Midterm: Women as tools to be exploited

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This screenshot from Mo Better Blues urges viewers to think critically about the role of women in Bleek’s life, and in the context of other men in the film.

There is no definitive way to read this scene, where, mid-coitus with Bleek, Clarke reaches for his trumpet only to have her hand pulled away by Bleek. (1:07:40) Initially, I took the scene as Clarke’s involvement with Bleek holding her back from her own musical aspirations. However, thinking about the other ways in which women interact with men throughout the movie, I reached the broader conclusion that Clarke’s, and Indigo’s, existence was always in reference to other men.

Mo Better Blues is a movie about a man trying to figure out what role women are to play in his life.  For Bleek, women exist primarily in terms of their relationships to him, be it a sexual object or a mother to his children. They can be mothers and daughters. They can be the currency with which a man buys people’s opinions that he is an alpha-male or the seductive musician. They can be tools which Shadow uses Clarke’s body to spite Bleek. In every case, whether they are assets or liabilities, they are objects.

Bleek’s musical success seems to require that he avoid relationships with women that could distract him from his true love– Jazz. He never makes love with Clarke or Indigo; he has sex with them. What makes the movie so frustrating is that when Bleek loses his ability to be dependent on Jazz, his true love, he channels all the energy to be dependent on a wife. Women always take a back seat to Bleek until external factors allow them assume a more important role for him. Rarely are women people, and when are, they are a lesser form of human.

2 thoughts on “Midterm: Women as tools to be exploited”

  1. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here. In particular, I found your first reading of the sex-scene with Clarke to be compelling and well-spotted. Could you say more about how that particular scene contributes to the thematic assertions you make about Bleek’s relationships with women?


  2. @emersonking11 I really like this post. This is a very well-thought analysis of the character of Bleek and the way he treats women. I actually read the screenshot in a slightly different way – that is that Clarke is attempting to use Bleek just like he is using her. However, she is not using Bleek for sex, but rather to advance her own music career. In an earlier scene in the film, Clarke asks Bleek if she can sing with his band, in an effort to get her voice heard on-stage. Bleek quickly denies her request, telling her that she is not ready.

    Even after Clarke voices her issues with Bleek’s other relationship with Indigo, she seems to be committed to him until another man – Shadow – becomes a more viable option to advance her career. A shot that is very similar to the one you have posted above can be found at 1:30:30 (I don’t think I’m able to post a screenshot in comments, so you may have to look it up). This is a shot of Clarke’s hand going to her telephone when Bleek calls her while she is in bed with Shadow. This shows her commitment to Bleek. Just as she does this, Shadow’s hand reaches out after hers and pulls it back in. It is after this that Shadow offers her a full-time gig in the soon-to-be Shadow Henderson Quartet featuring Clarke Bentancourt. Once this happens, Clarke never appears to be a viable option for Bleek to pursue as she is now fully committed to having a relationship with her future bandmate, Shadow.

    While I do agree that this shot is intended to show Bleek’s maltreatment of women, I think another reading with Clarke in mind may also hold some water.The one issue I have with my own reading is that it may portray Clarke to be more shallow than intended, do you think that is fair to her character? Let me know what you think.


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