Monday, March 25, 2013

Angle's Share and the Urban SES struggle in LA: Is there a connection?

So the film Angel’s Share is deceptively charming and is much more complex than the mythology of the Angel's share ritual. You go through the movie rooting for Paul Brannigan, the protagonist or new “it” boy of Cannes and Hollywood, all the way through the story.  In fact, one reputable review gives the film an unprecedented 95% approval rating.  Unquestionably a must see film. So, what makes this a social and psychological discussion instead of a cinematic or pop culture discussion?  Actually, the film left me with a feel-good-up-beat-life-is-great-bowl-of-cherries-let's-do-some-shots-at-a-pub kinda fell. Here is where it gets complicated.
As I left the theatre I ran into one of my BFF’s former roommates. He actually put me in a downer mood because he put a reality into the film and it's relationship to LA's inner-city youth.  So at first thought you say there is absolutely no connection, and the leap is absurd. A provocative discussion followed as to why this film so likeable despite the protagonist being a “thug” and “criminal” and “delinquent” from Scotland's largest urban city? After all, he was poor, dirty, homeless, a "couch hopper." Moreover, the film's climax ended with him as a thief that profited from an illegal act.  The moral one argues that it pays to do crime. And his friends validate that they will most likely return to their over-the-top-uncouthed-lives of the model imbeciles. But here is the discussion that our American society does not really want to venture:  If this had been a film about urban black youth from Watts LA, South Side Chicago, East Oakland or the Bronx; if this film didn’t have the charming Scottish accents it would not have worked.  The American audience has a difficult time rooting for an urban inner-city ghetto person-of-color (Black and Brown, specifically) climbing out of the lower SES. However, there is something surreal and magical and charming about this new Scottish James Dean transforming into an acceptable mainstream. 

Why is it sweet and optimistic and quirky and hopeful in Scotland; yet, distasteful, bleak, dark, hopeless in urban America?  In LA County the lower SES youth are faced with barriers that prevent them from leaving poverty.  One major barrier is a well oiled machined cradle-to-prison pipeline business campaign. The information and statistic specific to cradel-to-prison campaigns are criminal. The DCFS, foster care system is broken.  It is not designed for success.  Luckily there are few stories of hope.  But with a nearly billion dollar state of the art prison being built in downtown LA we realize that we might not be close to any solutions to this complex social issue.
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