The Angry Eye is a fascinating revisit to the famous 1968 blue-eyed/brown-eyed experiment in discrimination by Jane Elliott, a third grade teacher from Riceville, Iowa. This video is geared toward the MTV generation; the music and graphics have a contemporary appeal that will engage today’s teens. Elliott is older and wiser. Her captive audience is now college students of various racial and ethnic backgrounds who are articulate and thoughtful. This new generation is one that has grappled with the issues of racism and discrimination and perceives themselves as “enlightened” thinkers.
It is surprising that Elliott could get this audience of young adults to feel the experience of what it is like to be discriminated against. What actually occurs in an afternoon spent tearing down the defense mechanisms of the “targeted” blue-eyed group is the realization of what it feels like to be a minority in this country. Elliott, relentless in her attacks on the students’ self-esteem, constructed the workshop in such as way that those who protest the unfairness are further ostracized. Students begin to realize that this is much like what happens in society to those who speak out; those who don’t speak out live in “quiet desperation.” Viewers feel sympathy for these hostages, but also recognize the valuable experience they finally gain by feeling true empathy for those members of our society who are not viewed as equal. Elliott challenges students to rethink societal constructs and realize that “we make laws to support inferiority.” The post interviews reveal newfound insights into the dehumanizing process of racism and discrimination. While the workshop is provocative and, one could argue, unfair to the underdog group, Elliott would respond to her critics that it is necessary to “fight fire with fire.” And this is exactly what she does in this important documentary.