900~ word media studies essay on the film Ill Manors (2012).
How typical is Ill Manors of its genre?
We categorise media texts by looking at the repertoire of elements, which the audience utilise to label the many genres of film. If a character were to burst out in song in a moment of a film or play, the audience would immediately recognise it as being a musical. Ill Manors (Ben Drew) is mainly a crime drama with strong elements of social realism, signified by the strong use of drug references and violence, along with a realistic portrayal of contemporary life. Social realism is a popular genre for independent institutions to produce in the UK, with films such as Fish Tank and Wild Bill considered an art form being met with positive reception with particular praise for emotional satisfaction from its storytelling.
Each genre attracts its own groups of audiences who have a taste in certain genre conventions. Ill Manors contains gang violence and a strong fast-paces multi-stranded narrative which is likely to meet the tastes of teenagers. The ethnicity and age shown in the film are a mix of young teenagers and adults, Drew has used this target audience as the film is based upon the London riots which involved many young teenagers. The audience is also the same for Kidulthood as they are both similar in style. However, in terms of social realism, the film strays from the sort of audience who would watch Fish Tank as the way the films view contemporary life vary; Ill Manors is more crime oriented whereas Fish Tank focuses on gratifying the audience in diversion and dystopian pleasure in an arguably more serious approach. The audience for Fish Tank is male and female adults in the ABC1 social grades who are individualists. So in terms of audience, Ill Manors attracts a different audience to some films in the genre such as Fish Tank but retains some of the same audiences in films such as Kidulthood.
Crime dramas are often given urban settings to portray the gritty realism of crime and how it mostly occurs in densely populated areas. British crime dramas such as Kidulthood, Gangster #1 and This is England are all set in urban settlements, and more prominently, London is represented as a crime capital due to it being a densely populated city centre. Crime dramas are rarely set in the countryside as crimes are less plausible and may bore audiences, however in TV series, episodes are sometimes country-based as the non-progressive and transient episodes allow it to occur without permanence in other episodes. Ill Manors is set in the cityscape of London in similarity with crime dramas such as Luther, yet a minor difference is that one is a TV series which allows episode narratives to be transient and the other is a film with one overall narrative.
Black males have become associated with urban gang crimes, with youth typically wearing hoodies and baseball caps as seen in Ill Manors. These items of clothing create connotations of criminality and danger; on the DVD cover for example, a low angle shot of Aaron wearing exactly a hoodie and baseball cap holding a gun is used, so the cover clearly insinuates violence through an action code thus reinforcing stereotypical views of urban gang violence. However; instead of having an aggressive posture, his body language suggests anxiety and uncertainty, as if to imply that Aaron is not a typical aggressive criminal and that there is more than meets the eye. Kidulthood’s cover in comparison comprises of seven anti-social youths in direct mode of address, anti-social behaviour is implied through aggressive stances, with one flourishing a baseball bat. Similar to Ill Manors¸ a range of ethnicities is represented, however it is arguable that morals are in conflict as Kidulthood’s use of character signifies pure anti-social violence whereas Ill Manors has a sense of moral compass in that the character is looking away from the camera in contemplation. However, the way audiences perceive these representations is dependent upon their attitudes and values.
The narrative is non-linear and multi-stranded as we follow the stories of different characters at different points in time, a technique used to create enigma codes. For example, a major enigma code is when Jake is coaxed into killing someone in a house by Marcel. Time then rolls back to Kirby’s narrative and the enigma is solved when he is seen as the one who is shot by Jake in an act of vengeance by Marcel. For social realism films, this is atypical as they usually follow the narrative of one character and are linear. For example, Fish Tank and Wild Bill follow a single-stranded linear narrative which follows the story of the main characters, Mia and Bill. In Fish Tank, Mia is followed as a protagonist so that the audience receive a palpable sense of her emotions and moral values, as she learns more about the deception Connor had delved her into and takes decisions such as freeing a horse in captivity. Ill Manors arguably makes a greater utility of Syd Field’s three act structure, with the plot moving immediately to another plot point as the narratives occur at different times. Fish Tank has a less complex narrative structure which suits a primary audience of ABC1 middle class, male and female individualists and aspirers who are interested in British film.
In final analysis, I determine that Ill Manors strays little from other film crime dramas; it takes its setting in an urban cityscape and contains similarities to films such as Kidulthood and 1 Day yet differs more from social realism films such as Fish Tank and Wild Bill. In comparison with TV series, Ill Manors contains little sense of law being triumphant as in most series such as Luther and Sherlock; we see the narrative in the perspective of the law enforcement.