Colors directed by Dennis Hopper. Specifically it will analyze how the film portrays the 1980s in Los Angeles, California. This film represents the side of California, Hollywood, or Los Angeles that most people do not think about or see. It portrays the world of gangs in South Central Los Angeles, seen from the LAPD point-of-view. The film portrays the 1980s world of gang warfare that is now so prevalent throughout America, and it shows a side of California that most residents would like to ignore.
The stereotypical Californian is beautiful, tanned, blonde, and successful. They lunch in Beverly Hills, work in the film or television industry, own fantastic cars and homes, and live a life of luxury. This film is not about the stereotypical Californian. Instead, it tackles the real world of poverty and violence in the barrios and ghettos of Los Angeles, and it shows the seedier side of the Golden State. The people portrayed in this film are really the true Californians, not the stereotypes people think of when they think of Los Angeles and Hollywood, and their lives are far from what California represents to others. They show a distinct social class and culture in the barrios, built on race, ethnicity, and intolerance, something that has existed in California since whites first came into the area.
Anyone familiar with California history knows that the Spanish and Mexicans colonized California in the 1700s, taking it over from the resident Native Americans. They created a culture based on the ranchos and haciendas of their native countries, and built up colonies around the missions, founded by the Franciscan friars to bring religion to the "heathen" natives. This culture remained after Americans rushed into the territory when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in 1848, but it was diluted as more white Americans rushed into the area, and when it became an American state in 1850. Slowly, the Mexican culture began to fade away, and Mexicans became second-class citizens when they once had ruled the area. Whites took over the government, law enforcement, the best areas of the cities and towns, and dominated the culture, and the Hispanics became the laborers, the subjugated, and the poor. The barrios of Los Angeles represent their lives as they are today, rather than their history in California, and they show how race and ethnicity affect the state. There is a distinct line between the successful residents of Hollywood and Los Angeles, and the residents of South Central and East Los Angeles, and it would be difficult to find a Hollywood resident brave enough to walk the streets of the barrios in Los Angeles.
Clearly, culture plays an important role in the young men and their choice of a gang lifestyle. For these poor, undereducated barrio children, there does not seem to be any opportunity for them but the gangs, and the film shows this. There is also a "macho" aspect to the gangs and their control of the neighborhoods, and several authors address that aspect of the film, the pachuco and pachuca stereotypes that populate the film (pachucas are female gang members or tough girls, and pachucos are male gang members or tough guys). One author writes, "The sexual subtext of the film Colors goes even further in linking the pachuca with excessive sexuality, particularly through the use of the trope of miscegenation in portraying the romance between Luisa, and a white police officer, Danny."
The culture of the Latino population perpetuates the tough, masculine, and always in control leader, and the gang lifestyle perpetuates this culture. Author Fregoso continues, "As an element in the structure of power, the street has been designated as masculine territory, a 'zone of occupation by men'."
This "zone of occupation" is shown in the rivalry between gangs, especially in the rivalry between the black and Hispanic gangs. The two cultures do not respect each other, instead, they seek to dominate each other, and this is at least part due to their culture, and the culture of gang activity that is now so prevalent in the barrios and ghettos of most cities and towns in the nation. A reviewer notes, "The violence between these two groups is such a fact of their lives that they even have customs surrounding it, like the wearing of 'In Memory of' gang shirts for a member's funeral."
The film shows that there is a problem in controlling the gang activity and that there simply are not enough police officers to make a real difference. Perhaps, the real problem is the barrios themselves and the lack of opportunities for young people in these areas. If the city of Los Angeles could eliminate the barrios, and create viable alternatives for residents, perhaps the gang activity would subside.
Race is clearly an issue in this film, and that is another aspect of life in California and how it mirrors the film. In the barrios, the poorest sections of the city, most of the residents are black or Hispanic, because they make up the largest sector of the poor population. It has been proven that schools, social services, health care, and just about any aspect of society are worse in the barrios, and this leads to disassociation with mainstream culture. Just a few miles away in Hollywood or Beverly Hills, life is far different -- the stereotypical California lifestyle. If there are any racial tensions here, they are hidden or masked, as middle and upper class Californians go about their daily business. What is particularly important about the stereotype vs. The reality is that so many Californians simply ignore the problem. In an interview, Sean Penn talks about making the film and the harsh reality of life in the barrio. He says, "There was so much shit going on, but nobody was talking about it because it was all happening on the other side of the Harbor Freeway."
The rest of California attempts to ignore the violence, gunplay, and living conditions of the barrio -- it simply does not fit in with the stereotypical image of California and her residents.
The California lifestyle in the barrios is very different. If parents have jobs, chances are they both work, and they may work more than one job. They are rarely there to supervise their children, to make sure they go to school, etc., and so, their peers and their peers' activities heavily influence the young people. This is true of any area of society, but in the barrio, it is even more prevalent because of the tight knit community, the often lack of parental support, and the need for acceptance that is so common in teens and young people. To "belong" to a gang is to have a family and acceptance, and that is extremely important to young people on the verge of adulthood.
There is another aspect of the film that bears scrutiny, and that is how the police force is attempting to deal with the gangs and gang violence. They send the CRASH team into the area in an attempt to control and even befriend the gang members, but it simply does not work. The drive-by shootings continue, the gangs continue to distrust the cops, and the film graphically illustrates that for many of the area's population, the gangs seem the only way out for them, they only place they feel they have a chance of succeeding and belonging. In a poignant scene in the film, Ron Delaney tried to get Larry to leave the gang lifestyle. He says, "Ron Delaney: Hey Larry, you could make it out too. Larry Sylvester: How? Maybe I go to Hollywood. Be Eddie Murphy. Hey Frog, think America is ready to love two niggers at the same time?"
This illustrates how different life in the LA ghettos is…