Friday, 12 November 2010

What does the film lock stock and Two Smoking Barrels tell us about male identity in Britain in the 1990’s?

The film in question was produced in 1998 by Guy Ritchie, since then it has been argued whether the male profiles presented in the film were a reflection of the males in Britain at the time; or whether the film influenced male identity. The purpose of this essay is to identify “what it meant to be male” during the nineties; and how the Guy Ritchie film conveyed this. The question alone starts another argument; whether the media can affect how we see are selves, or whether we naturally have an idea of who we are from the minute we are born. This is otherwise known as the nature v nurture theory. After watching the movie I came to the conclusion that the entire cast (predominantly male) seemed to have an extremely reckless and destructive attitude with no sense of responsibility or balance, rushing from one extreme to the other. Now, for a film with such themes to be successful there has to be an appreciation for the constant provision of violence from scene to scene. Basically the previously mentioned nurture supports that over time the exposure to such violence became acceptable; so much so that the audience actually had quite an appetite for such things.
Although the film is within the gangster light category (comedic violence) some themes of the film are grossly violent, whether we want to admit it or not, films are a cultural representation of what is occurring in society. May they be grossly fictional or loosely based on real events; what we see on television and in the cinema are direct reflections of our aspirations, fantasies and even our realities. Personally I believe if a film is to obtain any success, the audience have to be able to relate to the majority of the cast and the situation they are in. If the audience can’t find any middle ground; effectively it would have no audience. Slightly off topic, in one weekend,(now remember a weekend consists of only two days) the film in question earned 143,321 dollars. Hold on! I forgot to add this was the turnover gained from the movie whilst it was being shown in just eight American cinemas. Now in case you have forgotten, our American cousins (by nature) find British culture “quaint” and can rarely make sense of anything that is spoken in an English accent. So why would they flock to the cinema to watch a film which depicted a somewhat sideways (gangster light) Steve Chidnal 98-0l look at British gangster culture? I would say it was because at the time during the tail end of 98; deep down inside the most rational and balanced male there was a burning desire to break away from the politically correct profile that had enveloped the country which no longer classed homosexuality as a disease. A country which had a new breed of male who had “had enough of feminist ideas of what a man should be”-Mary Wood 07 Before I continue I must say that by no means were these emotions felt by all males as a classified group; however they applied to enough for Guy Ritchie to make a “hit” film, which was warmly accepted by Britain thus making it a domestic blockbuster. What does this film say about male identity in Britain during the 90’s? If we were to use theory to describe why this movie was so successful, I would say that this film fitted with the Fisk’s school of thought; which would argue that the entertainment industry will only produce material that they know will be accepted as a reflection of current culture. In other words, Guy Ritchie’s Lock, stock and Two Smoking Barrels was only successful due to Britain’s appetite for senseless and often unrealistic acts of violence.

I would suggest that the gradual exposure is responsible for our acceptance of certain things; for example, the role women in films. During the 90’s (eight years before this film was released) a woman’s role in film was growing from strength to strength becoming comfortable in roles equal or sometimes even domineering over males. However Lock Stock takes a retrograde step and reverts to objectifying women. This links to Laura Mulvey’s theory which points out how woman are merely depicted in films as helpless damsels in distress. This is encapsulated in the film plainly by strip club scene when we are shown the conversation between the northerners and Hatchet Harry right hand man in the strip club from a male’s point of view. The “lads” seem to be incapable of concentrating and often find them selves drifting between the stripper on the pole and the conversation at hand. This scene alone encapsulates Laura Mulveys theory which states that women are placed in films just to capture the gaze of males; thus objectifying females them. All in order to make males seem more powerful. So far this follows the underlying theme of the film which has all male cast with the exception of a semi conscious girl, the previously mentioned stripper and a card dealer.

Laura Mulvey
Steve Chidnal
Mary Wood

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