“I’m going to make a name for myself. If I fail, you will never hear of me again” Edward James Muggeridge. True to his words he succeeded in making a name for himself and he created the first movie or “motion picture”. Movies are a rollercoaster ride that transcends people into a whole different world fresh out of somebody’s imagination as seen through the genres of horror, drama, and science fiction. The movie business allows people to break through the burden of everyday life. Considering today’s way of life, people would be lying if they did not admit that movies are an influential entity in our culture.
Movies have been successful in ingraining values and elements into society. Movies exaggerate, sensationalize and at times even trivialize the matters of society. It has also played a major role in media in positive developments such as fight against racism, fight against gender bias, and spreading awareness about world peace. Author Bill Swanson who wrote the text, “How Films Feed the Mind or When I’m Hungry, I Don’t Want to Eat Candy”, would also agree that movies play a significant role in structuring our society. In his text he explains movies have a big influence to people both physically and physiologically.
Swanson states that films are only analogies of the real world that condense time into a two-hour story. Furthermore, Swanson explains movies are part of people’s memories, and many compare and reflect movies into their own personal experience. There are numerous examples in which Swanson refers to movies that are influential and momentous. One of the movies that Swanson proposes is Raging Bull, he quotes that: “Raging bull is the irrational urge to define ourselves by violent acts of control and domination” (Swanson 240). Raging Bull requires viewers to have cultural knowledge in order to fully understand the film.
Martin Scorsese presents a movie that many critics would consider a classic. There are many characteristics that make this an astonishing film. The themes that make it an intricate movie are moral ambiguity, mixed motives, and one must have cultural knowledge to better understand the film. Often times in movies, we are presented with quintessential characters that are all placed into the conventional categories of either good or bad. In these pieces, we are usually able to differentiate the characters and discover their true intentions from looking at only the first part of the film.
Knowing the characters true intentions is defined as Moral Ambiguity. In the film “Raging Bull”, Martin Scorsese develops the morally ambiguous characters of Jake LaMotta, Vickie LaMotta, and Joey LaMotta. Scorsese provides us with an interesting film and gives us a chance to evaluate each character. Jake LaMotta is one of the most unfathomable characters in the film “Raging Bull”. Jake is ostensible, pitiful and tragic figure who becomes a terrible victim of his own preventable foibles. Admiring Jake’s heart about being a champion, but he is preoccupied by his own personal psychological drives.
For Jake, going into the ring is not an uplifting event that will lead to riches, fame and respect; rather it is a release of all his frustrations and energies that stem from his own personal demons. Jake’s wife, Vickie is a confident fifteen year old. Vickie seems like a goldigger, and is clearly not a saintly figure in the film. For example, she hangs around with the local mob figures when she should be with friends of her own age. Though, there is never a direct moment in the film that demonstrates Vickie as an adulterer, her husband does not believe that.
At one point, even accuses his brother sleeping with his wife. Joey is the younger brother of Jake. Joey may not be Jake’s physical match but he is definitely his verbal one. Joey seems as a noble character except he is kicking it with the mafia. Joey’s fearlessness reveals his inner strengths, considering that Jake could take him apart any time. At one point of the film, Jake accuses Joey of sleeping with his wife, and this is a moment of suspicion and paranoia. Movies as well as other forms of popular fiction are similar to literature.
This is due to the fact that viewers often have to critically think about each characters motives. Countless times in films, we are introduced to characters that are hard to recognize and unpredictable. Viewers usually make their first judgment on the particular character within the first few scenes, not knowing what their purpose might be. Not knowing what a characters reason or intention might be is also known as Mixed Motives. Within the film Raging Bull, the theme mixed motives comes about in many scenes, within Jake, Vikki, Joey and Sal or the Mafia.
One character in the film that has mixed motives is the middleweight champion boxer Jake Lamotta. Jake strives to be the best boxer, and be the heart of a champion. Jake is not afraid of anyone, and could care less what people think about him. Jake’s mindset is being the finest, and he does everything to be just that. Alternatively, often times Jake is insanely jealous toward his wife, he judgmental and resentment toward African Americans, and uses his fist not only in the ring, but as a way of life. Vikki is fifteen years old, and she knows what type of man she would like to have a relationship with.
Vikki would like to be in a relationship with powerful rich men who treat her with respect. In contrast, many fifteen year old girls have not really experienced life, and do not know what they would like. Vikki ends up with Jake, whom she later divorces. Although, Jake is a rich man he has no self-respect for his wife, whom he continually beats up. Jake’s younger brother Joey illustrates mixed motives within the first few scenes of the film. Joey has mixed motives between his family and his friends. Joey effortlessly helps his brother train for his boxing matches, and helps him in every way possible.
On the other hand, Joey would like to please the mafia, and win the bets that they put on his older brother. Lastly, Sal and the mafia have mixed motives as well. Sal and the Mafia abuse and exploit the neighborhood. They make the neighborhood frightened to even look behind their backs. Conversely, Sal and the Mafia would like to protect the streets and keep everything in order and not see people harassing others. One must have special cultural knowledge in order to better understand the film “Raging Bull”. The film was requires people to better understand life in the 40’s through the 60’s.
Throughout this span time four major marks in history are made. These marks include World War II, the Hyper-Patriotism of people, the cold war, as well as the Vietnam War. In numerous ways, Jake is much like the United States during the 1940’s. Jake pushed beyond his limits as well. Jake trains for hours, and even abstains from sex to succeed his goal. Similarly, the nation has the heart of a champion when they won World War II, and pushed past their limits. During this time hyper-patriotism was coming about. The news, protests, protests all influenced hyper-patriotism.
These all appealed to people’s feelings and motives about the war. In the film, the only sound that calmed the American citizens down was the sound of the national anthem. The cold war was similar to Jake because although there were not soldiers fighting physically, but rather mentally. Jake was fighting his own inner demons around this time, to making an utmost effort to win every battle in the ring. The Vietnam War is much like Jake Lamotta as well. At the end of the film, Jake losses everything he built up. The once strong, powerful man losses his shape, and becomes weak and monstrous.
Jake looks much like the Vietnam War. The nation lost the war against Vietnam. At this point, the nation looked grotesque and out of shape. As well as World War II, Hyper-Patriotism, The Cold War, and The Vietnam War, there were other issues that the nations were dealing with. These issues were desegregation, brown vs. board civil rights as well as women rights. While Jake was reaching his climax, the United States were slowly starting to desegregate schools throughout the nation. They started to desegregate schools due to the court case of Brown vs. Board and with the help of the NAACP.
Similar to Jake, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. fought for what they believed in and hoped for. Although desegregation was slowly coming about, discrimination was still out on the streets. Jake is very racist toward African Americans and sexist. During this time period women voicing out their opinions as well. Women were not allowed to divorce at this time and stood by their men. In later years, when women got a chance they won their right to divorce and were not ashamed of it either. In the film “Raging Bull”, Vikki Lamotta stood by her husband, although getting abused from him left and right.
Vikki would get not only physically abused but emotionally as well. Later on in the film, Vikki happily divorces what she called a “nightmare marriage”. Furthermore, one must have special cultural knowledge have the Italian-American life, boxing, and the mafia’s relationship toward boxing. Jake Lamotta himself was from Italian descent, and was living as an Italian-American. Even though many Italians culturally assimilated in the United States, they still kept their culture alive but putting Italian music, and eating their main dishes.
Boxing was another key thing for the Italian people and the American people. For many individuals, boxing was a sport. For many boxing was a way of life, and leaving organized crime. Either it was being good at a sport, or going to the military at this time. Even the Mafia were involved in boxing. They were involved in the matches by doing their “under the table deals”. The Mafia would gamble and bet for the best boxer. The Mafia also controlled boxing much like they controlled the ghetto’s.