Throughout literature, movies and real life, Afro-Americans are often associated with violence, gangsters and other types of violation of the legal and moral rules. Probably the ability to depict the black people living in Brazil in numerous details and in the truthful manner has contributed to the great tension and interest that people experience while watching the movie. The same social realism that has originated from the real-life observation and experiences of the director has made the movie quite popular among the cinema lovers and let it occupy top places in the best movie lists. The thing that makes the film quite captivating is not only the representation of the real life of African Americans in Brazil, but contrast between the psychological peculiarities of the heroes, who may have grown up in the same environment, but finally become absolutely different people. In such a way, the example of Rocket and Li’l Zé shows that violence appears in people due to various reasons, but the human qualities are stronger factors of influence on human fate and lifestyle than the environment they live in.
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A number of scholars throughout history focused their attention on the evil nature of people and contribution of social environment to manifestation of the violent characteristics. Einstein, Freud, Hobbes and others referred to human aggression as the result of the deeply hidden instinct that is revealed under some common circumstances (Zin 37). Some other scholars like Wilson and Turnbull proved that the genetic predisposition of people caused manifestation of violence (Zin 38). Many of the ideas have a sound background; however, one can hardly deny that humans are social beings that are highly dependent on the rules and circumstances. Li’l Ze is a bright example of how the life in the deprived areas of Rio brought up gangsters, criminals and killers. Being under ruling of the drug lords, Rio de Janeiro has become the origin of violence and hatred that could be ound in almost each of the citizens (Rohter). Numerous visual examples are used by the director to show how the environment has contributed to violence growth among people and made them neglect friendship, parental relations, law or any other moral norms. Li'l Zé, or later Li'l Dice, has started his gangster life since the early age of eight years. Finally, he has become the cruelest of the gangsters, who neglected human lives and was interested solely in getting rich and powerful in the district (Meirelles). At first glance, he can be regarded as a poor child who was born in the conditions that predetermined such fate by programming him for violence and killings that he observed since the early years of life. Hence, the movie can be considered a reflection of how the society shapes the evil characteristics in humans. However, the deeper analysis of his decisions, as well as his development as a serious criminal, will show that primarily his own decisions have determined his fate, while the environment was only encouraging or discouraging for the basic desires of Li'l Zé that appeared in his mind. In fact, it appears that the social environment may provide the possibilities to manifest the better or worse qualities. However, not only this environment, but also human choice to become a better or a worse person is important here.
Firstly, the example of Rocket, who was born in the same conditions, but chose absolutely different path in life, should be considered the evidence that the environment is far not the only factor that predetermines human lives. In the same way, the common skin color shows that two heroes are of the same ethnic origin. However, they are quite different, as well the other people around. Hence, it is also not true that only the biological and genetic factors influence the aggression level of people. At each stage, since his early childhood, Li’l Zé was making the choices that finally transformed him into a sociopath and killer. The initial stage was the one whenn he chose to become a gangster and spend time with the “Tender Trio” (Meirelles). Even though Rocket’s brother was the member of this trio, he neither dreamt to be a gangster, nor wanted to follow these older guys everywhere.
The second stage that can show the different choices of the two black Brazilian boys was listening to the older men and respecting them. The greatest crime of the “Tender Trio” was actually conducted due to the idea of Li’l Zé. However, his feeling of being underestimated and a request to wait outside made him disobey his companions. Moreover, he initially believed that robbing and killing people is fun, and he was afraid that the trio was having fun without him. In such a way, killing people and not listening to his companions were not the forced actions, but the conscious choices of this character.
The third stage is the choice to kill the Goose, Rocket’s brother. Even though Li’l Zé knew him quite well and was previously inspired to join the Tender Trio, he did not even hesitate to take away human’s life. The reason for that was primarily the thirst for money and power, which was the main aim in his life. At the same time, Rocket’s values are different. He seems to be more romantic, and the decision to kill someone can hardly come to his mind. Even though he liked a girl and wanted to get rid of his competitor, he did not want to kill him. In contrast, Li’l Zé in his place would definitely choose killing as the easiest way out.
The choices of people were also influenced much by their emotions. As it was mentioned in the article, emotional understanding contributes greatly to changes that happen in people (Rohter). However, they also contribute to appearance of some new features. For instance, the desire to kill and decision to do so provokes the appearance of even stronger violent features and sociopathic characteristics.