The Rock Ethics Institute

Home > Everyday Ethics > The Manchurian Candidate: Questions for Consideration

Everyday Ethics

The Manchurian Candidate: Questions for Consideration

This week's installment in the Ethical Dilemmas on Film Series at the State Theatre is the 1962 John Frankenheimer classic The Manchurian Candidate. The film is sure to raise all kinds of questions for viewers who are primed to reflect on its portrayal of politics with an ethical lens.

This week's installment in the Ethical Dilemmas on Film Series at the State Theatre is the 1962 John Frankenheimer classic The Manchurian Candidate. The film is sure to raise all kinds of questions for viewers who are primed to reflect on its portrayal of politics with an ethical lens.   

 

 
Here are some questions to get the discussion started:
 
How is the garden club scene shot? How are individual characters shot? Are they consistently shot from particular angles or against particular backgrounds? 
 
What is the significance of "always with humor"? 
 
 
Is The Manchurian Candidate theatrical as well as cinematic? Does it allude to other literary, dramatic, or cinematic works? What does the film gain from being shot in black and white? 
 
What is Raymond's relationship to his mother? Do we know when he came to hate her? Has he always hated her? 
 
How prophetic is this film made in 1962? Is the film relevant to today's political scene? 
 
How does the film perpetuate or reject racial and gender stereotypes? 
Is the film misogynistic? 
Why doesn't Mrs. Iselin have a name?  
Are the three female leads meant to resemble each other? Why?
Are there parallels between the first meetings between Josie and Raymond, Rosie and Ben? What is Janet Leigh's (Rosie's) role in the film? Is she an important or peripheral character? 
 
Is the plot ever deliberately unbelievable and kitschy? 
Why is the garden club discussing hydrangeas? 
What does Johnny Iselin know? 
 
Consider how particular words or institutions are used in The Manchurian Candidate - treason, freedom, the American Civil Liberties Union, patriotism, heroism, liberty, Communist. Are these words used differently today? 
 
Does it make sense to elect an idiot? Does it make sense to elect a genius?