Essay on The “City of God”

1. Pick a story told in this film that you found particularly poignant, inspiring, or troubling. What was your reaction and what are your further thoughts and questions?
The City of God shows the violence and poverty of the places where it’s not possible to find God slums of Rio de Janeiro. The film includes three parts covering the 20-year period (1960s and 1970s), and the most striking fact about this film is that it is based on actual events, described in the novel with the same name by Paulo Lins. There are many striking and poignant stories and characters in the film; two of them have impressed me most of all: Buscape (Rocket) and Mane Galinha (Knockout Ned). The whole film is intertwined with the Rocket’s life story and his struggle to leave the slums and start a normal life. The same motive can be witnessed in the character of Knockout Ned, but his story is far more tragic.

Ned is against the violence, he stopped Rocket and his friend from committing the robbery and advised them to get out of the City and to get an education. Ironically, aggressive environment of the favela (slums) forces Ned to get involved in the violent gang war. Ned’s girlfriend was raped by Little Ze, the leader of the gang who wanted to become the boss of the city. Ned was led by his anguish: together with a drug dealer Carrot started a war of the gangs, but was eventually killed. This character is extremely powerful and dramatic, and his life story shows the inevitability and despair of the life in the City of God. Even those who want to get out of this violence and dream for a better life have very weak chances for doing this, and they might have to go through extreme pain to reach their goal.

The movie clearly shows the rounds of violence and the constant flow of events which shape the aggressive environment in the Brazilian favela. It is truly depressing to realize that people somewhere might be involved into this never-ending circle of crime and violence, without the chances for escaping. The values and ideals of this part of society are totally different from the civilized society, and yet these groups of people exist side by side. The movie evoke many questions related to the possibility of such dramatic difference between social groups and their way of living, and I actually started to think about the true essence of the human beings: is it more natural to them to be civilized or to worship crime and aggression?

2.What do you think are the main elements of the masculinity (or masculinities) portrayed in City of God? What, in other words, makes a man? To what extent do the masculinities portrayed in the film correspond to those outlined by Ben Penglase and John Lee Anderson?

In the City of God the concept of masculinity is closely related to violence and to the ability to protect oneself against violence. Violence and violent behaviour, and immediate aggressive response to violence are viewed as necessary attributes of a real man in the favela. Moreover, the relations of power are also built on the idea of brutality and aggression as truly masculine manifestations. Occupations unrelated to violence were considered as non-important, and men engaged in these occupations or those who did not express violent traits were not perceived as true men.
Drug trafficking business is a factor strongly shaping economic reality in Rio de Janeiro, and thus relations of power and social stratification built around this business also reflect the idea of masculinity in this society through participating in the crimes and dominating through violence. In the film, the society is shown as strongly patriarchal, and masculinity is also perceived through the role of the father whose role is to protect the family and to provide economic support of it. Basically, the elements of masculinity depicted in the film are similar to the concept of masculinity determined by Ben Penglase in The Owner of the Hill Masculinity and Drug Trafficking in Rio de Janeiro. The role of man as the one who does not take abuse from anyone and can be the supporter and protector of his family is clearly shown in the article. However, I did not trace the reshaping of gender experiences which are described by Ben Penglase in his article. Masculinity relationships indeed form social relationships and lead to high urban violence, but the distribution of gender roles and hierarchy shown in the City of God are rather patriarchal. John Lee Anderson in Gangland Brazil also shows a similar picture, but the role of women in this picture is greater than in the film. This might be due to later period, when the definitions of masculinity have been expanded and women showing masculine features could also take part in the power relationships. In the City of God, these borders of masculinity are stronger, and violence trends are more powerful than those described by John Lee Anderson. Thus, I believe that the model of masculinity developed by Ben Penglase is more aligned with the one shown in the City of God.


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