Social Constructions in the “13th” Documentary

13th is a documentary by Avu DuVernay, which explored the perpetuation of hidden slavery in the US in its historical continuation, evolving into different forms of “socially-acceptable” practices that were used to keep black Americans as second-grade citizens (DuVernay 2016). I approached the film with a degree of bias towards it. The issues of social justices and minority oppression have been prevalent in the media in the past decade, so much that some people, including myself, were tired of hearing of it all the time. Nevertheless, the documentary had a deep impact on me, as it forced me to review and re-evaluate not only my existent state of knowledge, but also the reactions I had towards the issue in general.

The first reaction I had to what I saw and heard was rejection. At first, my mind tried to present the information about injustices and systematic oppression (DuVernay 2016) up to this day as cherry-picking and enforcing a particular agenda. However, I realized that such an initial reaction being the result of a cognitive dissonance between the film and the socially-constructed reality I was familiar with (Andersen and Taylor 2012). Breaking the deeply-engrained biases and stereotypes, when confronted with reality, is a difficult and often painful process.

About half-way through the documentary, the unsettling feeling began to fade away, as my mind was accepting the information I was given, constructing a new ‘reality,’ adjusted to what I have seen (Pfadenhauer and Knoblauch 2018). The result was something of a mix between what I already knew with what I saw. I acknowledged the facts I have been presented with, but did not accept all of them, as the existing picture of the world built by the media over the course of my life is difficult to dislodge with a single film. I would need to research more into the subject to completely alter my point of view.


Andersen, M., and Taylor, H. 2012. Sociology: The Essentials. New York: Nelson Education.

Ava DuVernay. 2016. “13th“. Web.

Pfadenhauer, M., and Knoblauch, H. 2018. Social Constructivism as Paradigm?: The Legacy of The Social Construction of Reality. New York: Routledge.

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