123 Minutes of Tears: My Experience with Set It Off

There are so many nuances of this film that one could analyze. I probably did not see most of them through my tears. This film made me so sad. I am guessing that the theme for this week was women and crime. And I would like to note that through all the films, the only instance in which black women were portrayed was in Set it Off as poor and underprivileged, a stark contrast to the rich, white, prep-school girls in Hard Candy and Wild Things.

Frankie was fired from her job based solely on her relationship to the robber and the Projects. No, she did not follow procedure for a robbery but as the film points out, it is hard to keep a clear head when you have a gun pointed at you. I knew something terrible was going to happen with Stevie and then it did. At this point, the tears began.

Ursula= me from this point on, Set it Off (1996)

Ursula = me from this point on, Set it Off (1996)

My friends laughed at me but as I had to explain to them with Selena (1997), this stuff has happened. Maybe not  a specific case like Selena’s or directly related to four women robbing a bank but it has happened. I do not want to get into the long and bumpy story of living as a minority in an underserved and underprivileged neighborhood so I will focus on what I think I should, the women in this film and how they are treated.

The first glaringly abhorrent individual in this film was Nate Andrews. The moment Stony began to speak with him I knew he was going to touch her. The type of touch that many an individual has experienced, myself included, that creeps me out beyond belief. It seems innocent enough, a hand on a shoulder, but it is such an invasion of privacy and abuse of politeness. After watching this scene, I was surprised that I could predict that he was going to take advantage of her in this way. Maybe I am just cynical but I think it says something that I automatically assumed that he was going to pull something like this.

Stony's face says it all

Stony’s face says it all

The subsequent scenes with Nate Andrews were painful to watch. I understand that Stony consented to sleeping with him but it still felt like a violation to me. He took advantage of her need for money and gave her sex as the option to earn it when she did not intend to.

The next unsavory individual is Luther. My problem with Luther is that he is always calling Cleo a man when she makes her disapproval of it apparent. She does not identify as a man and yet he insists on referring to her as such, whether this is because she is a lesbian or because she does not dress according to societal expectation, I am not sure. I cannot fault Luther for being a thief because than I would have to fault the girls for it.

Finally, Detective Waller is my last disagreeable individual. She mistreats Luther’s lover during the line-up. This woman, however unshaken she may seen at the moment, saw an intimate relation of hers killed. She is then blackmailed and when the time comes for the police to step in, they fail to do their job.

Detective Waller roughly grabs her by the neck and forces her to look at the lineup again.

Detective Waller roughly grabs her by the neck and forces her to look at the lineup again.

What makes it okay for them to treat her this way? She is scared and has just witnessed a murder.

As the film neared its end, Stony arrives safely in Mexico. She shears her hair, a common trope signifying new beginnings, especially for women. She laughs, she cries, she remembers her friends and then drives off into the sun. I sat on my bed listening to Lori Perri’s Up Against the Wind, sobbing…This film may have not been the greatest film ever shot but it made be feel for the characters, which cannot be said for Wild Things or even Hard Candy.

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