to protect them from paying for their sins. At one point, Doe accuses the attorney of his lies that keep rapists, murderers, and other sinners free and safe on the streets. The killer’ implication is that the attorney is careless about his actions and his only concerns are money and material things. One can grasp that the society has become so consumed with materialism, and they would do anything, especially lying, to get more.
Cultural Relativism (Question Six)
Cultural relativism is evident throughout the Se7en (1995). Cultural relativism means the attitude, according to which that society’s customs and ideas should be viewed within the context of the society’s problems and opportunities. The entire film is a manifestation of how today’s society is engulfed in the seven deadly sins: avarice, pride, envy, lust, wrath, gluttony, and sloth. For example, gluttony and thus obesity are currently among the most common problems facing people today. Today’s society is also indulged in greed, which is tellingly responsible for the recklessness among lawyers, media houses, politicians, and police officers, among others. Further, through cultural relativism, wrath can be seen, which is responsible for many violent crimes today. As such, each of the seven deadly sins coincides with the latest social problem trending today. Cultural relativism in the film helps the characters act in a reflection of the current state of the society. For example, William Somerset, a seasoned detective seems to have lost hope in finding any good people as all are engulfed in sins. David Mill, apparently new to such cases appeared unconcerned believing that the society is genuinely good. The characters of these detectives can be explained from the cultural relativism perspective.