Menace II Society
Menace II Society
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“Don’t you care whether you live or die?” – Caine’s grandfather
The plot, if it can be stated as such, in Menace II Society basically chronicles life or coming-of-age in Watts, Los Angeles hood particularly focusing on the life of 18-year-old Caine “Kaydee” Lawson the summer after his high school graduation - Menace II Society introduction. Caine basically is left to fend for himself in this environment and the viewers watch 90 minutes of what can be referred to as either a roller-coaster ride or a continuous train wreck through life in this “gangsta” environment.
This film and the environment this film chronicles could be said as having all the right ingredients to create juvenile delinquency. One could say that Caine was doomed from the beginning as he watched his father shoot a man in his home as a young boy. We have the children that at most when in the fortunate minority, have one “present” parent. Guns, drugs, gangs, prison and death are a common theme and makeup of this environment and many environments that produce groups of juvenile delinquents.
I suppose I would say that it would have to be the exceptional person who lives in the hood in a well-adjusted family situation that possibly has a small chance of not becoming a juvenile delinquent in an atmosphere like the one we see in Menace II Society. When drive-by shootings, carjackings, grand theft auto, riddling bodies with bullets, liquor store robberies and playing and re-playing videos of your own surveillance market murder videos are the recreational outlets in ones’ environment, the realistic odds of a truly successful life are weighing against you—even a set of loving grandparents are hard-pressed to save your soul.
The main adolescent characters in this movie, unfortunately, didn’t deal with the issues in their lives and environment in productive ways. For starters here, we watch as O-Dog shoots the Korean liquor store owner and his wife after he and Caine are demanded to leave the store after being abusive towards the store owners. We watch how anger and resolutions are displayed through shootings, and ultimately, Caine’s irresponsible way of handling what is thought to be his child, causes his fatal downfall.
Although Caine does have his redeeming qualities, like developing a bond with Ronnie’s son Anthony, for the most part he chose the wrong paths. He did have characters in the movie willing to help him turn his life around, be examples for him and show their love for him. So in a sense it could be said that Caine chose to be a victim of his surroundings and circumstances of life. This could be my truest theoretical definition for juvenile delinquents, those who are given avenues to pursue outside the irresponsible, dishonest and criminal paths and still decide to choose the latter.
I have to say I disagreed with many critics of this movie who said to the effect that they felt Menace II Society glamorized the lifestyle, which was the opposite of what the directors of the movie had intended. I suppose you could see it either way but because I wouldn’t want this type of existence for myself, I don’t feel it was glamorized.
The class readings and lectures added more clarity to the film. When you sit and watch a film, you’re pretty much just in your observation mode. Also, generally you are mentally digesting the movie on your own usually, so having additional input and others’ views always make a film more interesting. Sometimes, you think to yourself, “Oh, I didn’t see that connection until you pointed that out.”
Hughes, A., Hughes, A., Scott, D., Williams, T., Turner, T., Pinkett, J., & Tate, L. (1997).
Menace II society. New York: New Line Home Video