Thanks to the rise in popularity of rap music in the 1980s, along with films like Boyz ‘N The Hood, Colors and Menace II Society, the life of the South Central L.A. gangster has become romanticised and glamorised in the minds of many, mostly by people who have little understanding of the types of empty and depressive lives these people actually lead (though by the same token, media have created the mostly false illusion that outsiders take their lives into their own hands whenever they set foot inside the region).
Produced by Ice-T (no doubt to give the production a little street cred),The Peacemaker is a five-part reality series which follows ex-gangster Melik Spellman as he attempts to diffuse potential flare-ups of violence and mediate truces between rival LA gangs, many of whom are separated by little more than a single city block of real estate. It’s a violent war, often ignited by the most trivial of incidents and fought over the smallest pieces of turf by (mostly) teenagers and young men, many of whom seem all too eager to sacrifice themselves in defence of their colours and their small patch of the ‘hood.
The five episodes featured in The Peacemaker are:
Bullets, Guns & Violence: Enemies for over four decades, the tension between the 4 Trey Crips and 40 Avalon Crips threatens to boil over when a member of the 4 Treys is shot and killed, and all fingers point to the 40 Avalons. Malik needs to find a way to bring the two gangs together before the inevitable retaliation strikes and the death toll rises.
Gunned Down: In Malik’s own L.A. neighbourhood, a pregnant young lady – whose partner was a member of the Play Boy Gangster CRIPS – is gunned down and killed by a member of the rival Mansfield CRIPS. When a member of the Mansfield CRIPS is shot in retaliation, Malik desperately tries to convince both sides to come to the truce table before a full-blown gang war erupts.
Blood Brothers: In Inglewood, Malik tries to reunite a broken family in which two brothers are members of waring gangs, the Inglewood Family and the Queens Street Bloods.
Disrespect: The gangster generation gap rears its head in this episode, as a young upstart set known as the Mad Ass Gangster CRIPS riles up the members of the Payback CRIPS, one of the first Crip gangs ever established. Features an appearance from Barefoot Pookie, the last living founder of the CRIPS.
Gunplay: Malik steps in to try and stop an ongoing war sparked by an argument that broke out over a game of dice between members of the Project Watts CRIPS and members of the Fudge Town Mafia CRIPS.
Throughout each episode, Spellman comes off like a streetwise Dr Phil, earnest in his plight (he has been negotiating peace on the streets for the last 20 years and was one of the key people responsible for the short-lived Crips/Bloods truce of 1992) but you come away with the feeling that he is fighting an ultimately lost cause. And as with most reality shows of this type, you have to wonder about the set-ups and all the convenient twists and turns which each episode takes.
The Peacemaker is interesting enough for it to find a small niche audience somewhere, and it does provide some degree of social insight, but it lacks any real dramatic punch or sense of genuine confrontation to have any true emotional or visceral impact.