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Female Crackheads: Montage and Femininity in Clockers

There are two main modes through which Spike Lee depicts femininity in his 1995 urban drama Clockers. Most of the women in the film are mothers, and spend their time either protecting their children or physically controlling their children (not necessarily in a bad way). What I find more interesting, however, is the way Lee decides to depict drug users in the film. As Clockers takes place in the Brooklyn projects, and centers around a drug dealing operation that is set up there, it is necessary to show some actual drug users–those who keep the business alive and running. Lee often also utilizes montages in his films to depict a critical aspect of the plot: for example, there is a montage in Do the Right Thing of men of different races who all live on the block angrily spewing derogatory slurs directed at their enemies. Marlon Riggs replicates this in his film Tongues Untied, when he has a montage of men giving the audience the pick-up lines they use on unsuspecting women, ranging from ridiculous, to uncomfortable, to offensive and sexist. In each situation, not only does the montage elucidate an aspect of the plot that is not directly in line with the story but critical to understanding the conflict (it is important to understand the racial tensions in DtRT even though the plot is not driven by name-calling), but the repeated description of certain images heightens their importance and weight in the film.

Thus, I think it is interesting for Lee to depict women as drug abusers in Clockers, and to do so in the form of a montage. As Rodney says to Strike the scene before, he has the “world’s greatest product”, proven by the fact that he will never run out of customers as long as there are people addicted to drugs. The montage serves to depict a critical aspect of the plot: there will always be people buying drugs, thus Rodney will never go out of business, thus he will always have the power he wields over those in the projects. For Lee to make those drug abusers women, however, makes an interesting argument about the power dynamics in these situations. There are a couple of men who use drugs in Clockers, but the montage scene of multiple women coming to buy drugs from Strike’s crew seems to make a connection between the two. This is added to by the fact that there are no female drug dealers in the movie. Whenever drugs are placed in relation to women in the movie, the drugs, and thus the men, have power over the women. He does not restrict his depiction to a certain woman, either: women of all sizes and colors are coming to the projects to stay high. Each woman is jittery, gaunt, and anxious to receive her drugs. Regardless of their appearance, however, it is clear that they are hooked, and tied to the male drug dealers for every hit. The men of the projects, even as their own lives are falling apart, still have control over their faithful female customers.

This is juxtaposed with the depiction of mothers in the film as being incredibly powerful and respected. Even for a hardened drug dealer like Strike, Tyrone’s mother getting in his face prompts some angry words and disrespectful language, but he does not lay his hands on her even as she physically abuses him. With the oppositional inclusion of both depictions of women in the film, I find that Lee gives a much more varied perspective on the possible roles that women in this situation can fulfill than he has in other movies. Strike and Vic’s mother and Tyrone’s mother are critical players in the way that their son’s problems with the police turn out, and the drug abusing women are critical players in the way that the economy of the projects continues to run. This is made clear by the fact that there is a montage of women, as opposed to one or two, thus giving it the necessary weight and importance to be on par with the importance of the mothers in the film. It is true that white teens from Connecticut also fuel the drug trade in this particular project, but those kids are naive and easily found out. In order for the block to economically sustain itself, in order for Rodney to continue to maintain his hold over the “world’s greatest product”, it is important for there to be a constant stream of regular drug abusers–in this case, that is the role that women must serve.

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This entry was posted on May 19, 2013 by in posts and tagged , , , , , , , .
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