Netflix & “The Stanford Prison Experiment”

Repeated Soliloquy: Am I the only person who never takes a film at face value? I often search for the hidden meaning or the purpose of such a piece being invented. If that’s not the case, then the actual art of the film (scenery, camera angles, lighting, etc.) carries my mind through a creative adventure. *I didn’t want to post this because it’s such a morbid topic for a Monday but it’s been in my draft folder for a while*

A couple of months ago, I decided to treat myself over the weekend with a “Jail Broken Fire Stick and Chill” marathon. I indulged myself in fantastic independent films, such as Tallulah, a quirky drama featuring an excellent heavy hitting female cast (Ellen Page, Allison Janney, and Tammy Blanchard). It is also the directorial debut of Sian Heder, an Orange is the New Black staff writer. *Check Out Netflix & Tallulah:

Though the eccentricity of Tallulah was captivating, it could not compare to the jolt of shock and anxiety I endured while watching The Stanford Prison Experiment, titled after on the true story of  Dr. Philip Zimbardo’s, monumental psychological study exploring the range of human nature and individual response to perceived power.

TheNewYorker.Com: The Stanford Prison Experiment, film.

The films begins with Dr. Philip Zimbardo (aka the Superintendent) and his team recruiting 24 male students to participate in a psychological experiment, who choose their roles as either a prisoners or guards. Each volunteer is compensated $15 per day for a total of 14 days. Which was probably a decent amount back in 1971, especially if you are not expecting to face any real harm.

hqdefault The Stanford Prison Experiment, original photographs.

According to, the aim of the Stanford Prison Experiment was “to investigate how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life.”

We, the viewers, witness how quickly the students volunteering as the guards consumed power and forcefully use it against the students volunteering as prisoners. Originally, the prisoner volunteers chuckled at the overzealous students guards. However, their perception soon changed when the start of a rebellion led to real life mental torture. Within hours the volunteer guards began belittles the student prisoners.

A few scenes later, the personal insults have now escalated to the prisoners being made to urinate in front of one another similarly to real prisoners in the jail system. Eventually, the prisoners are then asked to give up their mattresses for misbehaving. Soon they rebel back and create blockades to prevent the fake guards from entering into the cells causing harm.

One of the most disturbing instances in the film was when Prison #8612 began breaking down. The line between reality and fiction were quickly becoming blurry. Was he really a prisoner? Or was this just a inhumane school experiment gone wrong? His emotional well being cracked inch by inch as he cried and demonstrated an uncontrollable rage unfamiliar with himself. Soon he asks to leave, however before his wish is granted Prison #8612 had to settle his request in front of a board (similar to a Parole Board). His request is denied, he must return back to Stanford’s basement.

After six days, the two week experiment comes to an end due to poor ethics. The film does a really good job recreating the past. The film felt very real and documentary like, lacking the typical overexposed Hollywood feel. If you want to receive an inside view of one of America’s most monumental and controversial Psychology project check out this film.

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