Friends don’t let friends rob women to inflate their sense of male domination. Trust me, it’ll lead to an alien invasion and people will die. At least, that’s what I learned from watching the 2011 British film Attack the Block. I should probably warn you now that this article is a giant spoiler warning for the film so if you plan to watch it, stop reading right now.
The aliens all die and the masculine hero wins the battle at the cost of his freedom. The ending is macho chest-beating bullshit where masculinity wins out and the thugs win and the girls bat their eyelashes a lot and swoon. There’s a lot to say about this movie but the most important lesson I took from it is that patriarchy suck. Like, it really sucks. Patriarchy will force you to grasp your phallic weapons tightly while simultaneously fighting aliens and the fear of being a pussy.
In the film, a group of misfit thug teenagers in a slum of South London are forced to confront an alien invasion they can’t seem to escape from while also dealing with the repercussions of mugging a woman and crashing a police van into the kingpin gangster of the block they live in. Being that I’m a white kid from Las Vegas and have never experienced the ghettos of London first-hand, I am taking these caricatures of the youth as fact from here on out. Moses, a ruthless 15-year-old, leads his gang of troublemakers around the neighborhood while terrorizing anyone who crosses their path. They are every stereotype of ghetto culture thrown together but, somehow, it works. Though they aren’t endearing in any sense of the word (they have no qualms with robbing an innocent woman named Sam), they do have a depth that is subtlety hinted at through quick views of their home life and their banter. It’s this character building and wicked smart dialogue that shows just how bleak their lives are. The beauty of this movie isn’t that it’s a good alien invasion film; the beauty is that it’s a great social commentary that just so happens to have aliens to keep the action going.
See, the boys of the block are stuck in a system of oppression that they are painfully aware of. They rob and mug because they haven’t been exposed to anything else. In the middle of the film, the script suddenly plunges into a social commentary through the jaded eyes of our antihero, Moses. He theorizes that the aliens were brought by the government into the ghetto to kill black kids faster. First, he says, they brought in drugs and then guns and now aliens all in the name of speeding up the process of killing off the undesirable minorities that live in the block. They aren’t killing each other fast enough, he says. Hearing the lead character say it so bluntly took me by surprise and cemented my belief that this was far beyond any normal alien invasion film. This omnipresent gun and drug lifestyle had permeated the youth as far down as two preteen kids desperate to hangout with the big kids and show how hard they were. They had even come up with street names for themselves: Probs and Mayhem. No older than 12, these two boys spend the film desperately trying to prove themselves so they too will be initiated into the patriarchal prison of gang culture. It’s a violent circle that Moses is all too aware of, yet he sees no means of escape besides wealth from the drug trade or fame from an alien corpse.
After robbing a young woman named Sam on the street, Moses is attacked by an alien that crashes into the street next to him. It brutally scratches his face and runs off while Moses recovers. Not wanting to be labeled as a pussy by his lackeys, he vows revenge and chases down the alien beast. Set against the innocence of a playground, these teenagers mercilessly beat and kill the alien. After spearing the beast with his phallic stick to show off his male dominance, he and the gang take the alien to their friend Ron’s weed-growing room which is the “Fort Knox of the block” and, thus, the safest area to store their prize.
As they sit around watching Animal Planet and smoking joints, they hatch an idea that’ll get them out of the block and make them rich and famous. Because they just captured and killed a creature never before seen in the world, they could now use it to achieve wealth and fame. Sell it to the highest bidder and they’ll be out of the block one and for all. With eyes as wide as they can go while baked like a potato, they imagine a life of wealth and fame. Almost as soon as their dreams start to take shape, they are whipped away by the reality that more aliens are landing. Leaving the block, they venture over to the playground where they killed the first alien and discover that not only have more landed, these new ones are twice as big with matted fur dark as night and teeth sharp as knives that glow in the dark.
After a wild and violent dash that runs the course of the movie, the survivors make it back to the weed room. It’s here that the stereotypical stoner smart guy discovers that the alien they killed on the playground was a female whose pheromones have been sprayed onto Moses. This passing of female scent is not only a good twist but is also ripe with symbolism that completely changes the dynamic of the film.
See, Moses and his gang started off as hunters who preyed on a two females: one human and one alien. By the end, these predatory males were the hunted. Moses, covered in pheromones, was to the aliens nothing more than a female they desperately wanted to dominate. Realizing this brilliant role reversal blew my mind. Suddenly, the movie is a critique on the endless pursuit of women by dark beastly men who thirst for them. I didn’t sign up for this. I came for a cheeky alien invasion movie set in the slums of South London, not a social commentary on patriarchy and inescapable gang violence. It was like looking through your couch cushions for change and finding a still-wrapped candy bar. It was getting your cake and then receiving complimentary pie. The point is, this movie was phenomenal and if you haven’t seen it yet, sorry for the spoilers. Watch it and watch it again. Sink your teeth into it. Hell, write a paper on it like I did. Just ignore the ending, savor the social commentary, don’t rob your neighbors, and attack the patriarchy.