Space and violence
Springer states that â€œin US cinema, the violence of Black women always seems a result of their being Black, while violence of white women is often celebrated as liberatoryâ€? (173). I think Set it Off both reinforces and challenges this idea. There is definitely diversity of characters and their comfort levels with violence (or threat of violence) as justifiable means, as opposed to â€œnaturalâ€? quality. However, juxtaposing Thelma & Louise with Set it Off we can see how such claim could be interpreted. In Thelma & Louise violence starts as a response to violence, as self-defense. In Set it Off, some would argue, violence is chosen. Although the life situation is tough, robbing banks should never be a solution in the land of American Dream.
So while Thelma & Louise created a backlash from social conservatives because of challenges to patriarchy=law, Set it Off challenges not only gender, but also racial, economic, and sexual order.
Portrayal of space in both movies remains problematic. Thelma & Louise, set up as a typical road movie, is filled with shots of open spaces in the American West. While in some ways it can be interpreted as liberating from the gender constrains and signify mobility, it can also be seen as deeply racialized. Advancing West (or South in this case) has been romantic ideal for white Americans and violent and painful for the Native Americans. By now, the wide open landscapes of the West are symbolically inscribed as white â€“ whether in the imagery of rural cowboys or white suburbias. On the contrary, Set if Off is set up in the urban setting of the LA. Smith-Shomade states that â€œwomen are street-smart and savvy, usurp the city space and hijack its alleged gendered certaintyâ€? (pg.34). At the same time it reinscribes racialized ideas of space in the US, where wealthy suburbia is white and inner city is Black, where misfortunes are expected and violence is â€œnatural.â€?
Smith-Shomade also reminds that Black women are the largest growing prison population. I wonder if films like Set it Off help articulate structural critiques of racism and present economic system or are seen as merely differently gendered gangster movies which focus on individual characters and are fascinating for its narratives.