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A social stance on Proyas’s “The Crow”

One year after the brutal murder of Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and girlfriend Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas), Eric is brought back from the grave by a crow, a legendary creature that it is told can shatter the barrier between the living and the dead to bring back a life for the sake of love. The crow aides Eric in a righteous mission of vengeance as Eric seeks out the perpetrators of his and Shelly’s death.

“The Crow,” directed by visionary Alex Proyas, is set in the slums of an unnamed inner city where the sirens of police cars feel incessant and the flashing of red and blue lights is commonplace. Various gangs bully the city’s inhabitants for greed and mere amusement. Homeless people litter the streets and police patrol in fear. Children desperately search for food while their parents spend what little money they have on drugs such as cocaine and morphine.

This film is strewn with blatant depictions of big time social issues, including poverty, gang violence, homelessness, child abuse/neglect and drug addiction.

Basically, this fictional city creates a good illustration of the domino-like effect that a fierce concoction of social ills can have on a group of people. The widespread poverty represented, which is a serious issue that main characters Eric and Shelly had just begun to overcome before their deaths, was caused by an absence of jobs.

This poverty comes from a lack of financial stability. With this comes the inability to afford rent or mortgage, which explains the high amount of homeless people living on the streets, including main character Sarah (Rochelle Davis), a young girl who is forced to call the streets home when her caretakers Shelly and Eric are killed.

Poverty, again, and probably the biggest social issue confronted in this film, can also lead to drug abuse, gang participation and violence. The brutal murder of Eric and Shelly was but one of hundreds committed by the infamous “Motor City Gang,” a team of individuals who have turned to violence in order to fulfill greedy desires and accomplish dastardly criminal goals, all while taking advantage of the decrepit condition of the city.

Something else quite commonly depicted in the film is drug addiction, which can result in child abuse or neglect. An example of which is exhibited by Darla (Anna Levine) toward daughter Sarah. While Darla is constantly obsessed with finding her next drug fix, Sarah is thrown to the way side and must provide for her own basic survival needs herself, such as food and shelter. Darla is simply too busy with the job of getting her drugs, which is demonstrated in one scene as the selling her body for two morphine injections, to worry about her daughter’s life.

Certainly, the hero and main character Eric epitomizes the voice of reason and demonstrates possible solutions to many of the issues brought up in the film. For example, while hunting for one of the Motor City Gang members, Eric finds Darla and tells her, “Morphine is bad for you. Your daughter is out on the streets waiting for you.” He says this while he clenches her arm and causes the drugs to pour out of her body from the injection wounds using one of the abilities he gained by becoming immortal. Of course the solution to the issues of drug abuse and child neglect in the statement made by Eric here, is to simply cease the drug use and concentrate on the wellbeing of your child.

As a solution to the murder issue, Eric gets revenge by killing all the members of the Motor City Gang. To me this is a statement saying murderous violence is wrong and should be stopped; plain and simple. In the real world where we don’t have the ability to crawl out of our graves and become immortal beings with strange powers so that we can avenge the wrongful death(s) of those we loved, I think a more realistic comparison to the solution presented here is capital punishment or life in prison for those who committed the crime(s).

Another character who demonstrates a possible solution to one of the social issues shown is Sarah. In order to carry on her obviously difficult and otherwise rough life, Sarah concentrates on what good there is around her, making friends with people outside the poverty circle such as police officer Albrecht. Sarah is also shown not to partake in any of the crime that characterizes her home, such as drug use and violence. Sarah is a well-rounded child who uses her intelligence and street smarts to her advantage in order to better her chances of survival. To me, this says a possible solution to such social ills as poverty is to keep your chin up and think about the possibility of a brighter future. Be as strong as you can and use common sense to your advantage.

Not surprisingly, some of the “solutions” in the film to many of the social problems raise question. With regard to Eric’s character pointing out that Darla simply give up her drug addiction and take care of her daughter, this task will certainly not be that easy. Morphine is one of the most addictive substances a person can abuse, and turning around a life that years have been spent away in neglect of a child will be more than difficult to amend.

Concerning my implied solution of social justice by capital punishment or the death penalty to such social problems as murder and unwarranted violence presents the issue of controversy. Many people feel as if capital punishment or the killing of criminals is wrong, no matter what their crime(s). So here, the way in which this problem should be dealt with is an ongoing social debate and raises question regarding this “solution.”

As for Sarah’s solution to the problem of being the victim of child neglect and poverty, again, the solution is not as simple as it appears; at least not in real life. A life like Sarah’s is no cake walk, and living it usually leads to others problems such as a tendency for violence and crime, as the members of the Motor City Gang in the film could be examples. It is unrealistic to expect children, or anyone for that matter, living in conditions such as these to simply hope for something good to happen to them and rely on that to get them through each day.

Some other social problems that are easily linked with some of the ones mentioned here are gun violence, suicide and prostitution. I point out gun violence because gangs like the Motor City Gang are infamously known for using weapons such as guns for their operations, as drive-by shootings within many cities nationwide are not uncommon.

An example of suicide was not included in the film, however suicide is many times linked with such issues as poverty, financial instability (as a result of poverty), and abuse, and is certainly a serious issue that afflicts our society now.

Finally prostitution, another issue not depicted in the film, but definitely a problem often initiated by poor home conditions and abuse.

Although “The Crow” is a fictionalized story, many, if not all of its depictions of various social ills are extremely realistic and true. In watching the film, it’s easy to simply view it as just some writer or director’s vision of a man granted immortality to seek revenge on a bunch of scummy, low life men who killed him and his girlfriend in a bloody mess a year before. If you take away the pure entertainment quality of the film you can really see that so much of what is shown is actually happening in our society today, and probably the real life occurrence of much of the inspiration came directly from observation of cities in our nation. Truly the feeling is scary that something that seems so unrealistic at first, is really not just much makeup and special effects but what’s really out there on our streets, in our homes and all around us.

Overall, excellent, excellent film.

1 comment so far

The writer makes some very good points here. I have seen the film a few times, and I feel the producers were in fact trying to highlight the same issues that the writer has brought up. It’s hard these days to find movies of this ilk that do something besides glorify violence and depravity. I would also recommend this film as a study of very real social trends in times of need.

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