Menace II Society, Clockers, and the Subversion of the “Hood” Genre
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Author: Bryan Ghingold & Ace Yilma
Argument: The Hughes Brother’s 1993 film Menace II Society is one of many films which makes up a very specific genre of storytelling: the Hood Genre. Like most genres, the hood film draws on the conventions of other genres, such as the action film, the film noir, and the gangster film. Unlike the genres it borrows from, however, the hood genre has been singled out and criticized as being detrimental to the public perception of the black community by depicting drug dealing, drug consumption, violence, and promiscuity as the epitome of the “black experience.” In response to this, black filmmakers such as Spike Lee and Rusty Cundieff have made “hood” films that violate and challenge the conventions of the genre via parody and revision. Lee’s 1995 film Clockers opens with a highly reflexive exchange between a group of drug dealers who argue whether or not a rapper is “legitimate” if he is not violent outside of his music career. To further subvert the genre, Lee’s film ends with the protagonist fulfilling his lifelong goal of riding a train as he leaves New York for a better life, with drug dealing behind him, as opposed to having him die in a violent shootout.
Paul Gormley, The New Brutality Film: Race and Affect in Contemporary Hollywood Cinema (Bristol: Antony Rowe Ltd, 2005), 99-123. Offers a definition for the “Hood Genre” and details the “miming” of various genres, American culture, expectations of violence, and the perception of black society Menace II Society does, by devoting an entire chapter to the film. Gormley argues that “Menace II Society…has bought into the debased flip-side (sic) of the American Dream” by “…tak[ing] on board a poor “black-faced version of white American myths and dominant fictions without question” (105).
Keith M. Harris, “Clockers (Spike Lee, 1995): Adaptation in Black” in The Spike Lee Reader, ed. Paula Massood (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007), 128-141. Offers a history of New Black Cinema from Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) to Clockers (1995), arguing that Lee used Clockers to “critique the hood film and, by extension, black cinema” (137) because he felt the hood film was a letdown of the “promise of black cinema as a tool of change” (139).
Paula Massood, “Black City Cinema: African American Urban Experiences in Film” in Culture and the Moving Image, ed. Robert Sklar (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003), 173-253. Massood discusses the concepts of genre parody and genre revision as they pertain to the hood film. She cites several examples of hood film parodies, and focuses primarily on Lee’s Clockers when she discusses genre revision.
Images taken from the internet used without permission for illustrative effect and not for profit