Wednesday, 20 October 2010

What does the film ‘lock stock and two smoking barrels’ tell us about male identity in Britain in the 1990s?


To answer this question I need to look at the film as a cultural product, as a media text that will tell us something about the time in which it was made. Some theorists would argue that the film is part of a backlash against feminism that was taking place at the time. And some people may think that it was just a film that Ritchie made as he was interested with the subject of gang culture crime and some people may think he was influenced by Quinton Tarantino at the time. The film represents males in London in the 1990s, by portraying them as being violent, unemotional and obsessed with crime. At the time there was the idea of the ‘new man’ who had a softer side, but this film has no version of this. The film reflects the moment of ‘new laddism’, representing an aggressive reaction to feminism. The four main characters of the film do not kill anyone; they are only interested in getting the money to pay off their enormous debt. The film's delight in gangland slang and its sharp eye for fashion and London locations made it an unexpected box-office success.

I think Guy Ritchie was trying to portray a message. He said at the time "Men should be more powerful than this". 'Loaded' and 'FHM' also shared his views and they were powerful and popular magazines for men at the time.

Most people think that ‘lock stock’ was showing male identity in Britain at the time and trying to turn men to be more like the 'gangsters' in the film and at the time of the film was made. A writer for the 'Sunday Times' in 2000, complained that the film was 'sexist' and fascist' and thought the film had an affect of violent crime in Britain. After this comment was made it was thought at the time that Guy Ritchie had 'Polluted the British Film Industry' and made a new stereotype of men in Britain.

Violence is one of the main themes shown in the film, although we don’t see it happening. The film is a form of gangster light as the violence in the film is seen as comical. The film makes violence acceptable and humorous. Gangster light is an exaggeration of real life for entertainment; faux-ness is also included in the film as it’s even better than the real thing and exciting. The film reflects the men in the film as people who want to be free to be laddish and masculine, asserting their importance through violence and style. Editing also contributes to us thinking its gangster light as we don’t get to see the gory scenes; we’ve just known they have happened, we don’t see the consequences of the violence and fighting.

Laura Mulveys theory the ‘male gaze’ is also represented in the film. In the film the males are the protagonists of the story. There are 3 women in the film, one is just to look at as she is a stripper in the background of a scene. This proves that this film was made for male audiences. The women in the film are used mainly as objects and for men to look at. One of the women in the film does not say one word at any point in the film, she is just for show. But at one point in the film she shows a violent and powerful side to her as she saves one of the gangs from being killed, and ends up having to use a powerful riffle.

Adorno and fiskes theories of media power would have fitted into this film as in the film ‘lock stock’ all men are shown as being violent and criminal like. As this behaviour is shown in the film Adorno would argue that boys watching this film would be influenced and drawn to this behavior as they would want power and money and to be like the men in the film, and that this film would have damaging consequence to the public. Fiske would argue that everyone would have their own opinion of the film and would react different ways after seeing this film, not necessarily the way that the men act in the film. I think that although there would be a strong influence made to young boys by this film, not everyone would react and copy behavior like that. There has been a change since the 1990s as there aren’t as many thugs like that out there and the views of how ‘masculinity’ and how men should act have changed dramatically, many people prefer men to be soft and loving not everyone wants a hard powerful and thuggish man.

Identity is shown in the film by 'Nature vs Nurture'. A character in the film known as Big Chris, played by Vinnie Jones; who was known at the time as a hard, strong and powerful person, has a son called Little Chris. The way that big Chris brings little Chris up is through ’nurture’. Big Chris wants to show how little Chris should behave as a man, teaching him how to be hard and powerful. As you don’t see any of the violence that occurs in the film we don’t think the situation is bad or it’s a bad influence to show how kid boys should behave. By adding humour with violence Guy Ritchie’s film was a success.

To conclude this essay, I think that ‘lock stock’ was a film used to show how male identity was portrayed in the 1990s, and not just made as a random film at the time which had no message. I think that it was to show how Guy Ritchie thought men should act at the time and how he thought every man should be looked at, powerful, thuggish and hard.

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