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A study of the film blow

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2025 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Blow was set in America during the 1970’s at a time when Nixon’s presidential agenda to solving crime related problems did not expand to the cause of crime but instead, focused on the harsh punishment of offenders for their anti-social behaviour. Where activities are written into the criminal law and subject to state endorsement by way of specific punishment, that activity is a crime. Consequently, drug trafficking and cultivation, in a formal legal sense, are both crimes as defined by the state and punished accordingly. Several theories compete to describe the causes of crime in this film and as such, Strain Theory, Classical Theory and New Right Criminology will mostly inform the following examination.

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Georges Early Life

Throughout his childhood, George witnesses the seemingly never-ending battles over money between his mother and father which culminates in his father having to declare bankruptcy after his business fails. As a result of his childhood experiences, the young George vows never to be poor, which becomes a core philosophy in his life. Drawing on the relationship between poverty and crime, one might be tempted to consider that these particular elements are likely to underpin George’s course of action in later life. However, the structural perspective of poverty and crime is probably not what lead George to crime due to the fact that he was very young and although the family was poor, there is no suggestion that they lived below the poverty line. This was simply a notation.

Georges Initial Decision to Deal Drugs

Aligning George’s initial decision to deal drugs with that of Classical Theory appears to explain the cause of criminality. For example, George moves with his friend “Tuna” to California where the 70’s lifestyle is portrayed as sun, sand, girls and pot. George goes on to make a free and rational choice in his decision to deal pot and he figured that the gains from offending (initially small scale) would outweigh the possible costs if caught. Here, it is George’s rationality (or lack of) which is the initial cause of crime. This theory aligns with legal doctrine that emphasises conscious intent or choice such as mens rea (the guilty mind) and therefore, the voluntaristic nature of classical theory with its embedded notion of individual initiative and choice gives us the ability to reconcile with our implied social contract with the state.

Georges Continuing Decision to Deal Drugs

At this point, George’s drug abuse and chaotic, rich lifestyle pushes him to another level where the cause of crime is no longer based on rational choice. Now, the costs can be seen to far outweigh the gain. This is effectively illustrated in two key relationships that George has with his father and his daughter. At one point, George’s father asks him if he is happy with his decisions in life where George responds by saying that he very good at what he does. George’s father replies “you could have been good at anything”. which indicates evidence of Labelling Perspective. Clearly George is has labelled himself which has manifested into a self fulfilling prophecy.

Cocas Plant Workers

Poverty in South America during the 1970’s saw approximately 45-50 percent of families living below the poverty line and it is widely recognised that the desperate attempt to survive poverty is the cause of many, many people turning to the coca and cocaine trade. Strain theory identifies the inadequate or inappropriate means or opportunities by which to achieve goals. Furthermore, it is these blocked opportunities which cause people to pursue criminal avenues and thus, become a product of an inept social order. Strains associated with structural opportunities suggest that relationships between poverty and crime are the elements of social structure which underpin a particular course of action. Ultimately, strain theory recognises that offenders have few conscious choices regarding available options.

Prison Life

“Danbury wasn’t a prison, it was a crime school. I went in with a Bachelor of marijuana, came out with a Doctorate of cocaine”. George’s statement tends to mock the criminal justice system which goes some way to suggest that George’s behavior lacks general respect for authority. This is in line with the definitions and causes of crime under traditionalist conservative theory.

Deterrence and Retribution

Classical Theory features as the main aim of punishment and deterrence. This is evidenced by the frequency of which George finds himself in and out of jail in which case, the pleasure-pain principle demands that the pain of the sentence will be greater than the pleasure derived from committing the crime.New Right Criminology Kristina says “I thought you couldn’t live without your heart retribution

Film B: Thelma and Louise

Thlema and Louise is an American film set in the early 1990’s where rising attention to the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and women’s issues were constantly under scrutiny in media and in politics. Amidst this background the testimony that is Thelma and Louise effectively portrays the gender conflict of that era. Thelma and Louise displays a consciousness of popularized feminist concerns, and seeks to incorporate such discourses while simultaneously adhering to the contradictory institutional demands such as the patriarchal anxieties over liberated women. recent nods to feminism has been to insert women into protagonist roles in traditionally male genres

Women’s movements have also brought attention to the ways in which social institutions often fail to protect women against male abuses in the workplace and in the home. Issues once associated with feminism only are now daily concerns in Canada and in the United States, regardless of how women and men situate themselves in relation to feminism. Films like Thelma and Louise represent the impact of feminist thought on public discussion.

Thelma and Louise have been split along gender lines, with male critics decrying the film as an example of violent, battle- of-the-sexes male-bashing and a threat to American moral standards, and female critics arguing that the film addresses the social experiences of American women, expressing their concerns about sexual harassment and rape, and the law’s insensitive treatment of women victimized by such crimes.

In Thelma and Louise, the attempted rape and the subsequent verbal attack are parts that make up the whole of women’s social experiences in a sexist society. With this in mind, Harlan’s death takes on particular connotations and acts as a lightning rod drawing to it social questions that the film wants to explore. As Putnam explains it, the murder is committed … to avenge not only this outrage [the verbal assault after the

sexual assault] but all of the little rapes, the everyday usurpations of female autonomy that all women know. Viewed allegorically, the scene portrays the ritual re-enactment of cultural conflicts at the heart of women’s everyday lives. The actual social world is magnified, symbolized, throughout this sequence of crime and redre~s.~’ Harlan represents every misogynist we have ever encountered. In the role of feminist avenger, Louise shoots Harlan for Thelma, and as we later learn, for herself in reaction to a past trauma of which she will not speak. Harlan is symbolically exorcised, cast out, by Louise’s bullet in punishment for all the times a woman’s agency has been denied, either through violence or language. STRAIN THEORY

Basic strain theory suggests that the foundations of crime and acts of deviancy result from inadequate means of achieving goals which are set by others in society. According to strain theory, enhancing opportunities to reduce social strain is/was an appropriate response to crime.

Thelma and Louise flee the crime scene because of Louise’s conviction that they cannot go to the police. Strain theory suggests that one of the ways to prevent crime occurring or to reduce the possibility of offences being committed in the future, is to ‘enhance opportunities in order to reduce social strain.’ Had Thelma and Louise not been force into a “life on the run”, they would not have resorted to criminal means to try and escape their mundane lives. This demonstrates the basic tenets of strain theory.

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At various points the option of turning to the police for help is presented either by Thelma or by Hal (the sympathetic cop, who wants to help the women at the same time that he is tracking them down, bringing with him the force of the law. Thelma and Louise display a consciousness of contemporary feminist critiques of the law and its insensitive, inadequate treatment of women who have experienced male violence. CRIME PREVENTION

Officers incestigating Hals murder the waitress at the road house offers the key investigator that she “hope[s] it was his wife who did it” and that “I coulda told you he’d end up buying it.” In this explanation, the experiences of women are the focus and not the murder itself WHAT THEORY – EMPHASIS ON THE VICTIM

Louise says the police wouldn’t believe her because “a hundred goddamn people saw you dancing

cheek to cheek … We don’t live in that kind of world!” Thelma and Louise works from our knowledge of recent, publicized rape trials where women have been required to prove they did not provoke or deserve the assault. As Carter points out, The sad truths of the real world and the disappointing scenarios of too many recent rape trials have taught women that they will not be believed, however battered and bruised and no matter how well-witnessed the crime … Many women understand all too well why Thelma and Louise fled.

Thelma’s behaviour here is unexpected since, up until this point, she has been passive with Louise making all the plans. Thelma’s crime is captured on the store video. The first time the audience actually sees the crime is on this video, which the police investigators and Thelma’s husband are watching as evidence of the two women’s criminal inclinations. The scene makes us privy to the kinds of interpretations that the spectacle of Thelma – conducting an armed robbery using J.D.’s self-assured patter – can produce. When read through the lens of the law, Thelma, and by extension, Louise are criminals, armed and dangerous. LABELLING The morning after, J.D. steals Louise’s $6,700 in savings, Thelma takes charge, and robs a convenience store.she comes running out of the store yelling at Louise to start the car.feels she has been stigmatized by being labeled criminal for credit card fraud. After pursuing all avenues she feels she is left with no other option but to behave in a manner which fits the label.

What the majority of these female protagonists quickly discover … is that in the patriarchal society of their diegetic world, there is no place for an active, independent woman …. [I]t is, time and again, only through renunciation and sacri fice that they achieve their ultimate goal; indeed, have any hope of achieving it. Those women who refuse to forego their active desires in effect refuse the possibility of recuperation.

Consequently, they almost always are punished by a kind of filmic moral trajectory that brings a double closure, to the woman’s life and to the film’s narrative. This is not to imply that the cinema is not fascinated with ‘bad’ women; only that it makes sure that they are not rewarded for their ‘crimes’ against society.LINDY CHAMBERLAIN


Through the two women’s deaths, the film does indeed reinforce the status quo


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