Mean Mugging

Don't look at me in that tone of voice...

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: April 1, 2003

Mean Mugging

My wife and I went to our favorite burrito place the other night. Once outside we noticed some Homies not from the neighborhood. I slipped into my urban soldier mode and started 'Mean Mugging' them, this caused them to walk off because I showed them a certain respect, while no fear.

Mugging is a Hip Hop term for tossing someone mean looks. Another term is 'Mad-dogging?' someone. It usually takes the form of a scowl or exaggerated facial expression making it clear that you are unapproachable, and it would be a mistake to mess with you. Often times social predators are good at reading body language and can tell who they can and cannot punk. A good rule of thumb is trying to look crazier than the person who wants to jack or intimidate you.

With the unmitigated carnage of war drama simmering in the back of our thoughts, and the horror of institutional violence threatening our security, there seems to be a pall of anger and fear in the air and people are quick-tempered.

I am no exception.

My brother used to say, ?Don?t look at me in that tone of voice.? I realize that people from every walk of life have their own style of mean mugging. The most traditional is the elementary school teacher who constricts their lips into a colorless circle, while frowning, after little Johnny eats a bowlful of paste, or glues someone?s head to a desk.

Cholos and homeboys adapt this stoic shark-like straight ahead stare while the head is tilted slightly upward. This tactic is used when they are being insulted and/or being read their Miranda rights. The goal of this posture is to show no reaction or weakness. The controlled lack of emotion can successfully intimidate or catch off guard the one who can be seconds away from being dropped.

Many people use the scowl, which is an amended frown mostly with the lips. This is usually accompanied by the Clint Eastwood squint of the eyes, and can be accompanied by a slow disgusted shaking of the head. In order for this to work, the squint has to be directed unflinchingly laser-like squarely on the subject in question.

Police are trained in this tactic. They are taught not to look directly into the subjects eyes rather right above the eyebrows. This give the person being stared down that the intimidator has no fear of the individual. The truth is the intimidator in this case has no fear of the person?s eyebrows.

Some folks are more animated and theatrical in their mean mugging and take the procedure into the realm of performance art. Skilled users employ opening the eyes as large as they can while tilting the head to the side technique. Multi-taskers can mumble gibberish while flailing arms out to the side. Masters of this technique, both male and female, are usually found in correctional facilities and have the ability to keep one eye open huge while keeping the other one in an Eastwood squint. You need to run away from people who can do that.

The mean face mugging is probably a primal thing that showed predatory animals that with a face like that you probably wouldn?t taste good. Those of us, whose lineage had the ability to look inedible, coupled with the ability to out run pleasant looking folks, have kept us in the game in the 21st century.

Because of my urban upbringing I find myself para-mugging most of the time. I was taught that for man to smile or laugh too much shows weakness and a lack of macho character. Someone who appears silly cannot be taken seriously and/or given an appropriate amount of respect.

The safest thing to do in a potentially confrontational situation is to briefly look the intimidator squarely in the eyes or use the police eyebrow technique, showing no fear yet a certain acknowledgement. Then go about your business with confidence.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist and a screenwriter.

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