Menace II Society is a film featuring the 1993 hood as a setting and it represents a directorial debut by twin brothers, Allen and Albert Hughes. It is a thrilling urban nightmare showing the life of recent high-school graduate (Caine) who is so much attached to the increasingly violent environment of his home. There are scenes of brutality, bloody episodes and shootings that show that there is no optimism in the entire film. It was directed and produces by the Hughes brothers on May 26, 1993 by New line Cinema and it is set in the Watt neighbourhood of South Central Los Angeles.
The Hughes brothers were born 1st April, 1972 in Detroit, MI to Aida Hughes. They studied at Claremont High School in California and graduated in 1989 from high –school (Johnson, Quendrith, 1995). They attended college at Los Angeles City College from 1989 to 1990. They have been directors of more than 30 music videos. They directed the film, Menace II Society, at the New Line Cinema. They also directed other violent movies such as From Hell and the The Book of Eli. They were only 21 years old when they released the film Menace II Society which placed them on the same plat form with celebrated young black directors like Matty Rich who was only 19 when he released Straight out of Brooklyn and John Singleton whose Boyz N the Hood was released when he was 23. Menace II Society received much positive criticism and it received national reviews (Westbrook, Logan, 2010). This film was made for approximately 3.4 million dollars and it grossed approximately 21 million dollars with the first two months of its release in the theatres.
Brief Plot of the Film
The film begins with Caine and his friend Kevin whose nickname is “O-Dog” who go into a liquor store. It is set in the Watts neighbourhood and narrated by Caine (Tyrin Turner) who is 18 years old, a car thief and a drug dealer who lives in the care of his religious grandparents. Caine has just graduated from high school and shows no plans for his life beyond idling around with his friends and because of the many criminal acts he gets involved in, his grandparents throw him out. In addition to these troubles, he and his best friend O-Dog is a brutal thug, are wanted by the police. Caine is also wanted by the family of the girl he got pregnant and refused to take responsibility of the pregnancy. The only positive influence Caine has in the film is Ronnie (Jada Pinkette), a single mother who is determined to raise her son without the bad influence of the “hood mentality”. When he eventually falls in love with Ronnie, she tries to persuade Caine to move from Watts and go with her to Atlanta but before they make their departure, Caine is shot and dies. Before he dies, Caine reminisces on whatever he has been involved in the entire summer. He sees the image of O-dog being handcuffed by the police, most probably because of the liquor store which took place at the beginning of the film. Caine wishes that he would have made better decisions but there was no time for that at the moment. His final thoughts are given as a voice over ‘I had done too much to turn back, and I had done too much to go on. I guess, in the end, it all catches up with you. My grandpa asked me one time if I care whether I live or die. Yeah, I do. And now it's too late.'
Representation of Race in the Film
Since early in the 1980s, studies of different races have been taking note of the media house productions as far as music videos and drama films are concerned. Most of these films are usually set in urban and industrial suburbs and their different lifestyles with increasing frequency. Often the concentration on the peripheral urban areas, the idling youth often despised by the working class and intermingled with the immigrant cultures become part of an over determined effort to measure the extend of racism via the different races represented in the films. This effort links the flow of racism and immigration to the diverse races in the industrial and urban suburbs on the various States in the US. These are also linked to a number of various challenges the nation goes through, from violence to crime to unemployment and urban decay. In this film, the theory of multiculturalism as a catalyst to racism is seen to be evident, ready to disintegrate the nation into different unrecognizable and irrelevant pieces (Back L and Solomos, 2000).
This kind of film production is usually located in urban milieu like Watts which are usually characterized by lack of adequate employment, violence, robberies, drugs and illiteracy where the dreams and desires of modernization are almost impossibility. In Menace II Society context, unemployment is surprisingly high, housing has degenerated and periodic bursts of youth violence leading to insecurity in the neighborhoods as far as business are concerned. This is seen in the beginning of the movie when the liquor store owners are shot dead for something so petty. They just wanted to know if the two youths had paid for the liquor. This usually leads to the government’s prescription of permanent police patrols in such neighborhoods; always refereed to as “hot neighbourhoods.” This is evident in the movie as the police are always on the look out since the shooting at the liquor store and we see Caine and O-Dog arrested and assaulted by racist policemen. Though they are linked to the shooting in the liquor store, but they cannot charge them since they have no sufficient evidence. The crises and the problems of the black dominated neighbourhoods produce new conditions for the day to day lives of the people in these areas and the degenerated forms of the suburban lives, within the continuing context of violence and crime causing friction among the unemployed youths and the working class.
The emergence of such racial representation in the film coincides with a particular historical moment in Europe. The practices and the principles of the European Union are being continuously negotiated and renegotiated and questions of racial balances between the EC countries and the rest of the world usually arises. Those principles that seem to sideline the other races are pushed to the front and usually emerged in the various films such as the one under analysis. Such themes usually result in the formulation of future racial policies and discussions about how multiple populations can be able to live in unity and equality in such countries. Gilroy’s (1987) work on There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack maintains that political and strategic necessity of refusing the essential need to choose, either black or white in the ever strong traditions of common models of citizenship and identification. The US is known for its particular formulation of policies that encourage the relationship of the individual races to the state, which puts in consideration many factors that may endanger such a relationship in the every day life. While such discussions take place in theoretical contexts, parliaments and houses of law formation, they are also addressed in different media and literatures as well as pieces of arts like Menace II Society.
The writer of Menace II Society recognizes both the specificity of the popular Black population and the necessity to understand their relationships with other races and in the different circumstances they find themselves in. As represented in this film, it supports what Gilroy writes one can is Black or White not because it is the only thing to be in such circumstances as shown in the film, but because of such terms that joined by the identities and they do not exhaust all the people’s identities. Some of the identities are usually caught in the different struggles the people go through. The “hood” mentality the youths grow up with makes them want to find there sense of belonging by doing things the other races don’t do and in this case, it is usually drugs, crime, violence, murder and sexual immoralities. All these struggles become evident representing the bad youth cultures, police violence, generational negotiations and the changing working class. These broader issues are read though the wide spaces of urban suburbs and cannot be grouped under the general concern of articulation of ethnic and racial identities or comprehended as a reply specifically to the existing experiences of racism, though these films work to make the daily contexts of their lives of the black populations evident. The evidences in these films are important because they show the space of these populations for the gratification of their asserting the identity or disagreeing with the oppressive machinery of its recognition, but because of the manner in which these films are located in complex terrains of popular cultures that develop their own conversations, both locally and in the international arena.
This thriller by Albert and Allen Hughes has made a specific wider gesture in the US popular Black culture within the space of the suburban film. This Tran racial articulation is related linked to both the attention of the black population as a site for interrogation, as Routledge (1989) and Gilroy emphasize, and to the availability of global circuits of the media in form of such films and videos. This gives a representation of the during war and the interwar and post war, WW II period, the theory of the popular most commonly induced the social and cultural circumstances of the local idling of the unemployed youths or the national working classes of the same people. In the unthinking “hood mentality” these Black populations have the themes of Multiculturalism and the role of the Media as the film shows are important as a shift in the theory of the popularity between the machine era of modernization and the current era. Here, the popular culture is developed, distributed and consumed via the international mass media. Therefore, it is apparent that popular culture is now completely intertwined in the transnational worldwide tecnoculture. It makes perfect sense to see it as a collective negotiating tool among different communities involved the process of solving of conflicting issues and consumption of the resulting issues. Menace signifies an opening in the film industry in the US and its viewers, which was received by a particular urban suburban in the 1990’s. The film produced by the Hughes twins, with others of the same type, interrupts the conventions of the Black dominated urban spaces and communities used in many convectional films.
The filmic type of art that has emerged out of this film shows the interaction between “real” stories and “real” directors and has its own specifications. Representation of race in the reality of urban areas dominated by the Black population and interpolates its viewers through the building of an intentionally pregrounded relationship between what is seen on the screen and what is actually on the ground. The success of this film depends on the coincidence of what the viewers take to be real and what they see in the film. This relationship is, however, complex and partial, since the representations used in the film often comes out as scenes of violence, crime, and masculinity and to story of possibilities and inclusion of characters in the urban and social positions. Worse still is the fact that the story and films usually end in a tragic end for the dominating Black population as it appears at the end of Menace. This gives as impression that the Black population usually amounts to nothing while the other races like the whites usually end up as a success. This is not usually the case on the ground because some of the Black youths usually change their lives and they lead batter lives in the end.
Menace was built from a self-centered positioned terrain of the real life that takes place from day to day. The mostly represented race in this film is the Black race with few representations of the whites as racists and Mexicans as allies to the Blacks.