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Sociological Constructs: Once Were Warriors

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The movie Once Were Warriors (1994) illustrates the experience of public issues as private troubles. This review will discuss how domestic violence which is experienced as a private trouble is actually a public issue. Private troubles are what we experience and go through in our lives. We think that these are unique to each of us and our families. However "the social processes and structures that give a generalized pattern to private troubles...turn them into public issues" (Krieken 2006, p.4). Once Were Warriors (1994) shows us two main social processes in action, which work to make domestic violence a public issue. These two social processes are primary socialization (the main agency being the family) and secondary socialization (which are agencies such as peer groups). I am going to explain how primary and secondary socialization is shown through race, class and gender in this movie. The characters that I will be discussing are members of the Heke family which are: Beth (mother), Jake (father), Nig (oldest son) and Gracie (oldest daughter).

The first issue is the issue of race (or ethnicity). This movie focuses on the Maori race. As this movie reiterates, Maori people were originally warrior people. Each tribe follows a hierarchical structure that involves a monarchy, spiritual leaders, civilians and slaves. It is important to note that Maori culture does not condone domestic violence. Tipu (2003) expresses an interesting interpretation that the warrior ancestry of Maori people is now being channeled into outlets of violence which is "a reflection of the breakdown of the social fabric of the Maori way of life, prior to, during and after colonization". Basically because Maoris' were forced to conform to westernization, their way of life deteriorated and this meant that the inbuilt aggression is released in violent fits rather than in battle.

In Once Were Warriors (1994), Beth is a descendant of a royal family. She broke the rules by marrying Jake who is a descendant of a slave family. The primary socializing factors here are the families that these two come from. Beth has a strong connection to her family background which is why she remains the defiant, headstrong, warrior princess that she was born to be. We see that even while she is being attacked by Jake she still tries to stand her ground and gets up every time he knocks her down. Jake seems to be lacking ties with his primary socializing agency. He sees his wife as his prized winning for defying the elders dictates and seeks to dominate her. This is possibly his way of achieving revenge or 'balancing the scales' for the fact that her family treated her like royalty while he grew up as a slave. Whenever Jake feels that Beth is usurping his authority or denying him anything he abuses her physically, verbally and sexually. His motto being "You will do as you're told" (Once Were Warriors 1994). Domestic violence is defined by the Domestic Violence Act as "violence against a person by any other person with whom that person is, or has been, in a domestic relationship. Violence means physical, sexual, psychological abuse". Statistics show that in 2001 49% of Maori women reported being abused as opposed to 24% of European women.

An example of secondary socialization in conjunction with race is that of Nig. Nig's primary socialization through his family is one that he detests and rebels against although viewing his father being the 'top-dog' probably unconsciously affects Nig choices in life. His main form of socialization however is secondary and it occurs through him joining a gang which bases itself on its tribal Maori warrior roots. To be initiated into this gang, Nig has to undergo a painful and humiliating gang-bashing. Here again he is being socialized to accept and practice the violence that seems 'claim' Maori tradition. Hueber (2008) states that even today amongst the Maori youth, a "problem contributing to domestic violence was the resurgence in gang membership with young people attracted by the camaraderie...Whenever you get gangs, you get violence".

The second issue is that of class. "Class refers to the existence of a heirachy of sociall groups defined in terms of their access to economic resources..." (Krieken, 2006 p.214). Class is illustrated in this movie as more or less the result of secondary socialization in the form of peer groups that Jake and Beth associate with. The movie does not really show us a primary socializing agency for class but we can assume that the Heke children will be primarily socialized regarding their class status through growing up under the care of Beth and Jake. Statistics - NZ (1996) show that the rise in unemployment between 1886 to 1991 for Maori people was 14.9% to 24.2% which is a very significant rate when compared to the increase from 5.8% to 9.0% for non-Maoris. Collins (2009) also acknowledges that there is a substantial amount of Maori people compared to any other race claiming unemployment benefits such as the dole. Out of people aged 15-64 in NZ that were claiming the dole, Maori people have the highest number of people claiming unemployment benefits every year. (Collins,



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