University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The dramatic film ‘Tsotsi’ instills a sense of hope that even the worst can change. Tsotsi is an awe-inspiring film about a teenager who struggles for survival. At a very early age he experienced the loss of his mother, an abusive father which eventually led him to take it to the streets. His upbringing on the streets transformed him into a heartless boy with no remorse. He led a gang that frequently assaulted the rich at gunpoint and stole their money. At one point, he turned on one of his own gang members for meddling in his personal life. His last murder victim was taken while trying to enter her electric gate.
Tsotsi drove off in his victim’s expensive vehicle, only to discover that her baby was in the back seat. As a result, he became fearful, he crashed the car and tried running off. However, the baby dominated his thoughts. This baby touched his heart and he was forced to take the baby home. He began showing empathy by caring for the baby. He went as far as holding a young mother at gunpoint to nurse the baby. Subsequently, he learned how to look after the baby which humanized him. Despite the social defect, this young man was capable of starting anew.
Crime is any behavior that violates criminal law and is punishable by fine, jail or other negative sanction. Crime will be discussed in the following three perspectives; feminist, functionalist and conflict theorists. From a feminist perspective, Fred Adler believes that resentment in men and gender inequalities lead to crime. In the movie, Tsotsi’s mother had been a victim of crime, apart from dying slowly from Aids, Tsotsi’s father was extremely abusive. Seemingly, he resented her because of her terminal illness and it could have also been the reason for the excessive abuse.
In Traditional societies, women were obligated to be submissive to men; as a result, many of them turned to crime. Adler stated that women are liberated when they are no longer restrained by traditional feminine roles. In this case, the crimes that had been committed by Tsotsi may have been because of feminism, I say this because if Tsotsi was not being kept from seeing and interacting with his mother she could have made a difference in his life. For instance, the woman who was shot in front of her home and had her car and her baby stolen was also a victim of crime.
There was also the woman in Tsotsi’s village who was a single mother, she was held at gunpoint by Tsotsi and forced to feed the baby that was kidnapped. This shows that women are more vulnerable to abuse as compared to men and that women had to be subjective to men. Secondly, the conflict perspective according to Austin Turk (1966) looked at how crime may define one’s social status. One’s social status is directed by how law enforcement treats people and how they perceive them. Criminal labels are imposed on people with sub-ordinate status whether or not they commit a crime but upper class criminals escape labeling.
The name ‘Tsotsi’ means thug, he earned his name through his brutality as gang leader. In the movie, one of the characters that escaped labeling was ‘Fella’ because he was an upper class criminal. He paid people like Tsotsi to do his work for him. When the gang robbed the house that the baby came from, they stole a car and later sold it to Fella who paid them in cash. In scene one at the train station, Tsotsi’s gang was stalking a man whom they believed had a lot of money, they surrounded him and ordered him to be quiet while Butcher stabbed him and took his money. This shows that one’s action may cause them to be labeled.
Conflict theorists believe that people in higher social ranks use the law to protect their interests. Society tend to overlook the wrong doings if the rich. The very important issue of class inequality is apparent in the film. The living situation was a clear indicator of this inequality. Part of the population was struggling and the other was well off. From a conflict perspective, to gain equality, members of society will turn to crime to gain material possessions. This was clearly seen in the film Tsotsi. It is viewed that the rich commit crime to remain rich and the poor do it to survive.
From a functionalist view, French Sociologist Emile Durkheim shared the belief that crime has a function. He stated that crime is inevitable and necessary. It establishes the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. There were children without parents, just like Tsotsi, living out in concrete barrels in a field; the government failed to take care of homeless children. Sleeping out in barrels became a norm. As a result of being homeless and without parents, Tsotsi committed crimes to make a living and support himself. Durkheim drew the example that even in society with saints and ‘Holy Men’, crime will still exist.
In Tsotsi’s situation, it seems necessary to commit crime as a means of survival. It is my view that society failed to assist Tsotsi and this left him hopeless. The strain theory looks at the structures within the society as central to the occurrence of Crime (Pelovangu, 2010). Modern society sets social and traditional goals that we are expected to achieve. (Merton, 1938) argued that core values stress material success. So, if opportunities are blocked, people experience strain. In addition, Merton believed that if crime resulted from lack of legitimate opportunities to achieve, then increasing opportunities should lessen crime.
In the film, it was clear that Tsotsi was desperate and would do anything to meet his needs. He was never given an opportunity to achieve. This theory can support his action for turning to crime. The film Tsotsi evoked overwhelming emotions. It instilled the viewpoint that society makes one good or bad. It reveals the idea that regardless of how bad a person is, they can change. It highlights the importance of family and a positive upbringing. Additionally it shows the effects of social inequality on the poor and vulnerable. Crime and any other social problem can be looked at in numerous perspectives.