“Compliance”: A Film About a Real-Life Milgram Experiment


By Justin Lowe

Staff Reporter

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, the Human Journey Colloquia Series presented Craig Zobel’s drama and crime film, “Compliance.”

The film was presented by Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Ruth Grant, Associate Professor of Theology, Religious Studies and Catholic Studies Dr. June-Ann Greeley, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Dr. Patrick Morris, and Professor of Psychology Dr. Christina Taylor.

Based on a real-life story, “Compliance” shows how strip-search scams were perpetrated in fast food restaurants throughout the United States. According to the Human Journey Colloquia Series’ description of the film, female employees were subjected to strip search and perform degrading acts in over 60 restaurants.

“The first time that I saw this I couldn’t sleep for two days,” said Grant.

“Compliance” tells the story of a young employee named Becky, played by Dreama Walker, who is accused of stealing from a customer’s purse. The accusation came from a phone call by a man claiming to be a police officer.

The caller ordered the manager Sandra, played by Ann Dowd, to go through Becky’s pockets and pocketbook. She was then subjected her to undergo further forms of interrogation, including a strip search.

The Human Journey Colloquia Series presented the film as “a real-life Milgram experiment.” Conducted by a psychologist from Yale University, Stanley Milgram, the Milgram experiment was a series of social psychology experiments that tested an individual’s obedience to authority figures.

After showing clips of the film to audience members, the professors on the panel discussed and analyzed what they saw from psychological, sociological, criminological, and theological perspectives.

“How would a woman on the phone not know?” said Greely. “Anywhere in the United States where a policeman would tell you to do this type of things over the phone.”

Greely said that the real-life victim, Louise Ogborn, sued McDonald’s for $200 million for failing to protect her during the ordeal. She settled with McDonald’s and received $1.1 million and abandoned her claim for punitive damages, and was awarded $5 million from the jury.

“If you feel uncomfortable [and]your guts tell you that something [isn’t] right, you’re allowed to say no to a search,” said Morris. “But it could lead to more problems.”

“Compliance” received seven awards and 34 nominations, including an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female. The film also received a 6.4 out of 10 on IMDb and an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


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