Most gangster movies of the 1930s, the years after the Great Depression, were mostly founded on themes that defied capitalism and satirized the business ethics of the time. Directors of these movies cleverly used various artistic features to ridicule the poor state of the economy that was occasioned by the Great Depression. The general aim was to persuade people to reject capitalism and rise against the regime. Gangster movies gained massive popularity during the 1930s, because of the message they possessed and its relevance to the state of affairs at that time. However, gangster movies that followed in later years had a different theme. Gangtes movies that were released later focused more on social issues in the society, such as equality and empowerment of minority groups. This paper juxtaposes two gangster movies, the public enemy of 1931 and menace II society of 1993.
The public enemy was a prominent gangster movie that premiered in 1931. Most analysts concur that The public enemy, a Warner brothers production film, was one of the best gangster movies in the 1930s. The public enemy, released in 1931, the 84-minute movie soon gained popularity and was screened in most cinemas in the United States and Europe. The film is based on the story of two young men with criminal backgrounds who became te worst criminals in the city of Chicago. Menace to Society, on the other hand, is a movie that premiered in May 1993. Menace to Society is the film that dramatized the nature of crime in urban setups. The movie features a poor young man in the impoverished suburbs of Los Angeles trying to abandon the temptations and the poverty that surround his life. It starts with a solemn mood of the protagonist, Cain Clawson, who proceeds with his best friend to the local store to purchase alcohol. The Korean couple, the store managers, is suspicious about these two guys. Overwhelmed by uncertainty, the Korean couple orders the boys to pay and leave the premise. The scene spirals out of control when Cain goes to the counter to settle the bill. His friend O-Dog takes his gun out; he shoots and instantly kills the couple. Cain is surprised; he abandons everything and signals his friend to flee because the law enforcers are fast approaching (Hughes & Hughes 1993).
There is an apparent conflict in the film as presented in episode one. In as much as Cain likes his friends, he does not agree with their behavior. This is exhibited in the movie during a confrontation with the Korean couple. O-Dog appeared quite willing to kill the store's owner and finally rob him. This is clearly shown in the movie when the store manager pressurized them to pay. Cain proceeded to the counter to settle the bill but O-Dog was well prepared with his invisible gun ready to shoot. When Cain realized that his friend had killed the couple, he dropped whatever he had in his hands and signaled his friend to escape. His friend, on the other hand, robbed the store owner and killed his wife. Interracial issues have been clearly brought out in the movie. In as much as the film is based on the life in the poor suburbs of New York where crime is a common phenomenon, issues of racial animosity are also common. There is interracial suspicion that is clearly exhibited when the boys entered the shop. The Korean couple treated them with mistrust because blacks were regarded as criminals in most societies (Mosley 2010).
Cain, the main character, is in a considerable conflict with other people around him. In the flashback, the film features a young Cain with his parents and their life is replete with drinking, parties, drugs and murders. The protagonist secretly dislikes such a life. Through the film, Cain plans to escape, looking for a better life in decent neighborhoods. There is a delightful distinction between what Cain prefers and what his parents do. They seem to enjoy the slum life. The film shows them in constant parties, using drugs and committing violent crimes. They carefully plan and execute their plans without leaving any traces behind (Hughes & Hughes 1993).
As the film progresses, several issues related to classism are revealed. Counterculture has been highlighted boldly in the movie. As presented in the film, counterculture means norms and values of a cultural group or class of people. Its aspects have been featured to describe the basic ideals that a group of people holds dearly. The film gives an in-depth understanding of how poor people live in their indigent neighborhoods. It shows how people in slums have accustomed to life that is full of violence, drugs and parties. It is because of his background that Cain runs into constant trouble in his quest to escape from this kind of life. An in-depth analysis of the movie reveals that human beings have the ability to adjust to any life situations regardless of their status. This fact has been corroborated ably in the manner that the protagonists have been presented. They were born and bred in an environment that is replete with crime and poverty. Despite the fact that they occasionally earn large sums of money, they have never bothered to acquire a house in decent neighborhoods.
Based on the Menace to Society movie, subculture is a cultural subgroup that splits from the main group because of some factors. This subgroup is often regarded as different, not like the mainstream society. This is because subcultures have their unique ways of going about life. They have got individual trends and a different mentality from the rest of the community. Subcultures are recognized by their exclusive style of dressing, music and behavior (Thomas & Henry 2001). Judging from the film, Cain was born and raised in a subculture that was characterized by partying, drugs and violent crimes. He hangs out with people of questionable characters. His friend O-Dog fits into this subculture perfectly, even though he is still a teenager. He carefully plans and successfully carries out a violent robbery in a store (Hughes & Hughes 1993). Primary culture is the knowledge and beliefs that are essential to a person. For instance, in the film, the rest of the society seems aligned to some beliefs. Primary culture in the United States society believes that in order for a person to be successful, he or she must be hard working, skilled and with admirable morals. A subculture manifests itself as a result of external influences, like poor treatment by the rest of community or neglect (Smith 23).
The movie further describes folkways and other generally accepted modes in the society. Folkways are the customs or conventions among the society members. Folkways are regarded as set standards of behavior that are socially accepted, but not morally significant (Clément 2011). For instance, in the movie Menace to Society members of both cultures believe in life that has no violence. The subculture and counterculture hate life, which is full of poverty, and prefer to live in safe neighborhoods. It is clear that even though Cain was born and bred in a subculture, he prefers a different life. He prefers a life that is free from drugs and violence; that is why he struggles considerably to free himself from the manacles of this subculture.
This scenario is common for most human beings. People have a tendency to align themselves with life they are accustomed to, rather than switch to a new status. Mores are values, norms and virtues that are acknowledged by a given society. According to the movie, mores are regarded as norms of morality. They are accepted modes of behavior in the society. Mores are not legally binding; they are a result of behavior patterns that are developed with time. In the film Menace to Society, most people in slums are alcoholics and irresponsible parents. This is not compulsory for every member in the society because every person is free to do as he or she is pleased. Every adult in the United States is eligible to drink alcohol, but excessive drinking is against the United States' mores; therefore, a responsible person is not supposed to engage in excessive alcoholism (Hughes & Hughes 1993). The movie highlighted and demonstrated societal tests and preferences in terms of taboos and morals. Taboos are, basically, strong social exclusions touching any area of human activity or customs. They are forbidden or sacred moral judgments or scientific beliefs founded on religious affiliations. Any act that would result in breaking a taboo is considered abhorrent in the society. Based on the film, leading a life full of violence and drugs is a taboo. Those who engage in such acts are considered abhorrent and are regarded as outcasts.
Menace II society displays ethnocentrism in some ways. Ethnocentrism is a predisposition that one cultural or ethnic group is above others. It is a mentality, whereby a certain culture looks at the world from its own perspective. It is a belief that one's culture is the view point of everything and that it is a yard stick against which all the other cultures are measured (Bozalek 2010). Ethnocentrism has been portrayed in various scenes in the movie. In the first scene, Cain and his friend are treated with suspicion when they entered the shop. The Korean couple was uncomfortable with the presence of black American boys in their premises. The film shows how the Korean shop managers eagerly requested the boys to pay the bill and leave the premises. From the movie, it is obvious that the black Americans are discriminated in the society. The other case of ethnocentrism in the film is portrayed when a few black characters are arrested even if they didn`t commit any crime.
There is prejudice in the law enforcement systems. The system discriminates against members of the black community (Singer 2011). The movie constantly features its members engaging in running battles with police or being arrested illegally. Cultural relativism is a principle that provides that no culture or group of people is superior to others in terms of morals, law and politics among other issues. A philosophy provides that all the cultural beliefs are equal and the truth is equally valid. Under cultural relativism, all the cultures need to coexist and live harmoniously side by side. This principle supports the concept of equal treatment of the state and all other authorities.
The movie brings out several social issues faced by both the affluent and the poor in informal slums. A number of differences and similarities have been highlighted in the movie, concerning cultural issues in their setups. The director cleverly used various characters to enlighten the viewer on various social aspects concerning urban violence in the black American community in the United States. The film connects the prevalent social problems faced by this populace to the continued systematic oppression by relevant authorities led by people in majority by races (Teshke 2011). The impact of the 1965 Los Angeles riots was also highlighted in the movie. The author wanted to justify the use of such scenes to portray the inequality that has forced black Americans into the life of destitution (Hughes & Hughes 1993).
Contrary to The public enemy movie of 1931, other movies that were released later focused on racism and inequality. For instance, in Menace to society, the director focused more on isolation and oppression of the minority. It is because of oppression and isolation that blacks face in the United States that have constantly pushed them to drugs and violence. The director identifies an etiology within the progression of learning violent behaviors and destruction through social interactions. Through exposure to life full of drugs and murder, Cain eventually learns how to procure and sale drugs safely. Cain has never had appropriate parenting; he was a victim of irresponsible parenthood. He has never had a chance to go to college and, therefore, he could not get a decent job. Despite the fact that Cain wanted to lead a righteous life, this was not possible for him. He was sucked into a slum life, and became a drug dealer, just like everyone else in his neighborhood.