In this post, the scene from Menace to Society will be analyzed using theories from Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and its Discontent to demonstrate a theme of violence as a vicious cycle due to stressors that affect both society and individuals; using the specific scene(s) where Cane gets fake assaulted by his O-Dog and then when he beats up Illeana’s cousin. Moreover the assault of Cane to Illeana’s cousin, will be presented to be a neurotic(sick) repetition of the violence that Cane himself is subjected to.
When, however, we compare the cultural process in humanity with the process of development or upbringing in an individual human being, we shall conclude without much hesitation that the two are very similar in nature, if not in fact the same process applied to a different kind of object.
Freud mentions that ‘cultural process in humanity and the developing of a human being’ is ‘the same process applied to different kind of objects’. What Freud means is that the pressures and stresses (process) that define a culture(such as assaults), are the same stresses and pressure that are applied to the individual of such a culture. At the beginning of the scene where Cane beats up Ileanas’s cousin, he arrives in his new car and then he gets out of the car to check his tires, as he is bending down, his friend O-Dog approaches him from behind and presses a gun against his head and says: “Hey [n-word], give up the car right now” . We are given Cane’s ‘scared straight’ face until he realizes it’s his buddy that is holding the gun and relaxes. This event portrays how, in Freud’s term, the individual(Cane), is subjected to the ‘processes’ (the assault) of his culture. Cane’s culture/society incorporates and deals with these stressors( killings, assaults, drive by) as it’s ‘process’ of realization(development) or as a ‘process’ of regression, (if the culture does not progress from that violent state). Likewise, Cane is also subjected to these stressors as part of his own maturation process. Thus events such as assault and drive-bye are ‘processes’ that both the individual(Cane) and his society/culture must contend with.
Furthermore Freud States:
If the evolution of civilization has such a far reaching similarity with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization- or epochs of it- possibly even the whole of humanity- have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends?
Freud is here saying that since the individual and his environment/community are both (similarly)subjected to the stressors and processes, as formerly explained, of assaults, street fights, and other such violence; would it not be justified in saying that this civilization and its individuals(humanity) have become ‘neurotic’ ( sick, violent, etc) under these stressors? In other words, applying it to the case of Menace to Society, Freud would be saying that both Cane as an individual and his society are getting sick under the stressors of civilization such as violence, the need to have success, the need to live up to society’s expectations etc. This sickness alluded to by Freud is given manifestation in the street fight of Cane with Ileana’s cousin.
As Cane is about to enter his grandfather’s house he is confronted by Ileana’s cousin who seeks to confront Cane about his evasive behavior towards Illeana. Cane then proceeds to assault Illeana’s cousin who is just trying to do right by her. This reaction, is what Freud means when he says that “humanity [has] become neurotic under the pressure of civilizing trends”. At the beginning of the scene, Cane is assaulted by his friend, as a representation of the trends of his community; Cane, in turn, assaults Illeana’s cousin. Thus ” the same process” of violence and assault experienced by Cane (as represented by Cane’s fake assault at the the beginning of the scene) has made Cane neurotic, because he seeks to inflict the same violence to Illeana’s cousin. Thus violence is hereby reconstructed to be a cultural process or stressor felt by Cane and his culture that then is projected to Illeana’s cousin.