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|“||Peach Trees, this is Ma-Ma. Somewhere in this block are two Judges. I want 'em dead. Until I get what I want the block is locked down. All Clan, every level, hunt the Judges down. Everyone else, clear the corridors and stay the f*ck outta our way until the shooting stops. If I hear of anyone helping the Judges, I will kill them and the next generation of their families. As for the Judges... sit tight, or run. It makes no difference, you're mine.||„|
|~ Ma-Ma to the inhabitants of Peach Trees Mega-Block|
Ma-Ma (real name: Madeline Madrigal), also called "Ma", is the main antagonist in the 2012 sci-fi/action film Dredd. She is a psychopathic former prostitute turned drug lord with a trademark for excessive violence. She is the powerful and ruthless leader of a criminal organization known as the Ma-Ma Clan and the person responsible for the distribution of the new addictive drug called Slo-Mo.
She was portrayed by Lena Headey.
Starting her life out as a block whore in the Pleasure District of Sector 9, Madeline Madrigal was first arrested at age 16 on December 4, 2076 by Judge Reich for solicitation. Madeline then went on to have numerous other altercations with the law, serving a total of 23 months in the Iso-Cubes, a total of seven arrests. Growing dissatisfied with her life, Madeline eventually had enough of a life of prostitution and killed her pimp, Lester Grimes, in a vendetta attack when her pimp brutally murdered her boyfriend Eric, and took over his interests adopting the nickname "Ma-Ma" before founding her own gang, the Ma-Ma Clan. She then proceeded to take over the top floor of the Peachtree Block. She and her enforcer Caleb slowly worked their way down, level by level, and wiped out the other three gangs: the Peyote Kings, Red Dragons and The Judged, giving her full control of the block.
Ma-Ma then used Peachtrees as the manufacturing centre for a new addictive drug called Slo-Mo, which slows the user's perception of time to 1% of the normal rate. After making an example killing of three users she attracted the attention of Judge Dredd and the on assesment rookie Cassandra Anderson. When Kay got busted, she at first felt it wasn't serious because she knew her gang was overdue for a bust until she found out that Kay is alive, not dead. In order to prevent her lackey Kay from talking in interrogation at the Grand Hall of Justice she shuts down the whole block locking the two judges inside.
Ma-Ma sent her whole gang and also some Corrupt Judges after Dredd and Anderson but the two survived and worked their way up the block to her. She also had no reservations whatsoever about resorting to ruthless means such as murdering innocents if it means protecting her own interests. At one point in the film, Ma-Ma has three miniguns mounted onto the balcony in an attempt to kill Dredd, failing and killing dozens of residents in the process. She also blames others for her own drastic actions, simply regarding in advance her atrocity with the miniguns as doing it "messy," because Dredd wouldn't allow her to it do it "clean." Also whilst berating Kay she flat out tells him he should have gotten killed to prevent himself from talking. Anderson and Dredd obtain the code to Ma-Ma's apartment from her computer expert and confront her. Ma-Ma quickly implants a device on her wrist that is set to her heartbeat. She tells Dredd that in the case of her death, the device will detonate a massive amount of explosives she has wired in the top 50 stories, bringing the rest of the skyscraper down and killing all of the residents.
Dredd shoots her in the stomach anyway and grabs a dying Ma-Ma, holding her against a glass window where she grins mockingly at him, having accepted her fate. Dredd reasons that the detonator's signal will not reach the explosives from the ground floor and tells her that she is sentenced to death for homicide and narcotics distribution, spraying some Slo-Mo into her mouth. He then asks her how she pleads and Ma-Ma responds by inhaling the drug, symbolically pleading guilty. He tells her that the defense was noted and throws her through the glass. She plummets down the atrium of the 200-story building and lands headfirst, crushing her head and killing her almost instantly.
Personality and Character Development
As revealed in her origin comic, a prequel to the 2012 film, originally Madeline was a very fearful and wary woman due to the way her Pimp treated her, with him easily being able to cow her into submission, (although she did possess a hidden inner defiance towards her dead-end future as a prostitute, and is unable to accept this as her ultimate fate.) However after killing her pimp and taking his place as Ma-Ma, she develops an extremely ruthless, calculating personality. Her character by this point has developed into that of an apathetic sociopath, (indifferent sometimes even arrogant or enthusiastic) towards the suffering she causes.
By the time of the events that take place in Dredd, she has become extremely desensitized to the violence around her, and has no qualms about murdering/maiming anyone who threatens her interests, or even innocent people if it suits her purposes. She is not squeamish and commits much of this violence herself, having built much of her reputation on this. By doing so she sets a brutal example of what she is capable of to her gang as well as the rest of Peachtrees' inhabitants. She is also shown to be very manipulative when it comes to controlling others through fear, her effortless intimidation of the clan Techie being one the most notable examples of this, a simple glare being enough to terrify him into doing her bidding. Adding to this she demonstrates a sly intelligence, being able to think well on her feet and come up with numerous backup plans when things go wrong, even managing to bribe a group of Judges into working for her in an attempt to kill Dredd.
Although she demonstrates a strong amount of cunning and resourcefulness, she is nevertheless very reckless, not only with the lives of others but also her own. She is shown to be addicted to her own product: Slow mo as well as other drugs, as evidenced by the pills and vials that litter her bed during her confrontation with Judge Dredd. Another notable aspect of her personality that goes hand in hand with her self-destructive nature is her distinct lack of fear when it comes to facing adversaries such as Judge Dredd and Anderson. Adding to the above, her reckless attitude seems to stem more from apathy and a lack of respect for human life/suffering as opposed to hastiness or incompetence, simply put: she just doesn't care. She possesses a calm, cool confidence when encountering threats, even when cornered by Dredd she calmly remarks that she knew she would get busted at some point given her line of work, showing no concern at the prospect of dying or any remorse for her crimes. Instead she just taunts him with a provocative smirk before staring blankly as he sentences her and sends her to her death.
Despite her chilling brutality during the events of the film, she did display a more human side in her prequel story, showing visible affection for her friend Eric, who attempted to help her achieve a better life before he was tortured and murdered by her possessive pimp. This event caused Madeline significant emotional trauma and marked her turning point from a victim to the villain we see in Dredd. The way she reacted to Eric's death as well as her general attitude towards him in the story shows that at some point she was capable of caring for other human beings, despite her later apathy towards human life in the events of the film. The trauma of loosing the only person who cared for her this way, combined with the general bleakness of her situation however, caused her to conclude that the only way to succeed in a life like her own is to be brutal and unforgiving. In this sense she is arguably a tragic product of her environment. Her addiction to multiple narcotic substances may have also had a role in her violent personality shift, given that hard substances in many case can interfere with brain chemistry/activity and cause the user to be unstable/violent towards others.
A personal insight into her psyche given by actress Lena Headey goes as follows:
"I think of her like an old great white shark who is just waiting for someone bigger and stronger to show up and kill her.... She's ready for it. In fact, she can't wait for it to happen. And yet no one can get the job done. She's an addict, so she's dead in that way, but that last knock just hasn't come. This big, fat, scarred shark moving through the sea and everyone flees and she's like, 'Will someone just have the balls to do it? Please?'"
Due to her sociopathic nature and large capacity for ruthlessness, Ma-Ma is responsible for many acts of excessive violence as well as several flat-out arocities throughout the film:
- When it is discovered that 3 rogue dealers are stealing her product, she casually orders her henchmen to skin them alive before throwing them from a high balcony into the Peach Trees atrium for dozens of Men, women and children who are there at the time to witness. Adding to this, before they are thrown over the balcony they are forcefully dosed with slo-mo in order to make the moments before their deaths to last longer, thus increasing their agony.
- When the story of Ma-Ma's origins are revealed in the film, it is told that she bit her pimp's genitals off as payback for slicing her face open.
- It is also revealed in this scene that she personally gouched out a man's eyes with her thumbs as her henchmen pinned him down.
- Finally, Ma-Ma and her gang annihilated all the other gangs in Peach Trees, leaving none of their members alive. This could be considered genocide, albeit a non-racially motivated genocide.
- In a reckless attempt to kill Judge Dredd and Rookie Judge Anderson, Ma-Ma and her clan mercilessly slaughter dozens of innocent civillians (including children) as well as destroying their homes using three mounted Vulcan Cannon gatling guns to carry this out.
- Upon being confronted by Dredd in her private quarters Peach Tree's 200th floor, she activates a wrist device synced to her pulse, which if triggered by a loss of hearbeat would send a detonation signal to a cache of explosives large enough to bring down the entire building. She does this in order to try and prevent Dredd from killing her, if the bombs had actually detonated, the resulting collapse caused by the explosion could have jeprodised the lives of peach Tree's entire residental population which totalled 75,000 citizens. Again, this can be considered attempted genocide.
Ma-Ma's origin story is revealed in the Dredd 2012 prequel comic Top of the World: Ma-Ma, which goes into detail about how she turned from a fearful prostitute into a brutal druglord, it also explains the origins of the drug Slo-Mo.
- Originally Ma-Ma was supposedly intended to portrayed as an elderly, obese woman, however when Lena Headey joined the cast the character was re-visualised into a scarred, middle aged woman with a human-hating personality. Her appearance is inspired by punk rocker Patti Smith.
- During her confrontation with Dredd, a Judge's helmet can be seen in Ma-Ma's trophy cabinet. This implies that she has successfully killed at least one judge in the past and could explain her confidence when facing Dredd.
- Fans have noted many similarities between Ma-Ma and Tony Montana. For one, her face is scarred because of a knife attack, she worked her way up through the illegal drug trade, she has no mercy on her enemies and her accompanying comic is called "Top of the World", similar to "The World is Yours" from Scarface.