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Topics in History: History through Film

Topics in History: History through Film

Topics is a course at Southport High School taught by Kevin Sanders that analyzes major events from United States and world history through Hollywood films that attempt to portray those events. Students investigate historical documents and other sources to determine if a film is historically accurate.

The goal is for students to develop deeper understandings of the historical discipline while generating questions about the way the world is around them, along with watching classical films that have graced American and international screens.

Student: Jose Cortes-Torres

Film Reviewed: Menace II Society

In the mid-1990s. Living In Los Angeles (in the neighborhoods of Watts and Crenshaw). Seeing your mom being a drug addict and your dad selling drugs and being born in the late 70s. Plus seeing your father killing someone from a young age. This movie is Menace II Society, and it shows a young man named Caine, nicknamed KD. At a young age his parents and older friends brought him toward trouble. Being influenced by his parents and friends to be a drug seller when he’s older.

KD is like your average teenager in America but in the 90s, it was different being around Watts. It’s not easy since on every corner the police might target you. In the beginning of the movie we get a shot of the characters that are introduced and it’s Caine and his best friend Kevin (also known as O-Dog). KD is also a drug dealer like his father, and he sells drugs to make some money. Caine was living with his grandparents since his father was in jail for 10 years charged with murder and his mother died from an overdose on some sort of drug that she took. After KD’s graduation, a big plot twist happened that same night. KD and his cousin were stopped at a red light and were shot by some random people who wanted their car.

This is the turning point in the movie and shows us what happens to people in the streets of Los Angeles. There was a report on the movie in The Baltimore Sun by Lisa Respers on June 21, 1993, one month after the movie came out. In the news article, Respers said, “For me, Menace II Society is an all-too-accurate portrayal of life in the present-day inner city. As Baltimore’s homicide rate climbs, the prison system overflows, and the drug trade emerges as the biggest employer of young Black men.” Seeing this shows me that the movie can relate to some people who were part of that lifestyle or who needed to do it. The movie’s directors, brothers Allen and Albert Hughes, stated, “The movie was all about trying to make white people empathize with the circumstances which created them.”

He made this movie to show what happened to the young black people who didn’t have a role model growing up and being unlucky growing up on the streets unlike Boyz n the Hood. The message they tried to say is, “Many victims of street violence are a great loss to society; their potential destroyed by a bankrupt value system.” This is true since people don’t have a chance to have a clear and easy life. They have to depend on the people around them or people in the neighborhood to feel safe. The songs that they play are also a big part of the movie since it gives out toward the movie and the scene that they put it on. They also used these songs to show the culture of the area and the songs were also popular during the time, and it made the movie stand out a little bit more.

I would recommend this movie to my friends because it shows the real world, and I would say to them to be grateful for what you have since there are other people who want the things that you want but could never get it.

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