Tuesday, September 8, 2009

So You Wanna Be a Gangsta?

Explaining in detail, perhaps even using as evidence a couple of films the essay did not mention, do you agree that Hollywood exploits the black community in making gang films? Why or why not? Also, consider other films featuring African Americans that Boyd does not discuss, such as Waiting to Exhale, Dream Girls, or Diary of Mad Black Woman-- how do you think gender plays an important role in film analysis?


  1. After reading this essay, the first movie that came to my mind is the recent film "American Gangster" with Denzel Washington (which is a great movie by the way). I don't know if these films necessarily exploit the black community as a whole, or rather just a part of it. It's just like for the lower class white community in movies, they are typically shown as "trailer trash." They are never clean, use horrible grammar, and many are alcoholics or drug addicts. My aunt and uncle lived in a trailer (she's a teacher and he owns his own engineering business), so I know that this stereotype is not true for all cases. Just like many Hollywood films with young African-American actors, many of them are portrayed as gang members. It's just stereotypes associated with that group of people, but it doesn't define that community as a whole. In "American Gangster" it shows one man's journey to becoming the leading drug dealer in New York City. It also shows the humanistic side of his character which leaves the audience pulling for him not to be caught towards the end of the movie. People make movies to make money, and gang films typically make a lot of money. The audience doesn't want to pay $9 to sit in the movie theatre and watch a day in the life of a typical African-American guy; they want to be entertained with a story usually involving drugs and killing. Just as one of the stories in the essay said, gang members in movies are usually males because they are supposed tough, mean, and aggressive while typically the female is the one always wanting "the bad guy" to turn good. It's yet another stereotype for the personality of males to be aggressive while the female is supposed to be sweet and sensitive.
    -Katie Clark

  2. I will talk about Man on Fire, another movie with Denzel Washington, because katie stole mine. lol. But this movie isn't really about Blacks as it is Mexicans. But i thought for arguments sake that would be acceptable as they are both seen as minority groups and they both work fine in this discussion.

    But in this movie, set in Mexico City, a young girl is taken by thugs or gang members and Denzel, the bodyguard, sets out to find the missing girl. Well all along the way he kills just about every scum of the earth gang member he can find that will lead him to this girl. But throughout the whole movie it depicts the Mexican population as poor and ignorant and very eager to break the law to make a buck. Which is how hollywood is exploiting them. Although some of the things in the movie could be true, and a large part may be, they definitely reinforce stereotypes and use the mexicans for the bad guys in the movie.

    And i could see how gender plays a role too. In this movie and many others, just like katie said, there is always a bad guy who is rough and tough and wild and there is a woman there to calm him down and try to get him to be good. you see it all the time. You see it in this movie too. But what i am getting at is that i think to a certain extent the author is correct in saying that gender and racial roles play a big part in the making of a movie. Wether or not hollywood is exploiting them is up to you.

  3. After reading the essay I do believe Hollywood exploits black people and other minorities in making gang films. In all the movies mentioned in the essay it is all about African American gangs or Latino gangs. One movie not mentioned is Training Day. Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington are the main actors. Denzel is a crooked cop who is trying to teach Hawke his ways. Denzel's success comes from drug and gang money and dirty police work. Ethan Hawke represents the white supremacy because in the end he is the one who goes after Denzel to stop his crooked ways. One thing I forgot to mention that happened in the film is Denzel hired a Latino gang to kill Hawke. This is another example of exploiting minorities in making gang films. As far as gender goes it is always the males that are the bad guys, and the women that are there to make the males change for the better and have a better lifestyle. The one movie where I saw something a little different was Boyz in the Hood. Cuba Gooding Jr.'s father was an excellent role model and always tried to keep him from doing the wrong thing. However, Gooding also had a girlfriend who tried to keep him on the right path.

    -Nick Roger

  4. I do agree that Hollywood exploits the black community when making gang films. I can think of a movie not mentioned in the essay that's not all about gangs, but references them frequently. It's called "Don't be a Menace" with Marlin and Shawn Waynes. It kind of pokes fun at the black community and the "gangsta" lifestyle. It is ultimately about one of the characters trying to get out of the "hood" with his woman who has 7 kids from different men, and do better for himself. The movie depicts the black charcaters as poor, dirty, "ghetto" people, but yet they seem to put a funny spin on it. It's almost like making light of things that are very true in some societies today. Also in this film, gender roles are a little different. The women are not the nurturing, encouraging, positive ones. They are just as "gangsta" as the men. I guess that's another way that the movie pokes fun at the society.

    -Andrew "A.J." Hubert

  5. When it comes to gang movies, I feel that Hollywood doesn't exploit the black community in general, but small portions of most minority groups. Although the black community is more commonly used, like the essay shows there have been many other cases where other minorities are shown in gang environments. The latest gang-related movie I have seen was "Gran Torino." This Clint Eastwood film depicts a family and community who fall into conflict from an asian gang. The movie shows the violent and brutal side of gang life and the impact it has on their community. Like the essay suggests, many times this violence isn't a result from racial conflict in general, but more or less from cultural oppression in society. When discussing gender roles in these movies, it is clear like the essay suggests that most of the activity is performed by the men. In most cases, it seems that women play a more passive, nurturing role in these movies. Like Katie stated, its more stereotypical to show the men as aggressive and violent. In the typical gang movie, it appears that the women play the more sensible and caring side of the conflict.

    -Shawn Mitchel

  6. I have never actually noticed how Hollywood exploits African Americans or small minority groups in gangster films. However, after reading this article and thinking thoroughly about gangster movies I have watched,I believe that the industry does target minority groups as the "gangsters".

    I first thought of the movie Bring It On and even though the African American cheerleaders are not gangsters the Caucasian cheerleaders see them as "ghetto" or "trash". The by the end of the movie they all see each other equal. I also thought of the movie Friday Night Lights and Coach Carter. Coach Carter an interesting film to consider because the coach is African American. I believe the fact that the coach was African American gave a new dimension to the movie if some of the African American students were considered gangsters.

    Also, I do believe gender plays a role in most true gangster films because males are normally the gangsters.

  7. I'm not a big gangster film fan, but I will say that movies like "Scarface" and "American Gangster" seem to put emphasis on the stereotypical minority's dream. Given the same premise and similar roles played by white actors, I doubt the movies would have been as popular as these two were. For a country where minorities are often poor or below poverty level, these types of 'rags to riches' stories are even more applealing when the lead character is more identifible to his/her audience.

    As far as gender is concerned, the head of the gang organizations is almost always a man, with women playing a lesser role in the gang's everyday dealing. Whether this lack of representation is due to the violence usually associated with gang work or because any men that were in control refused more responsibilites to women is unknown. As a stereotype though, I don't usually associate wemon as the heads of criminal organizations and in movies, it is usually the female characters who urge the gangsters to get out of their line of work.

  8. I do agree with many of the other students' opinions that Hollywood does put some emphasis on minorities as gangsters. On further consideration, however, I tend to think that one's perspective is key. Look at "Gangs of New York." It is wholly a gangster film, and yet its characters are all white. Many other gangster movies exist with mostly white character ensembles. I think Western movies, in general, are good examples of gangster movies, and nearly all of them include all-white characters. Exploitation is a strong word. Many gangster movies may include characters which advance stereotypes of African Americans, but for every one of those films there is another stereotyping Italian Americans, Irish Americans, etc. I don't think gangster filmmakers are exploiting racial stereotypes for exploitation's sake; I think they are attempting to create authentic, believable films.

    In other films geared toward the African American community, however, I tend to think stereotypes of black women are exploited more often. The film BAPs (Black African Princesses), a comedy with Halle Berry, contains some of the most rampant racial stereotyping I've ever seen, all aimed at African American women. The characters are all good-natured, but they struggle with unintelligence, naivete, a lack of curiosity, honesty. I see this much more often, in fact, than any racial stereotyping in gangster movies. "The Quick and the Dead" is a gangster film in which a white woman is an outlaw but eventually becomes the hero; I don't think I've ever seen something like this occur with a black woman. In "Set It Off," a cast of black women rob a bank, but for the cause of helping a woman without any help to keep her kids. For how similar this situation is to "The Quick and the Dead," the cast of "Set It Off" seem less justified than the white woman of the former, even though both commit crimes. I think this is more than anything the product of a business which has for too long exploited stereotypes of black women.

    But in the end, it's just a movie... strictly for entertainment purposes.

  9. Gangster films do put an emphasis on minorities, and there has definitely been more films focusing on the african american race versus any. But, I feel that there has been a gangster film depicting people of all races. For instance, the Departed is all about the Irish mob and depicts them in a terrible light. Also, Gangs of New York depicts the English as a rowdy gang group. Gender in movies plays a big role, a lot of movies show women in a all power intimidating role. But, almost all horror movies show a white male as the murderer.
    But, in all reality, these movies are made for entertainment and a movie that is set in compton with irish people would just not work, all in all, movies are built to entertain and whatever sells tickets will prevail in hollywood
    -Erik Ross

  10. I think that Hollywood exploits many different groups by making a lot of the films they dish out. I do agree that the black community is exploited in gangster films, but I think that pretty much every movie deals with some kind of stereotype that becomes exploited. It kind of seems that the films you mentioned, where black females are the focus, it seems that the women are dealing with the troubles of their own lives and are struggling to rise above. In gangster films, the black men do have problems in their own personal lives, but it seems like they deal much more with worldly problems like drugs and money... that difference somehow makes sense to me, I hope it does to ya'll too!

  11. After reading the essay, i realized that after all the movies "gangster" and "gangsta" movies that I have seen, and knew that they focusing on a certain ethnic or racial group, I never stopped to think about whether or not this was an exploitation, or how they were being viewed by the societies in real life. So, now thinking back on all the movies in this type of genre, American Gangster is probably the first one that comes to mind, because its the most recent one I've seen. I do think that in some ways hollywood is exploiting the black community in this movie. Denzel Washington's character and his family and friends in the movie are a good example of how Hollywood is trying to show a poor black man making his way to the top by any means necessary, like through the use of drugs, violence, and ruthlessness.
    I do think that this is exploitation, because although the movies are for the viewing pleasure of the audience, the makers of the movie have to be drawing there information from real life racism and was of life that are not as glorified when they do happen in real life. These seem like really cool movies in theaters, but not when people are getting killed in real life.
    As for gender in these movies I think they display gender roles as stereotypical as possible. The men are always the bread winners that don't have to respect women and can do what they want, while the women stay at home, cook, and take care of the kids.

  12. This is going to be really hard for me to write because I don't like gangsta movies. I haven't seen a single movie mentioned in the essay or by my classmates. I'm just not into that type of movie. I do think overall gangsta movies exploit minorities, but I would like to point out that not all gangs in movies are minorities, just the majority. This might be a far stretch but it's all the information I have to go off of, but in both The Outsiders and Oliver Twist the majority of the characters were white Anglo-saxton and they could technically be called a gang. They have many simularities to the modern gangsta movies, including the gender debate. In both the girls were always innocent and tried to change the men from their bad ways. But that's not really discrimination because girls are just better. (I'm sorry, I just couldn't help myself.) I once read an article in a magazine about women in the drug trade who had taken over after their fathers' death, but in movies women are always portrayed as good because of the sterotype. I think that nowadays gangsta movies usually portray minorties mostly because it's what the public is used to. After years of gangsta movies, that's how most of the public thinks a gangsta movie is supposed to go. Though some of the in gangsta movies could be true, I think a lot of it is exaggerated for the public's sake, which in itself is a form of exploitation.

  13. Unfortunately, the only gang movies that come to mind are the "Buttercreamers" and movies that make fun of gangs such as "I'm Gonna Get Ya Sucka." In a lot of the movies that I've seen, the stereotypes of gang life are highly exaggerated and made fun of. Characters, like the town pimp or the wanna-be, are often caricatured in blingy suits, Polo shirts with low-riding pants, or some outfit showing off their "swagger." I believe that hollywood exploits a lot of stereotypes of diverse communities in general. Black communities just happen to currently be the home of gangs and "the ghetto" (referring to the life and the place) as far as several of hollywood movies are concerned.