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What It Means to Be a Man According to "The Mack"
The beauty of character studies
Reflections on yourself
Character studies are wonderfully important surgical tools for the bettering of the human psyche. Perhaps it’s because if you study someone well enough, you start to understand- and maybe even accept, with enough work- quirks and attributes within yourself. Stare into a persons’ eyes patiently enough, and with skill you can catch a reflection. The Mack, however, is complicated- because the reflections I see in this films’ eyes are deeply and personally uncomfortable. This article is to help explain the importance behind uncomfortable genius of this movie.
“And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” Freidrich Nietzche.
The "Black-sploitation" barrier of entry
Full disclosure, this is a black-sploitation film, this basically means it’s in a microcosmic film genre whose thesis basically boiled down to- white people refuse to put us in movies, we will make our own. However, although this sentiment is pretty baller in the best ways, it also means this movie had approximately the production budget of a Scooby Doo cartoon. So, even though you should still definitely watch this movie, be warned the production budget is a barrier of entry.
On the other hand, this movie manages to still be aesthetically beautiful. Director- Michael Campus- managed to make Oakland a living, breathing, grainy time capsule- right down to the music. And, my God, the music here is orgasmic and orchestral! Combining elements of jazz, soul, and funk to create a sonic backdrop of a film, that can only be described as a kinetic portrait. But, a portrait of what?
What does it mean to be a man?
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” Carl Jung.
What does it mean to be a man? This question is haunting, and a question art has explored from what must be the beginning of thought. Yet the only answer my itchy mind is satisfied with, is the answer most people misguidedly seem to hate. Reason being that like a lot of conclusions I and others like myself seem to reach, the answer is painful. A true man, dear reader, is someone who transcends the boundaries of normal morality. It is not something you are born into, it is an everyday process of deciding what is important and what can frankly go to hell. Achieving manhood is constantly working and often failing to achieve consciousness, you are not born a man you work towards it.
So, what is the Mack a portrait of? The Mack is the portrait of a pimp trying, and failing to become a man. It is painful to watch as our charming, cocaine tongued and admittedly smooth protagonist- Goldie- fall and get up again and again, almost to the point of redundancy. The beauty of the Mack and the mask that hides its philosophy, is that the movie invites us to consider why our character keeps failing. He seems to have successfully ditched the constraints of traditional morality, to great success. However, our main character fails because although he throws to the hell the morality of the powers that be- be it the police, the prophets or the panthers- and instead of striving for consciousness, falls headfirst into the morality of his own ego.
The sublime beauty of suffering
“One of the unexpectedly important things that art can do for us, is teach us how to suffer.” Dr Hannah Roxenburgh.
The tail of the Mack, is one of a man whose ego drives him to nihilism. The film suggests that Goldie, although being the closest thing to a true hero in the movie, fails because instead of choosing obligations, choosing what in his life was worth fighting for, what would truly make him happy- he chooses his own ego. By doing this the film sends a clear-cut message, fighting for what you choose, makes you a man- not your ego. And the camera does not fear or cut away from the consequences of his failure, it unflinchingly shows him devolve into the violent, psychopathic image of himself he always hated, and his mother and friend die. In the end, he is not a man, just a pimp and an ego, it’s sublimely gut wrenching.
Fortunately, I do not write this to depress, but oddly enough to inspire. This film is a funk filled, pimp coat wearing reminder that manhood is not a destination, or some ultimate otherworldly reward, but a joy by itself. There is resilient beauty in following this path and accepting that falling is part of the process. Choose what you will suffer for, not what the collective, or your ego, chooses on your behalf- that is what it means to be a man.