Anxieties in an Urban Environment as Portrayed in “American Gangster” Essay

Anxieties in an Urban Environment as Portrayed in “American Gangster”

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            American Gangster is based on the life of Frank Lucas, a notoriuos gangster in the Nineteen Seventies. He was born in a poor famliy from North Carolina. He then worked his way up to the top as a drug lord in New York City in the early seventies by his own tenacity. He took full advantage of the basic American ideals of being a capitalist and self-reliant. As with The Godfather, American Gangster is somewhat similar to it. Where the lead role tries to live the American Dream (Snider).

            New York City in the seventies was notoriously known as a city that was dirty, extremely dangerous, and full of destitutes. In the film American Gangster, Ridley Scott, filmmaker, Ridley Scott, had successfully shown and projected an image to his audience by using his film. He has used a technique that showcases the mood of the decade, the realism of the emotions and settings, and the rhythm of the environment by using toned colors in his final production.

            If one views the film, there are no bright colors or fancy outlook of the film. It shows a somber, dark, and demure atmosphere which enhances the current setting of living in a dangerous yet lively urban environment, which the filmmaker has projected to his audience.

As stated below by the American Journal of Public Health: Depression and anxiety are common problems in later life and are associated with considerable morbidity. Their origins are complex and multifactorial. A variety of potential risk factors, including female gender, low income, social isolation, loneliness, life events, absence of confiding relationships, and physical illness (Local).

            The actors’ characterization played a major part in showcasing the tone of the decade that they were in. The language that they had used, their actions, and mastery of their roles, as mentioned above, crime was hugely widespread. In this decade, the film used characters in ways to project the point of view and situation of rampant crime and poverty issues that had sprung across the United States of America. For example, the filmmaker had used corrupt police officers, the Mafia, and even scenes in Vietnam showing transactions done by the lead character with Viet Cong to establish the era, to show what world that these people where living in.

            The film American Gangster is a good film that shows what life people lead in the nineteen seventies. This film shows how some people lived in that decade – not focusing yet on Frank Lucas and how he lived as an African American during that era. During the nineteen seventies, there has been a major gap by various events during this decade such as the Arab Oil Embargo, the Watergate Scandal, and the war in Vietnam, to name a few.

            These events have thrown the United States in a state of turmoil, thus creating a large gap between social classes such as the tremendously rich and the poor citizens of this country. These situations have led the people in that particular society to try to live and survive in that harsh urban environment that they try to build their lives in. This is when the people try to make it or break it living their dream in this land of opportunities (Tannenbaum).

            Although the Vietnam War began in the sixties, it went on through the seventies which had caused widespread grief and animosity of Americans in this war that their country had entered. Most of the America was opposed to the war that they have entered which they had were not part of. Offenses such as draft dodging and riots were common place then to protest against the decision made by the United States Administration.

            Next, is the Watergate scandal, which the administration had their hands full with the current war and Richard Nixon’s culpability with this issue. Feeding more wood to the flame that America was currently in. To add to the pressure, the Arab Oil Embargo had started throwing a hard blow to the United States economy causing millions of Americans to horde and stock on this commodity. With the embargo up and running, it has forced unemployment and inflation to an all-time high. Which had set of a chain of events that clearly marked the seventies with high crime rate, drug trafficking, and violent crime increased.

            One can observe if people are placed in such situations, especially like this one, namely in economic situations, most of them are forced to find solutions and resolutions to try to live and survive. The city of New York during the seventies had major problems that needed to be resolved. Crime rate, unemployment, inflation, and a society that was nearly crumbling had to be dealt by city. Harlem, the Bronx, and Lower East Side, to name a few parts of the city, looked like post war Europe in the forties. Which has shown American Gangster is a classic example of urban environment creating and bringing disorders and anxiety to the people within the society that they are in.

            External factors, especially factors brought on by living in an urban environment can greatly add to the anxiety level of a person. Social and economic issues can force a person to change their way of thinking and mentality to try and adapt to their surrounding environment. This may have a positive and or negative outcome for the person. With American Gangster, the lead actor overcame that boundary. He grew up nearly a destitute but he tried and strove to live the dream that he sees in his minds’ eye.

Works Cited:

Beekman AT, De Beurs E, Van Balkom AJ, Deeg DJ, Van Dyck R, Van Tilburg W.

      “Anxiety and depression in later life: co-occurrence and communality of risk factors.”

      Am J Psychiatry. 2000; 157:89–95

Horn, John. “The making of a gangster — and his movie”. The Seattle Times Company. 2007

      29 February 2008


Kanchibhotla, Srinivas. “Some ramblings – American Gangster”. Idle Brain. 2008. 28

      February 2008 <>.

“Local Area Deprivation and Urban–Rural Differences in Anxiety and Depression Among

      People Older Than 75 Years in Britain.” American Journal of Public Health. October

      2004. 29  February 2008


“NYSP History: 1970’s”. New York State Police. 2007. 29 February 2008


Snider, Eric D. “American Gangster Review – Who Doesn’t Love a Drug Dealer?” Real

      Networks 1 November 2007. 28 February 2008 <>.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Depression and Anxiety

      Prevention for Older Adults.” US Department of Health and Human Services. 2006.  28

      February 2008 <>.

Tannenbaum, Allen. “New York in the 70s: A Remembrance”. The Digital Journalist. 29

      February 2008 <>.

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